On a rare visit to the Ferry Building farmers market in San Francisco several years ago, I discovered Frog Hollow Farm, whose lusciously flavorful fruit brought me back to the pre-silicon Silicon Valley of my childhood. Even into the 1980s, a few family orchards still remained as shady green oases amongst the suburbs, with farm stands selling the sweetest, juiciest apricots and plums. Frog Hollow’s “legendary fruit, organically grown” was the only fruit I’d encountered since that could match my memory of those long-gone orchards.
For years I intended to make a return visit, but with a constant stream of babies in the house, the hour drive to San Francisco might as well have been ten. But this summer I realized that Frog Hollow has an extensive CSA program with pick-up locations all over the San Francisco Bay Area, including one just minutes from my house. And for those who live elsewhere, Frog Hollow also has a growing mail-order business that sends the farm’s legendary fresh fruit and fruit preserves across the country.
Frog Hollow is no ordinary farm. “Farmer Al” Courchense began in 1976 with 13 acres in Brentwood, CA, in the Sacramento River Delta. Farmer Al went organic in 1989 and over the years expanded to 133 acres as word of his remarkable fruit spread to Chez Panisse and beyond. Farmer Al’s wife Becky is a former pastry chef at famed Oakland restaurant Oliveto and runs the superb culinary side of the operation, including conserves, pastries and dried fruit.
Mail-order food is very often unexeptional quality for exorbitant prices. But the best are more than just great food – they are a transporting experience. My great friend Nicole once sent me a box of bagels and smoked salmon from Zabar’s in New York City, and while I blanched to think of what it cost her, I luxuriated that morning in the feeling of having brunch on the Upper West Side. Harry and David sends boxes of acceptably pretty fruit, and Edible Arrangements sends amusing bouquets of flavorless cut fruit. But Frog Hollow Farm sends an authentically succulent taste of golden California.
If the Frog Hollow CSA lasted all year, I might never have to cook. The kids are overachieving on fruit intake…
And we are excited every Wednesday to discover what our new box of treasures holds.
We haven’t been disappointed yet.
A great benefit of being a CSA member is that you can add other Frog Hollow products to your weekly (or bi-weekly) delivery without shipping charges for less than mail-order prices. I am hooked on Frog Hollow’s remarkable preserves.
Most commercial jams are 45-55% sugar, and frequently the top ingredient is high fructose corn syrup. Made from its naturally sweet, tree-ripened fruit, Frog Hollow’s apricot and peach conserves are 80% fruit and 20% sugar. Conserves are a whole-fruit jam, and these conserves are dripping-sweet fruit simply preserved in a jar.
On bread or toast, stirred into yogurt, spooned over ice cream…I may never cook again. Or at least not until my weekly treasure box ends in late September.
Next week is my two-year blogiversary! To celebrate, I’m sending a trio of Frog Hollow Farm conserves to a lucky reader. Just leave a comment in the box below to share something you’ve liked or learned here at Chinese Grandma, or a suggestion for what you’d like to hear more of in the coming year. And since I’m celebrating my big #2 year, I’m also giving away my favorite Badger Anti-Bug Balm to help a second lucky reader safely ward off bugs in the summer heat. Winners will be selected at random (using this random number generator, for any other math nerds out there), as I love you all too much to choose.
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I’m sad about the death Wednesday of fellow Californian Marion Cunningham, author of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook and The Breakfast Book, at age 90 from Alzheimer’s disease. Her brilliantly moist cream scones will live on forever in my kitchen.
But I loved reading about Cunningham’s life in the New York Times obituary by Kim Severson, as well as Severson’s 2001 article, “A Cooking Kinship / Marion Cunningham and Alice Waters on friendship and lettuce” from the San Francisco Chronicle.