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New Leaf Pleasanton Celebrates 1 Year

New Leaf Community Market Pleasanton threw a one year birthday party this past weekend.  New Leaf has been offering some of the best local and organic food on the Central Coast since 1985 and recently has opened two new locations in Pleasanton and San Jose.

A huge crowd turned out to celebrate with a live band, wellness education booths, kids activities and samples from many beverage and food vendors. Earl’s Organic had a booth in the produce department and grilled up a bounty of delicious Coastal View Produce. Brian Violini is a 3rd generation farmer and his family has been growing organic asparagus in Gonzales, CA for the past 40 year. Click here for a video of Brian on the farm explaining how asparagus grows.

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New Leaf also celebrated the beginning of stone fruit season with a stunning display of peaches, nectarines and apricots. Look for different varieties of white and yellow peaches and nectarines arriving from Earl’s each week.

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With Memorial Day less than a week away, think about adding grilled asparagus and grilled stone fruit to your menu. Asparagus just needs a little olive oil, salt and pepper and then grill for 5-7 minutes.  Grilled stone fruit goes great with in a salad with a honey goat cheese dressing.

Apriums

Apriums look similar to an apricot but they are a hybrid of approximately 75% apricot and 25% plum. They have a very sweet flavor and are only available for a short time during the early stone fruit season. We expect apriums from Burkart Farms in Dinuba, CA, to continue for the next 2-3 weeks. Don’t miss out on this special fruit.

Burkart Apriums (4)

There is no hard and fast rule on how to know when stone fruit is ripe and ready to eat.  This applies to all stone fruit whether it is a plum, apricot, peach or nectarine. The difference from one day to the next can be the difference between ripe and overripe. The best advice we at Earl’s can give is to try eating your fruit on different days and experiment by trial and error.  Store the pieces of stone fruit you plan to eat within a few days on a natural cotton cloth to allow the air to circulate and to prevent bruising. In very warm weather the fruit will ripen more quickly so be sure to check your fruit each day. If you need to refrigerate your stone fruit let it reach room temperature first to get the fullest flavor.

Organic Rising The Movie

Organic Rising is the first food movie to focus on organic as the solution to our food system crisis, and because while it lays out the problems we face, it offers a positive, solution-oriented educational experience with compelling storytellers from all parts of the organic sector. This documentary film takes an in-depth look at the rise of the organic movement and what the future holds. It examines the rise of America’s organic food movement, while envisioning a new and healthy American food system through the eyes of seasoned pioneers, up-and-coming farmers, food activists, top chefs and high-powered investors. Organic farmers from around the country, including many local people from Santa Cruz, are interviewed in depth about their organic practices and beliefs.

The film is directed by the highly awarded Pulitzer and Emmy winner Anthony Suau. As a TIME magazine contract photographer for twenty years his images have been published and exhibited worldwide.

Organic Rising

Earl’s Organic is a proud supporter of this film. Please help us by sharing this link and by visiting the Indeigogo campaign page to help Organic Rising reach their goal of $50,000. While you are there you can submit YOUR music for the ORGANIC RISING soundtrack! If it is chosen for the film your name will appear in the film’s credits. Your covers are also welcome!

Watch the Organic Rising trailer here.

 

Burkart Stonefruit Season Begins

Peach and nectarine season has begun!  The season generally starts around May 1st and can continue into November as the production areas move into Oregon and Washington.  Burkart Orchards has some of the most flavorful stone fruit and is located only four hours south of San Francisco in Dinuba along the northern border of Tulare County. We can look forward to the many varieties changing about every 1 to 2 weeks.

The peaches we typically see early in the season are the sweet cling variety which means the fruit “clings” to the pit unlike a freestone peach where the fruit falls away easily from the pit. The bottom of the peach comes to a tapered point with a cling stone peach unlike a free stone peach that has a flat bottom.

Fun Fact:

The only difference between peaches and nectarines is that peaches are covered in a light fuzz.

Burkart Orchards had a little bit of rain earlier this week which may cause some nectarines to crack. Until Richard Burkart gets into the orchard to pick and pack, he won’t know the result of what the rain might have done to the fruit. Stay tuned for updates on the stone fruit crop and the many delicious, juicy and sweet varieties we can look forward to.

