The California Freeze Continues
Today as we start the 2nd week of the California freeze temperatures drop lower than ever across the state. San Francisco came in at 36 last night and parts of Marin County across the Golden Gate Bridge were as low as 15. The extreme cold temperatures are expected to last through at least Wednesday. The cold weather is preventing many farm workers from getting out in the fields early to pick. They are waiting until the weather warms up later in the morning which is affecting the amount of produce harvested. Buyer beware! There is a possibility that supply may be down and prices may increase in the coming weeks.
In the San Joaquin Valley where much of the California citrus is grown the temperatures reached as low as the high teens in some areas. The biggest worry is the thin skinned mandarins. Navels and lemons have thicker skins and hold up better during the cold weather. In order to try and assess the damage from the frost many growers will take samples of the fruit and will hold them for a few days at room temperature before cutting into them. The freezing cold weather can freeze the liquid inside the cells of the fruit, cracking the cells and drying out the piece of fruit. Unfortunately frost damage is not always apparent right away and sometimes it takes weeks for the damage to show up.
Last week I interviewed Rich Ferreira from Side Hill Citrus in Lincoln, CA about ½ hour north of Sacramento. Today Rich told us that the weather is continuing to hold in the low 20’s and he is not worried about the Satsumas being damaged by the cold. Satsumas can withstand weather as low as 20 degrees and Side Hill is lucky to be located on a sloping hill which offers natural air flow protection. The cold air flows down the slope and drains into the low spots of the valley. This natural air flow prevents the cold air from settling on the citrus and frost from forming. Some growers will use wind machines or hire helicopters to hover over the orchards, stirring up the cold air and preventing it from settling on the fruit and causing frost damage. In addition the orchard is south facing, allowing the trees to receive energy from the sunlight and at the same time warming up the soil, helping to prevent frost. Rich grows the best Satsuma Mandarins in our opinion and we anticipate the season going through the end of the holidays.
It is too early to tell the damage on veg grown all over California but we can expect to see some damage on sensitive leafy items like lettuces. The main growing areas at this time of year are Coachella and Imperial Valley but there are pockets all over California. For example Willey Farms out of Madera, just north of Fresno. During the winter many of the warm veg items like cucumbers, squash, peppers and tomatoes are coming out of Mexico. Although the freeze did not reach Mexico the temperatures did go down to 40 which has briefly slowed down production.
Brian from Earl’s Sales department recommends making a Hot Ginger Satsuma tea to stay warm during the freeze. Click here for the recipe and check back with Earl’s for the latest produce updates.