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Burroughs Almond Orchard

Earl’s loves roasting organic almonds and snacking on them throughout the day. We are spoiled in California with over 90% of the world’s commercial production coming out of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys.

The Burroughs Family Farm comes from 5 generations of farming in the San Joaquin Valley.  Originally in the dairy business in the 1970’s they started farming almonds in the 1980’s.  Located in a very rural area just outside of Denair, their town is jokingly called Burroughsville.  Rosie and Ward Burroughs farm organic almonds and operate an organic pasture-based dairy.  They began the organic conversion on their almond orchards 9 years ago when their daughter Benina was pregnant with her first child. Benina felt it was the right thing to do and didn’t want her family and her workers to be exposed to pesticides. Two children later and one on the way, Benina lives and works on their farm with her husband Heriberto and her parents.

Burroughs FamilyThey have 900 acres of almond trees and are committed to being leaders in organic farming, sustainability and biodiversity. They produce their own compost year round providing nutrition for the trees and helping to cultivate strong healthy soil they call “black gold”. They have also planted hedgerows around the farm to attract bees and other beneficial insects, but also bring in hives every season for pollination, approximately 2 hives per acre.  Bees are very important because the almond tree is not self-pollinating.  Bees are brought in 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.

The Burroughs Family grows Nonpareil, Carmel, California, and Mission almond varieties. The Nonpareil is the most common commercial variety grown in California because of its good size, pretty looks and full flavor. Almond trees set their buds in January and start to bloom in mid-February to early March. In March the nutlets will start to form and some stay and some will fall off. This is the time to give the trees lots of nutrition.  Once the hulls open the harvest is only 4-6 weeks away, usually ranging from mid-August to October.

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Almond trees need 400 chill hours below 45 degrees to have a fruitful harvest. If you remember this past California winter the weather went from cool, to a big freeze at the beginning of December followed by dry, warm weather.  This caused the bloom period to be longer than usual resulting in uneven blossoming, varying maturity and one of the earliest harvests in history. One theory is the trees were tired from not enough chill hours at night and the warm days reversing the effect of the chill hours stored up. Trees, like ourselves need sleep in order function correctly. Even trees can get cranky from lack of sleep.

For the grower this means that some parts of the tree are ready earlier than others to harvest. 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. If the husks are immature and green they won’t come lose from shaking the tree with a machine and need to be manually pulled off.  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. After the almonds are gathered they are sent for shelling.  The hulls are sold for cattle feed helping to subsidize the cost of shelling the almonds.

Organic almonds are then frozen for 3 weeks to get rid of any pests and finally stored below 50 degrees to maintain freshness. In 2009 it was ruled that California almonds must be pasteurized after a salmonella breakout was traced back to almonds.  The almonds are put through a steam bath to prevent any bacteria from forming.

The drought and heat caused less nuts to grow on the Burroughs trees but they were larger in size than in past years. The Burroughs are lucky to be growing farther east in the San Joaquin Valley where there is still a good quantity and quality of water. The almond crop has declined for many growers in California this year because they require copious amounts of water.  We can expect to see prices for almonds continue to rise as long as water remains a concern.

Almonds are delicious, crunchy and good for you! They are heart healthy with no cholesterol or sodium, low in saturated fat and high in the antioxidant Vitamin E. Almonds provide energy with 6 grams of protein per ounce and 12 vitamins and minerals. Learn more about almond health and nutrition from The California Almond Board.

 

Fall Fruit Update

Even though California still feels like its summertime, the changes in seasonal produce are telling us that Fall is here. Stonefruit has said goodbye until next summer and beautiful Fairytale, Cinderella and Jack O’Lanterns are everywhere. Wonderful red California grown Pomegranates are in full swing and beautiful plump cranberries from Canada are here.

Wonderful Pomegranante Grower Paul Pafford. Fresno County, California

Wonderful Pomegranante Grower Paul Pafford. Fresno County, California

Winter citrus is on the horizon and Earl’s always anticipates the beginning of the Satsuma Mandarin season in November. California valencia oranges are your best bet now for juicing and will be around through at least the end of October depending on supply, demand and the weather. Even through California navel oranges start up in late October we don’t recommend eating them until the flavor is great which happens around the holiday season. Navels are best eaten out of hand and should only be juiced if enjoyed immediately because of the bitter compound Limonin found in the white pith.

A new crop of lemons is now coming out of the desert and looking beautiful! We can look forward to the volume coming on a little stronger as prices have already declined.