Free stone peach with a flat bottom

Free stone peach with a flat bottom

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Cling Stone Peach with a tapered end

Tutti Frutti California Heirloom Tomatoes Coming Soon

Summer is just around the corner and so is the first early heirloom tomato crop from Tutti Frutti out of Buellton, California. We anticipate that the first heirloom tomatoes will arrive at the beginning of June.  Chris Cadwell has been growing some of the most flavorful heirloom tomatoes you will ever taste since 1988. By definition they must be grown from seeds that have originated before 1940 and been passed down from generation to generation. Heirloom tomatoes are open-pollinated which means they are produced from the same seed of the same variety.

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Tutti Frutti Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom tomatoes come in many varieties and beautiful colors. Some of the most popular varieties you will find are Cherokee Purple and Brandywine. Cherokee Purple has a sweet rich flavor with a deep dark purple skin.  It originated from the Cherokee Indians around 1890. Brandywine is the most popular of the heirloom tomatoes and is a favorite among chefs. It has an incredibly rich tomato flavor with a pink reddish skin and light creamy flesh.  It is an Amish variety from the 1880’s.

Cherokee Purple

Cherokee Purple

Don’t be afraid of the various shapes, colors and sizes of Heirloom tomatoes. All those colors mean they are full of antioxidants.  Heirloom tomatoes also have many health benefits including potassium for your heart, vitamin K for healthy bones and they are loaded with vitamin C which is great for your immune system.  Stay tuned for flavor profiles on the many different heirloom varieties as they arrive at Earl’s.

Mangos Galore

Earl’s has a variety of delicious mangos with different textures and flavors. Ataulfo mangos are easy to spot with their vibrant yellow golden color and small kidney shape.  The fantastic flavor and absence of stringy fibers are what make this mango so delicious. The pit is very thin which means there is more flesh to eat. As the Ataulfo becomes ripe the skin turns a deep golden color and begins to wrinkle.  Ataulfos are ready to eat when the fruit yields to slight pressure.  They should be left at room temperature until they are ready to eat. Ataulfos are also known as Honey, Manila, Yellow, Baby and Champagne mangos. They are available from March to July and are grown in Mexico. May is the time for peak flavor!

Cut ataulfo

Tommy Atkins are medium to large oval or oblong shaped with a beautiful red blush covering most of the green, orange and yellow background.  It has a very sweet flavor with some fibrous strands. As with the Ataulfo they are ready to eat when the field yields to slight pressure.  We will see Tommy Atkins in season from March to July and October to January.  Currently we are sourcing from Mexico but they also are grown in Ecuador and Peru.

The Haden Mango looks and tastes very similar to the Tommy Atkins mango and has the most amazing fragrance when ripe.  They have a smooth rich sweet taste with very little fibers. The color of the skin is right red over a yellow and green background with the distinguishing characteristic of small white dots. In addition to applying gentle pressure to determine ripeness the green background of the mango will turn yellow as it ripens. They are available in April and May and are sourced mostly from Mexico.

Haden

Leave mangos at room temperature until they are ready to eat. Do not store below 45 degrees because the cold can discolor the flesh.  Therefore we do not recommend storing them in the refrigerator because the average temperature is around 38 degrees.

Follow these easy instructions for cutting a mango.  Serve a mango salsa this Cinco de Mayo for a sweet and spicy treat.


Cherry Season Not Far Off

 

California Cherry season is just around the corner and we anticipate our first land of cherries the week of May 12th. The cherry season is very short in California and typically lasts 4 to 6 weeks depending on the weather or variety. This year we are anticipating a lighter crop than usual.  Some of the trees had uneven bloom at the end of March causing some fruit to come on later and eventually shrivel up and fall off the tree.

Cherries are a small and delicate fruit and need to be handled with extreme care.  The fruit starting to size up on the tree can still be damaged if there is heavy rain or wind.  Extreme weather can cause the cherries to split or crack and that part of the crop is lost.  The cherries dangle together in groups of 2 to 6 pieces of fruit and the wind can cause them to bang up against each other, causing bruising on the shoulders of the fruit, the area near the stem.

Cherry harvest soon

Plump sweet red Bing cherries are the most popular variety grown in the Sacramento, Stockton and Lodi areas.  Other varieties grown in California include Sequoia, Tulare, Brooks, Chelan, Lapin and Rainier although not all are found organically. California has a combination of nutrient-rich soil, abundant sunshine and mild temperatures, producing sweet fruit. Stay tuned for updates on the first cherry land and learn about the different California varieties as the season progresses.

