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Archive for November, 2013

Cranberry Bog

Thanksgiving is only 2 days away and cranberry sauce is on my mind.  Cranberries were introduced to the English settlers in Massachusetts in the early 1800’s and the first farmed cranberries were grown in Cape Cod.  Now over half of the United States crop is grown in Wisconsin.  Massachusetts is the second largest producer followed by New Jersey, Oregon and Washington.  Canada is also a big player with over 20% of the world’s cranberries grown in the province of British Columbia.  Cranberries are also grown in New Brunswick, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Quebec.

Cranberries flooded under water in the bog www.wikipedia.org

Cranberries flooded under water in the bog

Cranberries contrary to popular belief are not grown in water. The season starts in April when the cranberries are planted in bogs in a mixture of moist acid peat soil and sand which allows them to thrive in harsh weather conditions. Cranberries turn from green to white to a deep red, telling the grower they are ready to be harvested. The harvest season lasts from about mid-September to mid-November and about 95% of cranberries are wet harvested.  The bogs are flooded with water from a reservoir area which can take a few hours up to a few days depending on the size of the bog.  Water reels move through the bog and the wheels knock the berries off the vines. The berries will then float to the surface because they have tiny air pockets inside them.  The cranberries are then corralled by a person wading through the bog pulling large vinyl booms around the berries.  From there the cranberries are then vacuumed out of the bog onto a tractor trailer bed.

Vinyl booms being pulled around the floating cranberries www.wikipedia.com

Vinyl booms being pulled around the floating cranberries

From the 1800’s up through about 1960 cranberries were dry harvested by workers getting on their hands and knees used a claw like scoop to take the berries off the vines. This was a very labor intensive method and thank goodness now there are automatic machines that can be pushed through the fields.

Cranberries being loaded onto a tractor trailer bed. www.wikipedia.com

Cranberries being loaded onto a tractor trailer bed.

The cranberries are taken to a facility to be washed and then sorted through a machine to pick out any soft berries.  Good berries will bounce because of their air pockets. The soft berries will not bounce and therefore will not make the cut to be packaged for fresh berries. Some growers use an optical sorter to pick out only the red berries. Lastly the berries move on a conveyer belt where workers pick out any light colored berries that might have slipped through.

Cranberries are high in vitamin C, fiber and vitamin E. Cranberries are said to help prevent urinary tract infections, improve immune function and decrease blood pressure. One half of cup of cranberries has only 25 calories! Cranberries are sold fresh for the holidays, frozen, canned, made into juice and dried fruit. They are delicious baked into muffins or breads, added to stuffing and of course made into cranberry sauce. I like to pair my cranberries with Satsuma juice and chopped up peel from Side Hill Citrus Satsumas from Lincoln, CA.  Post your favorite cranberry recipe on our Facebook page. Everyone at Earl’s wishes you a very Happy and Bountiful Thanksgiving!

Satsuma Cranberry Sauce Recipe

Susan from Earl’s loves making this every Thanksgiving with Satsumas from Side Hill Citrus in Lincoln, CA.


* 3 cups of fresh cranberries

* 1 cup sugar

* 1/4 cup water

* 1/2 cup Satsuma juice

* Rind of one medium sized Satsuma finely chopped

* 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract or a tablespoon of bourbon

Bring sugar and water to a boil. Add the cranberries and simmer for about 10 minutes until they begin to pop.  Stir in Satsuma juice, chopped Satsuma peel and vanilla extract(or bourbon) and simmer for a few minutes longer. Cool to room temperature and serve.

Bulk cranberries from Earl's Organic Produce

Bulk cranberries from Earl’s Organic Produce


Juicy D’Anjou pears from the Pacific Northwest are great for cooking and for eating out of hand. The biggest thing to note about D’Anjous is that the color will stay fully green when ripe.  Their egg shaped appearance is easy to recognize and they are the second most recognized pear after the Bartlett.

