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Archive for 2012

Traceland California Avocados at Earl’s!

Just when you thought the California avocado season was done, Earl’s has the most delicious tasting late season California avocados from Traceland in Cayucos.  They will only be around for another week so get them now.

Traceland is located near the ocean on the central coast and about 20 miles northwest of San Luis Obispo where the unique geography and climate allows year round growing conditions without high heat or killing frosts.  Cayucos sits in a small area of coastal land defined by the Santa Lucia mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. The ocean cools the hot summers and warms the cold winters.  The land is bisected at various places along its length by wild creeks that flow unimpeded from the coast range to the ocean providing the copious amounts of water avocado trees need to fruit.    

Ron, Gail and their twin sons moved to Cayucos in 1998 from Chicago.  In 2005 they planted their 6 acre avocado orchard with a goal to grow organic avocados as sustainably as possible.  The avocado trees are planted on natural slopes and not man made terraces, which affects the drainage.  He also puts down composted manures, organic minerals and wood chip mulches to fertilize the trees.  Cover crops of native grasses are used to produce natural nitrogen, honey bees are used for fruit production and predator insects for biological disease control.  Weeds are pulled by hand and they even trap gophers by hand.

Traceland is also unique because they hand pick all of the avocados and deliver them to Earl’s within 24 hours of picking! The flavor is very creamy and rich in oil content this late in the season.

Mexican avocados are starting to be found in markets everywhere but it is good to note that they won’t be high in flavor until at least super bowl time at the end of January.  Earl’s also works with a few other growers in the Cayucos area including 7th Heaven and Charan Springs.  Charan Springs avocados are also now at Earls. Keep eating California while you can!

Bauman College Winter Tour

Earl’s Organic hosted their third Bauman Holistic, Nutrition Culinary Arts College tour this past Wednesday. Although it was a rainy day over 50 students and faculty from three campuses made it out to Earl’s.  Bauman is a non-profit educational institution that aims to create a sustainable culture of wellness in individuals and to change the way people consume food from convenience to conscious eating. Earl shared his expertise on how he sources the best organic produce and how it travels from farm to table.  The hosts of An Organic Conversation,  Mark Mulchay, Sita Palomar and Helge Hellberg also joined the tour and helped lead the discussion about flavor profiles and how we treat the land affects the flavor and quality of the food we put in our bodies.

The students are about to finish their classes and then will need to complete 50 externship hours before graduating.  The students will go onto careers such as becoming a personal chef, having a catering business, recipe writing, product development, blogging or working in alternative baking.

The tour was designed to further the students understanding of the food chain; how produce travels from the farm to the end user and the amount of care and attention that is given to how it is packaged, stored and handled during that transition. An emphasis was placed on Earl’s Organic providing superior produce at the best price point while supporting the local economy and the sustainability of organic farms.  Earl’s has the relationships with the farms and does all the quality control so our customers don’t have to, ultimately saving them time with only one shopping trip for all their organic produce needs.

Earl guided the tour through the warehouse and coolers explaining how produce is brought into the warehouse from the farms and how it is stored in either the warm storage area, fruit storage area, cold/wet cooler or cold/dry coolers.  Every item of produce that arrives goes through strict quality control and usually has a 2-3 day turnover rate.  Produce is constantly arriving into the warehouse and being shipped out to customers.  The busiest time at the warehouse happens at night between 10pm -5am when trucks can be seen arriving with the latest harvests from farms all over California and even from Mexico depending on the season.  The trucks are constantly checked for the correct temperature with infrared thermometers and great care is taken to work with the growers on how to optimize the integrity of the produce from farm to table.

There were tasting points set up throughout the tour for students to try some super fresh delicious seasonal produce. Trays of satsuma segments from Side Hill Citrus in Lincoln, CA, Fuyu persimmon pieces sprinkled with black pepper was an interesting flavor combo and Hosui Asian pear slices tossed in orange juice was a refreshing end to the warehouse tour.

