Visit with Bob Vance!


I dropped in @BobVance’s place again this week. Thanks, Bob!

His Boysenberries are clicking on all cylinders, and his Anne yellow and Royalty purple rasps are coming on too. Here is some of what we picked:

Bad signal. More updates later today…


More of the berries from @BobVance’s yard:


Upon my visit with @BobVance, I gave him some fresh fruit I picked up along the way from Elam Smucker at Kissell Hill Farm of Lititz, PA.

We decided to sample the goodies, and measure the brix with Bob’s refractometer.

Here is Harrow Diamond as grown on mature trees at Kissell Hill. Notice there is some red in the flesh.

This peach was juicy, tangy, and came in at 10 brix. It had a strong peachy flavor. The flesh holds together nicely. Has good texture. Freestone!

We also sampled a white peach. Mr. Smucker had said these were either Sugar May or Spring Snow. Initially, I thought they looked like Sugar May… but now I am convinced they are Spring Snow. Spring Snow has thick skin that I find unpalatable, but pulls easily away from the flesh. Sugar May is pure white inside and has pure white peach flavor (no acid). Spring Snow can have some red in the flesh, and a more tangy, even sour, acidity in the flavor profile. I am sure this batch is Spring Snow. In the past, I have poo-pooed this variety. This sample I shared at Bob’s is the best batch of these I’ve ever eaten: sizeable, juicy, tangy, sour. The usual thick skin. Fairly freestone, but still a little fibrous and messy. Bob noted a cranberry undertone to the flavor with which I cannot disagree. This specimen Bob is holding measured in at 9.5 brix.

We also measured Sentry. It came in at 9 brix. A little fibrous and messy. VERY juicy. Tangy flavor.

At the time of my visit, we did not yet sample the mystery white nectarine. I told Bob I suspected they are Arctic Glo, and subsequent sampling on my own confirms this. They have lots of red mixed into the white flesh. The pockets of red pigment have an explosive tart cranberry flavor in spades. Thick skin and cling-stoniness are annoying traits, but not deal-breakers for this nect. It’s flavor - and earliness in an Eastern season - make it a sure winner. I ate one today and it was amazing. Super sweet and zippy tart flavor. Pockets of red pigment were explosively flavorful.

I also gave Bob a sampling of Emperor Francis white cherries. They hit 16 brix.

Here is the whole collection I gifted to Bob - minus the cherries - with brix readings. (Remember: The white peach is mislabeled as Sugar May. It is actually Spring Snow).

I also gave Bob some summer budwood for a few apples, Euro plums, and an apricot. And he put me to work picking his smelly black currants! I could not imagine enjoying consuming the currants. Then Bob toasted me a bagel, and spread butter and his black currant jam all over it. It was delicious!

He showered me with more gifts. He gave me:
TWO full jars of homemade Niagara grape jelly.
Various spools of medical-grade parafilm for grafting.
A potted Neptune grapevine.
Another grapevine he says is likely Jupiter but might be Joy. I’ll take it!

We inspected the fruit-set on his multi-budded pear trees. They are loaded! He has fruitlets of Harvest Queen, Elliot, Concorde, and Magness. Most of the fruitlets look flawless. No blemishes or disease issues. Very exciting.

Bob was the most gracious host, and I am indebted to him for his kindness. Thanks, Bob. I’m wishing you lots of happy harvests this year!


Very nice report…!! Would you say those peaches were ripe? What do they charge for peaches this time of yr?


Steve- They were perfectly ripe. I knew you would dump on the low brix readings, but honestly, the flavor was fairly well balanced. Lots of twang and just enough sweetness to be very pleasurable. The price was $23 for the whole lot of fruit purchased, but I gave the little Amish girl thirty ($30) dollars cash and insisted she keep the change because I want to support good farmers growing good quality fruit. I talked her father’s (Elam’s) ear off discussing varieties and shop talk, so it was the least I could do. Mr Smucker even let me pick the dead-ripe Harrow Diamonds right off his trees in the field, after enough of my pestering.

Our Eastern-grown peaches sweeten up further as the summer drags on. In the Mid-Atlantic, August is prime peach season here. Redhaven is the beginning of the “better” season… and by late August, the peaches are off the charts incredible (barring too much rain, which is rare for Aug). Good peaches can also be had in upstate NY and parts of New England, with the best peaches often coming in around September in the more northern edges of the growing range.


To expand on this, I think it was interesting that he initially said that the HD were done. Then when you got out there and saw plenty of peaches left, he said that they aren’t something he can sell, because they are too ripe and people won’t want fruit like that (not going to keep, tender, etc).

Is there really anything around here that is high brix at this point in the season? The only thing I can think of is apricots and I’ve had so much trouble keeping them alive long enough to fruit (and protecting from animals) that it is almost noteworthy when I get to sample them. The Early Blush 16.5 brix Early Blush I had on 6/20/15 were the best local fruit I’ve had in June, but they were the only 2 I ever got off the tree before it died the next year in a late frost. I think I got a handful of Tomcots in 2013-2014 in early July which were very good as well.

One surprising brix reading I got recently was a 16 brix Black Velvet gooseberry. When they get up that high, they are decently tasty, though still with a tart kick.

Edit: I just remembered cherries. I haven’t grown any high brix ones, but I did get some from the farmers market yesterday. I got a brix reading on a medium ripe one of 16, similar to the Emperor Fancis cherries, but with a bit more acid. I actually ran into a few cherries in this batch that I think were higher- maybe 18, though I only noticed the sweetest ones as I was eating them, so no brix readings…

Yup- the only thing still hard was the nectarines. I had one a day or so later after it softened and it was also around 9 brix.


