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Archive for March, 2012

How To Choose A Hass Avocado

How do you choose the best Hass avocado?  Avocado maturity is not the same as ripeness.  It is hard to know when an avocado is mature enough to be picked.  Maturity is really related to its seasonality.   The harvest varies in different locations and by year because of the natural criteria of winter such as cold weather and rain or lack of rain.  There will be different volumes picked, along with different start and end dates.  What is mature now will be different than what is mature later in the season.  San Diego will be mature enough to harvest in February/March and the season will go through June. As you go north the maturity levels will overlap with Santa Barbara in May/June and by June/July many areas of California will be maturing at the same time.  The northern Hass avocado season can sometimes go into November and even wrap around into the next year when the southern California Hass season will start up again.

It is important to know there will be overlap from December to March with imported Hass avocados from Mexico and Chile where it is summer during our winter.  The problem is that the Hass avocados in the store are not always labeled so it is good to ask your produce person where they are from.  Even though we love the California Hass avocado, now is really the best time for the Mexican Hass avocado with its high oil content.  If you want to support the California avocado business try the Fuerte .

The skin on a mature fruit will lose some of its glossiness and become darker and the color of the flesh will deepen ever so slightly from yellow to gold. It will also slice smoothly and the seed coat will be thin and brown instead of fleshy and white.

An immature fruit will not have the oily flavor we associate with a good avocado and may even taste watery or bland. Other signs of an avocado picked before maturity are uneven ripening where part of the fruit is soft, the flesh towards the stem is sunken or the flesh will cling to the pit. Look for big shoulders at the top of the avocado near the stem with a round or full shape.

Avocados should be ripened at room temperature and the speed of ripening depends on the maturity of the avocado and the geography where they are from.  Remember California avocados from San Diego where the first crop develops 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 Hass avocado.

Each avocado you buy will most likely ripen in a different time period so experiment with the time it takes to ripen.  To speed up the process you can put an avocado in a paper bag with an apple. As a general rule firm fruit that is light green will take about 5-7 days to ripen. Fruit that is dark green, almost black and starting to soften will take about 2-5 days to ripen. Dark green or black skin that yields to gentle pressure at the stem is ripe and will keep in the refrigerator for a few days.

Avocados should be stored at a moderate temperature of 45-55 degrees. Putting avocados in the coldest part of your refrigerator will “burn them”.  Black spots that appear in the flesh are caused by storage in cold temperatures so make sure to take the avocado out of the refrigerator to finish ripening. If you want to prepare the avocado in advance, cut it in half and then press plastic wrap onto the surface to keep the air out. You can also squeeze lemon or lime juice on a cut avocado with the pit still intact. Place in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator.

A 1-oz. serving of avocado contains only 0.5 grams saturated fat and is trans-fat, cholesterol and sodium-free.  Avocados are loaded with nutrients such as vitamin K, C, E, Potassium and Fiber.

Have some fun and educate yourself at the same time by starting a rapport with your local produce person.  Ask questions about what farm your produce comes from, where that farm is located and how to pick the best produce.  If they don’t know the answer they can easily find out for you.  The feedback you give really does affect the stores buying decisions.

Try some delicious ruby red grapefruit with slices of avocados and pea shoots or arugula in this simple spring salad.


Durondeau Heirloom Pears Come To The United States

As far as we know this is the first time organic Durondeau heirloom pears are being brought to the United States from Argentina and Earl’s has them! We just received a limited quantity in yesterday!  The Durondeau has a golden exterior with streaks of red blush and is covered all over in a soft russet. This is the first time for all of us to try the Durondeau.  They are not ripe yet and we all had different opinions on the flavor, ranging from it punches you in the mouth, a bit tart with a crisp bite to having a floral flavor.  Earl thought it was similar to the Winter Nellis pear or honey pear known for its sweet flavor that goes great with cheese platters or in salads.  As the pear ripens the flavor will change and we would love to hear what you think on our Facebook wall.  The Durondeau is not a long term storage pear but it is amazing for fresh eating and cooking.  The light granular texture is similar to the Bosc Pear which is often used in desserts.  The Durondeau might ripen similar to the Bosc which gives less than other pears when you apply gentle pressure at the neck.   As a reminder pears ripen from the inside out.

The Durondeau pear was originally cultivated in the garden of M. Durondeau, in the village of Tongre-Notre-Dame, Belgium in 1811. They are also sometimes called Tongre or De Tongre pears, after the city. It was grown in the United States as early as 1858, but seems to have since largely disappeared from cultivation in the western hemisphere.  We are excited to be able to offer the Durondeau pear on a limited basis.


Forbidden Fruit Blueberries Affected By The Winter Freeze

Forbidden Fruit Orchard blueberries won’t be back at Earl’s until the middle of April at the earliest.  Sandy Newman, owner of Forbidden Fruit, told us that the freeze in the first week of February took out 3/4 of her blueberry crop.  During the first week of February while starting to pick an order for 400 flats the freeze hit and almost wiped them out, ending up with only 30 flats.  In February the plants started flowering again and according to Sandy “it takes about 3 months to get back to where we were”  Forbidden Fruit Orchard is located in Lompoc, CA about halfway between San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara.  We will let you know when Sandy’s delicious California blueberries are available again.


Meal Sharing Contest on Facebook-You Could Win “Fat of the Land” by Langdon Cook!

Earl’s is having a meal sharing contest on Facebook! Share your favorite SPRINGTIME meal on our Facebook, and you could win Langdon Cook’s new book, Fat of the Land: Adventures of a 21st Century Forager. The publisher Mountaineers Books has offered a free copy of the book to the person who gets the most “likes” for their meal idea (so long as you are in the USA).

The contest ends on March 21st so get your ideas in now!



Sespe Creek Organics

I walked in the door this morning to find a cut Sespe Creek navel on Earl’s kitchen table.  I was blown away by the bright orange color and how super sweet and juicy it was.  What a way to start off my Monday morning!

Sespe Creek is located in Fillmore, CA in an inland coastal area, surrounded by mountains between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles.  John Wise started farming in 1983 and bought Sespe Creek orchards in 1987 with his Dad.  He transitioned to organic in 1988 and in 1991 became certified organic by the CCOF.  To this day it is still a family run business with John’s wife taking care of food safety and his daughter doing some of the farming.  John has 300 acres of navel oranges, blood oranges, valencia oranges, grapefruit, avocado, lemons and golden nugget mandarins. He is also starting to grow a hybrid variety of mandarin called Tahoe Gold.

Navel oranges are seedless and have a thick skin which is easy to peel and helps to protect the fruit from cold weather.  A navel orange is a special type of orange with a little surprise inside, a partially formed undeveloped fruit like a conjoined twin, located at the blossom end of the fruit. From the outside, the blossom end is looks like a human navel, leading to the common name of “navel orange.”

Growing citrus in a coastal area takes longer to mature and they are complex in taste.  John waits until his navels taste good before picking, usually at the end of January or beginning of February when they have a good balance of acid and sugar.  Navels are not good for juicing because of a bitterness caused by limonin, a naturally occurring bitter compound found in citrus.  They are perfect out of hand, in a fruit salad or try them in this delicious Orange, Olive and Fennel salad.  Although many people start purchasing navels around the winter holidays, they are at their peak from March to April so don’t miss out while they are at their best!


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