Ruby Grapefruits have finished up in the San Diego area earlier than usual due to the recent heat spikes. The extreme heat can cause the tree to drop their fruit and growers will pick earlier than normal for fear of losing more of their crop. We will have a small gap before the new crop of Marsh Ruby grapefruit starts up out of desert within the next week or so.

The fig season is winding down with the brown turkey variety essentially done and the black mission available sporadically.

Specialty grapes such as the large purple peony and concord grape are done for the season but we can continue to enjoy green and red seedless varieties hopefully up to the Thanksgiving holiday.

The small cute pop-able kiwi berries are done but we can look forward to a seamless transition from import Kiwis to California grown kiwis in the next few weeks.

Hopefully you were lucky enough to try a super sweet and smooth fleshed California Keitt mango before the season ended. We will be gapping on all mangos for 2-3 weeks until the Ecuador season starts up in early November with the small kidney shaped Ataulfos, followed by Tommy Atkin and Kent varieties.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and its time to ditch that canned cranberry jelly. Learn how to make an easy delicious homemade organic cranberry sauce in under 30 minutes, and discover how cranberries are grown and harvested in an upcoming blog. Follow us on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Youtube.

 

Hass Avocados Transition to Mexico

We may see pockets of California Hass avocados but we have officially moved into the Mexican Hass avocado season.  They will be young in maturity which equals lower flavor, lower oil and the possibility of inconsistent ripening.

Avocado maturity and ripeness are not the same thing.  The level of maturity is related to seasonality and it is often hard to tell when an avocado is mature enough to be harvested.  If your avocado has a rubbery texture instead of turning soft it is because the avocado was picked before it was mature. Other signs of immaturity are pockets of concaving and flesh clinging to the pit. What is mature at the beginning of the season will be different than the level of maturity later in the season. Hass avocados will develop a higher oil content a few months into the season bringing the higher flavor we have come to expect.  The skin on a more mature Hass avocado will lose some of its glossiness and become darker and the flesh will deepen slightly from yellow to gold. It will also slice beautifully and the seed coat will be thin and brown instead of fleshy and white.

Avocados ripen off the tree and the Hass will turn from green to a deep purple/black color during the ripening process. Look for big shoulders at the top of the avocado near the stem with a round or full shape.

Storage and Ripening Tips:

*Early season fruit will ripen around 60-65 degrees and the speed of ripening will depend on the maturity of the avocado and where it is grown.  Early season Mexican avocados can take anywhere from 5-7 days to ripen.

*To speed up the ripening process place the avocados in a paper bag with fruit that naturally give off ethylene such as bananas or apples.

*Do not store at low temperatures for long periods of time. This will cause “chill injury” and the flesh can become discolored.

We can expect to see Hass avocados coming from Peru and Chile during the winter season. In past years we have seen California Hass avocado season starting up again in the January/February time frame.  Continue to follow our blog for avocado updates.

Hurricane Odile Hits Baja California Sur

Hurricane Odile, a category 3 storm, landed Sunday night September 14 near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.  Odile is the strongest hurricane to land in Baja California Sur since Hurricane Olivia in 1967 with winds over 125 mph. The southern area of Baja California was hit the hardest with strong winds and heavy rains. It is estimated that 92% of the population was left without power or water.

Odile caused mass flooding and damaged major infrastructure impacting many growers and causing numerous production and logistical issues.  Many main roads were submerged under flash flooding and greenhouses and other farm structures were damaged. Although is still too early to know exactly how this will affect supply over the next few months, we have seen a delay in the start of organic asparagus out of Baja California Sur.  Our first asparagus shipment is now scheduled to arrive next week and we can expect supply to be very limited and expensive right off the bat.

Growers are asking for your understanding as they work through this difficult time. As of yesterday Baja California Sur had 95% of their power and most of their water restored.  The rest of the Los Cabos area is expected to be operating normally by next week.  We will continue to update you as we know more.

Rider And Sons Jonagold Apple Is Simply The Best

If you want the best tasting Jonagold apple, look no further than Rider and Sons 5th generation apple orchardists. Rider is located in the small town of Freedom, along the Central Coast of California near Watsonville.  Jim Rider is in charge of the fields and his brother Dick Rider oversees the packing shed.  Their grandfather Homer was one of the pioneer fruit growers in the Watsonville area along the Central Coast in California.

Rider and Sons is the only California grower we know that picks the Jonagold apple at its optimum maturity and flavor. The best tasting Jonagold will have developed a beautiful golden background before it is picked. This means it has been on the tree longer and has more flavor. Jim Rider says the apples are ready to be harvested when “they have a hint of yellow in the background color.”  Most growers pick it too early when the background is green and the flavor has not developed. This has been our experience of the Pacific Northwest Jonagold.

