When Nick took over Fitz Kelly's orchards, there was more than his own reputation at stake. Fitz had long been the go-to stone fruit grower for chefs on both coasts, his dedication to varietal integrity and ripe harvesting building a following more commonly seen in the art world than agriculture. Nick had impressive boots to fill.
Any hesitations were short-lived. Drawing on five generations’ worth of Central Valley farming and the dogged determination of a young grower, Nick’s is honing in on good farming practices and varietal specification to phenomenal results.
GOOD FARMING PRACTICES
The Zerbinati farm lies on the old riverbed of the River Po: thick, mineral-rich soil that provides the perfect base for growing truly exceptional melons. Melon plants will absorb any available water, meaning the key to flavour is an ability to limit their intake while still providing the necessary minerals plants need to thrive. Oscar’s soil - combined with his carefully created growing mounds - does just that.
With most growers geared towards the 'ripen at home' harvest, a single bite of Nick’s fruit has the power to shock. This is no freak incident of nature: his season is a carefully choreographed series of explosions, with each variety only ripe for ten days at the most. It’s as much work as it sounds - from pruning to picking to transport, harvesting ripe requires an insane level of attention that wouldn’t even be considered viable by most growers. Nor would mainstream commercial channels accept the final fruit, its delicate, short shelf life making it impossible for retailers to handle. Only by working direct with supporters like us, can Nick’s fruit go beyond his orchard.
We cannot emphasise the importance of his work strongly enough. Like Kelly before him, Nick is protecting a vital part of both cultural and natural history: preserving heritage varieties forsaken by purely commercial growers in favor of extended shelf life and higher yields. Together, we’re working to reinstate value where it belongs: in our food.