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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

Three Star Cantaloupes

Delicious sweet and juicy Cantaloupes have just arrived from Three Star Melons. Three Star has been growing melons in Los Banos, California since 1915, and farming organically since 1998.  Berj Moosekian is a third generation grower and shipper and for 6 weeks out of the year he grows the most flavorful melons.   Los Banos, located on the west side of the San Joaquin valley is widely recognized as one of the best melon growing regions in the world. Berj explains, “Melons were born in the desert.  They thrive in hot, dry climates just like the climate in Los Banos.  In addition, the rich clay soils ensure ultimate quality making Los Banos a marvelous growing region for melons.”  Picking a ripe melon is very difficult and not an exact science but Berj’s experience as a melon grower tells him when it’s the best time to harvest.

Cantaloupe

 

CHOOSING THE BEST MELON

Melons ripen on the vine and do not get any sweeter once picked although texture and flavor can improve. Make sure to smell the blossom end before buying, the end opposite of the stem.  You can check the ripeness of most melons by gently pressing on the blossom end of the melon.  A melon should be ready to eat when it gently yields to pressure.  If your finger breaks the skin of the melon it could be over ripe and past its time to eat.  This is not always the case and other reasons for a soft area could be where it was laying on the ground or a bruise it received during transportation. It may be an isolated spot which means the whole melon isn’t bad. The best way to tell if they are ripe is to cut one open and taste it.

In August melons will move up through the San Joaquin Valley into Yolo County near Sacramento.  Follow our posts on Facebook and Instagram for tantalizing photos of melon varieties and updates on our melon growers.

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*Available now: Cantaloupes in 9, 12 and 15ct

*Coming soon: Orange Flesh and Sharlyn

*Contact your local sales rep for pricing

No California Winter Affects Stone Fruit Season

The freeze back in December followed by warmer weather and no rain meant California did not have a winter.  Fruit trees need anywhere from 100-1000 chill hours to produce a healthy bountiful crop. Chill hours allow the trees to go dormant and get the sleep they need to rejuvenate themselves. Trees, like ourselves need sleep in order function correctly. Even trees can get cranky from lack of sleep.

The best temperature for trees to “chill” is above 45°F (to about 55°F). If the temperature rises above 60°F it can reverse the chilling hours accumulated up to that point. Think of how you feel and function after not getting enough sleep for a period of time and how refreshed you feel when you return to a more normal sleep pattern.  Same with trees, if they are not getting enough sleep over winters they can become dysfunctional.

We are now seeing the evidence that stone fruit trees have not gotten enough sleep these past winters.  In the early spring our growers reported uneven blossoming, also known as split blossom, where part of the tree blossomed first and then the other half came on late or not at all.  This erratic blooming causes different parts of the tree to ripen at different times as well as affecting the volume, sizing and quality of the fruit. The fruit is ripening irregularly and volume is less this year. A grower who would normally go into the orchard to pick 1-2 times is now picking 3-4 times as the fruit ripens.  Typically the season starts with small fruit and then sizes up. Growers are seeing smaller sized fruit, more culling and an inability to forecast larger sizes and how many cases will be picked.

Guidelines for storage and eating:

If you have been following our blogs you will remember that we recommend buying only enough fruit that you can keep out on your counter. The idea is not to store your fruit, but to buy and eat during a period that keeps it out of the refrigerator.

*Gently place your stone fruit shoulder or stem side down on a cotton cloth on your counter at room temperature.

Stonefruit on Towel

*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.

Depending on where you shop finding ripe fruit off the rack is very difficult. Factors such as maturity, ripeness and where you buy your fruit all come into play. We will discuss this in further detail in our next blog. We look forward to hearing all of your fruit or veg questions on our Facebook wall.

Masumoto Peaches Are Here!

Masumoto Family Farms is a 4th generation family farm located in the Central San Joaquin Valley just south of Fresno, California. The entire family is involved in running the 80 acre farm of which 25 acres are devoted to growing stone fruit.  This name is undoubtedly familiar to anyone in the Bay Area, as David “Mas” Masumoto is the author of many books including Epitaph for a Peach and most recently The Perfect Peach. He is also a well-respected contributor on many agricultural issues. The Masumotos have been growing organically and sustainably since the 1980’s. They strive to be “socially just, environmentally responsible, and economically viable” The Perfect Peach.

The Masumotos like all California farmers have the drought on their mind and are wondering how long their water reserves will last.  Farmers are digging deeper for more wells on their land and hoping they will have enough water for their plants. Different regions of California have varying levels of water reserves due to rainfall, snowmelt and rivers to name a few. Masumoto Farms is located in the Central Valley where the ground water reserves have been good.  Farmers in the nearby Sacramento region are lucky to be located where the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers come together. Not every farming region in California is fortunate to have large amounts of water reserves. We are all hoping that the drought will be short and this winter will bring plentiful rains. The Masumotos have already started to make changes to save water by retiring 20% of their land and leaving some of their perennial crops to fallow.  For the full story by Mas Masumoto in the Sacramento Bee click here.

The Masumotos live for peaches and Earl’s is now carrying the Flavor Crest yellow peach, a relative of the Sun Crest peach which is a hybrid of the best old heirloom varieties with a WOW flavor. It is a Freestone variety which means the fruit easily falls away from the pit when cut. The Flavor Crest is described in The Perfect Peach as “The peach you take home to meet your parents: solid, sweet, understanding, outstanding flavor, blush color”. I have one ripening up on my desk and the peach fragrance is intoxicating. The Peach Bruschetta recipe in the The Perfect Peach is on the menu today.  An arugula pesto spread on crispy crostini, topped with ripe yellow peach slices and shaved parmesan cheese.  

Flavor Crest Masumoto Family Farm

 

How to choose a peach:

Look for peaches with a yellow or golden background with a red blush.  Test the ripeness of your peach by applying gentle pressure with the pads of your fingers. Peaches are delicate and bruise easily so be sure to handle them with care. If your peach gives slightly, it will be ready to eat in a few days.  A peach that feels soft to the touch will be ready to eat immediately.  Avoid peaches with a green background that have picked before they were ripe. A green peach that has been refrigerated will turn mealy at room temperature.

How to store peaches:

Peaches can be ripened at room temperature by storing them stem side down on a cotton cloth. Make sure they are not touching each other to avoid bruising.   If you are not ready to eat your peaches you can delay the ripening process by storing them in the refrigerator for a few days.

We always recommend experimenting with your produce. Try ripening peaches to different degrees and discover what tastes the best. Every variety will ripen differently and have their own subtle nuances. Prolong the peach season by canning late season varieties and enjoy them all season long in sweet and savory dishes. Please share your favorite peach recipes on our Facebook page. 

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