Jonagold (7)

The Watsonville area has a unique microclimate with cooler summer weather similar to San Francisco. This allows them to grow better quality apples and harvest closer to peak maturity more than warmer climates. Jonagolds require special care and attention and are selectively picked riper than most areas could. The fruit ripens slower in the cooler climate and develops the complex flavor components that can be lost with higher temperatures. Rider’s philosophy is to get them off the tree, picked and packed within a day or two and shipped immediately to be sold quickly at optimum maturity. Rider’s workers are trained to pick slowly with an eye for detail and will pick the orchard several times in order to deliver a riper, sweet and better tasting fruit. Their goal is not to store it for months and months.

Jim Rider calls Watsonville the Napa valley of apple growing areas. The apples have a more intense flavor and better quality because of the cooler temperatures. Click here for an interview with Jim Rider in the Jonagold orchards.  In our own history as the apple season goes up to the Pacific North West, the flavor and quality of the Jonagold is not duplicated. Enjoy California apples during the short but sweet season.

Kiwi Berries Are The Perfect Snack

If you like Kiwi’s then you will fall in love with the Kiwi Berry. Kiwi Berries taste exactly like a Kiwi but they are the size of a grape, fuzzless and completely edible.  Cut one in half and the inside flesh looks just like a Kiwi. This no mess snack is fun to eat and perfect for the whole family.

How to eat – Just pop them in your mouth! 

Kiwi Berries are also known as the hardy kiwi, arctic kiwi or baby kiwi. Kiwi berries are a member of the Actinidia genus family, the same as a regular kiwi and have been described as a cousin of the kiwi we all know.  Kiwi berries are native to China, Korea, and Russian Siberia, much like the kiwifruit. It is a fast-growing, hardy, perennial vine, in need of a frost-free season of 150 days. Each vine can grow up to 20 feet in a single season! Because of their seasonal requirements, they are well suited for areas of the North East and North West, and in fact, have become somewhat of an invasive weed in certain areas because of their rapid growth. One plant can produce up to 100 pounds of fruit a year! The fruits are picked hard, and ripen off the vine.  Earl’s kiwi berries are grown in Wilsonville, Oregon about 30 minutes south of Portland.

Kiwi Berry photo grid

 

Storage tips:

Store them in the fridge if you are not planning to eat them right away and take out small bunches at a time to ripen on your counter. Similar to a kiwi they will be slightly acidic until ripe when they will be very sweet. Eat them when they are soft and the flesh yields a bit. In this case a small amount of wrinkling is good!  Don’t be fooled into thinking your Kiwi Berries are old, when in fact they will have developed the perfect amount of sweetness.

Kiwi Berries are packed full of nutrition, containing over 20 nutrients. They are incredibly rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin E, potassium, fiber and folic acid and have 5 times the Vitamin C of an orange and more potassium than bananas.  Kiwi Berries can be used in a variety of ways, from being preserved as jam to being used as a marinade (they are an excellent meat tenderizer). Try them in a salad, on a tart, or out of hand. Any way you look at it they are delicious.

The season lasts only about a month, from the beginning of September to the beginning of October so don’t miss out.

PINK PEARL HEIRLOOM APPLE

California apple season has officially started and one of the first varieties harvested is the incredible stunning Pink Pearl heirloom apple. The speckled pearly green skin is tinged with a pink blush and the deep pink flesh has a crisp and tart-sweet flavor. They are perfect for baking because they hold their shape and retain their beautiful pink color even when cooked.

Pink Pearl

Pink Pearls were developed in Northern California in 1944 by a man named Albert Etter, using another red-fleshed apple called Surprise as a seedling.  Earl’s heirloom Pink Pearl apples are coming from Rider and Sons out of Watsonville, California. Jim and Dick Rider are fifth generation orchardists and their grandfather, Homer, was one of the pioneer fruit growers in the Watsonville, California area.  Heirloom apples can be odd shaped and have russeting around the stem bowl. Russeting occurs when the wind blows and causes the apples to shake and brush against the stem and leaves. This only enhances how unique heirloom apples are and in no way affects the flavor.

They are only around for another week, so don’t miss this opportunity to try them!  They make a beautiful pink apple sauce or try an apple tart for the Labor Day holiday to really show off the beautiful pink color.

Peony Grapes Are Similar To A Concord Grape

Peony® blue/black seeded table grapes from Schellenberg Farms in Reedley, California are back again this year! The Peony® large size makes them very impressive with the average grape measuring over an inch long. They are also one of the sweetest grapes commercially grown. Their incredible grape flavor, similar to a Concord grape, is outstanding! When you bite into a Peony® you will be so taken by the fruity grape flavor that the tiny amount of seeds won’t be very noticeable.

