WEEKLY SPECIALS | SEASONAL CALENDAR | GROWER MAP

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Market Disruptions and Price Increases

Historically December and January see disruptions in organic markets due to various factors such as frosts, winter storms, less daylight hours and holidays.  2021 continued to bring even more challenges with Covid-19. Unfortunately, many workers have been hit hard by Covid-19 with many packing sheds having challenges. Consequently, field laborers and trucking companies are experiencing challenges due to the lack of workers, tightening up an already challenged labor force. Trucking issues have caused numerous challenges around the holidays and beyond. Covid-19 has thinned the volume of available trucks leading to loads that do not have a way to get to us, limiting supply on many items. Imports are limited as well, mostly due to extreme backups in the Southern California ports.

Frost on Lakeside Organic Lettuce Holtville, California

Prices and availability are the most unstable often in these months. One thing to remember is that most of the US is pulling produce from the same area that we do at this point in the season.  Demand is great – supply isn’t. Price and quality do not track side by side. Often higher prices reflect difficult growing conditions and veg has more cosmetic challenges than we are used to. Prices are also increasing as growers struggle with trucking shortages and higher gas prices, labor shortages and wage increases, higher material prices on pallets, boxes and packaging materials, shipping delays due to labor shortages and extreme weather challenges.

We feel immense gratitude for our resilient growers who keep their workers safe while continuing to harvest and ship quality organic produce to sustain our communities during these adverse conditions. 

Moro Blood Oranges

Moro Blood Oranges are now coming out of the Central San Joaquin Valley. The red flesh varies in intensity depending on the variety, location where the trees are grown and the degree of fruit maturity. Brought to America in the 1930’s by Italian and Spanish immigrants Blood Oranges are now grown commercially in Central and Southern California, Texas and Florida. The season starts in San Diego County, overlaps and finishes in the foothills of Fresno County.

The Moro variety is the most commonly found in the supermarket because it develops the most consistent red flesh color at peak flavor. At the beginning of the season the flesh will have a slight red tinge to it with a sweet and tart flavor.  Citrus picked early in the harvest will not have developed their full flavor.  After a month or two of eating blood oranges the flesh has become super sweet and turning that deep red almost purple color with a floral fragrance and berry flavor,  It is still not known exactly why the insides turn red but it could be because blood oranges contain anthocyanins , a family of pigments common to many flowers and fruit, but uncommon in citrus fruits.

Blood Oranges are packed with vitamin C, carotenoids and are high in potent antioxidant properties. Hot days and cold nights are needed to bring out the best flavors in blood oranges. The red blush on the outside of the fruit is because of the sun and not related to the red color of the flesh. Fruit that is exposed more to the sun on one part of the tree will have more of a blush color on the skin which will become darker later in the season if left on the tree longer. Choose a blood orange the same as you would any citrus, look for the heaviest fruit which means more juice.  Eat them out of hand or juice for a healthy beverage.

2022 Is Off To A Bumpy Start

Cold, rainy, and snowy weather, the New Year Holiday week, Covid, labor issues and logistical challenges have kept a lot of workers out of the fields and the packing sheds and equipment off the road.  Trucking out of Nevada and the Pacific Northwest continues to be very tight and almost all the passes out of Washington are closed. Blewett Pass in Chelan County is closed due to heavy snow and limited visibility. It is located on US 97, the main Highway bringing apples from Chelan Fresh in eastern Washington. Loads that were scheduled to be on the road before the weekend are delayed. In addition to the challenges mentioned above, cold and rainy weather in California and Mexico have also slowed down production on many crops and prevented growers from getting their pickers and equipment into the muddy field. 

