WEEKLY SPECIALS | SEASONAL CALENDAR | GROWER MAP

Tarocco Blood Orange

Tarocco Blood Oranges are sweet and tart with raspberry undertones. It is an Italian variety with thin skin that is easy to peel.  The Tarocco is the lightest of all the blood orange varieties and does not have the red blush or deep red flesh that we associate with the Moro variety.  In fact you could easily mistake the Tarocco for an orange due to the lack of color.

Earl’s will have the Tarocco for one short week and we anticipate them going fast. We can look forward to a steady stream of Moro’s starting up next week.

Tarocco Blood Orange (2)

 

 

 

California Avocados Starting Up

We are just starting to see organic California Hass avocados on the scene. The season starts in January/February in San Diego and works its way north as each area of California finishes their harvest and another area begins.  The beginning of the year is when the California Hass avo must pass the minimum allowed level of oil content before being picked. This is no way means that the flavor is good nor does it represent the California Hass we have grown to love and appreciate over the year.

The trees are full of fruit and in order to continue to size and produce, the tree needs to be relieved of their burden of fruit to make room for the next more flavorful picking.  The oil content will develop as they mature with each harvest.  For example, Hass avocados from San Diego will taste the best earliest in the year, think April/May.  As the months go on avocados from the central coast and even farther north will develop the high oil content and flavor we expect from a California avocado.

Avocado hass

Hass Avocado

Buyer Beware!

The cycle of maturation, no matter where avocados are grown in the world, means the early crop can have irregular ripening, rubbery texture, low oil and very little flavor. We will have a small quantity of California Hass available now but if you are picking for flavor we recommend the Mexican Hass avocado.

If you are committed to buying a California piece of fruit there are other varieties in season not to be missed. This is not a comprehensive list but are some of our favorites in season now.

Bacon- Oval shaped with shiny thin skin and a light flavored yellow-green flesh. They are easy to peel and the perfect complement to a citrus salad.

Fuerte- Used to be the most popular avocado in the 1950’s. The medium sized pear shaped fruit is easy to peel and has smooth green skin that stays green after ripening.  The flesh is a creamy pale green with a light smooth taste that goes well with salads. Think spring mix, fennel and grapefruit.

Zutano- The earliest winter variety. Pear shaped with shiny, yellow-green skin and light tasting flesh. Try cubing it and adding it to tortilla soup on a cold winter night.

Zutano Avocado

Zutano Avocado

Other varieties you may see throughout the year are the Reed and Pinkerton.

Future blogs include understanding how to buy a better tasting avocado by making choices based on seasonality and geography.  Each year the timing is different and we will explore how extreme weather can have a major impact on ripening and availability. Continue to follow our blogs as a new year of the California Hass avocado unfolds.

Cold Snap Hits Agricultural Areas Hard

We have passed through the shortest days of the year which meant less sun, slowing down the growth of everything. A severe cold snap is now affecting most of the agricultural areas in California, Arizona and Northern Mexico hindering the growth and harvest of all produce.  Plants can be severely damaged if harvested before they thaw out so growers will need to wait to harvest until late morning losing precious harvesting hours. Where a grower might typically start harvesting at 6am, they are having to wait until 10am when the weather has warmed up. We can expect availability to be tight, prices to go up and to see quality defects on leafy items. Though it is going to slowly warm up there are some long term effects worth consideration:

Prices will continue to stay high until the supply side stabilizes. The thing to remember is that most of the US is pulling produce from the same area that we do at this point in the season. Demand is great – supply isn’t.  To see one of the last true examples of a supply and demand economic model look no further than the fruit and veg industry. There are no price supports, no subsidies and you can charge as little as you want or as much as you want. It either sells or it doesn’t so to speak.  Organics is a smaller industry so prices are even more reactive in a time like this. We can expect to see high prices for at least a few more weeks on all cool season wet veg.  Warm weather crops will also be high but because many of these are greenhouse/hothouse grown the supply side has not been affected as much as the field grown crops.

Price and quality do not track side by side. Often higher prices reflect difficult growing conditions and veg has more cosmetic challenges than we are used to. Most vegetables are comprised mainly of water and water expands when it freezes causing various types of defects. Epidural peel occurs when the outer layer of the leaf freezes, partially dies and then begins to peel. The leaf will have a translucent look. Tip burn happens when the leaf cells break down from extreme temperature causing the outer edges of the leaves to turn black. Cracking can be seen along the stem or ribs and slight frost damage is noticeable on outside leaves.  Blistering causing the epidermis on the outside leaves to begin to fall apart.

