A Note from Becky: August 20th 2018

Frog Hollow dried nectarine control UDSA.JPG

Dear CSA Members,   

Every year we run out of our dried fruit before harvest. Last year we ran out of 2017’s crop of dried fruit during the 2017 holiday season. We just cannot keep up with it. This year we invested in a peach pitting and peeling line but we have not been able to get all the parts needed and coordinate with welders, fabricators and engineers in time to fire it up for this seasons peaches. Our crew still peels the peaches by hand. We were able to get a jump on it this season and fortunately, we have more than last year. Hopefully this will take us through the holidays and into early winter.

    I was approached last winter by professor Klein Ileliji at Perdue University who is developing a drying tray (really a rectangular box) that he hoped would be easy for one person to handle and more importantly, would help speed up the drying times.  (See Alexa’s Farm Focus for more detail) All products need to dry to a moisture content of below 65%. Anything above 65% moisture content or (water activity) will grow mold. We are working with Dr Ileliji and the USDA, comparing the boxes and our method. Right now, it takes about a week to dry the fruit properly on our drying trays and so far, it looks like our method is still faster than the boxes. I had hoped that these boxes would cut drying time in half. Even with all the tweaking; tilting the boxes, lids off or on, vents closed and open, our method is still faster than, or just as fast as these boxes.

Even though it is disappointing, it is gratifying to know that we’re doing everything right. We have been doing this long enough, that through much trial and error, we have created an efficient system that dries the fruit to the correct moisture content. Also, our sorting and packing systems have been stream-lined, we store them in buckets after they are taken out of the sun so they are not compacted when stacked and we now only package them in sturdier, 8oz, ziplock stand up pouches.

The quality keeps getting better and better. Our dried fruit made from our amazing high-brix fruit is far superior to other dried fruit. We will keep perfecting it and next year we’ll have a peach peeling line and our solar tunnels set up so we’ll be able to dry more fruit faster and extend the season so we can bring you even more.