Sunday, October 07, 2012

At Gabriel Farm

It all started with an apple, as some very interesting stories do. Of course I was so fascinated with what I was learning that I forgot to take any apple photos, but the story is good enough.

My friend Arcadia heard from a friend that there was a stupendous yellow apple called the Gabriel Apple that was grown in nearby Graton and she was told that she should go to the farm and try it out. Since she knows of my interest in fancy food, she sent me a link to Gabriel Farm and suggested a day trip. When I visited the site I became excited, not because of the apple, but because they were harvesting Asian pears, one of Sweetie's favorite snacks. They also have an Asian pear and apple juice that looked mighty good.

 Turns out that juice is amazingly good, the Asian pears are the best he has ever had, and the farm visit was a hit...

And so, a couple of weeks ago, Arcadia and I had a farm visit day. I had planned to blog about it much sooner but life has been super busy with all manner of good things. I had hoped to blog about a recipe of something made with some of the Asian pears but they were all eaten for snacks, with great gusto.

Gabriel Farm has been around for a long time. The original family was named Gabriel and they developed a yellow apple called the Gabriel apple (more on that later), but the current owner is a former science teacher named Torrey.

He and his wife run the farm and do both wholesale and farmers markets, plus school kids love to visit the farm. There was a group of them finishing up, buying some things from the farm store,

 when we arrived. Torrey is a natural teacher and imparts a lot of information in a gentle, easy to understand way. Thanks to him I now know how many seeds you'll find in almost all apples...ten...and that if you slice an apple horizontally those seed form a sort of flower shape. The Gabriel apple is a descendent of a sport found in the middle of an old apple grove in Missouri that had been planted by Johnny Appleseed. Apple growers came from all over to purchase scions of that apple to graft onto their own trees. The Gabriel apple is the product of one of those grafts and, perhaps, some cross-pollination. A good apple like the Gabriel has layers of flavor when you eat it, sort of like the layers of flavor in a fine wine. They have many more apples besides the Gabriel and all are farmed organically like the Asian pears.

Before you get the idea that you can just wander over and have a farm tour, let me explain that since it is a working farm, that just isn't possible. I exchanged a number of e-mails to arrange for a time and also became a CSA member by purchasing a case of that fabulous Asian pear-apple hardship there. Members can have a farm tour if a time can be arranged.

We did notice how busy the workers were with sorting, packing, and moving cases of Asian pears around using a forklift, getting them ready to ship.

When you walk through the rows and row and rows of fruit trees and learn that they have over 20 varieties of Asian pears growing there, it is easy to see that there is little time for too many tours.

The Asian pears are really beautiful on the tree and you can see that some are bright gold, ready to pick, and some are still greenish.

Torrey said that one of the reasons Asian pears cost a bit more is that they bruise easily but also that they need to be picked three or four times as they ripen, adding to labor costs.

 I loved how they were planted in blocks and he said that Asian pears self-pollinate and that the pollen is very fine and light so having the trees grouped makes sense.

Knowing my Sweetie, I chose a russet Asian pear to bring home. It was crisp, sweet, very juicy and not as gritty in texture as some you find in the stores. I cut one up as soon as I got home and he munched right through it in no time. So, no recipe, but there is a photo of the gorgeous Asian pear (above) and of the jar (even further above) of juice. Here is the one I cut up for Sweetie to go with his sandwich.

You may want to ask your grocer (if you live in the S.F. Bay area especially) to carry some of these Asian pears, apples and juice. It might not be as fun as a farm visit, but it could be a great way to have some of this locally sourced and amazing fruit and juice yourself. You can also check out the website at:

By the way, I'm not receiving any benefits from doing this post...I already had the pleasure of that tour which was a treasure in itself.


  1. I UTTERLY ADORE Asian pears, and very much would like to find this juice!

    Things are getting busy-busy and our stuff still hasn't arrived, so we're limping along with a mostly empty kitchen -- it will feel like fall when we can cook/bake with ease! Meanwhile, I read all of your posts with a tinge of envy and a lot of hunger... speaking of which, there are some Asian pears on the counter in the kitchen, calling my name...

  2. Tanita, I think that their products are carried by Whole Foods in the Bay area, but you could also e-mail about visiting the farm and buying direct the next time y'all are in the area. The farm is in Graton and Torrey is fun to talk with. I wish I could say 'let's meet for lunch' but I'm leaving for the east coast this weekend and have tons to do before I go, so :(, can't meet yet.

  3. You know, we've been by there, but have never stopped in. How awesome, to see our old "stomping grounds!"

    Let us know when you get back - we'll be glad to drive up.