Mission Impossible Acres
Past fields of bursting sunflowers …
… and down a county road, Impossible Acres sits in West Davis, just 4 scant miles from Davis’ downtown core.
My family and our friend Max had come there because I’d heard (see “Summer’s sweet spot”) that we could pick peaches at Impossible Acres. And a good peach is what I’ve been craving ever since the calendar flipped to July.
I have one of those golden childhood memories of picking peaches with my mom at a pick-your-own farm in Missouri, where the yellow fruits were the size of my fist, and their fuzzy skins were almost bursting. I don’t remember what Mom made with them, but I do remember eating them at that farm, standing in the shade of peach tree branches, juice dripping down my chin and neck, so good I licked the palms of my hands to get every bit of stickiness into my mouth.
But California isn’t Missouri. I’m still learning what grows here, and when. I heard the peach season in Yolo County is late June through early August, so I thought the first week of July might satisfy my craving.
Impossible Acres is a popular little farm. When we arrived this past weekend, about 15 couples and families were also there, slathering kids up with sunscreen in the parking lot and affixing sun hats.
The young woman at the entrance gave us the lay of the land, most helpfully with a hand-drawn photocopied map of the place that we could take with us. She pointed out where the berries were (marrionberry, raspberries, boysenberries and ollalieberries)—also mentioning the berries had a rough year due to fickle weather. She indicated our path to the peaches—past the cherry trees, past the rows of apricots and plums, and on to the peaches and nectarines. We got a couple of flat boxes to fill and were off.
We shot past the berries—as the young lady had noted, there were very few worth picking. The apricot trees were loaded with fruit begging to be picked, and we did grab a few.
But we moved quickly onward. (Note to parents and those who care for their feet: Don’t wear sandals, like I did, because some weeds along the path are prickly.)
Then we got to the peaches. They were nice.
Medium-sized, sweet, with several ripe and ready. The nearby nectarines were just as good, though there were fewer of them. We filled our boxes, satisfied that we had enough to make the tasty peach shortcake and peach-glazed pork chops I’d been fantasizing about, as well as plenty left to pop into our mouths.
But I admit, I was a little disappointed. I began to think that the peaches inflating my dreams may not be suited to the North Central Valley. But after talking with Fred Manas, owner of peach orchard Manas Ranch in Yolo County, it turns out I am just being impatient. (I was unable to get ahold of the Impossible Acres owners in the days that followed our visit to ask them.)
“We have friends from Georgia that moved here and they say they are nothing like my peaches here,” said Manas.
The peach season, he said, runs from about mid-June through mid-October. Each variety has its own season. And there is a tendency for bigger varieties to peak later in the summer, around August.
But, Manas wondered, what’s all the fuss about “big?”
“Big does not make it better,” he said with the kindly insistence of a man who has spent more years than I’ve been alive growing and eating peaches.
Manas Ranch grows seven different varieties, ranging from the smallish Cassie peach to the more robust O’Henry in August. So if I want to stubbornly hold on to my vision of a giant peach, I need to wait a little longer.
And by the way, that childhood memory of mine on the peach farm with Mom? She told me later that we picked those peaches right before school started, which would have made it … late August.
Back at Impossible Acres, Mom wandered off into other fruit trees. I found her in the shade of an apricot tree, happily munching away.
“These are amazing!” she said.
I looked at her hand, and her apricot was something I didn’t think apricots could be: juicy. Apricots are a nice enough fruit. I like them in a good Middle Eastern couscous, in scones, I know I’d like them wrapped up in bacon, and I love them dried. But most of the time I’ve eaten them, well, I can understand why they’re usually sold dried. But here was this one, dripping all over Mom’s hand and plastering a smile on her face.
It made me take a second look at those apricot trees—and at the whole farm, really. I realized that when looking for what’s in season, it’s best to look down. The fruit newly dropped and beginning to rot on the ground is a telltale sign of fruit ripe and ready up above.
With that in mind, I went a couple of rows over to visit the plums—dark, black beauties that were also covering the ground around the tree trunks.
This was what I was looking for, though I hadn’t known it. This was that “jackpot” moment I love to feel when hitting a harvest at just the right time. I plucked one after the other and took them back to my husband and Max, who were, ahem, fruitlessly still looking for magic peaches.
“Come get these plums, guys. They’re awesome.”
Somewhere between picking a plum and sucking the juice off my fingers, I was reminded of something: Sometimes what you get isn’t quite what you set out for, but it can still be pretty sweet.
Location:26565 Road 97 D, Davis, CA
Hours: Wed.-Sun, 9a.m. -6 p.m.
U-pick: During the summer, they offer apricots and peaches ($1.99/pound), and berries ($2.99/pound). Cherries in late May-early June. August brings apples. Pumpkin patch in October.
Growing method: Not organic, but they spray when the trees are dormant.
Farm stand and animals: To be located at nearby Grandpa’s Barn, 37945 County Road 31, Davis, CA