June 9, 2014

The Valley Formerly Known As

Apricots on an old treeOnce upon a time, the fertile acres of the Santa Clara Valley were dubbed the Valley of Heart's Delight. But like so many others, it was Silicon Valley that drew me here. Our industry has transformed the world, leaving scant traces of the valley's rural past.

My bicycle has taken me through the less developed land of nearby counties: Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Mateo, Alameda, Marin, Napa, Sonoma, Stanislaus, San Benito, San Luis Obispo. [I get around.]

The back roads meander through wild land, with deer and coyotes, turkeys and towering redwoods. They also cross farmland, with horses and cattle, fields of berries and grapes, lettuce and cabbage. There aren't many orchards left.
They took all the trees
Put 'em in a tree museum
Schoolchildren make field trips to plots that are kept for historical purposes. A few plots remain in family hands, barely enough to sustain the occasional roadside stand. Much of the “local” produce at our farmers' markets travels here from California's Central Valley.

Single Matilija poppy flower
My bike route to (and from) work varies little; for the past two years, the final stretch to the office is a 4-mile segment of a multi-use trail. By now, I have passed the sights along the trail more than 150 times, and learned to identify some of the native flora. Dazzled by the trailside Matilija poppies and California flannel bushes, three or four gnarled and stubby trees were easy to overlook.

Here, between the right-of-way for high voltage transmission lines and the freeway, are the remains of an orchard. A couple of trees, abandoned and neglected for decades, are studded with tiny apricots. Intensely flavorful tiny apricots. (I couldn't resist sampling some.) There is very little flesh around the stone, unlike the (mostly flavorless) variety we find in the grocery store.
Old tree laden with apricots

1 comment:

  1. I know of a couple of abandoned orchards that are reminders of how the Valley used to be. For example, there are straight rows of olives both on the Sunol side of Mission Peak, and on Sunol Ridge above the town of the same name. New England and New York are home to many ghost towns whose abandonment dates from the end of milltowns and the beginning of the modern, urban industrial period. It quite common to come up ranks of shriveled and bent apple trees when wandering a bit off-piste in those areas. There's a slightly sad Orchard Park with a farmstand at the Sunnyvale Community Center on Michelangelo (or Rembrandt?) where some club rides meet.