Blewett Pass Wenatchee Mountains Washington State

A few items to note: Fujis, Galas and Pink Lady apples will be tight this week until trucks from Washington can make the journey over the snowy passes. Peri and Sons red, yellow, white and sweet onion supply out of Yerington, Nevada will look better this week. Red and yellow cipollini onions will remain limited.  Tasteful Selections is struggling with their fingerlings and we will move fully into Wong potatoes out of the Klamath Region this week. 12ct Cauliflower is not sizing up in the desert due to low overnight temps. 16ct Cauliflower will be more prevalent. Covilli 15# Green Beans(Mexico) will be limited this week. Rain in Covilli’s fields flooded some areas and they are seeing some rusting.  Rain is forecast to be back Tuesday and Wednesday this week so we may see a gap on Covilli beans at the end of the week. Cool and rainy weather in California has slowed down strawberry production. California strawberries are gapping, and we have moved into Fresh Kampo (Mexico) with larger fruit and good color. Forbidden Blueberries will return mid-week. Central West Produce Blueberries will start off the week. CWP is wrapping up their California Raspberry deal and there is not a lot of fruit on the market. We will see Fresh Kampo(Mexico) trickle in as they start production out of Baja. Some of the more delicate herbs such as tarragon, dill and basil, are challenged by the cold weather. Ralph’s out of Mt. Vernon is finally not snowed in and will start harvesting again and we will see leeks in 1-2 weeks. In the meantime we will have plenty of Lakeside and Josie’s leeks. Asparagus volume is looking up out of Mexico and we will see mostly large sizes.  California Artichokes are back in a limited way. Lakeside is reporting that early last week their crops were subjected to freezing temperatures in their southern growing region of Holtville, CA. “We lost a block of radishes, tops were destroyed and romaine ended up blistered. This caused us to push our crews back to harvesting at 10am, bringing down production and we ended up having to pro-rate our vegetables.”

Photo Courtesy of Lakeside Organics- Frost on Lettuce in Holtville, California

Inventory is looking better this week on the following items, however weather will continue to be an issue through the winter. D’Anjou Pears, Gold Bunched Beets, Bunched Broccoli, Calo Bunched orange, rainbow and Red Carrots, 16ct Cauliflower, Red Butter, Bunched Spinach, Daikon, Iceberg Lettuce, Flat Parsley, Specialty Mushrooms, Sweet Onions and Red Radishes. Raspberries are back from Central West Produce(Santa Maria).

Another thing to remember is that many growers have made the transition down to the desert and it is a 2-day ride back up to the Bay Area. All of these challenges have tightened up inventory as we headed into the New Year.

Bacon Avocados

The Bacon Avocado season is just starting up and will go for a few more weeks. The Bacon avocado is a hybrid of two Mexican avocado varieties and was originally cultivated in 1954 by James Bacon in Buena Park, CA. Bacon’s are a cold resistant cultivar and can withstand temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit, making it acceptable for planting in USDA zone 9. ( https://garden.lovetoknow.com/wiki/Gardening_Zone_9)  

Bacon’s have smooth bright green skin and creamy pale green flesh. Their mild flavor is delicious on avocado toast or in a winter citrus salad. Be careful when cutting this avocado into slices as the skin is very thin and delicate. We recommend peeling back the skin and then slicing the avocado.

Avocados should be stored at a moderate temperature of 45-55 degrees. Putting Avocados in the coldest part of your refrigerator will “burn them”. Black spots that appear in the flesh are caused by storage in cold temperatures so make sure to take the avocado out of the refrigerator to finish ripening at room temperature.  They are ready to eat when they have a slight give to gentle pressure. To speed up the ripening process place the avocados in a paper bag with fruit that naturally give off ethylene such as bananas or apples.

Winter Weather Challenges

Cold, rainy, and snowy weather, the Holiday week, labor issues in the field, at the shed and at the logistics level, and Covid has kept a lot of equipment off the road. Trucking out of the Pacific Northwest continues to be very tight and road closures continue in California on Hwy 5 and Hwy 80. Cold and rainy weather has also slowed down production on many crops and prevented growers from getting their pickers and equipment into the field.  All of these challenges have tightened up inventory as we head into the New Year.