Rick Schellenberg found a single bud sprouting from a spur of the parent grapevine growing grapes that looked different than the other grapes on the vine. In vine breeding terminology this is called a mutation or a “sport.” These unusual grape berries were noticeably sweeter than those from any other bunch on the vine, and so the Peony® was born.

The Peony® grapes are only around for a limited time, so don’t miss out.

Peony grape pic

California Hass Avocado Season Ending

The Hass avocado season is coming to an end much earlier than usual in most regions in California. In the last two years we have seen the California avocado season extending into September/October. This year we experienced a smaller crop in volume in part because it was an alternate bearing year. Combined with the drought and lack of water for irrigation, the California avocado supply was sparse.  Avocados are heavy water users and can require up to 300 gallons a week in hotter weather. When they don’t receive the necessary amount of water the fruit will not size up.  We saw the evidence of this in an abundance of smaller sized fruit.

avo tree pics

At the end of the season we can see avocados from Northern California, think L.A. up to Santa Cruz, and Southern California, think Riverside and San Diego County to the Mexican border, all mixed in together in an avocado display.  Avocados from Southern California have been on the tree for a longer time and are more mature, meaning they ripen quicker, have a higher oil content and should be eaten firm. The flavor is outstanding this time of year but don’t wait until they are too soft or they will be rancid. A sign of a very mature avocado with a high oil content is when the green/yellow flesh turns to a duller, almost mustard color. The Northern California season starts later so the fruit has been on the tree a shorter period of time and should be eaten riper with a little give.  The problem is that you don’t know where your avocado is coming from most of the time. The level of maturity depends part in how long it has been on the tree, what region it is from in California and where in the season we are.  Having avocados from 2 regions, means that we have 2 seasons and 2 levels of maturity overlapping in the same display.To confuse things even more we will soon see some overlap with Mexican avocados so it is best to start a discussion with your produce person about where their avocados are from.

Storage and Eating Tips:

*Store at a moderate temperature of 45-55 degrees. Putting avocados in the coldest part of your refrigerator will “burn them”.

*Black spots that appear in the flesh are caused by storage in cold temperatures so make sure to take the avocado out of the refrigerator to finish ripening.

*Eat firmer than usual and experiment with the ripening time.

We can look forward to the California season starting up again in February out of San Diego.  Follow our social media pages for produce updates.

Green Gold Organic Farms

Green Gold Organic Farms was a dream of three friends who met playing softball in San Luis Obispo, located about half way between San Francisco and Los Angeles. They were all looking to do something on their own and wanted to start their own business. Melding backgrounds in construction and project management with a passion for agriculture the next logical step was for Matt, Brian and Levi to start their own farm.

Brian and Levi both graduated from the Construction Management program at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. Matt graduated from the ALBA educational farming program and also completed his Food Safety certificate at Hartnell College of Agriculture.  ALBA, located on the central coast of California, offers a 10 month program comprised of a 6 month educational course in the classroom followed by a 4 month hands on farming course.  After the completion of the 10 month course, Alba leases out a parcel at a discounted rate for the student farmer to start his/her production. The graduates are then free to sell their produce to ALBA and/or directly to other customers.

Matt started leasing land from ALBA in Salinas as soon as he graduated and began experimenting with what he wanted to grow and honing his expertise.  About a year later in March 2013 Green Gold Organic Farms was founded. The first year was spent forming the business, building the brand and developing their label.  They now have 2 acres of organic strawberries and unique sweet mini bell peppers.

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Strawberry fields

Green Gold has big plans for growing their business. Next steps in 2015 are to lease additional land back where they started in San Luis Obispo in addition to another 1 ½ acres on their property in Arroyo Grande.  They have a business relationship with Central Coast Grown (CCG), a non-profit modeled after ALBA.  They plan to add another acre each of strawberries and mini bell peppers and hope to add avocado and citrus trees to the mix.

Mix mini bells

Mix mini bell peppers

Matt is the Ranch Manager while Brian is the Project Manager and Levi helps with the management and acquiring new property. However the reality is that everyone does everything including pulling weeds and picking berries on the farm. Earl’s Organic is proud to be supporting aspiring farmers!

Matt, Brian and Levi

Matt, Brian and Levi

NOW AT EARL’S ORGANIC

*Strawberries 12 x 1# clamshells/case means a lower price per clamshell!

*UNIQUE NEW Mini Sweet Bell Peppers 18 pints/case

Green Gold reduces waste by using less packaging materials

Contact your Earl’s Organic sales rep for pricing

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