Archive for July, 2016
Farming and weather go hand in hand. This is something not always on the shopper’s mind but it’s always on the farmers mind. California is experiencing an extreme heat wave with temperatures into the 110’s.The heat affects our food production, putting not only the plants and fruit at risk but the people harvesting our food.
Case in point, one of our tomato growers located near Sacramento has been affected by temperatures reaching as high as 115 degrees. The workers are being sent home before noon because it is too hot to be in the field picking. This situation can also put too much stress on the plants interrupting its production cycle, slowing down the ripening process with the fruit not maturing properly. Once picked the field heat must be removed in order to maintain the quality of the fruit. Tomatoes are cooled to approximately 60 degrees and the cooling process can take longer when the days are hotter than normal.
This reminds us to be mindful of the fluctuations in weather when shopping for produce throughout the season and to recognize the hard work and effort and hard work of our farmers.
The Stella Bella green seedless grape from Sunview Vineyards is a relatively new propriety organic variety, launching only three years ago. Sunview is always looking for varieties that are superior in flavor, appearance and berry size through their extensive plant breeding program. It took many years of trial and error for Stella Bella to be developed.
The large sized fruit has a good crunch with an outstanding sweet and refreshing flavor. John Anspach from Sunview Marketing says “the organic consumer wants the fruit to look good and eat good”. Sunview lets the fruit mature longer on the vine to develop a higher brixing sugar level before harvesting. They expect their grapes to have good flavor from the very first harvest.
Sunview is located in the mecca of grape growing in Delano, CA just north of Bakersfield in the San Joaquin Valley. Grapes thrive in the long days of dry heat where daytime summer temperatures can reach over 100 and it doesn’t get much cooler than the 70’s at night. We expect the Stella Bella variety to go through September depending on the weather. This is a grape that is not to be missed!
Frozen grapes make a cool summer treat
Wash and dry the grapes before freezing in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Once frozen store in small zip lock bags for an easy snack.
California has two seasons of figs. The breba crop is grown on the old branches of the tree and starts up in June, lasting for just a few short weeks. This is considered the bonus crop and not all varieties produce a breba crop. At this point figs have not yet developed the rich honey flavor we love. We must be patient during the short gap before the second, more flavorful crop starts up in the middle of July. The fruit is grown on the new branches of the tree and these are the figs we have been waiting for with bated breath. The first bite reveals a honey sweetness that is perfect all on its own.
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. Figs are weather dependent and need warm days to flourish. We can look forward to enjoying the Black Mission, Brown Turkey, Excel, Kadota, and Adriatic varieties through September as long as the weather holds.
We expect the flavor to be good from the beginning. Eat fresh figs out of hand for a delicious snack, add them to a salad with walnuts or forgo the store bought fig bars and try your hand at making this easy fresh fig bar recipe.
Organic mini seedless Champagne California grapes are bursting with flavor. These delicious grapes look beautiful in a glass of bubbly, are the perfect topping to a summer cake or tart or have fun pulling off small clusters of grapes with your teeth. Johnni Soghomonian from Three Sisters Organic says “You can eat them in little clusters, stems and all. You get a little fiber and fabulous flavor!”
Three Sisters Organic has been growing this specialty grape in Fresno since the 1980’s. Champagne grapes are also dried for raisins and are known as zante currants, commonly used for scones and baking. The season was a fast one this year and Three Sisters will be done harvesting by the end of July so don’t miss out!
Fun Fact: It is estimated that consumption of fresh table grapes in California is about 7 to 8 pounds per person annually. I bet that doesn’t include this fantastic grape!
Earl’s is excited to be bringing back Hayton Farm blueberries out of Washington. Hayton Farm’s fifth-generation, Angelica Hayton, and her fourth-generation parents, Robert and Susan, are passionate about growing organic berries. As a child Angelica sold freshly picked berries at the end of their driveway and now she is charge of over seventy farmers markets in Washington. She believes that the future of their farm is “in growing organic berries that are picked and sold fresh every day.” Angelica was very instrumental in convincing her father to make the transition to organic 10 years ago.
The Hayton family farm is located in beautiful Mt. Vernon, in Skagit Valley on the Northwest side of Washington, known for their rainy days and lush farmland. Mt Vernon is a special little valley with cool temperatures that allows the blueberries to mature without stress and develop a good berry flavor. It can be 76 degrees in Mt. Vernon and upwards of 90 degrees in Portland just a few hours away. Imagine the difference between the cooler weather in Watsonville and Salinas on the California coast and the warmer weather inland.
As each preceding generation passes the farm to the next, so too passes the responsibility of honoring tradition while continuing to adapt, with the goal of sustainability. The Haytons value the labor force that plays a big part in achieving that goal. They prioritize providing above average wages and have invested in housing for their employees within the Mount Vernon area.
Hayton blues have that true blueberry flavor you have come to expect in summertime. Eat them fresh or freeze a bunch to enjoy during those cold winter months. The variety of berries they grow allows them to start the season in early June and they will be available at Earl’s through mid-August.
Blueberry Market Update:
The California blueberry season ended in June, and we have moved up into the Pacific Northwest where the blueberries are in peak season with fruit coming out of Oregon and Washington. During the peak season of July we will see larger 18oz and pint pack sizes. As we head into August supply will begin to slow down and pack sizes will be smaller. Blueberries are very weather dependent and we can expect supply to be tight as we head into the cooler months of September and October. The import season starts up again in November and December with blueberries out of Chile.