The California stone fruit season started off strong in mid-May and over the past few months we have seen a good supply of fruit in all sizes. As we race towards the end of August, the California stone fruit season is winding down with a limited supply of late season fruit. No need to panic, we will continue to have a good supply of stone fruit out of the Pacific Northwest through most of September.
Buyer beware: Stone Fruit at different times of the season, coming out of different regions, will eat differently. We always recommend talking with the produce buyer of your favorite store and asking where your food is coming from.
How to eat late season peaches and nectarines
Late July to early August peaches and nectarines will have a lower moisture content, so eat them less ripe and more firm than earlier varieties. As a general rule, fruit harvested after June 1st is of the freestone variety. Cut around the center of the fruit from top to bottom and the fruit halves will fall away easily revealing the pit. Now is the best time to show off beautiful slices of fruit in your sweet and savory dishes.
Three women from Earl’s Organic who have made organic food their career, join Helge Hellberg from An Organic Conversation to show us that sustainable food production and healthy agricultural practices have a tremendous impact on everything that food touches. Starting on the land with the farmer, these practices positively affect just about everything along the journey, and ultimately, the end consumer – all of us. In this episode, we celebrate the notion that life creates life. Listen to the podcast here.
California grapes are at peak season with full sugar and optimum flavor. There are over 70 varieties of red, black and green varieties, now coming out of the San Joaquin Valley, think Stockton and Merced in the north down to Bakersfield in the south.
Out of all the varieties, red grapes are always the hardest to color up, with the Flame grape being the most fickle. Red grapes need cooler nights to help develop that rich red color. The recent hot days and warm nights are preventing the fruit from coloring up. Johnni Soghomonian from Three Sisters Organic in Fresno says “Our Flame grapes are having a hard time coloring up this year. We spent a great amount of time, all hand labor, pulling off the leaves covering the fruit, in order to help color up the grapes. The sugar and great flavor is there, but we are working with Mother Nature and some grapes are just stubborn.”
Conventionally ethrel is used to color up the fruit, but that cannot be used in organic production. Many newer varieties have been bred for color and have superior darker color berries than the Flames. Sunview Vineyards, located in Delano, just north of Bakersfield, used to grow Flames, but replaced them with the “Rosa” red grape, a proprietary variety that yields a darker color berry. Sunview saw an opportunity to turn the low colored Flame grapes into raisins, growing their raisin program to include red, green and black organic raisins. All three varieties are available at Earl’s.
We can look forward to the Crimson red grape from Three Sisters in about 10 days. This variety inherently colors up better than the Flame, with all the sweet and crunchy characteristics we want in a good eating grape.
The California Keitt mango season is finally here! This unique domestic mango does not have to travel far and is left on the tree until it has developed a high level of maturity and sweet flavor. Organic California Keitts are grown in the Coachella Valley, which runs for about 45 miles in Riverside County from Palm Springs to the northern part of the Salton Sea.
California Keitt mangoes are super juicy and sweet with almost no stringy fibers and a small pit which means more fruit to eat. One bite of the delicious smooth flesh and you will be back for more! Don’t shy away from these green mangos because Keitts stay green even when ripe.
Keitts are also extra special because they are not subjected to the stress of a hot water bath, as most imported mangos are, contributing to a delicious eating experience. Almost all imported mangos are hot water treated to eliminate fruit flies and fruit fly larvae. The mangoes are put into hot water bath (115-118 F) anywhere from 90-120 minutes.
*Ripen your mangos up on your counter at room temperature. Mangos do not like the cold and can develop chill damage if stored in the refrigerator.
*You will know they are ready to eat when they yield slightly to gentle pressure.
The season is very short and lasts only about 4-6 weeks. This California grown tropical fruit is not to be missed!
We are very excited that the new crop of California Early Fuji apples, from fifth generation orchardists Rider & Sons in Watsonville, will be arriving by the end of the week. Last year the Rider and Sons Early Fuji season started late and lasted only a few weeks due to the drought and higher than average temperatures. Rider and Sons is located about 1 ½ hours south of San Francisco along the Central Coast of California.
We expect the Early Fuji to be available for about a month with limited supply, followed by a seamless transition to the Standard Fuji. Weather dependent, we can look forward to enjoying California Fuji’s through March. Fuji apples are great for eating out of hand and fantastic for juicing.
Figs have been around for thousands of years and are believed to have originated in Eastern Asia, spreading through all of Europe and eventually brought to California by the missionaries in 1769. By 1867 there were over 1,000 acres of fig trees in the Sacramento Valley and 35 acres in the San Joaquin Valley. Figs are still grown mainly in the central valley around the Fresno/Madera area to up north of Sacramento in Corning. Maywood Farms in Corning, CA, Stellar in Madera, CA and Susie Bee Farms from Chowchilla, in the central Joaquin Valley, bring you some of the best organic figs.
Figs need the hot Mediterrean weather to grow. The sweet spot is between 85 to 105 degrees. When temperatures go above 105 degrees the tree goes into shock and shuts down to survive. Temperatures in the fig growing regions reached as high as 110 last week. As we mentioned in our blog last week, the heat affects not only the fruit but also the workers. Susan Bidvia-Kragie from Susie Bee Farms in Madera says her growers stopped picking by 12:30pm. During extreme heat the greener fruit won’t ripen any further and ripe fruit can become overripe. This week temperatures in the central San Joaquin Valley have gone down and are averaging about 95 degrees. Susan says “Figs are remarkable at recovering without any long term effects. The figs just jump back to it”.
