Autumn arrived in a flash – like throwing a switch. That huge lightning and thunderstorm a few weeks ago ushered summer out dramatically. It snowed in Spokane last weekend and here in the Puget Sound region we dropped to near freezing this morning.
Some Northwest row crops seemed to have ended overnight. Lettuce, for instance. Sterino Farm in Puyallup got a freeze and Dharma Ridge Farm near Quilcene was treated to heavy hail, damaging what was left in the field. Suddenly we are heading south to California much sooner than expected to fill our needs.
The challenge is that California planted about 90 days ago, not expecting to feed the Pacific Northwest. Supply is suddenly tight and costs are up slightly. Arizona’s winter growing region is still four to six weeks out. So we have a little dancing to do until then. The good news is that several Northwest products made it through that weather unscathed – our Brussels sprouts, cabbage, celery and carrots are just fine. Sadly, Sterino’s sweet corn is just about done for the year.
Heavy rain up north in Skagit Valley ended the local strawberry crop overnight, but we’re working with our grower to invest in high tunnels next year. Hopefully, we’ll be able to have local strawberries well into October even if we get another early wet season. Western Washington potatoes may also be affected –much of the potato crop is still in that now-saturated ground. This is not good for potatoes, especially the Yukon Gold variety. But the jury is out – hopefully the damage is minimal. Yukon Gold potatoes are one of our most popular varieties for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Northwest peaches from Gunkel Orchards in Goldendale were exceptional this year – one of the best seasons I can remember. However, we let one particular variety get through that had its issues in the last days of September – I apologize if you got any of those. Aside from that, it was a great season.
Apples, Apples Everywhere: High-Quality and Abundant
Let’s get on to some good news. Our new crop of apples are all Northwest grown and we’re fast approaching the time when we can pick from all varieties. The crop looks to be abundant and of great quality. This generally means better costs and more promotional opportunities.
One variety that stands out as an exceptional value this year is the Honeycrisp. All those expanded plantings over the past decade have come into maturity and the crop is huge. We’ll be seeing opportunities in both organic and conventional Honeycrisp over the next several months.
Rockit® apples arrive in the markets this week. This apple is naturally small, super crisp and sweet. The perfect snack apple, in my humble opinion.
The grower, Chelan Fresh, has a wonderful video about Rockits on their website.
A couple of the other varieties still to arrive are the Opal, expected to start late this month; and the Pink Lady, which has been harvested but must rest in storage for to allow the acids to drop off and let the crisp, sweet flavor through. Look for Pink Lady apples to arrive as we move into November.
It’s Going to Be a Great Year for Wild Mushrooms
The mild and slightly moist month of August kicked off an exceptional wild mushroom season. And it just got better from there. We’re seeing outstanding quality when it comes to chanterelles, lobsters, matsutakes and porcinis. Supply is great, too!
We’ll have LOTS of these mushrooms over the next few weeks – so it’s a good time if you want to preserve some. Personally I like to sauté in butter or olive oil at a medium heat. Leave the pan uncovered to let moisture escape, or they might get slimy.
Once cooked, pack them into an ice cube tray and freeze. Once they are fully frozen just drop however many cubes your recipes call for into freezer bags. Push as much air out of the bag as possible and seal. Freeze until needed – they generally will keep three to six months.
Nothing says Autumn like Northwest Pears
We’re in full swing with as many varieties of pears as possible. I’m a big fan of our pre-conditioned Bartlett pears. These are not just any regular pear stored and then brought out to ripen on the shelf. These pears are allowed to slowly come up in temperature in a controlled atmosphere in the space of about five days, then quickly chilled back down and shipped to market. This produces a creamier eating experience. If you have ever had a pear with a grainy texture, you know what I mean. We’ll have these pre-conditioned pears through Thanksgiving.
And if you think the Bartlett is good, just wait until the pre-conditioned Comice pears arrive – just in time for Thanksgiving and running through Christmas. I think this is the absolute best pear of the year.
Last but not least, the mighty fall symbol – pumpkins. They’ve arrived to kick off the holiday season and they’re huge! We had smaller pumpkins last year thanks to an unusually dry, hot summer. But the mild temps and occasional rains throughout the growing season this year has produced some giants!
The Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins are big and scary! We also have several other specialty varieties to choose from. We will do our best to keep as wide of a selection as possible right through the end of the month.
Thank you and have a great week – Joe