Archive for July, 2012
We are coming to the end of the California peach season and the transition from early season peaches, to late harvest peaches. Late harvest varieties are usually picked the third or fourth week in July. They are lower in moisture and less juicy than early varieties but they are full of flavor. The peaches have been on the tree longer resulting in a more solid piece of fruit. Don’t wait until they get too soft though, this could result in a mealy peach.
Late harvest peaches eat less ripe and more firm than early varieties. Freestone varieties will pull apart easily after making a slice and the pit will fall out. Some of the most popular late harvest varieties are the O’Henry and Summer Lady at Earl’s Organic now!
We will be sampling the Summer Lady peaches at the Academy of Sciences Nightlife Summer event this Thursday, August 2nd from 6-10pm. Hope to see you there!
The first of the locally grown California Bartletts have arrived at Earl’s! The first Bartletts are coming out of the Sacramento and Stockton River Delta region where the hot days and the cool nights are needed to develop the Bartletts sweet, juicy and delicious flavor. In August we will start seeing California Bartletts from the Lake County and Mendocino growing district. California pears are very delicate and are all hand-picked and packed. In our opinion, we at Earl’s feel that California Bartletts are some of the best pears in the world.
Pears are picked green but not ripe. They ripen from the inside out and have a fragrant aroma, but how do you know when your pear is ripe? One way is to check the color. The deep green skin will soften to a golden hue. Touch is another way. Apply gentle pressure to the neck or stem area of the pear and it will give slightly when it is ready to eat. The best way of all is to spend time getting to know your pear. Buy a few pears and experiment with cutting them up at different times. You will get to know the exact color and feel of your pear when it is perfectly ripe. Timing is everything!
As Ralph Waldo Emerson said “There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat.”
As a guideline you want to let pears ripen on your counter for a day or two. You can refrigerate ripe pears for 3-5 days, but they are best eaten right away. Bartletts are great for eating out of hand but they also hold up well when baked or poached. If a pear is soft at the store that means it is overripe and most likely will be brown when you cut it open. Don’t buy soft pears!
Did you know that the Bartlett pear got its start in 17th Century England, originally known as the Williams pear before crossing the Atlantic with the early American colonists? Nurseryman Enoch Bartlett of Massachusetts, unaware of the pear’s true name, began distributing the variety under his own name in 1812 and it quickly became America’s favorite. By 1849, Bartlett pear trees had arrived in California, brought West by prospectors eager to strike it rich in the Gold Rush. (www.calpear.com)
A mini heat wave is going on down in the San Joaquin Valley, where a lot of stone fruit is grown. Temperatures are averaging about 106 in the daytime with humidity but it feels like it 109. Although to keep it in perspective, July is the hottest month of the year with normal temperatures ranging around 99 and cooling down to the 60’s at night if they are lucky. The Southern tropical moisture from Mexico can push the night time temperatures up to the mid 70’s or 80’s.
Stone fruit needs the heat in the summer, in the low 90’s at a minimum, to mature and develop the brix or sugar content. On the flip side too many hot days over 102 degrees in a row can put stress on the trees, slow down the ripening and delay harvesting. The fruit also may not mature properly, be smaller than usual and even cause the tree to not be as productive next year. If the tree doesn’t have a great canopy of leaves on it the fruit can even get sunburned.
Richard Burkart from Burkart Farmsin Dinuba says the best thing you can do is to be prepared for the hot weather. He only starts worrying when the heat wave doesn’t look like it is going to stop. He doesn’t let his trees get overly dry or too heavily watered before a heat wave which can put too much stress on the trees. Richard also takes care of his employees and makes sure they are not out in the heat too long. They start picking as soon as the sun comes up and try to be done before 2pm at the latest, even though this may slow down his picking schedule. The key is to plan accordingly and not get too far behind if different varieties need to be picked and packed at the same time. The hot afternoons will be spent packing under cover in the packing shed.
There are times during the growing season that the temperatures may dip down into the 80’s but this usually only happens early on, during the middle of May and through the early part of June. Lower temperatures can delay the ripening of the fruit and cause the starches and staple sugars to not rise up. Problems can really arise when temperatures rise quickly to the high 90’s after an extended period of low temperatures. Stone fruit varieties can have split pits, ripen too quickly and the sugars are not developed or different varieties can ripen at the same time which means having to pick a higher volume than planned.
From the third week of June through August, the San Joaquin valley almost never sees temperatures in the 80’s. If it does happen it will only be for a day and the sugars are already there so the low temperatures won’t make a difference in the flavor or quality of the stone fruit.
All fruit once it is picked has an internal field heat temperature around 90-100 degrees. The fruit needs to be cooled down to maintain the quality of the fruit from farm to your grocery store. Richard puts his stone fruit first in the pre-cooling room for about 12-14 hours. Fans pull air through the pallets and bring the temperature down to about 32 degrees. Then the stone fruit is moved to the main cooler which is kept at 32 degrees until it is ready to be shipped out on temperature controlled trucks.
Stone fruit can be stored in the refrigerator until you are ready to ripen it on your kitchen counter. The varieties of stone fruit seem endless. Earl’s is now selling Fire Pearl and Majestic Pearl White Nectarines; Kaweah and Summer Bright Yellow Nectarines; Diamond Princess, Donut, Elegant Lady and Zee Lady Yellow Peaches; Glacier White and Summer Sweet White Peaches; Catalina, Friar, August Yummy and Hiromi Red Plums; Dapple Fire and Mariposa Plouts and Rival Apricots just to name a few.
Check Earl’s Facebook and Twitter pages for photos of stone fruit arriving at Earl’s every day. Slice some stone fruit to put on top of your cereal or yogurt, bring a fruit salad to a picnic, bake a peach cobbler or grill some peaches drizzled with balsamic vinegar. When you just can’t let summer go, try your hand at canning.