Archive for April, 2015
Every year we wait with bated breath until the stone fruit season begins. This year even though we have already seen a smattering of stone fruit on the market, next week really heralds the arrival of the stone fruit season as we receive our first shipment of Burkart Peaches along with other local growers. If you ever have tasted a Burkart Peach you know how flavorful they are. Richard Burkart grows high-quality organic stone fruit on 65 acres near Dinuba along the northern border of Tulare County about 4 hours south of San Francisco.
What is the difference between a cling stone and free stone peach, between a peach and a nectarine and how do you eat an early season versus late season piece of fruit? Look for the answers and more in upcoming blogs as we explore the many varieties arriving each week at Earls.
Grapefruits have the highest heat requirement of all citrus varieties. They grow best and develop peak flavor early in the season in areas with hot summer climates such as Texas and Florida and parts of California and Arizona. In areas that don’t get the intense summer heat the fruit needs to sit on the tree longer until at least late spring or summer. Organic grapefruits are one of the few domestic citrus that are available for most of the year.
Hyde Ranch, one of Earl’s relatively new citrus growers, is located in the scenic avocado and citrus agriculture area of Pauma Valley in San Diego County, California. Hyde is nestled in the valley and faces beautiful Mt. Palomar State Park, complete with their own observatory. Their citrus season will go on longer than many growers because part of their property sits in the shade. One side lets them start early in the season and the other side of the property allows them to go later as the sun shifts against the hillside in October and November. Just like many areas of California, Pauma Valley has its own micro climate. According to Lance Hyde, “It is amazing. You can take a 2 mile walk and there will be warm belts because of the hills. It literally feels 5 degrees warmer, it is really strange. This is why you see fruit growing on the hillsides.” The hot days and the chilly nights brings out the sugars and color in the fruit. Lance also firmly believes that there is a strong correlation between the rich, dark soil on the ranch and the sweetness of his fruit.
Lance Hyde, like many emerging farmers, did not grow up on a farm or dream of working in agriculture. He was a workaholic for 23 years in the real estate field until he fell sick for a few years. Lance decided it was time for a healthy and organic lifestyle. He became a vegetarian and wanted a new career where he was working in the outdoor air. In 2004 Lance bought an existing 82 acre organic citrus farm with grapefruits and oranges and added lemons and avocados to the mix. He work on the farm with his wife, parents and 5 kids ranging from 2 to 11 years old.
Lance grows red and pink grapefruits including the Star Ruby and Marsh Ruby. Grapefruits are categorized as either white fleshed or pigmented and the Star Ruby has the deepest color out of all the pigmented varieties. The flesh is a deep red and although they are small for a grapefruit, they are not as acidic as other varieties. The season starts around April and as we get into summer the fruit will become sweeter and less acidic. Lances daughter Mikayla says they are “really sweet and good” and she loves to cut them up into quarters and eat them with a spoon. Look for the Star Ruby grapefruit through May and then they will be back again for a limited appearance in September/October.
In a few weeks the Marsh Grapefruit will be coming on and the season continues through October. A light pink variety with good flavor, it is one of the most popular varieties grown because it holds on the tree for long periods of time, perfect for ripening in areas without high heat. I love adding my grapefruit to a kale salad. Click here for sweet and savory kale with grapefruit and avocado salad.
Beautiful red stalks of Rhubarb are here! Rhubarb is a perennial plant and is often thought to be a fruit but it is actually a close relative of the garden sorrel and a member of the vegetable family. Its medicinal uses have been recorded in history since ancient China.
Rhubarb leaves grow from the ground in early spring. The stalks can grow up to 18 inches long but don’t eat the green leaves of the plant, they are highly poisonous! Rhubarb’s crisp sour stalks are rich in vitamin C, dietary fiber and calcium. It is definitely time to make a strawberry rhubarb pie.
California blueberries are here and have been for a few weeks now. The recent warm weather has brought on a strong crop out of Southern California. Forbidden Fruit Orchards in Lompoc and Whitney Ranch in Carpinteria are both located in Santa Barbara County near the ocean, where the cool coastal climate with warm days and cool nights produces sweet berries as well as delicious pinot noirs. If the days stay warm blueberries will go well into November and can start up as early as January in the new year.
Many of you have tried Forbidden Fruit Orchard blueberries over the years and know just how delicious they are. Sandy Davis grew up on a farm in Red Bank, New Jersey and went on to graduate from Ag School in with a B.S. and M.S. in Plant Science. In 2003 she bought her first 2 acres which she named her “own piece of heaven”. Twelve years later she has 4 acres and is planning on planting more to keep up with the demand.
Whitney Ranch recently joined Earl’s family of growers. Ralph Whitney is our first grower to participate in the 1964 Olympics for water polo! Ralph and Rachel Whitney moved to California 25 years ago because his fellow water polo friend had property in Santa Barbara. They partnered with their friend and a few other investors to begin growing lemons and avocados in Carpinteria. The ranch is located about 1 mile inland from the ocean in a small valley with very few pests. They have never needed to use any pesticides which made their move to becoming certified organic that much easier. In 1999 they disbanded, took their 10 acres and begin working with a farm advisor to started experimenting with blueberry varieties. Originally they planted 5,000 blueberry bushes on 2.5 acres and now they have 10,000 bushes on 3 acres with some of the original 2001 varieties still producing.
In order to grow blueberries there must be bees. Whitney Ranch has a symbiotic relationship with the almond growers from the central San Joaquin Valley. The almond growers need a place to store their bees during the winter and the Whitney’s need the bees to pollinate their blueberries. Whitney Ranch was abuzz with so many bees that the ranch is now covered in a blanket of blossoms and fruit. The mild weather in Carpinteria allows their blueberries to ripen over a longer period of time and to develop a more complex flavor. When Ralph and Rachel are not growing blueberries they can be found “driving off into the sunset” on their motorcycles or in their motor home.
Buying and storing tips:
Look for firm, dry, plump and smooth skinned berries. The silvery bloom on the outside of the berry is a sign of freshness!
California produced 7,112,515 pounds of organic blueberries in 2014