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Archive for September, 2013

Seckel Pears

Seckel pears, also known as sugar pears, are only a few inches long but packed full of sweet flavor. The olive green skin has a dark maroon blush. Perfect for snacking, they are in season through January. Seckel pears are difficult to find so count yourself lucky if you find them in your grocery store.

Pears ripen from the inside out. Ripen them at room temperature until the area near the stem yields to gentle pressure. We recommend eating them immediately. You don’t want to ripen the pear first and then put it in the refrigerator or it will turn mushy.

If you would like to keep them longer store them in the coldest part of your refrigerator until you are ready to eat and then ripen them at room temperature. Unlike many pear varieties, Seckel’s don’t turn brown immediately upon cutting.

Seckel Pear with Cameo for size comparison

Charantais Melons

Charantais melons ending soon! The charantais is a beautiful  petite heirloom melon that originated in France in 1920. It is a type of cantaloupe with an extremely fragrant scent and an ambrosial flavor. Get them while you can!

From local grower Durst Organics in Yolo County about an hour northwest of Sacramento.  Jim and Deborah Durst are 4th generation farmers and have been growing organically since the 1980’s.

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California Hass Avocado Season Is Winding Down

California grown Hass avocados are slowing down in terms of volume.  Organic growers in California are finishing up earlier than expected. We are on the edge of winding down, which means the largest production area from Northern LA to the Mexican border is finishing up. In 2012 we had a bumper crop which lasted well into November and in 2013 the organic season is expected to end late fall/early winter.

We saw much smaller fruit on the trees this year due to circumstances that vary by region. Most of the avocados are grown in Southern California in low moisture areas. Avocados are big users of water and this past season Southern California had a below average rainfall season. When the trees don’t receive the necessary amount of water the fruit will be smaller.  Weather is another factor.  One of our growers, En Divina Luz, in Riverside County said the cold winter weather in most of San Diego and Riverside County caused their fruit to take longer to size up.  On top of that, the 103 temperatures lasting for a few days in May resulted in the bigger fruit dropping off the tree. The avocado trees were not acclimated to hot weather so the stems shriveled up and the avocados fell to the ground. En Divina Luz lost a large part of their crop this season because of the cold weather and the crop they harvested in June and July was mostly small fruit. Last but not least avocados typically have alternate bearing years. We will have to wait and see what the 2014 season brings us.


At this time of year all California avocados will be good but it is important to be aware of which area your avocado is from. Buyer beware! At this time of year you could see avocados from Northern California, think L.A. up to Santa Cruz, and Southern California, think Riverside and San Diego County to the Mexican border, all mixed in together in an avocado display.  Older crop avocados from the southern area will be more mature, meaning they ripen quicker, have a higher oil content and should be eaten firm. They will become rancid if they are too soft. A sign of a very mature avocado with a high oil content is when the green/yellow flesh turns to a duller, almost mustard color.  Newer crop avocados from the northern area are less mature because the season starts later and should be eaten riper with a little give. The trouble is most of the time you just don’t know what area your avocado is from. The level of maturity depends part in how long it has been on the tree, what region it is from in California and where in the season we are.  Having avocados from 2 regions, means that we have 2 seasons and 2 levels of maturity overlapping in the same display. We always recommend starting a conversation with your produce person but your best bet is to eat firmer than you might think and adjust accordingly.

California avocado season will start again in February in San Diego and move up into the Santa Barbara area in August/September. The cycle of maturation means that the first crop of avocados won’t be as rich in oil content, but they need to come off the trees to make room for the 2nd more flavorful crop. Check back for more avocado updates as the Californian season ends and the import season begins.


The kiwiberry, also called hardy kiwi, arctic kiwi or baby kiwi, is a small fruit resembling the larger kiwifruit but without the fuzzy exterior; their skin is hairless. Eat them when they are soft and the flesh yields a bit. A small amount of wrinkling can occur with ripening, but don’t let this trick you into thinking its old it just means it will be perfectly sweet! Read the full blog here!


Rider and Sons Apple Orchardists

Susan Simitz, Marketing Manager at Earl’s and Christie Biddle, Fruit Buyer at Earl’s, recently had the opportunity to visit Rider and Sons, 5th generation apple orchardists in Watsonville, CA.  Jim Rider is in charge of the fields and his brother Dick Rider oversees the packing shed. Their grandfather Homer was one of the pioneer fruit growers in the Watsonville area along the Central Coast in California.

Christie and Susan

Christie Biddle, Jim Rider, Susan Simitz

Rider and Sons  is located along a quaint road lined with apple orchards far removed from the hustle and bustle of Highway 1, about 1 ½ hours south of San Francisco. Rider converted to organic in 1989 and currently has 75 acres of organic apple trees. Rider even published a book on how to grow organically through CCOF, a third party certifier.

Watsonville has its own microclimate with cooler summer weather similar to San Francisco. Daytime temperatures are typically in the 60’s-70’s with occasionally days up in the 80’s. Growers have a fear of week long hot weather because it means a softer apple with a shorter shelf life. The cooler weather allows Rider to pick their apples at optimum maturity, which results in a more flavorful apple. Rider’s goal is to give the customer the best flavor experience and be done packing before the Pacific Northwest is in full swing in October.

Jim Rider stands in a beautiful orchard of Jonagold apples and tells us in this short video how the location of Rider and Sons grows the best tasting apples! 

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Jim Rider in the Jonagold orchard

Rider’s number one priority is quality and workers are trained to pick slowly with an eye for detail.  Jim Rider says the apples are ready to be harvested when “they have a hint of yellow in the background color.” Once the apples are picked they are washed, dried and sorted by size.  Rider even has an optical sorter machine that takes pictures from all angles in a matter of seconds to decide the apple size. After the sorter identifies the size, apples of uniform size are directed into different bins where they are packed in boxes. At Earl’s we sell apples in cases from a 72 count up to a 125 count with 125 being the perfect snack size apple.


Rider and Sons grow many varieties including McIntosh, Braeburns, Honeycrisp, Pink Lady®, Fuji and Jonagold.   The cooler weather brings out the vibrant color in apples giving Fujis a deeper red color, Pink Ladies will develop a more vibrant pink and Braeburns will have a deeper orange color.

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Jonagold Orchard

We can look forward to Braeburn apples soon followed shortly by Fuji’s and Pink Lady in the middle of October. Do you love to cook? Jim Rider recommends Jonagold apples for the best apple pie! Post your favorite apple recipes on Earl’s Facebook page.


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