Fall in my parents’ backyard is reminiscent of a postcard rack in a small town general store. After months of hot desert sun, regular irrigation, and cool nights, the fruit trees, grape vines, berry bushes and vegetable plants pour forth a colorful buffet of everything one might need to create the most delightful potluck. From pies to preserves, salads to salsa, root and squash vegetables to melons, and fresh herbs to season all of it perfectly, there’s no doubt my parents’ backyard offers something for everyone.
When I lived in Los Angeles, I always looked forward to experiencing the changing seasons of the Pacific Northwest, and a weekend slice of small town life in the agriculturally-rich Yakima Valley. What I didn’t look forward to was the fruit flies.
Compared to mosquitoes in the Midwest and scorpions in the south, or even the buzzing June bugs in California, fruit flies seem like a relatively harmless nuisance. Still, leave a peach on the counter or a bowl of apples prepped for a pie, and overnight your kitchen is somehow filled with these miniature flying bugs. Growing up as an apple farmer’s daughter, in forty years I still haven’t figured out where so many of these insects are invisibly hiding to appear instantly on the patio and in the kitchen. And it’s not like there are just a few. I am not joking when I say fruit flies show up with an entourage the size of a village.
The great news: this year, we’re enjoying the bountiful harvest without the insect village. I discovered a magical recipe while doing research for the novel I’m writing about a city-dwelling family who returns to their grandparents’ farm in Ellensburg, which has just been turned into a charming bed and breakfast, for a Thanksgiving celebration together. The B&B, still set in an orchard, offers guests a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables harvested onsite farm-to-table. But in the story, there are no fruit flies (which could be creative writing or really could be the case with this simple trick.)
I tried this, and the results are amazing!
RECIPE: Simply take a normal wide-mouth quart jar. In it add a mixture of 1 pump of liquid dish soap (about 1 teaspoon) and 2 cups of EITHER apple cider vinegar OR red wine vinegar. (The red wine vinegar is a prettier color sitting out on the counter and hides the dead fruit flies at the bottom better. But the fruit flies tend to swarm to the apple cider vinegar faster. Both work, so it’s your choice.)
DIRECTIONS: Cut a standard piece of typing paper in half vertically, and bend it to create a cone shape. (No need to tape it, just drape it cone-shaped around the inside of the mouth of the jar.)
Leave it on the counter and no matter how much fresh fruit and berries or how many delicious tomatoes, peppers or cucumbers you allow to ripen on the counter, you’ll be able to enjoy the perfect harvest without any pesky visitors.