Planting, transplanting and germination of seeds can be very hard or delayed when the ground becomes real cold or freezes.  Down the line in about 40-60 days we will start to see the gaps in supply caused by the planting challenges of today.

Continue to check our posts and social media sites for updates. In the meantime bundle up and stay warm!

Temperatures Drop in California

If you woke up this morning and felt that it was colder than usual you weren’t imagining it. Temperatures have dropped down in California, especially in the desert. The last few mornings saw frost and ice in Coachella and the Imperial Valley. Coachella hit a low of 16 degrees today! Northern Mexico also has had lower temperatures than normal. Plants can be severely damaged if harvested before they thaw out so growers will need to wait to harvest until late morning. Most of the wet vegetable items that are grown in the desert can take quite low temperatures and will recover even when frozen. The cold weather reduces the number of hours they can harvest a day.  We can expect availability to be tight, prices to go up and quality defects on leafy items.

Most vegetables are comprised mainly of water and water expands when it freezes causing various types of defects. Epidural peel occurs when the outer layer of the leaf freezes, partially dies and then begins to peel. The leaf will have a translucent look. Tip burn happens when the leaf cells break down from extreme temperature causing the outer edges of the leaves to turn black. Cracking can be seen along the stem or ribs and slight frost damage is noticeable on outside leaves.

More weather and produce updates to come as we begin the new year.

Everyone at Earl’s Organic wishes you a healthy, happy and prosperous 2015!

Winter Citrus Harvest Update

In our last few blogs we discussed how the heavy rains in California could possibly affect the citrus harvest. The fruit becomes waterlogged which can cause mold, possible rind breakdown also known as “clear rot” and a shorter shelf life.  All of that water also disperses the sugar and dilutes the flavor. The growers need to wait until the fruit dries out and the sugars are redistributed before picking again. Picking the fruit after the rain can leave bruise marks on the fruit and the oil from the workers hands can change the skin from orange to yellow.  Only time will tell if the fruit has been affected and just now we are noticing some bruising on fruit that was picked last week during the break from the rain. As mentioned before we may or may not see gaps on varietal citrus in the coming weeks as the heavy rain continues.

The biggest side effect from the rain we have seen is from Side Hill Citrus in Lincoln, north of Sacramento. Side Hill Satsuma mandarins, a favorite of everyone at Earl’s, ended a few weeks early this year.  There was too much moisture in the fruit due to the rains and the fruit itself lacked the flavor that everyone has come to expect from the grower Rich Ferreira. We hope that you had a chance to try this incredible piece of fruit while it was plentiful.

Winter is citrus time so don’t despair. We have many more varieties in which to look forward. California Navels are coming on stronger and getting sweeter with every land. The outside of the blossom end looks like a human navel and that is how the name came about. Their thick skin allows them to fend off serious water damage and protects them from extreme cold weather.  Navels are easy to peel, seedless and are best for eating out of hand. Navels can be juiced but need to be consumed immediately or the juice will turn bitter because of the compound limonin found in the pith. Navels are currently coming out of the central San Joaquin Valley in the Porterville area. The season runs from November through April, with peak supplies in January, February and March coming from the San Joaquin Valley and San Diego County.

Navel cropped_2

Clementine Mandarins are that perfect small to medium piece of fruit to throw in your bag for a snack later.   The amount of seeds depends on if there is a pollinator nearby.  They are easy to peel with an extremely sweet and juicy, beautiful orange flesh.  Clementines come from a group of varieties and are also known as the Algerian mandarin in California.  They are coming out of the central San Joaquin Valley and the season runs November through January. Their thin skin means that they are likely to encounter issues with the wet weather.

Clementine (1)

 

The Page Mandarin will be available in limited quantities from the Fallbrook area in San Diego County. The Page is a cross between a Minneola tangelo and Clementine Mandarin. Usually seedless with a fantastic rich flavor you can pick them out easily by their bright orange red skin. The season runs from December to May.

Citrus Buying Tip:

During this rainy season we recommend buying less citrus and buying more often. The fruit won’t hold as long so keep what you buy in the refrigerator.

As you know by now produce is weather dependent and supply can change as fast as the weather. We can look forward to Minneolas and Blood Oranges coming around the end of December or beginning of January. Learn about the different varieties of citrus and what to expect in terms of flavor profiles and supplies in future blogs.

Heavy Rains Hit California

California continues to be inundated with heavy rainfall and flooding in some areas. As we mentioned in our weather update last week the citrus harvest could be affected by the rain.

BUYERS BEWARE:

We may or may not see gaps on varietal citrus coming out of the San Joaquin Valley in the coming weeks due to the rain. In particular we are looking at Navels, Cara Caras, Clementines and Pummelos. Growers need to wait until the fruit dries out to pick because the flavor has been diluted and the moisture in the fruit can cause skin issues and breakdown. Click to learn more about how the rain affects the citrus harvest. 

We will know more about inventory quantities next week. Stay tuned for updates.

Navels Sundance

Asian Pear Season Almost Done

Asian pears are firm to the touch with the crisp texture of an apple and the juiciness of a pear. They can grow quite large and are round like an apple and have a yellowish green or brown russet skin like a pear. It is no surprise that they are also known as an apple pear. They grow well in hot climates and should be allowed to ripen on the tree unlike most pears. Harvest is usually mid-September and Asian pears will keep in cold storage for up to 3 months. They do not soften like traditional pears and are ready to eat immediately.  Asian pears have a high water content so they are best eaten out of hand, sliced in a salad and make a great meat tenderizer. Share your favorite recipes on our Facebook page.

Earl’s is now carrying the Olympic, an extra-large hardy winter variety with a golden russetted skin and sweet juicy taste. The Asian pear season is winding down and they will only be around for a few more weeks. Don’t miss out on this great piece of fruit now on Earl’s Weekly Specials.

Asian Pear twitter

Heavy Rains Affect Citrus Harvest

We are experiencing heavy rain in California this week and we can always use more. The citrus harvest has certainly been affected such as the Satsuma Mandarin, Clementine and Navel crop. The rain has made it cumbersome for the workers and tractors to get out on the muddy ground.  Standing on the wet soggy orchard floor also compacts the soil which is not good for the tree’s roots.  One of the biggest worries from a grower’s standpoint is that the rain will cause the citrus to be waterlogged which can cause molding, possible rind breakdown and a shorter shelf life. The tree takes in extra water making the fruit super hydrated and diluting the sugars. The grower needs to wait a few days for the dry weather to disperse the sugars again before picking. An additional concern is that if the fruit were to be picked when it is wet the oil from the workers hands would leave fingerprints and the pressure would cause the fruit to stay yellow instead of orange.

We are expecting rain throughout California until Thursday.  We may or may not see gaps on varietal citrus in the coming weeks due to the rain. Stay tuned for updates!

Satsuma tree cropped

Is It A Sweet Potato Or A Yam?

Thanksgiving is only 2 days away and we want to help clear up the difference between a sweet potato and a yam. Trying to figure this out can be very confusing when you’re at the grocery store.  The U.S. government decided to label sweet potatoes by their color to make things easier but it just ended up confusing everyone more.  The creamy white flesh ones are labeled sweet potatoes and the orange fleshed ones are sometimes labeled yams.  The USDA requires that sweet potatoes labeled as yams also be labeled as sweet potatoes. Chances are likely that you are buying sweet potatoes regardless of what the label says.

In reality sweet potatoes and yams are two totally different vegetables.  Yams are tubers and are usually found imported in ethnic markets in the United States. They are originally from Africa, where over 95% of the world’s crop is harvested, and Asia.  Yams are grown in tropical climates and are very popular in Latin America and the Caribbean.  A few varieties can grow up to 7 feet in length and weigh almost 200 pounds! The skin of a yam is rough and scaly and the taste is very starchy.  Yams are an extremely important part in the diet of the people in Nigeria and West Africa.  Yams provide more than 200 calories per person per day for more than 150 million people in West Africa while also providing a necessary income for local farmers.  Yams are high in vitamin C and B and potassium and low in saturated fat and sodium.  The flavor can sometimes be sweeter than a sweet potato depending on the variety.

Sweet Potatoes are thought to originate in either Central or South America at least 5,000 years ago.  In the U.S. they are grown in temperate climate zones.  North Carolina is the largest producer of sweet potatoes followed by California, Louisiana and Mississippi.  In California 80% of the sweet potatoes are grown in Merced County followed by Fresno and Stanislaus County. When you sit down for the traditional American Thanksgiving dinner you will be eating sweet potatoes regardless of their color.

