Our summer here in the Seattle area has officially been one for the record books. We’ve had weeks and weeks of rare morning sunshine and perfectly comfortable temperatures. Harvest season is here and it promises to be a standout as well with most crops coming in a bit earlier than usual. As I do many times this time of year, I visited the eastern part of the state over the weekend to see what I could find.
If you’re anywhere near Washington State, it’s really worth the trip to explore the fruit producing valleys of the less populated eastern counties. Depending on the time of year, you can find wild or uncultivated apricots, plums, apples, grapes, peaches, pears and cherries. This past weekend I found some fruit stands where the fruit is brought directly from the orchard with no meddling (refrigeration, wax coating, etc.) in between. The fruit is allowed to stay on the tree longer than fruit that is produced exclusively for the commercial market, and it is also closer to its natural heirloom state. I don’t claim to be an expert on the subject but I do know that things are being done to fruit that have nothing to do with making it more nutritious and tasty but have everything to do with making it hardier for transport and storage. The more of these things that are done to fruit, the farther away we get from what humans were originally intended to eat. Opportunities to get fruit that hasn’t been altered in these ways are becoming more rare, and health seekers need to take advantage of them.
Most of the fruit sold at these farm stands is not organic. Although in an ideal world all fruit producers would be embracing organic growing practices, I think we need to be open to compromise when we live in a world as far from ideal as ours is. The benefits of getting fruit right from the farm easily trump the organic vs. conventional issue. Organic is an industry now, and industries are guided by what makes money, not necessarily what is best for consumers. There are conventional growers who are still harvesting fruit from trees planted 40 or 50 years ago, producing fantastic fruit, and they can’t afford to go organic. At one farm stand over the weekend, I paid $.59 per pound for luscious, tree-ripened dark purple plums. I’d rather pay these kinds of prices for heirloom (or nearly so) conventionally grown plums than 5 or 6 times that for organic plums picked weeks before they’re ready, coated in wax and refrigerated so long that their sugars never develop. It helps to know that, depending on the type of fruit in question, sprays are not always used even on conventional farms and when they are, it is usually done in the dormant season, long before the fruit is on the tree.
I wanted to mention a couple of these farm stands in particular. They are both in Naches, Washington. One is McIlrath Farms (www.mcilrathfarms.com), which was started in 1976. That’s where I got the fabulous 59 cent plums. The second one is Raimes Fruit, a bit farther down the street in Naches. At the latter I had noticed a small barrel in the middle of the store with the words “cancer fund” on a sign above it. “Oh great”, I thought, “more mindless support for the cancer industry”. I mentioned to the owner that I’d be happy to contribute if I could be assured that my money wasn’t going to be used to buy cancer drugs, hoping to plant a seed. He told me that the fund is actually a contest, the proceeds of which will go to the cancer sufferer who has the most heart wrenching survival tale to share. He then went on to tell me about his brother who was diagnosed 2 1/2 years ago with brain cancer and was given 6 months to live. Rather than take the standard treatment, his brother opted for the Gerson protocol, central to which are raw foods and juicing. As a result, his brother is still going strong. The owner told me he has heard lots of stories from people visiting his store, but has yet to receive one written testimonial. I told him I’d give whatever publicity I could to his contest on my blog but only if he would promise to favor people who have ‘cured’ themselves with dietary improvement when determining the winner. He agreed. So here’s the website if you’re interested in entering the contest: www.RaimesFruit.com. The funds will be distributed around Christmas time.