The Blossom Trail of the Central Valley
Jan 30, 2020 11:00AM
By Kimberly Horg
In Full Bloom
Story by Kimberly Horg
DURING THE LATE 19th century, settlers drained marshes in the Central Valley for agriculture. The Kaweah, Kern, Kings and Tule rivers were dammed upstream in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, which transformed their headwaters into a system of reservoirs. In the San Joaquin Valley, canals were built to deliver water and divert the remaining flows for agricultural irrigation and municipal uses. There was also the construction of Pine Flat Dam on the Kings River in Fresno County. The lake bed: a shallow basin of fertile soil, within the Central Valley, and the most productive agricultural region of the United States.
It is not a secret that locals in the Central Valley have been spoiled with fresh fruit and vegetables, but some may not be aware that before the produce is picked, when it is still sitting on the vine in full blossom, a natural, beautiful event takes place annually. People have the opportunity to marvel at the beauty of the blooms of the fruit while driving on The Blossom Trail.
The Blossom Trail season runs from late February through March. Visitors and locals alike take pleasure in viewing the state flower, the California Poppy, winding its way throughout the trail. The shiny, golden-orange flowers with bluish-green leaves set off other flowers, including the Baby Blue Eyes, which display in contrast bright blue flowers with succulent stems. But the true beauty lies within the fruit blossoms.
“It’s unique to visit the blossom trail, not only for the beauty, but to take in how fruit is grown,” says Simonian Farms Operations Manager Stacey Grote. “Different types of fruit have different sizes and colors of blossoms, and some people never realize that. Nor do they realize that the fruit is actually at the center of that blossom. It’s always nice to see how your food is grown, where it comes from and who grows it.”
Simonian Farms, southeast of Fresno, is a third-generation working farm and the official start of the Blossom Trail. Simonian Farms has been around since the start of the Trail in the 1900s and has vowed not to lose the down-home country charm. Visitors can take a step back into the past of balloon tire bicycles, pedal cars and non-reproduction antiques. They can also pick up souvenirs or choose from a large collection of dried fruit and nuts. For more information, visit www.simonianfarms.com.
Many stone fruits have white petals, including plum blossoms. At least two varieties will be planted in an orchard for cross pollination and more than 200 varieties are grown commercially. Apple blossoms have white petals, as well, and up to six varieties are grown commercially in Fresno County. Citrus blossoms are also white with an aromatic fragrance, including navel and Valencia oranges, mandarins and lemons. Almond blossoms have white petals as well, and two or more varieties may be planted in the same orchard for cross pollination by bees. Much of the beauty people see is due to the bees in the orchards.
Then there are the pretty pink apricot blossoms. Fewer than 12 varieties are grown commercially. Peach and nectarine blossoms have pink to red petals, with more than 100 varieties grown here commercially.
“We have been a part of the blossom trail since inception. We are either the beginning or the end, depending on which way you take the route,” Grote says.
The trail stretches through various towns, including Sanger, once home to the longest flume in the world; Reedley, named after wheat baron Thomas Law Reed; Selma, known as the “Raisin Capital of the World”; Fowler, also home to raisins, including Champion Raisins; Clovis, which features Old West architecture; and Kingsburg, which hosts a Swedish atmosphere. Each town has a unique history to offers visitors.
Orange Cove and Kings River are where the trail boasts beautiful, aromatic blossoms this time of year. The mighty Kings River begins in the high Sierra and winds down to the valley floor, offering white water rafting, great fishing or a canoe trip along the Blossom Trail. Near the Kings River is Orange Cove, home to the scenic Orange Blossom Trail – one of the most fragrant sections of the trail, as well as one of the most visually appealing sections to drive along. “The Blossom Trail is truly a beautiful drive and hidden gem of the San Joaquin Valley,” Grote says.
In the summer, visitors can make another trip to taste the delicious fresh fruit. The Blossom Trail Committee in conjunction with the Big Fresno Fair holds an annual Blossom Trail Art Contest. Each year the winner has his or her work displayed on the Blossom Trail poster. •
Kimberly Horg earned her Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Humboldt State University. She is pursuing her Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at Fresno State University. Kimberly has had hundreds of articles published throughout the country. To read more of her work, visit www.kimberlyhorg.com.