WEEKLY SPECIALS | SEASONAL CALENDAR | GROWER MAP

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Archive for 2014

Asian Pear Season Almost Done

Asian pears are firm to the touch with the crisp texture of an apple and the juiciness of a pear. They can grow quite large and are round like an apple and have a yellowish green or brown russet skin like a pear. It is no surprise that they are also known as an apple pear. They grow well in hot climates and should be allowed to ripen on the tree unlike most pears. Harvest is usually mid-September and Asian pears will keep in cold storage for up to 3 months. They do not soften like traditional pears and are ready to eat immediately.  Asian pears have a high water content so they are best eaten out of hand, sliced in a salad and make a great meat tenderizer. Share your favorite recipes on our Facebook page.

Earl’s is now carrying the Olympic, an extra-large hardy winter variety with a golden russetted skin and sweet juicy taste. The Asian pear season is winding down and they will only be around for a few more weeks. Don’t miss out on this great piece of fruit now on Earl’s Weekly Specials.

Asian Pear twitter

Heavy Rains Affect Citrus Harvest

We are experiencing heavy rain in California this week and we can always use more. The citrus harvest has certainly been affected such as the Satsuma Mandarin, Clementine and Navel crop. The rain has made it cumbersome for the workers and tractors to get out on the muddy ground.  Standing on the wet soggy orchard floor also compacts the soil which is not good for the tree’s roots.  One of the biggest worries from a grower’s standpoint is that the rain will cause the citrus to be waterlogged which can cause molding, possible rind breakdown and a shorter shelf life. The tree takes in extra water making the fruit super hydrated and diluting the sugars. The grower needs to wait a few days for the dry weather to disperse the sugars again before picking. An additional concern is that if the fruit were to be picked when it is wet the oil from the workers hands would leave fingerprints and the pressure would cause the fruit to stay yellow instead of orange.

We are expecting rain throughout California until Thursday.  We may or may not see gaps on varietal citrus in the coming weeks due to the rain. Stay tuned for updates!

Satsuma tree cropped

Is It A Sweet Potato Or A Yam?

Thanksgiving is only 2 days away and we want to help clear up 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 Food and Wine Magazine. What is your favorite recipe for sweet potatoes during the holidays?  Please share your favorite recipes on our Facebook wall.

Side Hill Citrus Satsuma Mandarins

Satsuma Mandarins herald the start of the varietal citrus season in California and we feel that Side Hill Citrus Satsumas from Lincoln in the Sacramento foothills, have the perfect balance of tart and sweet flavors. The combination of a higher elevation of 600 feet, nutrient filled organic clay soil, warm summer days and cool nights and using a Satsuma Owari rootstock from China all contribute to growing consistently delicious Satsuma Mandarins year after year.

Rich Ferreira, a 4th generation farmer bought 17 acres in 1975 with only 100 Satsuma trees and in 1991 he became certified organic and has grown to over 2000 Satsuma trees on 48 acres. Satsumas can withstand cold weather as low as 20 degrees which helps to bring out the incredible flavor in the fruit and the bright orange color.  Last year California had a big freeze at the beginning of December and fortunately for Rich his fruit was not damaged. Side Hill is  located on a sloping hill which offers natural air flow protection during the colder months. This natural air flow prevents the cold air from settling on the citrus and frost from forming. The orchard also faces south, allowing the trees to receive energy from the sunlight and at the same time warming up the soil, helping to prevent frost.

Satsuma tree cropped

When harvesting his Satsuma mandarins, Rich will go through his orchard up to 10 times to pick the best pieces of fruit. He color hand picks each piece, resulting in a full color, highly flavored, sweet piece of fruit going to market.  Satusmas are the perfect snacking food with no seeds and an easy to peel skin. You can eat them on the go and not worry about making a sticky mess. 

How To Pick and Store Satsumas

Look for Satsumas with an aromatic smell, firm tight peel, no dented spots and a heavier fruit means they are juicier. They can be stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator, but not for too long because prolonged storage can dry them out.

Stay Healthy!

A 2008 U.S. Department of Agriculture study said Satsumas have six to seven times as much synephrine, a natural decongestant, as other citrus. Four or five Satsumas have enough synephrine to equal the effect of a Sudafed tablet, the study said. Satsumas are also naturally low in calories and a single fruit contains 34 percent of the USDA daily recommendation for vitamin C.  So stay healthy this winter and pack a few in your lunch or for a snack during the day.  The season is now and only runs through the beginning of January. 

Side Hill Citrus Satsumas

Satsumas are a holiday favorite for the Earl’s crew. Susan the Marketing Manager’s specialty is a Side Car Satsuma cocktail that is easy to make when friends drop by.  Randy, our resident chef and Fruit Buyer loves to mix Satsuma juice with tequila. Brian, a Sales Associate recommends making a Hot Ginger Satsuma tea to stay warm during the freeze.

Don’t miss the 20th annual Mandarin Festival this weekend, November 21st-24th, in Auburn, CA at the Gold County Fairgrounds. Sample Mandarins from local growers and try a fun variety of Mandarin inspired food including mandarin shakes, chocolate dipped mandarins, mandarin dessert pizza and more.

California Valencia Season Ending

California Valencia season is winding down fast and quantities are limited. Get them while you can! The transition to Mexican Valencias will start up Thanksgiving week. Expect a drastic change in flavor profiles from late season Californian fruit that is low in acid and high in sugar, to an early Mexican piece of fruit with high acid and low sugar. With all citrus, as the season gets going the fruit will sweeten up. Earl’s Organic has this Mexican deal every year and we feel the fruit is quite good.

VALENCIA ORANGE

While you are waiting for the Mexican fruit to sweeten up try mixing Satsumas with the Mexican Valencias for a nice blend of sweet and tart. We can expect to see the California Valencias make their return in the spring time around April.

While I was writing this blog I noticed that the California Valencia season ended about a month later the last few years.  Although many factors come into fruit production, we know for a fact these past few seasons have had lower chill hours and rainfall.  Only time will tell how this winter will shape up. You can count on Earl’s to give you seasonal produce updates.

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