Archive for June, 2015
The California hass avocado season started off early this year and will end on an earlier note. We usually see the season start up in February/March and over the last few years the season has extended into September/October. This year California Avocados were harvested in early January and many of our growers are anticipating they will be done picking most of their crop in the month of July. Although we know from past experience that a grower may have another picking just when we thought the season was over.
There are a number of factors contributing to an early end of the season and all of them relate in some way to the drought. As we enter our 4th year of the California drought the trees continue to be stressed and as a result they produced earlier. Picking earlier meant they would not have to use as much water as they do in the latter and hotter months. Early fruit is known to be immature and have low oil content, but surprisingly the early fruit this season had good oil levels and flavor.
In response to the drought growers are “turning off” some of their groves. They are cutting back the trees to stumps and not watering them due to the high cost of water and strict water restriction mandates. A few of the groves are also being converted to fruit trees such as cara cara, gold nugget or dragon fruit which use less water than avocado trees.
According to the California Avocado Commission “While California’s drought has impacted some of our farmers, the industry has been able to maintain its productivity. Our growers have a long history of good agricultural practices including water conservation. We are hopeful that the forecast for El Nino conditions in the fall will bring some relief to our state and agriculture. We do not anticipate supply problems or drought related price impacts for next season.”
Buying and Eating Tips:
At this time of year all California avocados will be eating great! Buyer needs be to be aware that crops from the southern area will be more mature, meaning they ripen quicker, have a higher oil content and should be eaten firm. Crops from Northern California are less mature because the season starts later and should be eaten riper with a little give. When in doubt engage in a conversation with your produce person and ask where their avocados are from.
Tutti Frutti Farm now has over 400 acres of organic heirloom tomatoes, specialty cherry tomatoes, a variety of sweet and hot peppers, zucchini and winter squash. Tutti Frutti is situated in beautiful Santa Barbara wine country near California’s Central Coast. The location, climate, and the farm’s dedication to long-range sustainability all come together to produce a consistently delicious crop.
For the second year in a row we are seeing increased volumes of smaller sized stone fruit in California. Warmer weather, lack of chill hours and the drought are some of the reasons our growers are citing. Fruit trees require anywhere from 100-1000 dormant chill hours each season, depending on variety and age of the tree, to produce a vibrant crop. As the weather turns colder the fruit trees go into a dormancy state, storing energy for the following year’s crop. Fruit trees achieve their chill hours best between 35-50 degrees. If temperatures rise above 60 degrees during dormancy this can reverse the accumulated chill hours.
Fruit trees need their sleep just like us. We can survive on a few hours of sleep a night but over time a lack of sleep takes a heavy toll on our body. We are less productive, have less energy and can develop health issues. The detrimental effects of the lack of “sleep” or chill hours are not always immediately evident and can take up to a few years to show up. The fruit trees can begin to react in bizarre behavior such as an early blossom or a split blossom where one part of the tree blossoms first and the rest of the tree blossoms later or not at all, often times resulting in smaller sized fruit.
The drought has changed the amount of water growers are using and possibly slowing down the amount of root development and nutrition the fruit receives from the trees. Richard Burkart from Burkart Organics in Dinuba near Fresno feels this could be affecting the size of the fruit but not the flavor. He still sees that sugars are there and brixing good for a high quality piece of fruit. Richard has 30 years of experience growing high quality organic stone fruit. He experiments by ripening up different varieties and looks for a “good balance of acids and sugars to make up a great piece of fruit.”
Storing and eating tips
*We recommend buying only enough fruit that you plan to eat over the next few days. Gently store your fruit stem side down on a cotton cloth at room temperature.
*As they ripen eat them and if the ripening gets away from you the fruit can be stored in the refrigerator if necessary. Remember refrigeration affects the flavor over a period of time and fruit will begin to taste ice boxy or flat.
* Always bring your stone fruit to room temperature before eating to get the best flavor.
We are starting to see the first of the California breba fig crop rolling in, also known as the first crop. The breba crop grows on last year’s tree shoots and harvest is usually around the end of May or beginning of June. The breba crop lasts for a few weeks and hasn’t yet developed the honey sweetness we associate with figs. We will experience a short gap before the second, more flavorful crop starts up in July.
Figs love the hot days and warm nights and are grown mainly in the central valley around the Fresno/Madera area to up north of Sacramento in Corning. Maywood Farms in Corning, CA, Stellar in Madera, CA and Susie Bee farms from Chowchilla, in the central Joaquin Valley, bring you some of the best organic figs. California ranks #1 in US production of figs and produces 100 % of the USA’s dried figs and 98 % of fresh figs.
There are hundreds of varieties of figs but the most popular are the Kadota with light green skin and sweet white flesh, the Brown Turkey ranges in color from brown to copper with a very fragrant flavor and the Black Mission has a deep purple to black skin with sweet pink flesh.
Chris Cadwell was born to be a farmer. A descendent of a long line of farmers, he was only 15 years old when he started his first organic garden. In 1988 he founded Tutti Frutti Farm and now has over 400 acres of organic heirloom tomatoes, specialty cherry tomatoes, a variety of sweet and hot peppers, zucchini and winter squash. Tutti Frutti is situated in beautiful Santa Barbara wine country near California’s Central Coast. The location, climate, and the farm’s dedication to long-range sustainability all come together to produce a consistently delicious crop. Cadwell says “We’re in a pinot noir belt, with great conditions for tomatoes. It’s 85, 90 degrees, not too hot. Every day around noon, the breeze kicks in. It keeps the plants dry, so we have very little disease. And we’re also surrounded by an extreme wilderness area, so we have a natural insectary for predators. We don’t use any manure. Instead, we plant cover crops – vetch, oats, peas, bell beans –and flip those right over into the soil. So we’re improving the soil every year as we grow.“
Now is the start of the season for Tutti Frutti’s heirloom tomatoes. For over 25 years Cadwell has specialized in beautiful streaked, striped and unique shaped heirloom tomatoes. Cherokee Purple, Vintage Wine, Brandywine and Persimmon are just a few of the varieties now available exclusively from Earl’s Organic. The season is just ramping up and we can expect to see more varieties as the season peaks.
Are you looking for an easy no cook dinner? I love making a Panzenalla salad with a few colorful heirloom tomatoes. Share your favorite heirloom tomato recipes on our Facebook page.