Import Apple Season Begins

In our last apple update we talked about how we had a shortage of domestic apples this year and that the season was starting to dwindle. A month later the domestic apple supply coming out of Controlled Atmosphere(CA) is very tight and supplies are limited. As the domestic season is finishing the first varieties of the import apples are starting up with Galas arriving now and Golden Delicious scheduled for the end of April. We can look forward to the Granny Smith, Braeburn and Red Delicious in the first half of May and the Fuji and Cripps Pink in the latter half of May. Imports will continue into late July/early August when the first California Gravensteins are harvested.

cropped gala

Burkart Stone Fruit

We are just around the corner from the beginning of the stone fruit season. Richard Burkart has most of his thinning complete and his crops are on schedule. We are anticipating that we will receive our first shipment of yellow peaches the week of May 5th. Stay tuned for updates.

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Farm Visit to Asparagus Grower Coastal View Produce

Beautiful green stalks of asparagus can grow an amazing 6 to 10 inches in a day. A small group from Earl’s Purchasing, Sales, Marketing and Quality Control departments visited Coastal View Produce to see exactly what an asparagus farm looks like. CVP is located in Gonzales, CA about 2 hours south of San Francisco.

Asparagus field

Brian Violini, a third generation farmer has been growing delicious organic asparagus in the Salinas Valley for over 40 years. His grandfather, a Swiss Immigrant, worked on a dairy farm in Salinas valley back in 1918 when he was just 20 years old. “I can remember being 10 years old and pulling weeds and moving sprinklers for my grandfather,” says Violini, who now runs Coastal View Produce with his brother. “The main thing we’re known for is asparagus,” says Violini. “We started with organic asparagus, when I was in high school.” Violini attributes the consistent high quality of his crop to the mild Salinas weather in the winter and spring. “It’s not too hot, not too cold—it stays around 65–75 degrees.

Michael Stewart, Jacob Levy, Robert Lichtenberg, Brian Violini

Michael Stewart, Jacob Levy, Robert Lichtenberg, Brian Violini

Our tour started off as we piled into Brian’s truck and headed out to the fields for a look. As far as the eye could see were rows of asparagus. These particular fields were at least 6 years old which means that the plants can be harvested multiply times during the season which runs from March to June.  A younger plant will be harvested a shorter time so the plant can store energy from the sun and have a better production the following year.  A plant is never harvested from the same cut.  A new stalk will grow from a new “eye” of the crown.

Asparagus crown www.rochedalecommunitygarden.net.au

Asparagus crown
www.rochedalecommunitygarden.net.au

The lifecycle of an asparagus plant starts from the crown that is planted a few inches deep in the ground.  The crown can grow up to a few feet long over the life of the plant, which can last up to 12 years in a commercial farm setting.  The first year is a waiting game as the crown establishes itself in the ground. The second year the plants may be harvested only once or twice. Then they will be allowed to go to fern to produce chlorophyll to grow the crown.  The older the plants are the longer the crowns become and the wider the rows of dirt are in the field.  At the end of each season the plants go to fern to replenish the nutrients for the following year’s production.

Crowns can grow a feet long

Crowns can grow a feet long

 

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Asparagus Ferns
www.wikipedia.com

Workers will strap baskets to their waist and using a sharp knife cut asparagus from the base of the stalk. Once the baskets are filled they will empty them and start over. From the field the asparagus is brought in bins to the packing shed where they are rinsed, trimmed, sorted by size and then packed in neat bundles. The size of the spears comes from the age of the plant and is a personal preference. The youngest plants produce the skinny stalks. The thicker spears from older plants are said to be more succulent because they contain higher levels of carbohydrates. You decide, but make sure to look for blemish free asparagus with tightly closed tips and avoid wilted looking stalks.

Try to eat them as soon as you buy them but you can store them upright in the refrigerator in a dish of water or wrap a damp towel over the ends and store in a plastic bag. When you’re ready to eat them, snap or cut off the white portion of the butt end of the asparagus. They’re perfect coated with olive oil and roasted, which leaves them firmer, nuttier and sweeter than steaming.  I also like to peel the larger sizes into thin strips for a raw salad or piled on top of a pizza. Asparagus is high vitamin C and K and folic acid and contain less than 50 calories per 6 oz serving. 

Asparagus pizza

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