There are 4 main types of sweet potatoes grown. The orange flesh varieties become moist when cooked and the white flesh varieties become dry when cooked with a crumbly texture similar to a baked white potato. The Garnet is the classic sweet potato that most people think of when making mashed sweet potatoes, pies, cakes and breads.

  1. Red Skin/Orange Flesh (Varieties include Dianas, Reds & Garnets)
  2. Orange Skin/Orange Flesh (varieties include the Beauregard, Covington & Jewel)
  3. White Skin/White Cream Flesh (Varieties include the O’Henry, Jersey Sweet, Hannas or Hanna Golds)
  4. Red Skin/White Flesh (Varieties include the Murasaki & Kotobuki-most commonly referred to as “Orientals”)
A few examples of sweet potatoes from Earl’s

Sweet potatoes are relatively low in calories and have no fat. They are rich in beta-carotene , having five times the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin A in one sweet potato, as well as loaded with potassium. These nutrients help to protect against heart attack and stroke.

As you can imagine sweet potatoes are consumed the most during Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and Easter.  Try these wonderful recipes from Food and Wine Magazine. What is your favorite recipe for sweet potatoes during the holidays?  Please share your favorite recipes on our Facebook wall.

Side Hill Citrus Satsuma Mandarins

Satsuma Mandarins herald the start of the varietal citrus season in California and we feel that Side Hill Citrus Satsumas from Lincoln in the Sacramento foothills, have the perfect balance of tart and sweet flavors. The combination of a higher elevation of 600 feet, nutrient filled organic clay soil, warm summer days and cool nights and using a Satsuma Owari rootstock from China all contribute to growing consistently delicious Satsuma Mandarins year after year.

Rich Ferreira, a 4th generation farmer bought 17 acres in 1975 with only 100 Satsuma trees and in 1991 he became certified organic and has grown to over 2000 Satsuma trees on 48 acres. Satsumas can withstand cold weather as low as 20 degrees which helps to bring out the incredible flavor in the fruit and the bright orange color.  Last year California had a big freeze at the beginning of December and fortunately for Rich his fruit was not damaged. Side Hill is  located on a sloping hill which offers natural air flow protection during the colder months. This natural air flow prevents the cold air from settling on the citrus and frost from forming. The orchard also faces south, allowing the trees to receive energy from the sunlight and at the same time warming up the soil, helping to prevent frost.

Satsuma tree cropped

When harvesting his Satsuma mandarins, Rich will go through his orchard up to 10 times to pick the best pieces of fruit. He color hand picks each piece, resulting in a full color, highly flavored, sweet piece of fruit going to market.  Satusmas are the perfect snacking food with no seeds and an easy to peel skin. You can eat them on the go and not worry about making a sticky mess. 

How To Pick and Store Satsumas

Look for Satsumas with an aromatic smell, firm tight peel, no dented spots and a heavier fruit means they are juicier. They can be stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator, but not for too long because prolonged storage can dry them out.

Stay Healthy!

A 2008 U.S. Department of Agriculture study said Satsumas have six to seven times as much synephrine, a natural decongestant, as other citrus. Four or five Satsumas have enough synephrine to equal the effect of a Sudafed tablet, the study said. Satsumas are also naturally low in calories and a single fruit contains 34 percent of the USDA daily recommendation for vitamin C.  So stay healthy this winter and pack a few in your lunch or for a snack during the day.  The season is now and only runs through the beginning of January. 

Side Hill Citrus Satsumas

Satsumas are a holiday favorite for the Earl’s crew. Susan the Marketing Manager’s specialty is a Side Car Satsuma cocktail that is easy to make when friends drop by.  Randy, our resident chef and Fruit Buyer loves to mix Satsuma juice with tequila. Brian, a Sales Associate recommends making a Hot Ginger Satsuma tea to stay warm during the freeze.

Don’t miss the 20th annual Mandarin Festival this weekend, November 21st-24th, in Auburn, CA at the Gold County Fairgrounds. Sample Mandarins from local growers and try a fun variety of Mandarin inspired food including mandarin shakes, chocolate dipped mandarins, mandarin dessert pizza and more.

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