Stone fruit journey – From farm to fork!

by Tia
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By Milou Staub

When I heard I would be part of an out-of-ordinary adventure around stone fruits, which includes a stunningly positioned fruit farm, an immersive experience at a fruit packhouse & a lunch at a top restaurant; all in the same fabulous area called Franschhoek – Cape Town; I was truly the most thrilled! But first, what exactly is Stone Fruit I thought to myself, and what is @JuicydeliciousSA all about?

Stone fruit is a fruit with edible flesh, thin skin, and a stone or “pit” in the middle. South Africa is pretty lucky to harvest and export loads of these delicious fruits; amongst the popular ones are your plums, your nectarines, and your peaches. Juicy Delicious are stone fruit experts; you’ll be blown away by all their culinary inspirations, browse www.juicydelicious.co.za to get some creative ideas.

Once on the grounds of this vast fruit farm, the sheer beauty of this place was breathtaking, no wonder why fruits are so tasty if they get to call a scenery like that home! We crossed paths with dozens of cheerful fruit pickers, their talented hands delicately picking the plums. They emptied their fruit-loaded bags in giant fruit bins trollied around by a tractor. Speaking of tractors, I kid you not, cruising through the orchards at the back of the tractor was one of my highlights of the morning! Farm Uber tractor, what a vibe!

Making our way to the next location, I learned about Hortgro. Hort Who? Hortgro is the present governing body overseeing all the steps involved with deciduous (fruits that fall off the tree when ripe) fruit growers to export them fruit overseas. We were fortunate to be shown around the packhouse during this extremely busy time; F1 Freshness First, which is currently the biggest plums exporter In SA with a whooping 3.2 million cartons of plums last year, dang!

Being at the F1 Freshness First packhouse was a whirlwind experience like no other! Rocking my disposable hair net, I felt like a profesh fruit packer within minutes. The wealth of fruit-packing knowledge I obtained within 15 minutes was unbelievable. I was like a little kid, eyes wide open, taking in the chaotic scenery: Containers loading, forklift hooting & and cruising around at a solid speed of probably 2 km/h, fruits being delivered, fully loaded trucks leaving, goodness me this is a high-paced environment!

To put it simply: Fruit farmers grow their stone fruits, and deliver them to the packhouse, where the fruits are graded, packed, and shipped.. Et Voila!

What blew my mind the most was to witness the speed of those conveyor belts, equipped with cameras measuring each fruit’s diameter for sorting purposes. What’s also incredible is that everything is registered, each palette and each carton are traceable not only to the specific orchard the fruit was picked on but also to the specific individual packing worker.

After all this industrial excitement, it was time for a stone fruit-inspired lunch at Reuben’s restaurant, owned by SA Top Chef, Reuben Riffel. Chef Reuben’s philosophy is to keep things simple and let the main product and the quality of it stand out; in this case, seeing the beauty in the simplicity of stone fruits and their versatility, Reuben loves trying different combinations of flavours and wishes us all a delicious 3-course meal!

As a starter…Griddled fine beans, feta & and nectarine, crunchy seed salad. Reuben explains the key to this dish is to quickly grill the nectarines on a very hot pan, just as it is, with no need for oil or anything.

For the mains…Sweet soy chicken & and peach skewers, charred broccoli, peach & and herb couscous salad with peach & and soy glaze. An absolute peachy treat!

For dessert… Plum Galettes; Reuben’s made his shortcrust pastry, baked the plums in there, and served it with peach ice cream & and plum coulis, just clean flavours perfect for a hot Franschhoek summer day.

I surely felt that I was served a fine yet uncomplicated 3-course meal where this stone fruit trio (nectarines, peaches, plums) were the star of each plate! At times, as I am mainly a meat lover, I couldn’t believe I was enjoying these fruit-focused dishes to that extent!

I am now hooked on nature’s candy by incorporating stone fruits in my meals and I can only thank Juicy Delicious for a myriad of inspiration!

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