Thanks guys. I can see why you grow jujubes. You’re sugar deprived…lol


The first fruit of the season is always so good after waiting so long for fresh fruit. Looks like you guys had fun, great report, thanks for being honest with your evaluations! By the way I agree on arctic glo being sensational, too bad its in your early season. Enjoy your harvests!


I just ate another Arctic Glo. Here are those cranberry red antioxidants in the flesh:


I find the red flesh adds to the flavor profile. My very best peaches and nectarines have this! Very nice!


Three big reasons and that is the first- it is higher sugar than just about anything else (25-30 brix). 2nd is that the animals and bugs ignore them (so far). Maybe most importantly, in my climate, they are crisp, with a bit of juice to them. I can see why you might not like them if they were mushy or spongy like some of the CA raised ones from Chinatown. I’m guessing they were probably not crisp and crunchy from your greenhouse, as I think that being grown on water-deficit is actually a bad thing for jujube, unlike stonefruit.

In the last few days, I sampled my first (of 2) PF1 peaches. Depending on what part (blush vs pale) it ranged from 9 to 12 brix.

I also got a couple Delight cherry (sized) plums, but they were badly insect damaged (12-13 brix), so I didn’t get much to sample.

I also made a batch of jam, mixing:

Blackberries (frozen from last year)- 20 oz
Boyesenberries- 20 oz
Raspberries (mostly Prelude)- 18.5 oz
Black Velvet gooseberries- 1.5 oz (just for pectin)
Sour cherries (2.2 oz, all I saved from the birds this year)
Sugar- 40 oz

In progress:

Left-over, after I filled 6 jars:

I did run it through a strainer and have 3 jars of less seedy jam. The other 3 are the extra-seedy jam that the strainer caught (I’d hate to toss out half the batch just to get rid of seeds…). I’m interested in seeing how palatable it is. The above bowl is the leftovers from both halves mixed together. I’ve already sampled it, on yogurt and it was pretty tasty. I think I like Black Currant more (sharper flavor to stand out in yogurt), but this is good in a milder way. I think I like the Boysenberry flavor the best- I may try making an all Boysenberry batch next year.


Coming a bit late to this brix discussion … I was pleasantly surprised that my Sha Zi Zao Sheng peach (which I have decided to call Shazzi since thats a bit more Jazzy of a name :slight_smile: ) was 15 brix, also the PF11 nectarine was around 15. The Gold Rush I had under-thinned and they varied a lot in brix this year, 10-15.


15 can be a good peach. 10 or less isn’t even good in a watermelon. There is a huge difference between a 10 and a 14 brix watermelon. 14 is really sweet, 10 hardly.


Bob --> I got some tasty 15 brix Black Velvet berries from the cutting you sent me last year. Thanks! I harvested mine a few weeks ago when they were still light purple and they probably could have gotten sweeter if I had some patience. Any decent berry that ripens before SWD is becoming more and more important to me. They were better than my Hinnomaki Red which was loaded as much as it could have been even after dropping a fair amount of fruitlets. If gooseberries get loaded like that for me in the future, I’m going to try thinning them.


I’m glad you got some good berries out of them. Black Velvet is probably my fastest (and strongest) grower. I have some that are ~8’ tall, growing up into neighboring plum trees. But, they also have large thorns and the berries aren’t as large as Hinomaki Red.

I’m not sure that they do, at least for me. But, I don’t think SWD likes them anywhere near as much as raspberries, so even though I’ve been finding them in raspberries, I haven’t noticed any in Gooseberries. I bet that the SWD that are pre-disposed to infest gooseberries and currents get eaten by birds before they can reproduce…

I did pick an interesting Gooseberry for the first time- Colossal, which lives up to its name. The berries were among the largest gooseberries I’ve seen. But, they weren’t all that tasty- I’m guessing that they have the same amount of sugar, spread over a much larger area. I’m not sure they were ripe, but they were disappearing from the bush pretty quick, so I snagged the last 2.

Here they are next to a couple Sweet Treats (size of a cherry, taste of a plum, but they were bug damaged ones- I have some un-damaged ones which aren’t ripe yet). My first thought is that they will be good for someone who wants to make gooseberry jam, but doesn’t want to spend a ton of time picking berries. I’m not that fond of GB jam though, so I don’t see myself doing much with them. I’ll try again next year though to see if they are tastier, as I definitely like the size…

I’m pretty sure I have lower standards, but I had a 10 brix watermellon the other day which wasn’t bad. If it is decently crisp and firm, 10 gives it enough sweetness to be interesting. Sure, I’d like to get my hands on a 14 brix mellon, but 10 will do :slight_smile:

I actually had some good apricots from the grocery store (Organic Stemilt). They are large and have a decent blush. Once ripened for a day on the counter, they are just the right consistency and have good flavor. The kicker- just 13 brix. I suppose that if the fruit is tasty, extra sugar isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Here’s a picture of one next to a PF1 peach and a tiny Montrose apricot from my tree (the bigger Montrose was stripped by animals and I over-cropped the younger one, so the animals left the tiny tasteless fruit alone).

I think the Ubileen pears are getting close to ripe- I’m tempted to pick a couple- 1 to try and one to store for a bit. I’ll probably hold back until August 1st…


Here’s a pic of the Mirabelle de Nancy bark graft I made while you were picking the black currants. Looking good, after 18 days.

Here’s a couple chip buds. I’m never sure if they’ve taken until next year…


Are those gold leaf gloves?


The bark graft of M de Nancy was from summer budwood, not the dormant wood, right? Impressive that it takes well.



Yup, it was fresh cuttings that Matt brought with him. In my haste to graft, I also put some apple (started with the same letter…) on the plum tree. That didn’t take :blush: