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Earl’s Produce Buyer’s Notes Week of May 15th

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Earl’s Produce Buyer’s Notes Week of May 8th

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Earl’s Produce Buyer’s Notes Week of May 1st

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Earl’s Produce Buyer’s Notes Week of April 17, 2017

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Rhubarb is a Harbinger of Spring

The arrival of shiny crimson red rhubarb is yet another sign that spring has arrived. It is a hearty vegetable that thrives in cooler climates and originally came by way of China, Russia and Mongolia where it was first used as a medicinal herb to treat a variety of illnesses. Rhubarb made its debut in the United States in the late 18th century when Luther Burbank, a world-renowned horticulturist, developed a deep red variety that thrived in much of California’s climate.

Rhubarb is a perennial herb grown from a crown, similar to asparagus, and will continue to produce up to 15 years. Rhubarb is very weather dependent and needs a summer temperature of 75° or below for maximum production. Once the temperatures reach 90° or above the plant will start to wilt.

Rhubarb grows best in the northern regions of the United States.  It can be found grown on a commercial level in Oregon, Washington and Michigan. Rhubarb from the Pacific Northwest is all field grown and the season runs from late March until the end of June. The Michigan season begins in April with hothouse grown rhubarb and later moves to field grown.

Only eat the leaf stalks or petioles. This is one vegetable where you do not want to use the whole plant. The leaves can grow to be extremely large and due to their high levels of oxalic acid they are considered poisonous.

How to buy
Look for bright red stalks which have a sweet rich flavor. The size of the stalk is not an indicator of tenderness!

Storage and Cooking
Wrap loosely in plastic and store in the coldest part of your refrigerator. Do not keep for more than a few days or it will start to dry out. Rhubarb is very tart and acidic and needs honey or sugar to transform it into a delicious dessert or savory dish

Earl’s Produce Buyer’s Notes Week of April 10, 2017

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Earl’s Produce Buyer’s Notes Week of April 5, 2017

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Blueberries from Forbidden Fruit Orchards Are Back!

Sandy Newman’s blueberry bushes have been loaded with fruit all winter just waiting to ripen and color up. The cooler weather and a wet winter in Lompoc,near Santa Barbara, delayed her off season harvest, which is why we didn’t see them in January and February.

Blueberries are completely dependent on the weather.

With the cooler weather last week we are off to a slow and steady start but we will begin to see good supplies as we move into early spring and warmer weather.

Forbidden Blues (1)

Earl’s Produce Buyer’s Notes March 14, 2017

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Winter Veg Hit Hard by Winter Storms

The California desert and Arizona growing regions have been hit hard by storms and temperatures are now warming up. As a result we are seeing a lot of aphids and mildew and this will continue until we see an unusual very early end to the season historically. We expect these challenges to continue through late March. These fields will not “cleanup” at this point. The damage is done, the pests and diseases are liking the warmth, and they are there to stay.

Downloaded greens photo

All of the leafy greens and brassicas are highly susceptible to aphid pressure. On broccoli we can expect to see unevenness in color, texture and shape of the crown, the occasional opened buds, possible small brown spots and other damage caused by a myriad of viral and fungal diseases. Lettuce might have some aphids but most likely will show signs of mildew on the outside leaves leading to breakdown and discoloration on the top side of the leaf. Butter lettuces are less mildew tolerant as they grow closer to the ground. Bunched spinach is generally unavailable.  On both loose and clam salad mixes we will see reduced shelf life due to the fragility of leaves growing under low light conditions because of the lack of sun.  The breakdown of leaves, mildew, discoloration/yellowing are all being observed.

Concurrently the Salinas Valley and most agricultural regions in California that traditionally should follow right behind the desert deal will also come in late. Brutal storms and gaps in planting opportunities due to muddy fields and rain will lead to both disease problems and gaps in product down the road in mid-April into the month of May. Retail ads will be hard to come by on cool season vegetables.

The uncertainty involved, plus the gaps to come, combined with decreased production due to disease/insect pressure will invariably lead to higher and volatile pricing. We will continue to work with our grower partners to provide the highest quality product available and to keep everyone informed.

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