Imagine what would happen if your Hawaiian pizza took a trip to Italy… Meet the Spicy Pancetta Grape Pizza. The sweetness of bright, juicy red grapes balance out fiery Calabrian chilies and salty pancetta in this Italian twist on Hawaiian pizza.
A summer storm made its way to the Central Valley this month. An estimated 1/4″ of rain touched down on our farms, which is unprecedented at this time of year. Some stone showed hardly any impact, while other blocks were more significantly impacted. It appears that the rain impacted all commodities to some degree and the varieties that were just ready to be harvested and in the middle of harvest were most severely affected.
Table grape harvest remains ongoing. We’re seeing an impressive crop of green seedless varietals coming out of our vineyards this year. All commodities appear to be ahead of schedule compared to last year’s harvest, ranging from a few days to a couple of weeks.
HMC recently attended the Global Grape Summit with attendees and speakers from six continents (unfortunately no penguins or Antarctic researchers could attend) to discuss viewpoints on the evolution and future of the grape industry. One point of discussion was the impact of the explosion of new varieties, with many different opinions from growers, retailers, and the four major international grape breeders. Harold, as a scheduled speaker, explained that to stone fruit growers, a multitude of varietal options is nothing new. He further explained that many new varieties come with characteristics beneficial to the grower which also provide a better consumer experience. As a business, we not only compete with other grape and stone fruit growers, but also other fruit commodities vying for the shoppers’ dollar. Improved eating characteristics provided by some of the new varieties help inspire consumers to add our products to their shopping baskets.
In the beginning of this month we continued to prepare for new planting in our orchards. Once the old trees are pushed out, they go into an industrial wood chipper. The ground wood is then incorporated back into the soil on our farms. Through this process, we are doing our part to capture carbon in the atmosphere and fix it in the soil. Chipping the wood also eliminates the need to burn old trees, which can have a negative impact on the air quality in the Central Valley. The next step will be to go in and break up the compacted soil (a process we call ripping) and level out the ground.
We are slowly coming to end of table grape harvest with less than 10% of our grapes left to harvest. We are clipping and cleaning bunches during packing more than we had expected in order to remove sunburned berries from the summer heat waves and grapes impacted by October rain. The finished quality of grapes in the box still looks excellent, but additional effort is required to get it that way. Our final production numbers are expected to be a bit less than our pre-harvest estimates as we slowly wrap up.
At the end of this month we found ourselves almost fully prepped to plant new trees in our stone fruit orchards. The next steps toward planting are marking the planting rows and installing the underground irrigation system. After those final tasks are complete, we just need to wait for the nursery to deliver our trees, and we can begin planting in January.
Thanksgiving is quickly approaching, which kicks off the holiday season. Holiday traditions often revolve around food, and if we’re being honest, food is one of the things we look forward to most throughout the holiday season. At HMC Farms, we eat what we grow, and that means that our Thanksgiving table includes plenty of HMC Farms table grapes! In the spirit of our farm table, we’ve gathered some ideas for you to add to your own Thanksgiving table. Let us know if you try any of these by tagging us in your photos on social media, or leaving a comment here on our blog.
Charcuterie boards are popular for a reason, and we love the versatility of a block of wood piled up with all of our favorite snacks. We used a variety of cheeses, fruit, and other snacks in this charcuterie board-see the list below. Vegetarians or vegans can easily adapt this to their dietary specifications by ditching the salami, and swapping out the cheese for dairy alternatives. Nut allergy? Swap out the nuts for more crackers or some veggies. As long as you keep the grapes, we approve!
Here’s what we used on our holiday charcuterie board:
HMC Farms red seedless table grapes
Aged white cheddar
Habanero & jalapeño cheddar
Two types of salami
Sprigs of rosemary for greenery
Stuffing with roasted grapes
Tired of the same old boring stuffing with that turkey? Try mixing it up with the addition of roasted grapes! This is a winning choice because you can keep the same exact recipe (or box of mix) you always use, and just stir the roasted grapes in at the end. An additional bonus here is that roasting is a great option for grapes that are getting a little wrinkly or soft. Roasting grapes is as easy as plucking them off the stem, rinsing, tossing them in olive oil and a little bit of sea salt on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and popping them in the oven. The process is very simple, and you can up the ante a little bit here by adding thyme or rosemary when tossing the grapes in olive oil.
