Name: Nick Brown
Farm: Rincon Del Mar Ranch
Location: Carpinteria, CA
What they grow: In addition to selling creamy cherimoyas (usually late December to June), the ranch also sells avocadoes, pineapple guavas, and apples in the fall.
Where to buy: Farmers markets including Saturday in downtown Santa Barbara and Sundays in Ojai. Their cherimoyas have also become a favorite at the Santa Monica markets, made popular at Michelin-starred restaurant Melisse.
In season now: The ranch sells four varieties of cherimoyas including Lisa (sweet, juicy, flavorful, and a personal favorite of the ranch), Bonita (rich and flavorful, with more seeds than other varieties), Bays (juicy, sweet, rounded in shape and flavor with fewer seeds), and Fino de Jete (meatier consistency, great for ice cream and smoothies and the most popular variety in Spain).
Their story: Overlooking Rincon Point, Rincon Del Mar Ranch offers the perfect location for growing cherimoyas, a fifth generation venture. With over 40 years experience growing in Carpinteria and 30-plus years in the markets, the ranch has become known for consistency and quality, hand pollinating from flower to flower.
“Bees cannot pollinate cherimoyas due to their flower shape,” said Brown. “While we do have cherimoyas that are not hand pollinated, the hand pollinated fruit is much more consistent, producing a larger fruit with more meat around the seeds.”
Working last year with Rori’s Creamery in Montecito to produce their popular “Cherimoya Chai,” Brown describes this subtropical fruit as a sweet blend of pineapple, papaya, and banana. While tricky to grow, the reward is a fruit bursting with flavor and nutrients (rich in potassium and B vitamins).
“I have been ruined for fruit for the rest of my life!” said Brown. “We have set such a high bar for quality and flavor. Our cherimoyas are absolutely delicious.”
Known as one of the fastest ripening fruits, picking the perfect cherimoya requires some careful handling. The fruit is ready when soft like a peach, with the scales on the fruit thumbprint in size. Best to chill one hour before eating, the creamy fruit is excellent alone or blended into sorbet (Brown’s favorite).
“Cherimoyas have a short window, but when you get it right, it’s perfect,” said Brown. “I explain a cherimoya to customers as the best of every tropical fruit put together — ice cream fruit!”
Stressing the importance of a closed circle relationship between farmer and consumer, Rincon Del Mar Ranch hopes to educate market-goers on the importance of farmers markets, choosing products based on seasonality and freshness. Spending summers pollinating the fruit, Brown is an avid proponent of educating consumers to eat locally.
“It’s so important to know your farmer and where your food is coming from,” said Brown. “We focus on seasonality, off the tree and into the consumers’ hands.”
Working the markets since middle school, Brown has become a familiar face and hopes to stay in the family business, alongside his father and sister. Enjoying the hands-on work and connection with the community, Brown looks forward to continuing to educate others about this delicious fruit.
“This works really keeps you on your toes,” said Brown. “Not only do I get to form a relationship with the trees and the earth, it’s incredibly satisfying to see your product from start to finish.”