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Archive for July, 2012

Bay Cities Produce Tour

Earl’s Organic recently visited Bay Cities Produce in San Leandro for a tour of their 55,000 square foot facility.  Bay Cities Produce is a family owned and operated produce distributor and processor that have been in business for over 60 years.  They specialize in the distribution and processing of gourmet foods for the fresh food industry in the bay area and beyond.

We were very impressed with Bay Cities commitment to producing the absolute highest quality organic pre-cut produce.   Earl’s currently buys assorted organic prepared vegetables to sell to delis and kitchens in leading retailers throughout the bay area.

Bay Cities Produce number one priority is to promote Food Safety, starting with the farms.  Bay Cities has sponsored 17 small local organic farms in the past few years, offering them support and helping them develop a food safety program.

The importance of food safety continues as the produce is received at temperature controlled docks and checked for quality, color and flavor profile including brix(sugar) levels.   Once passing inspection the produce is moved into coolers set at 38 degrees.

Now the produce is ready to be cleaned, cut and packaged in a 40 degree room, maintaining the cold chain throughout the entire process.  First, all produce is washed in the wash line and all melons are done separately on their own wash line.  As the produce goes through the wash, the water is sampled every 2 hours and tested at an on-site lab for any pathogens.  If there are any issues at all, the produce is destroyed.

Cleanliness is very important.  All prep surfaces in the room are cleaned and sanitized before and after every new product and the entire room is cleaned and sanitized a total of 4x per day.  Once the product is cut and packaged the night shift employees pull the orders and load them on refrigerated trucks to be delivered all over the bay area. Check out Bay Cities Produce Facebook page.

Earl’s Organic is working on an exciting new product with Bay Cities Produce. Stay tuned for updates!

Tuscan Rose Eggplant

Beautiful purple Tuscan Rose Eggplant!  Look for shiny skin that isn’t wrinkled and firm flesh. Store them in a plastic bag in the crisper and keep them away from the coldest part of the refrigerator.

Watermelons Come In Many Varieties

Watermelons are 92% water and are part of the family that includes cucumbers and gourds.  All watermelons start off with white seeds but as they mature the seeds can change colors to black, red, tan or even dotted.  The myth that if you swallow a watermelon seed it will grow inside of you is just not true, in fact the seeds contain nutrients.

There are about 200-300 varieties of watermelons grown in the U.S. and Mexico in different shapes, sizes and colors.  Flesh colors include orange, yellow, pink and red with beautiful rinds in shades of green with speckles and stripes in various patterns. The United States currently ranks 4thin worldwide watermelon production. There are about 50 varieties that are grown commercially in the U.S. and three quarters of those watermelons are grown in California, Florida, Texas, Georgia and Arizona with peak production from May through August. Watermelons in the store are typically categorized as Seeded, Seedless, Mini, Yellow and Orange.

Mini Seedless Watermelon

Watermelons are thought to have originated in the Kalahari Desert of Africa. The first recorded watermelon harvest occurred nearly 5,000 years ago in Egypt and is depicted in Egyptian hieroglyphics on walls of their ancient buildings.

Sugar Baby Watermelon

Have you ever wondered how a seedless watermelon is grown? They are a sterile hybrid that was invented over 50 years ago by crossing male pollen for a watermelon, containing 22 chromosomes per cell, with a female watermelon flower with 44 chromosomes per cell. When this seeded fruit matures, the small, white seed coats inside contain 33 chromosomes, rendering it sterile and incapable of producing seeds. This process does not involve genetic modification. (source www.watermelon.org)

The rinds of the watermelon are delicate so they are picked by hand. When you are choosing your own watermelon there are three key things to look for. Look for a firm symmetrical watermelon that is free of bruises, cuts or dents.  Next pick up the watermelon and feel for weight. Lastly turn it over and the underside of the watermelon should have a creamy yellow spot from where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun. (source www.watermelon.org)

Earl’s is currently carrying the Mini Seedless red and yellow, Seeded, Sugar Baby, Yellow Doll, Orchid and Mickey Lee watermelons with new varieties arriving throughout the season. 

Mickey Lee Watermelon

Click here for some fun ideas on carving your watermelon and recipes for a summer party.  

Americana Basket www.watermelon.org

 

Melons!

Cantaloupe, Galia and Orange Honeydew melons are just a sampling of the amazing variety of summer melons at Earl’s.

 

Cantaloupe, Galia and Orange Honeydew Melons

En Divina Luz Avocado Grower

Earl’s Organics feels privileged to add another Southern California Fallbrook Avocado grower, En Divina Luz Ranch, located 7 miles from Fallbrook in Riverside County.  En Divina Luz means “In Divine Light”. The name was chosen because they are close to the ocean which brings very clean air and no smog.  The ranch is surrounded by lush green hillsides with year round creeks that run through the valley, artisanal springs from the mountain and the land is covered with oak and sycamore trees.

Avocado trees along the creek

Sheryl and Jason Kunkle grew up in L.A. and wanted to get away from the city.  They were passionate about preserving the beautiful scenery and wildlife surrounding their property near Fallbrook so they decided to buy up the 64 acres of avocado trees and get into organic farming.

The Hass avocados coming out of the Fallbrook area are rich and creamy and are best from May-July with the peak of their flavor happening right now!  The Hass avocados will be moving north in August but En Divina Luz can hold out a bit longer than some Southern California growers. This is because they are only 1.5 miles from the ocean and the cooler weather and marine layer coming into the valley each morning produces a foggy, moist jungle atmosphere with increased humidity.  The unique weather conditions allow the fruit to hold really well and have a better flavor.  By mid-August En Divina Luz will finish picking the Hass, depending on the weather.  As long as they don’t get a big heat wave, the fruit will hold on the trees.

The warmer the weather the more water an avocado tree needs and in the hotter months avocado trees can require up to 300 gallons a week.   En Divina Luz uses well water which is very pure.  The ranch area located in the mountains is very pristine and hasn’t been exposed to any chemicals from other valley areas.  The minerals in the water and the clean air bring out the flavor of their avocados.  Sheryl’s favorite way to eat avocados is simply with grapefruit.

The avocado world is changing and it is hard to get people to pick the big trees.  You need really athletic men to climb up the trees on 40 foot ladders.  They use a pole to pick 2-3 avocados at a time, put them in a bag and once it is full at about 80 pounds they will climb down the ladder, go down the hill, deposit the avocados in bins and then start all over again.  A 4 wheel drive tractor takes the avocados to a packing house on the grove where they are packed into boxes.

En Divina Luz picks to order and it is never more than 24 hours before they get in the truck to go to Earl’s in San Francisco and then out to local retailers.  Check back for updates as the California avocado season moves from south to north.

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