Students were then treated to presentations by local food companies.  McEvoy Ranch sampled their certified organic olive oil with olives all grown, harvested, milled, blended and bottled entirely on the ranch in Petaluma.  Did you know the best way to taste olive oil is to slurp it so you taste it at the back of your throat? Next was Desta from San Anselmo in Marin. They select the best organic and fair trade tea and coffee from around the world and a portion of the profits goes to communities and orphans in Ethiopia.   Our last presenter of the day was Mariposa, a dedicated gluten free bakery in the Temescal District of Oakland.   Their mission is to create wholesome, hand-crafted food using the finest natural ingredients.

Next was lunch made by the Bauman College using Earl’s Organic Produce.  A beautiful winter green salad with Organic Girl Vive La France salad mix was tossed with a spring salad mix, Asian pear and satsumas in a honey lime cilantro dressing. White bean chili was a perfect complement to the salad and kept everyone toasty warm in the warehouse.

Students had the opportunity to buy produce after the tour and take it home with them. Everyone left the tour really understanding that San Francisco is the home to the most passionate and knowledgeable advocates of organic and sustainable agriculture.  Be sure to follow Earl’s on Facebook and Twitter for the most up to date organic news and the seasonality and geography of our growers and their produce.

Even if you don’t have an account with Earl’s Organic you can walk into the warehouse Sunday-Thursday evenings starting 10pm until 10am the following morning and buy cases at our Customer Service Office.  If you have questions please give us a call!

Pistachio Nuts

Pistachios are harvested starting in early September through October depending on the area they are grown.  The trees are shaken with a mechanical shaker onto tarps, instead of the orchard floor.  They are collected on the tarps to be dried and de-hulled and no human hands will touch them during harvest because any hand oil would stain the shells.

Pistachios are a cholesterol free snack, a one oz serving of pistachios has as much potassium as an orange and pistachios contain more than 10% of the daily value of dietary fiber and essential vitamins and minerals like B6, thiamin, copper and phosphorous. Earl’s just got a shipment of delicious roasted and salted pistachios from Nurses Pistachio Orchards in Paso Robles.

Learn more about how nuts are grown and harvested.

GO NUTS

In the midst of the holidays, nuts are one of the most popular party snacks and many of those nuts are grown right here in California.  Some of the most popular nuts include almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts and pistachios.

All of the commercially grown almonds in the United States are grown in California in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys.  Almonds are California’s largest tree nut crop and are also the top agricultural export with 70% of the crop being sold to Spain, Germany, Japan and India.

Bees are very important because the almond tree is not self-pollinating.  Bees are brought from 49 states to the orchards to carry pollen between alternating rows of almond varieties during the bloom phase in late February or early March. If the weather is stormy or cold during the critical bloom stage the bees won’t pollinate and the crop size will be reduced. For optimal cross-pollination and crop development, an orchard must have more than one variety of almond tree and most orchards have three.

All nuts are covered in a green protective hull. When the nut has matured the hull will split open exposing the shell of the nut which is a sign that it is the optimal time to harvest. Inside the hull is the shell and inside the shell is the nut or seed.

Almond harvest occurs mid-August through October. There are over 30 types of almonds, but 10 varieties comprise the majority of almonds produced in California.  Nonpareil is the largest single variety. Prior to harvest nut growers need to prepare the orchard by leveling and clearing any debris from the orchard floor. This provides a smooth clear surface when the nuts are shaken from the trees by mechanical tree shakers.  The machine grabs the tree and then vigorously shakes the nuts out of the tree.  Almonds need to stay on the ground for another 8-10 days to dry out their shell and hull. Then they are swept into rows and picked up by a machine which can sort out all the branches and leaves from the nuts.

California Almonds are cholesterol-free and low in saturated fat.  Research now shows that they may also help maintain a healthy heart.

Walnuts are another nut that is grown almost completely in California.  99% of the commercial supply in the United States is grown in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys and the remaining 1% in Oregon. California exports 75% of their walnut crop.