As with all pears, gently apply pressure at the neck at the top of the pear.  If it gives slightly it is ripe and ready to eat. Remember pears ripen from the inside out so don’t wait until the entire pear becomes soft.


Is It A Sweet Potato Or A Yam?

If you missed the original posting of this blog last holiday season we thought it was worth sharing again.

So what exactly is the difference between a sweet potato and a yam?  Trying to figure this out can be very confusing when you’re at the grocery store.  The U.S. government decided to label sweet potatoes by their color to make things easier but it just ended up confusing everyone more.  The creamy white flesh ones are labeled sweet potatoes and the orange fleshed ones are sometimes labeled yams.  The USDA requires that sweet potatoes labeled as yams also be labeled as sweet potatoes. Chances are likely that you are buying sweet potatoes regardless of what the label says.

In reality sweet potatoes and yams are two totally different vegetables.  Yams are tubers and are usually found imported in ethnic markets in the United States. They are originally from Africa, where over 95% of the world’s crop is harvested, and Asia.  Yams are grown in tropical climates and are very popular in Latin America and the Caribbean.  A few varieties can grow up to 7 feet in length and weigh almost 200 pounds! The skin of a yam is rough and scaly and the taste is very starchy.  Yams are an extremely important part in the diet of the people in Nigeria and West Africa.  Yams provide more than 200 calories per person per day for more than 150 million people in West Africa while also providing a necessary income for local farmers.  Yams are high in vitamin C and B and potassium and low in saturated fat and sodium.  The flavor can sometimes be sweeter than a sweet potato depending on the variety.

Sweet Potatoes are thought to originate in either Central or South America at least 5,000 years ago.  In the U.S. they are grown in temperate climate zones.  North Carolina is the largest producer of sweet potatoes followed by California, Louisiana and Mississippi.  In California 80% of the sweet potatoes are grown in Merced County followed by Fresno and Stanislaus County. When you sit down for the traditional American Thanksgiving dinner you will be eating sweet potatoes regardless of their color.

There are 4 main types of sweet potatoes grown. The orange flesh varieties become moist when cooked and the white flesh varieties become dry when cooked with a crumbly texture similar to a baked white potato. The Garnet is the classic sweet potato that most people think of when making mashed sweet potatoes, pies, cakes and breads.

  1. Red Skin/Orange Flesh (Varieties include Dianas, Reds & Garnets)
  2. Orange Skin/Orange Flesh (varieties include the Beauregard, Covington & Jewel)
  3. White Skin/White Cream Flesh (Varieties include the O’Henry, Jersey Sweet, Hannas or Hanna Golds)
  4. Red Skin/White Flesh (Varieties include the Murasaki & Kotobuki-most commonly referred to as “Orientals”)
A few examples of sweet potatoes from Earl’s

Sweet potatoes are relatively low in calories and have no fat. They are rich in beta-carotene , having five times the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin A in one sweet potato, as well as loaded with potassium. These nutrients help to protect against heart attack and stroke.

As you can imagine sweet potatoes are consumed the most during Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and Easter.  Try these wonderful recipes from Eating Well Magazine. What is your favorite recipe for sweet potatoes during the holidays?  Please share your favorite recipes on our Facebook wall.

Bangkok Apple Guava

Bangkok apple guavas are also known by the name Guayaba. The small greenish fruit is about the size of a medium apple and gives off an extremely aromatic scent which reminds me of trips to Hawaii. The flesh can range from a pale yellow to a bright pink. Look for guavas free of blemishes. A guava will give to gentle pressure when ripe. Ripe guavas need to be eaten within a few days or can be stored in the refrigerator up to a week. The entire guava including the rind and seeds are used to make jams, preserves and sauces.

Guava is originally from South America but is now grown in California, Florida and Hawaii. There are over 140 varieties found throughout the world. Earl’s has a limited quantity of Bangkok Apple Guavas from Stehly out of Bonsall in San Diego County.

Guavas are full of vitamin C, A, folate, fiber and potassium. Click here for some sweet and savory guava recipes from www.yummly.com


Bangkok Apple Guava (2)


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