The fig season continues through September as long as the weather holds. Join us at the San Francisco Academy of Sciences Foodie Nightlife on Thursday night, August 18th where we will be sampling delicious fresh figs.
Look for the figs that are not too hard and not too soft. A fig that is too firm is an indication that it was harvested too immature. Figs are the only fruit that ripens on the tree. Once the fruit is picked that is as sweet as it’s going to get.
We recommend that you don’t refrigerate your figs. Buy only what you can eat within 2-3 days and buy often. Place them on a counter on a cotton cloth and let them dry up a little bit. The flavors and the sugars will become more concentrated and intense. They are like honey nectar!
- Figs are considered a fruit but the fig is actually a flower that is inverted into itself
- California produces 90% of the fresh figs grown in the United States
Black Mission: The most common variety with deep purple to black skin, watermelon to pink colored flesh and good flavor. They are delicious eaten fresh or dried.
Excel: Similar to the Kadota with yellow green skin and sweet light amber flesh. The shape is blocky with almost no neck. They are great for eating fresh or used for cooking.
Brown Turkey: Large sized fig with a brownish-dark purple skin, light pink flesh and a mild flavor. They are commonly used in desserts.
Kadota: Has thick light green skin with sweet white flesh tinged pink at the center.
Adriatic: Light green or yellowish skin with beautiful strawberry colored flesh.
Farming and weather go hand in hand. This is something not always on the shopper’s mind but it’s always on the farmers mind. California is experiencing an extreme heat wave with temperatures into the 110’s.The heat affects our food production, putting not only the plants and fruit at risk but the people harvesting our food.
Case in point, one of our tomato growers located near Sacramento has been affected by temperatures reaching as high as 115 degrees. The workers are being sent home before noon because it is too hot to be in the field picking. This situation can also put too much stress on the plants interrupting its production cycle, slowing down the ripening process with the fruit not maturing properly. Once picked the field heat must be removed in order to maintain the quality of the fruit. Tomatoes are cooled to approximately 60 degrees and the cooling process can take longer when the days are hotter than normal.
This reminds us to be mindful of the fluctuations in weather when shopping for produce throughout the season and to recognize the hard work and effort and hard work of our farmers.
The Stella Bella green seedless grape from Sunview Vineyards is a relatively new propriety organic variety, launching only three years ago. Sunview is always looking for varieties that are superior in flavor, appearance and berry size through their extensive plant breeding program. It took many years of trial and error for Stella Bella to be developed.
The large sized fruit has a good crunch with an outstanding sweet and refreshing flavor. John Anspach from Sunview Marketing says “the organic consumer wants the fruit to look good and eat good”. Sunview lets the fruit mature longer on the vine to develop a higher brixing sugar level before harvesting. They expect their grapes to have good flavor from the very first harvest.
Sunview is located in the mecca of grape growing in Delano, CA just north of Bakersfield in the San Joaquin Valley. Grapes thrive in the long days of dry heat where daytime summer temperatures can reach over 100 and it doesn’t get much cooler than the 70’s at night. We expect the Stella Bella variety to go through September depending on the weather. This is a grape that is not to be missed!
Frozen grapes make a cool summer treat
Wash and dry the grapes before freezing in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Once frozen store in small zip lock bags for an easy snack.
California has two seasons of figs. The breba crop is grown on the old branches of the tree and starts up in June, lasting for just a few short weeks. This is considered the bonus crop and not all varieties produce a breba crop. At this point figs have not yet developed the rich honey flavor we love. We must be patient during the short gap before the second, more flavorful crop starts up in the middle of July. The fruit is grown on the new branches of the tree and these are the figs we have been waiting for with bated breath. The first bite reveals a honey sweetness that is perfect all on its own.
Figs love the hot days and warm nights and are grown mainly in the central valley around the Fresno/Madera area to up north of Sacramento in Corning. Maywood Farms in Corning, CA, Stellar in Madera, CA and Susie Bee farms from Chowchilla, in the central Joaquin Valley, bring you some of the best organic figs. California ranks #1 in US production of figs and produces 100 % of the USA’s dried figs and 98 % of fresh figs. Figs are weather dependent and need warm days to flourish. We can look forward to enjoying the Black Mission, Brown Turkey, Excel, Kadota, and Adriatic varieties through September as long as the weather holds.
We expect the flavor to be good from the beginning. Eat fresh figs out of hand for a delicious snack, add them to a salad with walnuts or forgo the store bought fig bars and try your hand at making this easy fresh fig bar recipe.
Organic mini seedless Champagne California grapes are bursting with flavor. These delicious grapes look beautiful in a glass of bubbly, are the perfect topping to a summer cake or tart or have fun pulling off small clusters of grapes with your teeth. Johnni Soghomonian from Three Sisters Organic says “You can eat them in little clusters, stems and all. You get a little fiber and fabulous flavor!”
Three Sisters Organic has been growing this specialty grape in Fresno since the 1980’s. Champagne grapes are also dried for raisins and are known as zante currants, commonly used for scones and baking. The season was a fast one this year and Three Sisters will be done harvesting by the end of July so don’t miss out!
Fun Fact: It is estimated that consumption of fresh table grapes in California is about 7 to 8 pounds per person annually. I bet that doesn’t include this fantastic grape!