In my journey to find Southern California’s gems I stumbled across Adams Acres, the last orange grove in Rialto, California. It’s about two hours north of San Diego between Fontana and San Bernadino. It’s an unassuming place, back from the street, surrounded by small and large fruit trees, with a painted wooden sign advertising “Adams Acres”.
John Adams, a botanist who has a PhD in soil science, is the 3rd generation to care for these century old trees. His grandparents bought the property in 1899 and planted the first orange trees in 1907, many of which are still producing an abundance of fruit today.
I called John to learn more about his orange grove and possibly arrange a tour. We spoke for almost an hour, him telling me about the rich history of the grove and what he has been up to for the past few years, planting exotic trees and farming vegetables, different processes he was using to maximize his crops, and experimenting with new fruit trees and planting vegetables at different times during the season to maximize variety. At the end of our wonderful and informative conversation he invited me up for a tour.
Adams Acres is located in the middle of a residential area so keep your eyes peeled; I missed it twice. I was met at the top of the driveway by John with a warm smile and handshake, him stating, “You finally found it.” I think he knew I had gotten lost. We exchanged a little laugh and then began the tour of the orange grove and vegetable farm.
We started on the front side of the grove by the street. We walked slowly through the trees, John telling me about all of the different exotic fruit trees he had planted in the last few years as well as the original orange trees in the grove. One of the most exotic trees on the property is the tecojote tree. The fruit from the tecojote tree is used in a punch mixed with tequila for a warm drink during the winter months in Mexico.
As we made our way to the back side of the grove, we’d stop, him giving a brief description about the types of trees and characteristics of the fruit he was growing. At one point he said, “I bet you can’t guess what kind of tree that is.” A tree with small, round, yellow fruit in bunches and not many leaves. I hadn’t a clue. He encouraged me to go over and try a couple. Firm flesh, a bit creamy and loaded with flat seeds. He said, “Thai Eggplant.” I have to say they were pretty good, and a new one for me.
We continued to walk and talk, sampling different types of oranges from several different trees, his favorite being the Cara Cara. I peeled the deep orange rind away from the ruby red flesh, the sugary sweet juice dripping down my hands as I pulled the segments apart, sweet and full of flavor. I understood why it was his favorite.
We walked to the far side of the grove where he has rows and rows of kale, rainbow chard, onions, lettuce, cilantro and kohlrabi growing. He said, “We are trying different growing techniques with the vegetables, which ones grow better with more or less shade, as well as keeping a large variety growing at all times so there is never a lull in production.” He wants to make sure that in his fruit stand he always has something new and exciting for customers to try, and his growing techniques assure him that he is getting maximum flavor from his fruits and vegetables.
Another new one for me was the Kohlrabi. He asked me if I knew what it was, I told him I’d heard of it but never had tried it. An opportunity for me to try something straight out of the ground, he said, “pull it out of the ground, break off the little tip and eat it like an apple.” Crunchy, earthy, delicious.
While I continued to finish my lunch we wondered back to the front of the property where his fruit stand is located, a small freshly painted building with signs advertising his offerings and windows facing the street. I had had my fill of fresh fruits, vegetables and education. I snapped a few pictures and thanked John for his hospitality.
Driving back to San Diego I thought to myself how great of an afternoon it had been, spending time with someone who has a deep respect for the things that provide us sustenance and pleasure.
Now, I could list all of the different types of fruit trees from oranges to apples, peaches, pears and cherries to all of the vegetables that John has growing in his orange grove but it would be better if you would go and pay him a visit, he would love to meet you and give you a tour.
John Adams, Adams Acres
652 S. Cactus Ave., Rialto, California 92376