Our Produce Markets are full of the dark reds, deep greens and orange tinges of autumn.
The Northwest’s autumn apple and pear season is well under way with several varieties to choose from in both conventionally farmed and certified organic.
My favorite fall apple is the Fuji. I like the sweeter varieties when it comes to apples, but the Honeycrisp seems to be the most popular with our customers, no doubt because of its complex flavors and that perfect balance between sweet and tart. We still have a couple of varieties of new-crop apples yet to arrive. We expect to see the Opal and the Braeburn arrive by mid-October and the Pink Lady, Crab and Lady Apples toward the end of the month.
Now when it comes to pears, my favorite is the Bosc. This variety has more complexity in rich pear flavor than the standard Bartlett. Some people prefer to peel Boscs – but that coarse, russet skin doesn’t bother me!
We have had a great run with the imported Australian “Sweetie” Mandarin oranges and Minneolas. This fruit has been exceptionally sweet and juicy! We have just a couple of shorts weeks left in the imported citrus season with California just around the corner. In most California citrus varieties, we prefer to start off slow and wait for the fruits’ sugar and flavor to improve so we can ensure the best eating experience. Early reports so far are calling for a good crop this year. We should be looking at the new crop of Clementines and Satsumas by early November. But here again we will want to taste-test the fruit on arrival before stepping into the season in a big way.
We are finally beginning to see some relief in our less-than-ideal lemon volumes as the new crop ramps up over the next few weeks. We also are currently in a grapefruit gap as we wait for the new crop out of Florida and Texas to start in mid- to late- October.
Seedless grapes continue to be exceptional. The fruit is large, crisp and sweet. Growers are projecting an early end to the 2016 California grapes season – so enjoy these while you can as I think most varieties will be winding up by early November.
Brussels sprouts trees from Sterino Farms are available In the markets this week. This is one of those fall items that will come and go by early November. They just cannot get any fresher than to be on the stalk. If you’re up for freezing Brussels sprouts, it’s easy to do. Simply blanch – three minutes for small sprouts, four for medium and five for large – in boiling water then plunge into ice water. Use a steamer basket to shift them easily between boiling and ice water. Avoid overheating the sprouts, as it can contribute to post-freeze mushiness. After blanching, move the Brussels sprouts into the freezer as rapidly as possible.
Chanterelle mushrooms are off to a slow start this year, but as we get closer to the next round of damp weather we should see a bloom that will improve supply and bring prices down.
Pumpkins are in the markets this week, too. We asked our partner grower in Puyallup, Jake Sterino, to select larger jack-o’-lantern pumpkins for our markets this year and it looks like he has done an excellent job judging from the initial deliveries. Northwest winter hard squashes are well under way. We have several varieties to choose from, each with its own unique flavor characteristics. Of course the standard Acorn, Butternut and Spaghetti squashes are all great, but I urge you to try the lesser-known varieties like Buttercup or Delicata for something new. The skin of the Delicata is edible!
Last but not least, fresh cranberries from Cape Blanco are soon to arrive. This particular grower harvests several time throughout the cranberry season selecting only the ripest berries. This cranberry is not what you would typically call sweet, but is far sweeter than other brands. Most cranberries producers grow for the commodity juice market and have a small side line for fresh berries, but Cape Blanco is a small family farm near the Oregon Coast that that grows cranberries only for the fresh market. Year after year they produce the largest, full-color cranberries in the market – 100 percent Northwest grown.
That’s it for now. Have a great week! – Joe