Blewett Pass Summit, Wenatchee Mountains Washington State

A few tight items this week will include Fuji and Gala Apples, D’Anjou Pears, Gold Bunched Beets, Bunched Broccoli, Bunched Carrots, Cauliflower, Red Butter, Bunched Spinach, Daikon, Iceberg Lettuce, Flat Parsley, Specialty Mushrooms, Sweet Onions and Red Radishes. We will see relief this week on these items along with Raspberries returning from Coastal West Produce(Santa Maria). California strawberries are gapping, and we have moved into Fresh Kampo (Mexico) with larger fruit and good color. Ralph’s out of Mt. Vernon is digging out of the snow and will start harvesting again in the next week. Asparagus, Artichokes and Forbidden Blueberries are gapping today and will return this week.

Celebrate Lunar New Year with Pummelos

Pummelos are the largest fruit in the citrus family and are very popular in Asia. Pummelos can weigh up to a few pounds with shapes ranging from tear drop to round.  All pummelos have a thick but easy to peel rind but the flesh can be white or pink, sweet or sour and can have a little or a lot of seeds depending on the variety.  Pummelos are best recognized by their refreshing, clean citrus fragrance. Turn the pummelo over and smell the blossom end for a strong burst of a citrus scent unlike any other.

In California the Chandler is the most commonly grown variety both commercially and with the home gardener.  In 1961 UC Riverside developed the Chandler by crossing the slightly acidic Siamese Pink Pummelo with the Siamese Sweet Pummelo.  The Chandler can be as big as a volleyball with a thick rind that needs to be carefully peeled away to reveal the sweet, crisp pink flesh inside.  The sweet flavor is well worth the effort it takes to get to the fruit.

African Shadock Pummelos have a medium thick rind and low acidity, giving them their sweet tart flavor. Melogold Pummelos are sweet with a mellow low acid flavor, thinner rind and a deeper gold rind than its sibling, the Oroblanco.

Pummelos are so popular for Chinese New Year that a small part of the crop grown in Southern California is specifically for the Asian community in San Francisco and other parts of California. Chinese New Year falls on February 1, 2022.

THE PUMMELO CAN BE CUT OPEN AND SEGMENTED IN 4 EASY STEPS

First cut off the top of the pummelo.  I recommend making a cut at least half inch deep because the rind is so thick.

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Secondly make 4 scores with a knife around the sides of the pummelo so you can easily peel back the rind. Wedge your fingers between the pith and the fruit and gently peel back each segment.

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Now the fruit should be easy to remove from the rind. Using your fingers again gently pull the fruit apart like an orange until you have two halves.

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Lastly using your hand or a knife peel away the pith surrounding the fruit and separate the segments of fruit.

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The Chandler pummelo is picked when the skin is greenish yellow but they have the best flavor when the rind has developed more of a yellow color. Pummelos are related to the grapefruit but they are not as juicy and the segments are best eaten out of hand, in a salad or try adding it to a smoothie. The rinds can be used to make candied pummelo and are sometimes used in Asian cooking.

Normally you will find pummelos in season from early winter to spring all depending on supply and demand and what regions they are coming from.  When choosing a pummelo, or any citrus, you want to pick one that is heavy for its size and free of bruising. It should also smell great!  We recommend buying a few extra pummelos to put in different areas of your house. The fresh citrus smell acts as a natural air freshener. You can also cut up the rind after peeling it and place it in a bowl in the bathroom.  The citrus scent will go on long after the fruit has dried out. Don’t store pummelos out on the counter unless you plan to eat it that day. Pummelos can be stored in the refrigerator for a little over a week.  Click here for a delicious Pummelo Thai Salad recipe. 

Earl’s Organic Buyer’s Notes December 19, 2021

A lot of the Bay Area has had more precipitation this Fall than all of last year.  The mountains received heavy snow with more rain on the way this week in most of California.  We can expect harvest delays due to wet fields, possible post-harvest quality issues and even logistics snafus.  Generally, for known weather events like this, growers will try to pick as much as they can prior but that is of course limited by time and labor.  Yuma, AZ looks to remain dry and fairly cool but no frost yet.  Sonora, MX also looks dry and warm with highs in the 80s, perfect for warm veg crops.

