|Andy’s colorful, inviting orchard. All photos by: Samantha Clark|
Taste forty different varieties of cherries of all sizes, colors, and flavors, plus some stone fruits, artisan jams (like Agave Apricot and Cherry Chocolate Almond), and chocolate covered cherries. Then grab a red bucket and follow the humble and keen Andy Mariani of Andy’s Orchard to pick the ripest, freshest, and most delicious summer fruits.
That’s what tour go-ers did this past Father’s Day. During the summer months, only a handful of Harvest Walks are offered, and each one features a different fruit during its peak ripeness. Andy Mariani was crowned Cherry Man of the Year in 2009, and he offers tasting tours featuring rare modern hybrids and heirloom varieties of stone fruits: cherries, nectarines, apricots, peaches, or plums, and then he walks you through the orchard. Mariani offered up his favorite cherry, the Black Tartarian, a small and soft deep purple orb with a subdued blackberry flavor. The taste starts off highlighting the soft texture followed by a swirl of complex sweet and acidic flavors. Think of each Harvest Tour as a Stone Fruit 101 course.
|A juicy chocolate-covered Bing cherry.|
As you traipse through the trees, Mariani will stop, tell a bit about the variety, and help you harvest the fruit. A red-stained faced little girl and her father asked about tart cherry varieties for a Father’s Day pie that would showoff the fruits of their labor.
Mariani believes that fruits should be picked at peak ripeness. Super markets look for sweet and firm peaches, but he wants fruits that are complex, well balanced, and not only sweet, but acidic, textural, and juicy. It must drip juice, he insists. He’s also a big supporter of the Buy Local movement, with a bumper sticker on his Ford truck to prove it. His Harvest Tours capitalize on the idea, and also show people what they are supporting and what they are missing.
Located in Morgan Hill, CA just twenty minutes south from San Jose, Andy’s Orchard is a short drive from the city. Bring a hat and cash (to avoid waiting in the credit card line). Pro tasting tip: after you enjoy a bite of delectable summer fruit, try the wineries located on Hecker Pass and Wastonville Rd. in Gilroy for the perfect finish to your day.
Saturday, June 25: Late Cherries, Apricots plus other stone fruits.
Sunday, July 3: Many apricots, some cherries, peaches, nectarines and plums.
Saturday, July 16: Late apricots, early peaches, nectarines and plums
Sunday, August 7: Many peaches, nectarines plums and pluots. May have 60 different varieties.
All tours begin at 10am, and are $15 per person. Seniors are $12 and children under 10 are free.
1615 Half Rd.
Morgan Hill, CA 95037
Andy’s Orchard has also been featured in Gourmet.