August 22, 2019

Late-Summer Stars:
Grapes, Figs, Mangos

Seedless grapes are moving into their peak-of-the-season quality. Some of the best varieties are arriving now from California – red, green and black seedless grapes are big, sweet and crunchy.

A dozen candy strip figs, one of which is cut open to reveal the red interior.

Candy Stripe Figs

Fresh figs are coming into their peak of season, as well. Most fresh figs have a relatively short window, although we can get Brown Turkey well into November. The most abundant is the Black Mission, which, overall, eats great. We also have Candy Stripe and Honey King figs. The Candy Stripe skin is striped with two shades of green, and they have a light red interior. Honey Kings – a proprietary variety from Family Tree Farms in California – has a bronze skin with an interior that resembles raspberry jelly. This self-pollenating variety is super sweet and juicy.

There may be times when we don’t have all these varieties. But we’ll do our best by offering both conventional and organic to fill in any gap on one or the other.

We’re Doing the Keitt Mango Tango

A whole Keitt mango and another sliced in half, revealing the yellow fruit

Keitt Mangos

Keitt mangos are now available. This are my favorites of the entire year! They’re sweet, juicy and extra-large with interiors that are virtually stringless, deep orange and full of tropical flavor. Here’s the thing about Keitts – their exterior color means nothing. They can range from all green to a slight yellow blush. So how to choose? Give them a gentle squeeze. You’re looking for just a little give. Mangos ripen from the inside out so if it’s too soft, it’s overripe. They ripen well if left on the counter at room temperature.

Never refrigerate mangos – it changes the flavor – unless you have already peeled and cubed the fruit (although I do like to chill them just before eating). I like mango cubed on cottage cheese.

They’re also pretty good lightly grilled like a peach. Just peel and slice off the pit and lightly grill. Try placing the warm mango on one of our Snicker Doodle cookies and top with vanilla ice cream!

We made a video about how to make peace with mangos when it comes to peeling them and dealing with that pit. Our culinary folks are into mangos, too, and we’ve got more than 40 of our own recipes for everything from chutney to salads, salsas (like blueberry-mango, mango and peach, mango and pineapple) , pie, slaw, seafood dishes, wraps, smoothies – even mango bread! (The peaches are great right now so …)

New Local Berry Partner is Awesome!

You may have noticed our abundance of strawberries from Our Family Farm in Mount Vernon.

A pile of Albion Strawberrie

Albion Strawberries

This is our first year working with this farm and they’re doing an awesome job. They grow the ever-bearing Albion strawberries, which begin producing in early June, take a late June-July break, and come back in August. If the weather cooperates, we could have local strawberries well into October.

The key to this variety is to let it hang on the vine until fully red. At that point, it eats great and actually has a little shelf life, unlike some of the more traditional Northwest varieties like Shuksan and Hood, which basically have about one day before they start to break down.

We see a great relationship developing with Our Family Farm that we hope goes well into the future.

This Year’s Fungus May be Humongous

Two Chanterelle Mushrooms

Chanterelle Mushrooms

Looks like we’re off to a great start on Northwest wild chanterelle and lobster mushrooms. Last year, a super dry August and September left chanterelles in short supply. But the cooler, more humid weather of this year is perfect for these mushrooms.

Supply is great, quality is excellent and we’re already well below the prices we had to charge last year at this time. If this weather remains mild over the next couple of months, we likely will see the best year we’ve had for a while. I think we’ll see promotional opportunities as we move through September and into October.

Sterino Corn So Close We Can Taste It

Fresh Northwest sweet corn from Sterino Farms in Puyallup got off to a slightly later than normal start, like so many other farms on the West Coast. But I’m talking with Jake Sterino as I write this and he says we will have lots of sweet corn this weekend and supply should be good through September.

We already have his leaf lettuce, cabbage, celery, cilantro, fennel and leeks. This coming week, we’ll get his jumbo green peppers, which are perfect for stuffing.

Sterino corn is extra sweet, tender and crispy. Personally I like sweet corn undercooked … just a few minutes in boiling water or on the grill with nothing added. Occasionally, I like it doused in Garlic Expressions Dressing. If you boil your corn, it’s best to bring the water to a full boil and then carefully add the corn so it cooks fast and hot – just 2-3 minutes. I think sweet corn gets tougher if the water is brought to a boil with the corn in the pot. Look for a great value breaking Wednesday, Aug. 28.

A couple of our Kitsap side markets got to try something new from Sterino – hothouse-grown Red Sword peppers. These are basically the same peppers that have been called Sweet Tooth, but Jake’s turned out even better – sweeter, with a thicker flesh. We’ve asked him to grow more as an exclusive for us next year. So watch for those!

Great Big Pumpkins and More Floral Options

The moisture throughout the past couple months has created the perfect growing environment for pumpkins – we expect Jake’s to arrive the last week in September.

A small, green pumpkin in the field

A baby pumpkin at Sterino Farms

Last but not least, we have been working with Jake in experimenting with several floral items.

Everything we have seen so far has been outstanding from hanging baskets in the spring to fresh potted sweet basil.

Everything we’ve gotten from Jake just flies out. We’re looking forward to a huge 2020 with Sterino Farms.

Batten Down the Hatches – Here’s What Happened

Having to cut short our Hatch Chile roastings this year was a complete bummer. Our sources in Hatch, N.M., are saying the 2019 Hatch crop is the worst they’ve seen – ever.

We moved forward with our roasting events, not knowing what was happening with the peppers until the last minute as the harvest began. We were already committed to roasting events in our markets over two weekends. But a low yield and short shelf life of what WAS being harvested caused us to cut it short.

Big Jim Hatch Chiles hanging from the chile plant

Big Jim Hatch Chiles

The growing region in Hatch experienced extended heavy rain in the spring, causing a lot of the first planting to mildew. Luckily, we got enough peppers to get through our first roasting weekend (although we were short on the Big Jim medium-hot peppers). Most growers had to replant and hope for the best.

The peppers from this later planting turned out to be thinner walled and have little to no shelf life. Most began breaking down within 24 to 48 hours of harvest. The yield was down 60% at harvest and then they culled another 20% for quality purposes in the packing shed. The grower/shipper Young Guns Produce decided to keep what peppers they did have in New Mexico to support the traditional Hatch Pepper events that made these peppers famous.

Another reason was that they likely would have arrived rotten, and been rejected on the loading dock. Everyone loses when that happens – customers, farmers, shippers, etc. Young Guns didn’t want to put their reputation for quality at risk by shipping something they knew would arrive in bad shape.

They’ve shut down their fresh division for the year and will be moving what product remains to their processing division. The silver lining is that we should be able to offer Hatch Chile Peppers frozen in one-pound bags for several months. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this shortage may have caused!

Have a great Labor Day weekend. Thank you for all your support –Joe



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