Fruit    

Trucking and weather out of the Pacific Northwest on apples and pears will be challenging as we head into Christmas and New Year’s weekends. California Grape season almost made it to Christmas. Green grapes are done, officially ending the season. Forbidden Blueberries out of Lompoc and Santa Maria are large, firm and have outstanding flavor! Promotional opportunities are available. Speak with your Earl’s Sales Rep. California Winter Citrus season is seeing more varieties come on. Satsumas are so easy to peel and have more synephrine, a natural decongestant, than any other mandarin. Eating 5 Satsumas equals the effect of a Sudafed tablet. The Daisy Mandarin has a beautiful, sweet flavor with the right amount of acidity. Now on Earl’s Weekly Specials! Algerian Mandarins are very juicy with bright red-orange color skin. Lemon T’Orange from Buck has a sweet aroma and a fresh lemon flavor without any bitterness. Tangos coming soon. Download the latest organic fruit and vegetable update each week here!

Asian Pears or Nashi in Japanese

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.

Asian Pear twitter

Robert Lichtenberg Retires After Almost 50 Years in Produce

Robert Lichtenberg, Director of Purchasing for Earl’s Organic Produce on The SF Market is retiring after a career spanning almost 50 years. Robert was trained in French intensive organic farming methods at the Santa Barbara Institute of Bio-Intensive Agriculture in Santa Barbara by a student of Alan Chadwick in the early 1970’s. He went on to farm organically in the Sierra foothills for 10 years. From 1986 – 1997 he worked at Star Route Farm as Warren Weber’s farm manager and later as sales manager, farming in Bolinas and Thermal, California. Star Route was growing specialty crops for San Francisco restaurants and retail organic markets during the emergence of California cuisine. In 1997 he joined Earl’s Organic Produce as a buyer and ultimately Director of Purchasing. Robert’s long-standing commitment to the organic farming community will continue in his retirement. He will be greatly missed by growers, the organic community and his co-workers.

Pears and Apples Coming Out Of Controlled Atmosphere Storage

Apples and pears are enjoyed long after being harvested in October/November by keeping them in storage. As time goes on the sugar, starch and acid content changes, water is lost and the fruit withers and decays. Storage delays the normal ripening and aging process. From harvest time until the end of the year apples will be kept in fresh storage. Fruit is put into a chilled cellar or cooler and kept between 32-36 degrees F with high air humidity and some air circulation. You can compare this to storage in your refrigerator at home. As we move into the New Year most of the fresh storage supply has run out and we can expect most apples and pears from the Pacific Northwest to be coming out of controlled atmosphere storage (CA Storage).

CA storage is a non-chemical process that varies by apple and pear varieties, allowing many varieties to be stored into the winter, spring and even summer months. Apples and pears are stored in airtight coolers where the oxygen level in the air is reduced from the 21% of the air we breathe, to 1 or 2%, usually by the infusion of nitrogen gas. The carbon dioxide level is also increased to slow down the maturation process to a near halt. Temperatures are kept at a consistent 32–36 degrees F with 95 percent humidity. Think of sleeping beauty under a spell and how she never aged a day until she woke up.

Only the strongest apples and pears are selected to be stored in CA. It is really important that the apples and pears are picked at the proper maturity otherwise they will not store well in CA. Growers will test their apples and pears for firmness, skin color, seed color, sugar level and flesh chlorophyll to predict when they mature enough to pick to be stored in CA.

When the apples and pears are brought out of “hibernation” for packing they begin to ripen and break down quickly. It is best to enjoy them right away and keep them in your refrigerator until eaten. There are some exceptions, for example the Pink Lady® apple turns starch into sugar at a slow rate so they eat better coming out of CA. Once the CA storage of apples and pears runs out, the supplies are augmented by apples and pears from the southern hemisphere until the season starts up again in the fall.

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