Looking for more on roasted grapes? Check out this guide from our friends at The Produce Moms.
Baked feta with roasted grapes
Yes, we are recommending two dishes that contain roasted grapes because they are really that good. If you haven’t tried roasted grapes before, you are truly missing out on a versatile topping or ingredient that can fit into many savory or sweet dishes. If you are a feta fan, you’ve probably tried the trendy baked feta pasta, and we don’t blame you. Quick and easy recipes are perfect to include in Thanksgiving, since you’re already spending plenty of time and effort on everything else. Rather than the main course, this is a great appetizer or side dish, or even the perfect centerpiece for your charcuterie board. Serve it with crackers or rustic bread and thank us later. You can find our recipe for baked feta and roasted grapes on our Instagram page or check out the similar recipe that inspired us on the Grapes from California website.
We are pushing out trees and prepping blocks for new planting in some of our orchards. Once the trees are removed and the compacted ground is broken up and prepped, we will be ready to plant new trees in about three to four months. The varieties we’ve chosen for new planting are the result of a good amount of research and planning, and we are confident that they will make a great addition to our stone fruit lineup.
Late season table grape harvest is thriving with the current weather conditions on our farms. The cool overnight low temperatures are ideal for berry color and maturation, as well as pleasant harvest weather for our employees, helping move us toward the end of the harvest season. The quality, timing, and flavor of grapes coming out of our vineyards are all holding strong.
Students from Reedley College recently visited our farms as part of a two semester course titled Fundamentals of Fresh Fruit. This class was privately funded by HMC Farms and other local stone fruit growers, and we’ve taken the lead on the course design. This semester, the focus is exposing students to all areas of our industry. Drew and other members of our farm management team gave students an introductory crash course on trees and vines. We covered everything from prepping fields to selecting varieties, and the concept behind our high density orchards. The goal of this course is to educate local students on everything ag has to offer in order to help attract and cultivate future generations of ag professionals in the Central Valley.
Last week, a group of HMC Farms employees volunteered at the Central California Food Bank. It was our first in-person group service event since the pandemic paused our extracurricular activities. We got to work on the food bank’s pack line, testing our quality control and packing skills on a new commodity; our team packed over 2,600 lbs of peppers! We greatly appreciate the work that food banks do to ensure people don’t go hungry, and are always thankful for any opportunity we have to support their efforts beyond our regular fruit and monetary donations.
While we are in the final third of the season on peaches and nectarines, we are just rounding second base on the plum season. We are looking forward to some of the highest sugar varieties of the year, including Black Majesty, Red Yummy, and of course our exclusive HMC Holiday plum. Holiday red plums will begin harvest in early September, and will pack and ship into October.
Burro self-driving carts are currently running in our table grape vineyards. After experimenting with Burros for the past couple of years, this is our first time using them for a full harvest season. Burros reduce physical stress on our hard working employees, and make the harvest process up to 40% more efficient by allowing our crews to focus on harvesting instead of pushing carts up and down the vineyard rows. Click to watch a Burro working in a vineyard right outside our office!
Grape harvest is underway in our vineyards in California’s San Joaquin Valley just in time for the kickoff of the 2021-2022 school year. HMC Farms has value-added solutions that make it possible to provide students with the fresh grapes they love. Kids choose grapes more often than other fresh fruit items, which means less plate waste and a higher take rate when grapes are on the menu. Value-added grape packs from HMC Farms make yield and portion control easy, offer significant labor savings, and are a perfect fit for virtually any serving application.
Color development is coming along well in our table grape vineyards. We are going full bore harvesting the mid season red and green seedless varieties. We’ve experienced moderate temperatures on our farms lately, which is perfect for grape development and harvest.
