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Earl visits Cuyama Orchards

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Earl recently visited Cuyama Orchards and growers Howard and Jean Albano and their son Byron who are in charge of all growing, picking, packing and marketing of their 265 organic certified acres.  The Albano family has been growing apples for the past 25 years in the remote mountainous area of Cuyama, surrounded by the Los Padres National forest in Santa Barbara County.  As Earl traveled from Ojai to Cuyama along country highways 33 to 166 there was open farmland as far as the eye could see and not much else.

Cuyama is located at an elevation of 3200 feet which brings warm days and cool nights for the dormant/chill hours apples need.  In addition the abundant native water supply and rich mineral soil produce quality harvest organic apples.

Cuyama grows a variety of apples including Gala, Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, Newtown Pippin, Crimson Gold, Arkansas Black, Pink Lady and the most popular Early and Standard Fuji which is a cross between the American apples, Red Delicious and Ralls Janet.  The Early Fuji is available from the end of September to the end of October.  The Standard Fuji’s are available starting the end of October through at least March and possibly longer depending on the harvest.  Most apples grown are hybrids with a focus on size and color unlike the Standard Fuji from Cuyama which focuses instead on developing the most flavorful apple.  They use wood from their own orchards to propagate one of the best Standard Fuji apples on the market.  Earl feels that the California Fuji is lighter in color compared to the Northwest Fuji’s because the difference in climate means more chill hours which brings a darker color to the Fuji apple.

Earl, Jean, Howard, Byron and their field manager walked both the new and older portions of the orchards.  On the newer portion the trees are being trained to grow flat against a trellis in the French espalier style which takes up minimal space.  As they walked through the orchards Earl had a chance to taste one of the new apples Cuyama is experimenting with, the old English Ashmead Kernel Heirloom discovered in the 1700’s.  This apple grows to medium sized with an aromatic golden brown skin and a crisp, sweet and nutty snap.

Earl and the Albano’s ended a fruitful day with lunch at The Place.  Look for Cuyama apples at your favorite grocery store.  Apples are great out of hand, sauté them with butter and rosemary and serve as a side dish with pork or chicken, add sliced apples to a roast beef and gouda sandwich or bake sliced apples with caramelized onions on puffed pastry.  Sweet and savory apple recipes



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