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Archive for April, 2019

Rhubarb- Fruit or Vegetable?

The arrival of shiny crimson red rhubarb is yet another sign that spring has arrived. It is a hearty vegetable that thrives in cooler climates and originally came by way of China, Russia and Mongolia where it was first used as a medicinal herb to treat a variety of illnesses. Rhubarb made its debut in the United States in the late 18th century when Luther Burbank, a world-renowned horticulturist, developed a deep red variety that thrived in much of California’s climate.  Rhubarb grows best in the northern regions of the United States.  It can be found grown on a commercial level in Oregon, Washington and Michigan. Rhubarb from the Pacific Northwest is all field grown and the season runs from late March until the end of June.  The Michigan season begins in April with hothouse grown rhubarb and later moves to field grown.

Rhubarb is very weather dependent and needs a summer temperature of 75° or below for maximum production. Once the temperatures reach 90° or above the plant will start to wilt. Rhubarb is a perennial herb grown from a crown, similar to asparagus, and will continue to produce up to 15 years.

Warning!

Only eat the leaf stalks or petioles. This is one vegetable where you do not want to use the whole plant. The leaves can be considered poisonous due to their high levels of oxalic acid.

How to buy

Look for bright red stalks which have a sweet rich flavor. The size of the stalk is not an indicator of tenderness!

Fun Fact

Rhubarb is 95% water and high in potassium and vitamin c.

Storage and Cooking

Wrap loosely in plastic and store in the coldest part of your refrigerator. Do not keep for more than a few days or it will start to dry out. Place the stalks in cold water for about an hour to refresh them before cooking.

Rhubarb is very tart and acidic and needs honey or sugar to transform it into a delicious dessert or savory dish. It goes great with seafood, chicken or pork. Everyone has heard of strawberry rhubarb pie but how about a rhubarb shake topped with chopped pistachios? Cook down your rhubarb with honey and let cool. Blend with greek yogurt and ice and mix in rose water to taste. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios and share with your friends!

Spring Transition

We are still in the middle of a rough spring transition. Mexico crops are soon to finish and California does not have the supply to meet the demand on warm summer veg (Zucchini, Colored Bells, Tomatoes and Eggplant) due to frequent storms leading to disruptions in planting and harvesting cycles.  The growing areas move north from Mexico and the California desert to the Salinas Valley for cooler weather summer veg (Lettuce, Broccoli, Cauliflower and Celery) and to Fresno for warmer crops (Peppers, Corn, Tomatoes, Beans and Eggplant).  

As growers are still transitioning organic buyers can expect fluctuating supplies on many commodities including broccoli, cauliflower, baby bok choy and of course celery.

Organic Celery Market on Fire… with no relief in sight

Excerpts from Organic Produce Network article April 4, 2019

A celery juicing craze touted by some health advocates and celebrities has been cited as a potential reason for the celery shortage but it is most likely due to the frequent storms (mentioned above). The industry does not expect the supply of organic celery to even come close to the demand for several months. It takes crops from 40 to 90 days to grow when planted in the cold winter months.  As the temperature warms up, those growth cycles are shorter but they are still long enough that it is close to impossible to make it up when you lose a week or longer of planting time.  Speaking of the entire organic vegetable production organic growers are saying we are going to see big fluctuations between now and July.    

The roller coaster rides are going to be caused by these gaps in plantings, followed by a bunching up of supplies as growers had to double plant in between storms to fill their fields.  There are literally no organic vegetable crops that will not have an inconsistent supply during the next month or two. 

Earl’s Organic Buyer’s Notes April 7, 2019

Earl’s Organic Farm Visit:

Last week a group from Earl’s Organic visited a variety of Homegrown blueberry and stone fruit growers in the central San Joaquin Valley located between Kingsburg and Richgrove. The stone fruit season will start up at the end of May! See the photos below.

Durondeau Heirloom Pears

The Durondeau has a golden exterior with streaks of red blush and is covered all over in a soft russet. They are not ripe yet and we all had different opinions on the flavor, ranging from it punches you in the mouth, a bit tart with a crisp bite to having a floral flavor.  Earl thought it was similar to the Winter Nellis pear or honey pear known for its sweet flavor that goes great with cheese platters or in salads.  As the pear ripens the flavor will change. The Durondeau is not a long term storage pear but it is amazing for fresh eating and cooking.  The light granular texture is similar to the Bosc Pear which is often used in desserts.  The Durondeau might ripen similar to the Bosc which gives less than other pears when you apply gentle pressure at the neck.   As a reminder pears ripen from the inside out.

The Durondeau pear was originally cultivated in the garden of M. Durondeau, in the village of Tongre-Notre-Dame, Belgium in 1811. They are also sometimes called Tongre or De Tongre pears, after the city. It was grown in the United States as early as 1858, but seems to have since largely disappeared from cultivation in the western hemisphere.  We are excited to be able to offer the Durondeau pear in very limited quantities.

California Asparagus

The height of the asparagus season in California runs from March to June.  California asparagus is mainly grown at the confluence of California’s two greatest rivers, the Sacramento and the San Joaquin, in the rich peat of the delta lands an hour south of Sacramento and in the Salinas Valley about 2 hours south of San Francisco. California produces over 70 percent of the nation’s fresh market asparagus.

Shaved asparagus makes a delicious topping for pizza!
Shaved asparagus makes a delicious topping for pizza!

When you’re ready to eat them, snap or cut off the white portion of the butt end of the asparagus. They’re perfect coated with olive oil and roasted, which leaves them firmer, nuttier and sweeter than steaming.  Asparagus is high vitamin C and K and folic acid and contain less than 50 calories per 6 oz serving.  Click here for more recipes.

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