I felt pretty good going into Sebastopol’s Gravenstein Apple Fair as a rookie pie judge last weekend - just little bites I kept telling myself. As we sat under the tent around a cardtable, our chairs unevenly balanced on straw-covered ground, Steve Garner, the wizened six-year veteran judge, went to his work like a neurosurgeon. He wielded his plastic fork over the paper plates to the micrometer, dissecting different parts of the pie as if his eyes were microscopes. “Crust is too soggy,” he would say quietly while making notes. He looked at me around Pie #22 and I must have seemed a bit wobbly. “Gotta keep smiling Chris,” he said leaning in with a whisper. “Even if you don’t like it. You never know if the person whose pie you just ate is watching. Don’t ever grimace. And don’t even think about spitting something out.” Thanks Steve, I said, my eyes now searching the crowd for grandmas with pie knives tucked into their pant waistbands. (Photo: FruitGuys CEO Chris Mittelstaedt and Kayleigh Stump at the judges' pie tasting table.)
I have to admit that I age-discriminated in thinking that the winner (or losers) would look like my grandmother. The other judge - and last year’s winner - Kayleigh Stump, was in her early 20s. “It was a recipe passed down through my family for generations,” she said eyeing the crowd cautiously. “There were a lot of folks who were quite upset about it.” Between Steve’s defensive smiling and this warning, I wondered why we didn’t have professional protection.
(Photo: Judges Chris Mittelstaedt, Kayleigh Stump, and Steve Garner with 2009 Grand Prize Apple Pie Winner Laurel Hargis of Petaluma, CA. "After tasting 37-38 pies, you realize that a great pie is in a class by itself," said Steve Garner, six-time judge and host of KSRO-FM's "The Good Food Hour.")
Summer oranges do have professional protection. A few of you have asked why our California-grown, organic (yes, we are putting all organic oranges in both conventional and organic boxes on the west coast) Valencia Oranges have a slight green hue to them. A number of customers have confused this coloring with being under ripe. Let me explain - it’s actually sunblock.
Recently, I wrote how fruit protects itself by using antioxidants - phytochemicals that give fruits certain colors - to protect it from the sun. Summer oranges (the Valencia variety) grow in very hot and sunny conditions. In order to protect itself from sun damage, the tree releases chlorophyll back into the skin of the orange. These FruitGuys oranges are very juicy and super-sweet. They aren’t imported, out-of-season navel oranges from Australia (which you may see in grocery stores now) which may be oranger but don’t taste as good as a Fresno or Ojai-grown organic Valencia picked a few days before coming to you. We recognize that the greenish hue may seem strange, but please, just taste it. If you are not completely satisfied, we will gladly replace your fruit. Our goal is to make you happy and healthy.
Please contact us with any questions: 1-877-FRUIT-ME or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Go to In the Mix to see what’s in your box. We always buy regional when seasonably possible.