We are pruning trees in our stone fruit orchards to prepare them for winter. Pruning allows us to shape the trees in order to prepare for next year’s new growth and harvest. Pictured above, the left side of this high density stone fruit block is pruned and the right side hasn’t been pruned yet.
Block prep is happening on our farms. Before new plantings, we perform multiple steps to prepare the land. Pictured above, a large machine called a ripper is digging 5+ feet into the ground with a long shank to break up any hard or compacted streaks in the soil, which provides a better environment for roots to grow.
This is the time of year for reflection and giving thanks. Despite many challenges this year, we still have much to be thankful for. Those challenges gave us the opportunity to adapt and grow, and we successfully made it through an unprecedented summer. While Thanksgiving may look different this year for many of us, we hope that you can spend some quality time with your loved ones – whether in person or virtually.
Grapes are a go-to choice when making a fruit salad or charcuterie board, but they are so much more versatile than that! One of the most surprising things about grapes is how great they are when roasted. This super easy recipe using HMC Farms grapes is a great way to elevate your appetizers and small plate offerings from home gatherings to catered events.
What you’ll need for about 16 pieces of crostini:
1 bunch of HMC Farms red seedless table grapes
Fresh ricotta cheese
1 medium-sized loaf of rustic bread
Fresh thyme or rosemary
Salt and pepper
Optional: honey, balsamic glaze, or walnuts
Steps to roasted grape crostini bliss:
Start by preheating the oven to 450 degrees. Rinse the grapes and let them dry. Tip: We chose to use HMC Farms sliced grapes, but you can choose whether to slice the grapes in half or leave them whole.
Spread the grapes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Top with thyme or rosemary sprigs, sprinkle with salt, and drizzle with olive oil. Toss the grapes a bit on the pan and then place in the oven for about 8 minutes, checking after 5 minutes.
Tip: It’s okay for the grapes to split or wrinkle up, but avoid letting them burn.
While the grapes are in the oven, slice the bread to desired thickness (we prefer about ½”), brush one side with olive oil, and grill in a pan or on a griddle. Brush the other side with olive oil and flip. Remove from the pan when both sides look lightly toated.
Remove grapes from the oven and set the pan out to cool.
Spread fresh ricotta on one side of each piece of toasted bread. Add 4-5 grapes to the top of each piece, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and thyme or rosemary.
Tip: These are great just the way they are, but there are also lots of options for additions to top off the appetizer. Try drizzling a little honey, olive oil, or balsamic glaze over the top, or even adding a few chopped walnuts!
STEM stands for an idea of educating students in four specific disciplines — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. It is an applied, blended and cohesive approach that encourages a hands-on experience while allowing students a chance to gain and apply relevant “real world” knowledge in the classroom.
STEM has become a critical component to nation-wide Academic Standards. Together with The Produce Moms and a middle school science teacher, we developed two STEM projects for middle school students using grapes. Because why not combine a science experiment with one of the most popular fruits?
The best part about our two grape STEM experiments…you can download them and print them off for FREE.
Grapes for STEM Projects
Grape Smash. Our Grape Smash STEM Project is designed for students to practice classification along with learning about the Law of Conservation of Mass.
Dancing Grapes. Our Dancing Grapes STEM project focuses on using the POE (Predict-Observe-Explain) strategy. Predicting, Observing and Explaining incorporates the fundamental processes associated with all discovery learning. This project allows students to use all 5 senses and allows them to communicate and demonstrate their understandings through written and visual explanations.
Flame red seedless grapes are now in harvest at HMC Farms. Flames are the first of our California table grape varieties to harvest. As you can see in the photo, our trellis system and ongoing maintenance—including pruning and tying vines—have come together to create clean and organized vineyard rows. The trellis raises the height of the grape bunches, further contributing to ease of harvest and also providing shaded protection from the sun.
Harvest continues for HMC Farms peaches, plums, and nectarines. Our red table grapes began harvest this week, as mentioned above, and our Ivory green seedless table grapes will begin harvest in about 10-14 days. The forecast shows a slight drop in heat, with peak temperatures ranging from the mid 90s to low 100s and overnight lows in the 60s.