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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.

Earl’s Organic Buyer’s Notes May 30, 2021

California stone fruit is ramping up. Earl’s sells by the variety so make sure to check out the new peaches and nectarines arriving each week. Check your inbox for our Stone Fruit calendars this week !  Sweet Cantaloupe, Galia and Honeydew is in high demand as the warm weather heats up.  California watermelon will be coming on the first week of June.  California Cherries have moved into the Coral variety now available in clams and bags. California Avocados are still predicted to be in peak harvest from April to July.  California grape season starts the week of June 1st!  Dwelley out of Brentwood has started up with Zucchini and green beans will land end of the week. Dwelley corn is a few weeks away. Asparagus is still the star for another month when the season ends by July 4th. Earl’s visited Comanche Creek Farms this week. Did you know they grow over 390 varieties of  fruit and veg? Read the Comanche Creek Blog and watch the youtube interview with grower Sean Mindrum.

Earl’s Organic Buyer’s Notes May 23, 2021

California melons are here! Look for sweet Cantaloupe, Galia and Honeydew. Mexican Watermelon Bins have good volume in house to start the week on seeded and seedless. We should have good supply into Memorial Day. California watermelon will be coming on the first week of June.  California stone fruit is under way with Royal Hazel Cherries, sweet and juicy yellow peach Spring Blaze and Spring Princess from D.E. Boldt in Parlier, northwest of Reedley, Apriums from Burkart in Dinuba, SolCot Apricot from Fruit World in Reedley and the favorite white donut peach from Twin Girls in Dinuba. Keep an eye out for Earl’s stone fruit calendars in your inbox soon! Don’t forget the Rhubarb!  Avocadoes are now all California.  The market is strong and relief in price, most likely, will not come this season.  Keep an eye on the storage fruit transition to imports in the Apple and Pear commodities.  Notice the dance in growers, regions and labels as we enter into another bountiful Summer ahead.  California grape season starts the week of June 1st!

 

Earl’s Organic Buyer’s Notes May 16, 2021

A-maize-ing news, summer is right around the corner and Bi-Color Corn is in!  California stone fruit and strawberries shine this week and we say goodbye to California Kiwi for now. Download the full PDF here!

 

Earl’s Organic Buyer’s Notes May 9, 2021

This week we’re seeing more stone fruit starting to come in! Cherries, Apricots, Peaches! Oh My! Fava Beans are back in too, and we say goodbye to Cara Caras and cuties.  Download the full PDF here

 

Earl’s Organic Buyer’s Notes May 2, 2021

Purple Snap Peas, Strawberries, and Stone Fruit! Spring has truly sprung and we couldn’t be more excited.  We’re fully into California Avocado season, so stock up for Cinco de Mayo, and don’t forget to preorder your Japanese Ume now!

Eat, drink, and be cherry! download the full pdf here

 

 

Earl’s Organic Buyer’s Notes April 25, 2021

Welcome back peaches! First California peach coming out of Coachella Valley with good flavor! Plantains are a fantastic treat for the whole family and short Durondeau Pear season begins, so catch them while you can! Get… Jalapeño….our business and download the full pdf here

 

Earl’s Organic Buyer’s Notes April 18, 2021

New this week! Rhubarb, Green Garlic, Fava Beans, Spring Onions,  Sunrise Farms Red Speckled Romaine Lettuce, Autumn Crisp Peruvian Grapes and Mexican Cantaloupes. Equal Exchange Mexican avocados are done. Thank you for a wonderful season!  We are now fully into California season fruit and prices are expensive. California Avocados are projected to have a smaller crop this year. “Avocado trees have a tendency to adopt an alternate bearing cycle- an on crop/off-crop cycle. A large on-crop inhibits fruit set and flowering, leading to a smaller crop next year. “- California Avocado Commission  This year there were also high winds and a lack of rain which pushed the harvest back.  Download this weeks organic fruit and veg update here. 

Rhubarb A Sign Of Spring

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.

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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? My favorite recipe is from the NY Times. Cook down 2 cups of rhubarb with 5 tablespoons of honey and 2 tablespoons of water and let cool. Blend with 1 1/2 cups greek yogurt and cups of ice. Mix in rose water to taste. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios and share with your friends!

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Earl’s Organic Buyer’s Notes April 11, 2021

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. TDE Mandarins have outstanding flavor! Triple Cross tangerines, also known as TDE tangerines, are a cross between the Temple tangor, a Dancy mandarin and an Encore mandarin. They are large in size, squat with a deep orange rind. The rind is puffy when the fruit is ripe and loosely clings to the flesh making them easy to peel.  TDE’s are seedless with a firm juicy flesh that is sweet, slightly tart and rich in flavor. Download this weeks organic fruit and veg update here. 

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