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Archive for June, 2021

The Coveted Blenheim Apricot

Blenheim apricots are the most coveted of the apricot varieties and are fast disappearing. There are only a few growers left in California and Earl’s is fortunate to carry Dwelley Blenheim apricots, a fourth generation farm, from Brentwood, California celebrating their 100th aniversary!

Blenheim’s were brought to California from England in the 1880’s and were grown mostly in the Sacramento and Santa Clara valleys. They have great apricot flavor but are not good travelers and are usually only found at farmers markets. Many growers have abandoned the Blenheim in favor of varieties that are grown for their long shelf life and ability to travel long distances.

This small sized heirloom variety has a beautiful rose blush over a golden background. One of the key characteristics of the Blenheim is their green shoulders. Don’t shy away from the green tinge, as the fruit will have good flavor even if the fruit does not achieve full color.  Cut open the Blenheim and you are rewarded by a deep orange flesh.  A quick bite reveals a tangy flavor that is balanced out by the high sugar content.

Stone Fruit will taste sweeter at the bottom of the fruit because the sugars become more concentrated as they grow to maturity hanging straight down from the tree.

How to choose a Blenheim Apricot:

Apricots ripen from the inside out, similar to a pear. Test the ripeness by applying gentle pressure with the pads of your fingers. If the fruit gives slightly it is ready to eat. Blenheim apricots are very delicate and bruise easily so be sure to handle them with care.

Please join us in supporting the California growers that are keeping this wonderful variety alive. The Blenheim Apricot is on the Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste, foods facing extinction. Take this opportunity to enjoy eating the rare juicy Blenheims out of hand and buy a little extra to preserve them. Chefs love them to make jams and they are excellent for canning.  The season is very short and will only last a few weeks.

Breba, The First Crop of Figs

The first of the California breba fig crop is rolling in, also known as the first crop. The breba crop grows on last year’s tree shoots and harvest is usually around the end of May or beginning of June.  The breba crop lasts for a few weeks and hasn’t yet developed the honey sweetness we associate with figs.  We will experience a short gap before the second, more flavorful crop starts up in July. The first land of Black Mission Figs is coming from Madera in the Central San Joaquin Valley.

The large fruit is the Breba or “first crop”, while the small fruit is the second crop.

Figs love the hot days and warm nights and are grown mainly in the central valley around the Fresno/Madera area to up north of Sacramento in Corning.  Maywood Farms in Corning, CA, Stellar in Madera, CA and Susie Bee farms from Chowchilla, in the central Joaquin Valley, bring you some of the best organic figs. California ranks #1 in US production of figs and produces 100 % of the USA’s dried figs and 98 % of fresh figs.

There are hundreds of varieties of figs but the most popular are the Kadota with light green skin and sweet white flesh, the Brown Turkey ranges in color from brown to copper with a very fragrant flavor and the Black Mission has a deep purple to black skin with sweet pink flesh.

 

Earl’s Organic Buyer’s Notes June 6, 2021

Record heat waves are hitting the Central San Joaquin Valley  with temperatures expected to hit triple digits through the weekend and into next week.  Hot days can affect the length of harvest time and availability of the fruit. If the extreme heat lasts for a long period of time it can stress out the trees and stop the fruit from sizing up and ripening. Growers have started harvesting early to avoid issues from the heat. We will not see a breba fig crop from Maywood this year due to the drought. Maywood expects to start up with their regular crop in July. Read more on the Breba crop below. Divine has started with their specialty grapes out of Sonora. Gummyberries kick off the season, followed by Jellyberries and Candy Hearts.

The sun is long in the sky and Comanche Creek Farms in Chico is heating up.  The heat blast is short and the nights are still cool enough to let the plants rest.  Summer squash is coming on strong! (Comanche Creek is growing 35 varieties). Make sure to download the summer squash chart below. We could see some early girl tomatoes as soon as next week. Comanche Creek mixed heirlooms are just around the corner. Sun Valley red kale, green and rainbow chard are coming on in a bigger way and we may see some romanesco and orange and purple cauliflower in the coming weeks. Dwelley started up this week with blue lake, romano and yellow wax beans.  Download the weekly Buyer’s Notes here.

