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Archive for January, 2013

Apple and Pear Controlled Atmosphere Storage

Apples and pears are enjoyed long after being harvested in October/November by keeping them in storage.  As time goes on the sugar, starch and acid content changes, water is lost and the fruit withers and decays.  Storage delays the normal ripening and aging process.  From harvest time until the end of the year apples will be kept in fresh storage.  Fruit is put into a chilled cellar or cooler and kept between 32-36 degrees F with high air humidity and some air circulation.  You can compare this to storage in your refrigerator at home.   As we move into the new year most of the fresh storage supply has run out and we can expect most apples and pears from the Pacific Northwest to be coming out of controlled atmosphere storage (CA Storage).  

CA storage is a non-chemical process that varies by apple and pear varieties, allowing many varieties to be stored into the winter, spring and even summer months.  Apples and pears are stored in airtight coolers where the oxygen level in the air is reduced from the 21% of the air we breathe, to 1 or 2%, usually by the infusion of nitrogen gas.  The carbon dioxide level is also increased to slow down the maturation process to a near halt.  Temperatures are kept at a consistent 32–36 degrees F with 95 percent humidity.

It is really important that the apples and pears are picked at the proper maturity otherwise they will not store well in CA.  Growers will test their apples and pears for firmness, skin color, seed color, sugar level and flesh chlorophyll to predict when they mature enough to pick to be stored in CA.

When the apples and pears are brought out of “hibernation” for packing they will begin to ripen and break down quickly.  It is best to enjoy them right away and keep them in your refrigerator until eaten.  Once the CA storage of apples and pears runs out, the supplies are augmented by apples and pears from the southern hemisphere until the season starts up again in the fall.

Page Mandarins

Page mandarins are a cross between a Minneola tangelo and a Clementine mandarin.  They are usually seedless with a rich sweet flavor.  They are extremely small to about medium sized with a orange-red color.

Eco-Farm 2013 Farm Tour Tomorrow

Tomorrow I will be joining the all-day field trip to visit four organic and sustainable farms near the town of Pescadero in San Mateo County.  Long known for the production of high-quality, cool-season crops, this region right next to the Pacific Ocean is an area of cool, foggy summers, sunny springs and falls, and mild wet winters. Pescadero and the surrounding area feature a great range of crops suited to the climate and fertile coastal soils.

Tour stops will include:

  • Leftcoast Grassfed/Tomkat Ranch are producers of Black Baldy cattle using rotational grazing on 1,800 acres of ranchland sustainably certified by the Food Alliance, American Grassfed, and Animal Welfare Approved. Educational Director Kathy Webster and Ranch Director Wendy Millet will lead the tour.
  • Fifth Crow Farm, where partners Mike Irving, Teresa Kurtak, and John Vars will show us their 20-acre CCOF certified production of mixed vegetables, flowers, apples, and 700 pasture-raised heirloom egg chickens.
  • Dee Harley of Harley Farms Goat Dairy will show us her 12-acre pasture based farm and dairy, supporting 200 Alpine goats. Their milk is used to make many types of award- winning cheeses, some of which we will sample and/or purchase.
  • Larry Jacobs and Sandra Belin will guide us through the home ranch of Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo where they are producing culinary herbs, edible flowers, fruits, and vegetables on 292 acres, all certified organic since 1980. We will learn about the history of the Del Cabo project as well.


Amigo Bob Cantisano of Organic Ag Advisors, Sam Earnshaw of Hedgerows Unlimited, and Richard Smith of UC Cooperative Extension will lead the tour. Lunch will be served at the Jacobs Farm farmstand barn and feature a hearty natural foods meal prepared by noted chef Jim Denevan of Outstanding In The Field in Santa Cruz, with many ingredients donated by the bus tour hosts. Morning coffee, tea, and snacks will be provided.

I hope to see a lot of you on the tour! The 2013 Eco-Farm conference starts tomorrow and continues until Saturday January 26th. It’s not too late to sign up!


Cripps Pink vs Pink Lady Apples

To clear up any confusion, Cripps Pink apples and Pink Lady apples are the exact same apple with the same pink color and quality. The only difference is that Pink Lady® is a registered trademark of the Pink Lady Apple Association.  Pink Lady® was one of the first apples to be marketed under a specific brand name rather than by its variety name.

The Cripps Pink apple and Pink Lady apple are a cross between a Golden Delicious apple and a Lady Williams apple.  John Cripps from Australia crossed the two varieties in 1973 and that is why they are called Cripps Pink apple and/or Pink Lady apple.  When you are out shopping, keep in mind that they are the same apple variety.

Eco-Farm 2013 January 23-26


Eco-Farm is coming up on us fast!  Next Wednesday is the start of the oldest and largest gathering of ecologically sustainable agriculture advocates in the West. Earl’s has been a proud sponsor for many years and continues to have a large presence at the conference.  This year might be the largest group we have ever had including employees from warehouse operations, sales, purchasing, administrative and marketing.

The conference takes place at beautiful Asilomar in Pacific Grove.  For 33 years, Eco-Farm has convened to create, maintain, and promote healthy and just food/farming systems. The multi-day conference yields myriad opportunities for over 1,500 participants to network with colleagues, discover the newest ecological agricultural research and techniques, and build, both individually and as a community.

The Eco-Farm goal for 2013 is to seek to feed the world we want to live in! There are over 60 workshops featuring a comprehensive array of technical and informational sessions for farmers, ranchers, handlers, marketers, activists, students, and educators

If you haven’t signed up yet there is still time! Click here for more information on the conference.

We will be posting Eco-Farm blogs and updates on Facebook and Twitter throughout the conference. We hope to see many of you there!


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