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Archive for July, 2020

California Grapes Are In Full Swing!

Over 99% of the grapes grown commercially in the United States are from California.  Grapes are grown in the 450 mile long by 50 mile wide area between Sacramento and the San Joaquin Valley regions and in the Coachella Valley in Riverside County.  Grape Season begins in May down in Coachella Valley which includes Palm Springs and the Salton Sea, with early varieties like the seedless red Flame and the seedless green Sugarone. As the weather gets hotter in July the San Joaquin valley starts producing varieties such as the seedless green Thompson and seedless black Summer Royal and seedless reds Krissy, Allison and Timco. Grape season may make it all the way to January with red seedless Crimson and the black seedless Autumn Royal as the last two varieties. There are over 80 varieties grown in California and more are constantly being developed.

Grapes are always picked ripe and do not ripen off the vine. Look for grapes with green, pliable stems and plump berries.  See a powdery-white coating on the grapes?  That’s bloom and it’s good!  Bloom is a naturally occurring substance that protects grapes from moisture loss and decay. Grapes keep for up to two weeks when stored and handled properly.  Grapes should always be refrigerated to maximize shelf life.  Store grapes unwashed and rinse before eating.  Like most berries, grapes tend to absorb odors.  Try to avoid storing them next to things like green onions or leeks. (www.freshcaliforniagrapes.com) All grapes are also delicious as a frozen snack, tossed in a salad or served on a cheese platter.

Champagne Grapes partner well with a glass of bubbly!

Larger grapes do not always mean they are sweeter. Tiny champagne grapes from Three Sisters Organic are perfect as a sweet snack, dropped in a glass of champagne or use them to decorate a cake.  Johnni Soghomonian from Three Sisters Organic in Fresno says “You can eat them in little clusters, stems and all.  You get a little fiber and fabulous flavor!”  Fun fact: Champagne grapes when dried into raisins they become zante currants used in scones and for baking.

Joe and Johnni developed their label “Three Sisters” after their three daughters. Natalie started farming with her father in 2000, and has learned the business from the ground up. She directs all of the farming operations and manages the Sales of all crops. You will always see the father and daughter in the fields making sure that the farms are being cared for in the best way. They do not over crop their vineyards and pick late for a higher sugar content and fresher product. They know each grape personally! Their employees are dedicated and have been working for the Soghomonians for 10 to 40 years. They too are like family.

Don’t miss Earl’s two new varieties this week! Sables black seedless grapes taste like Concord Grape Jelly without the seeds and Sparkle red seedless grapes are gorgeous large berries with a super crunch and high sugar content.

Burkart Stone Fruit At Peak Flavor

Now is the time to take advantage of Burkart stone fruit! Picked at optimum maturity with the highest sugar levels, Burkart stone fruit has outstanding flavor and is a real crowd pleaser! Burkart grows high-quality organic stone fruit on 65 acres near Dinuba along the northern border of Tulare County about four hours south of San Francisco. One of the advantages of working with small growers like Burkart, is that they spend extra time focusing on the quality of the stone fruit, going through their orchard and doing several picks of each variety. Many larger growers will go through the orchard two times and do a strip pick to get all the fruit as opposed to selecting fruit that is at optimum maturity for peak flavor.

Inspect the stem end of a Burkart yellow peach and you will often see more color than fruit from other orchards. The full color is an indication of maturity that translates into superior flavor. Richard Burkart is now picking Summer Lady yellow peaches and Summer Sweet white peaches. Now is the time to enjoy luscious juice dripping stone fruit, as sweet as the perfect summer afternoon.

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All varieties are free stone except for the white nectarine pearl varieties. Free stone fruit falls away easily from the pit versus cling stone varieties where the fruit clings to the pit.

Ask your Earl’s Sales Representative about promotable volumes.

The Second Crop of Figs is the Sweetest

Maywood Farms organic figs are grown in Corning, about 2 hours northwest of Sacramento. Figs love the heat and are always picked ripe. Varieties include Kadota, Adriatic, Brown Turkey and Black Mission. 

Earl’s Organic Buyer’s Notes July 26, 2020

Maywood is starting up soon with their main crop of figs! We will see Brown Turkey, Black Missions and Excel. There is a possibility that Kadotas may make an appearance. New grapes this week! Sables grapes taste like Concord Grape Jelly without the seeds. Sparkle red seedless grapes are here and they made a huge impression with they super crunchy and big berries with high sugar content. Johnni Soghomonian from Three Sisters Organic says “You can eat Champagne Grapes in little clusters, stems and all.  You get a little fiber and fabulous flavor!” Momotaro tomatoes have a perfect balance of sweet and tangy, it’s no wonder this variety is one of the most common fresh market tomatoes in Japan. It’s got a dark pink color with a delicate flesh, perfect for slicing onto sandwiches or into salads. Walla Walla Onions are milder and sweeter than other onions. The perfect combination of climate and volcanic soil low in Sulphur compounds(that give onions their harsh bite) work in synergy to produce the world’s sweetest onions. Download this week’s buyer’s notes here.

Second and More Flavorful Crop of Figs

Now is the best time of the year to eat fresh figs. The first crop arrives in June and hasn’t developed the honey sweetness we associate with a delicious fig. There is a brief break during July before the 2nd crop arrives around the end of July.  Figs develop their peak flavor from the middle of August to around the middle of September. In our opinion it is worth waiting for that delicious, incredibly rich and sugary fig.

Figs have been around for thousands of years and are believed to have originated in Eastern Asia, spreading through all of Europe and eventually brought to California by the missionaries in 1769.  By 1867 there were over 1,000 acres of fig trees in the Sacramento Valley and 35 acres in the San Joaquin Valley.  Figs are still 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.

Figs need the hot Mediterrean weather to grow. The sweet spot is between 85 to 105 degrees. When temperatures go above 105 degrees the tree goes into shock and shuts down to survive. The fig season continues through September as long as the weather holds.

Buying Figs
Look for the figs that are not too hard and not too soft. A fig that is too firm is an indication that it was harvested too immature. Figs are the only fruit that ripens on the tree. Once the fruit is picked that is as sweet as it’s going to get.

Storing Figs
We recommend that you don’t refrigerate your figs. Buy only what you can eat within 2-3 days and buy often. Place them on a counter on a cotton cloth and let them dry up a little bit. The flavors and the sugars will become more concentrated and intense. They are like honey nectar!

Fun Facts

  • Figs are considered a fruit but the fig is actually a flower that is inverted into itself
  • California produces 90% of the fresh figs grown in the United States

Fig Varieties

Black Mission: The most common variety with deep purple to black skin, watermelon to pink colored flesh and good flavor. They are delicious eaten fresh or dried.

Excel: Similar to the Kadota with yellow green skin and sweet light amber flesh. The shape is blocky with almost no neck. They are great for eating fresh or used for cooking.

Brown Turkey: Large sized fig with a brownish-dark purple skin, light pink flesh and a mild flavor. They are commonly used in desserts.

Kadota: Has thick light green skin with sweet white flesh tinged pink at the center.

Adriatic: Light green or yellowish skin with beautiful strawberry colored flesh.

Figs in a row

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