There are two main kinds of walnuts. English Walnuts are native to Persia and have a thin shell and nearly all commercial varieties grown are hybrids of the English Walnut. Black Walnuts are native to eastern North America and because of their hard shell they are not grown commercially

Harvest time starts in the central valley in September and October in Sacramento.  Mechanical tree shakers are also used to shake the walnuts onto the ground where they are swept into rows and then picked up by a machine. Check out this cool 2 minute video showing you how it’s done.

http://www.walnuts.org/about-walnuts/growing-and-processing/

Walnuts are rich in omega 6 fatty acids, high in Vitamin E and a rich source of minerals like manganese, copper, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium. Walnut oil has a flavorful nutty aroma and is used in cooking and for massage therapy, aromatherapy, and in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry. It can also be used on your skin to protect from dryness.

Pecans are the only native nut in the United States. Georgia is largest producer followed by Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma, California, Arizona, South Carolina and Hawaii.

Pecan varieties are called native, seedling or hybrid. Native pecans developed under natural conditions, usually wild along river bottom areas. Seedling pecans are of the same parentage but produced from seed(nut) and have not been budded or grafted. Hybrid varieties have been genetically altered through breeding and grafting.

Pecans are typically harvested around mid-October. You can tell when they are ready to harvest when the hulls start to split and they start to fall to the ground. Smaller growers will wait until they fall off the tree and larger growers will use a mechanical shaker.

Pecans are a good source of protein and unsaturated fats. They only have half the rich omega 6 fatty acids as walnuts but they can double the cholesterol-lowering effectiveness of a traditional heart-healthy diet. Did you know Earl’s favorite pie is pecan pie?

Hazelnuts have consistently been an important staple in the diet of man since prehistoric times. Turkey is the largest producer in the world with 75% of the worldwide production. In the U.S. they are commercially grown in Oregon and Washington.

There are many varieties but the most popular in the U.S. is the Filbert.  Most commercial growers wait until the nuts drop on their own rather than use mechanical equipment to shake them from a tree.

Hazelnuts are rich in protein and unsaturated fat and particularly high in two minerals: manganese and copper. Consuming just 1.5 ounces of hazelnuts per day may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to the USDA. The seed has a thin dark brown skin which has a bitter flavor and is sometimes removed before cooking.  Hazelnuts are used in pastries, paste such as Nutella and even the vodka based liqueur Frangelico.

Pistachios are one of the oldest flowering fruit, at least 9000 years. They began to be commercially grown in the United States in 1976 and now are primarily grown in California, New Mexico and Arizona. Almost all of California’s pistachios are grown in the southern San Joaquin Valley in Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern counties with a small amount in Paso Robles and Sacramento Valley.

Pistachios are harvested starting in early September through October depending on the area they are grown.  The trees are shaken with a mechanical shaker onto tarps, instead of the orchard floor, like the other nuts we just discussed. They are collected on the tarps to be dried and de-hulled and no human hands will touch them during harvest because any hand oil would stain the shells.

Pistachios are a cholesterol free snack, a one oz serving of pistachios has as much potassium as an orange and pistachios contain more than 10% of the daily value of dietary fiber and essential vitamins and minerals like B6, thiamin, copper and phosphorous. Earl’s just got a shipment of delicious roasted and salted pistachios from Nurses Pistachio Orchards in Paso Robles. Click here to read the full story about NPO.

Earl’s Organic carries a variety of nuts including almonds, walnuts and pistachios, perfect for that holiday party!

 

Sources:

www.almondboard.com

www.walnuts.org

http://californiapecangrowers.org

http://www.oregonhazelnuts.org

Satsuma Weather Update

It’s raining in the Bay Area this morning but luckily for Rich Ferreira from Side Hill Citrus in Lincoln the rain hasn’t started yet.  Rich has hired extra labor to pick as many Satsumas as possible before the rain starts and his citrus becomes compromised.  Rich’s ultimate goal is “to grow a good piece of fruit that will last.”  Now his biggest worry is that the rain will cause the citrus to be waterlogged which can cause molding, possible rind breakdown and a shorter shelf life.  Rich will need to wait until his Satsumas dry out before he can pick again.

As a quick FYI, Earl had the chance to buy Satsumas from two more growers in the valley, think Fresno area. The Brix or sugar level tested a 12 while the Satsumas from Side Hill tested a 17. This translates to 30% higher sugars and a sweeter Satsuma.  Satsumas also look beautiful this holiday season in a centerpiece bowl.

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