Comanche Creek Farm Visit

Comanche Creek Farms is nestled against the riparian habitat of Comanche Creek in beautiful sunny Chico, California. An early morning 2 ½ hour drive up from the Bay Area took us through small farming towns and miles of agriculture as far as the eye could see. We passed fields of rice paddies and acres of walnut, pistachio and stone fruit trees in various stages of maturity. In the distance we could see The Sutter Buttes, the smallest mountain range in the world. A small circular complex of eroded volcanic lava domes that rise as buttes above the flat plains of the Sacramento Valley in Sutter County in the northern part of the state’s Central Valley.

A turn off onto a narrow side road led us along small family farms and soon we arrived at Comanche Creek Farms where we were greeted by Sean Mindrum, grower and professional chef. For decades Sean was a private chef for celebrities and worked at many prominent California restaurants. He was looking for a new joy in his life and returned to his childhood home of Chico when the opportunity arose to buy Comanche Creek Farms. Originally founded over 20 years ago the farm was located on a smaller piece of land. Sean moved the farm to a larger, 50 acre piece of land. 40 acres of that land is farmable and he has continued the tradition of experimenting with many varieties of organic fruits and vegetables grown in the mineral rich soil of Butte Creek.

Comanche Creek grows year round and rotates their crops seasonally. They offer a whopping diverse lineup of 390 varieties of fruits and vegetables, with the biggest crops in the summer months. Not only does Sean provide a robust offering to his customers, but his dedicated workers have year round employment. The farm crew works together as a group to take care of the farm and Sean in turn wants to take care of his workers.

Chico is located in the northern end of California’s Central Valley and has a Mediterranean climate. Summers are hot and Comanche Creek has the advantage of coming on early with warm weather crops. As we walked through the fields Sean explained they are growing 35 varieties of summer squash, sugar snap peas, tomatillos, lemon, pickling, dragon egg and serpent cucumbers, basil, Chinese long beans, hot peppers, big beef tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes and 45 varieties of cherry tomatoes.

Tromboncino Squash

Chico is now reaching temperatures upwards of 106 degrees. They are now harvesting summer squash, burgundy okra, snap peas, tomatillos and pickling cucumbers. In the coming weeks we can look forward to heirloom, early girl and big beef tomatoes. This is very exciting as California’s tomato season really doesn’t get going until August.

As the summer progresses they will have pomegranates and figs(Black Mission, Kadota, Turkey, Adriatic and Tiger Stripe) for the first time and a small amount of peaches, white nectarines and pluots.

Comanche Creek works with nature supporting the health of the soil, recycling natural materials, and growing cover crops to grow and maintain soil fertility. California’s water supply and another drought year are on everyone’s mind. Sean feels that flood irrigating is the biggest waste of water and has applied for a grant to capture water in a water shed and then drip irrigate what they capture.

 “The mission of the farm is by 2025 to be 100% sustainable and then during that process to remove all the plastics,” said Sean.

Our last stop on the tour was the Comanche Creek Market, a commercial kitchen and store selling added value products to feed the community using produce from the farm when possible. The market offer fresh seasonal soups and salads, salad dressings, pestos, veg sides, dips and chicken bone broth to name a few. He also sells organic produce, honey made on the farm, local organic Chico Rice and locally made soaps. The market is open Thursday to Saturday.

California Juicy Stone Fruit Season

Peach and nectarine season has begun!  Generally speaking we start seeing peaches around May 1st and the season can continue into September. We can look forward to the many varieties changing about every 1 to 2 weeks. The only difference between peaches and nectarines is that peaches are covered in a light fuzz.

 

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