July 22, 2014

NW Fire and (no) Rain
Dominate Crop News

Ironically it wasn’t rain that brought a fast end to the red raspberries, as I warned in my last post. It was actually that long stretch of dry heat. The fruit ripened all at once and we are now down to just a small trickle of berries. The blackberries will run a little longer than the raspberries, but not much. Luckily we were able to get through our Big Board Buys deal on the raspberries this past week, so I hope those of you who wanted to make preserves were able to get it done in spite of the heat.

You wouldn’t know it today – or tomorrow either from what I understand – but wow, what a heat wave that was. We experienced 11 straight days of temperatures above 80 degrees – many days it was well into the 90s.  The east side of the state has literally been burning up! Temperatures have been in the 100s and sadly, several forest fires are burning out of control. Hopefully, these cooler temps we’re now having will bring some much needed-relief to the firefighters working to bring these fires under control.

So now that we’re witnessing that early end to Sterino Farms’ raspberries and blackberries – let’s consider blueberries. That  harvest continues to move north. Most of the Oregon and Eastern Washington berries are winding down. We are just now moving into Skagit Valley fruit and soon will be moving to Canada to finish off this year’s fresh blueberry season. It’s hard to believe, but we are already getting quotes on new-crop apples from California, which is a clear sign that we will see some Northwest varieties arrive in just a few short weeks.

As for new fall crops already arriving, a new crop of Bartlett and Red Bartlett pears out of California arrived in our Markets this past week! Look for Northwest-grown pears to start arriving in early August.

Melons off California’s Turlock Farms melons are coming into their peak this coming week through about mid-August. We have added the Casaba, Crenshaw, Sharlyn and Hami to the lineup for a total of 13 different varieties of melons. As promised, Turlock’s Steve Smith has again delivered the most flavorful lineup of melons to be found – he’s really outdone himself this year!

The exceptional growing conditions in the Firebaugh area this year have pushed these melons over the top. All have their own unique flavor – I recommend trying them all. My favorites are the orange Honeydew, Sharlyn, Galia and organic mini seedless watermelon. For something a little different, try the Hami melon or Heirloom-style Tuscan cantaloupe wrapped with a little thin-sliced ham from our Deli. The saltiness of the ham and the sweetness of the melon is very refreshing. 

It’s been a stellar year for Northwest cherries. The sweet dark red cherries are going strong. The fruit is large, sweet and crisp. But this will not last much longer. As the Rainier cherries, they’re already coming to a quick end. This year seems to be all about early starts and an early ends to just about everything. Most summer fruits are coming and going a week to 10 days earlier than is typical. I expect this trend to continue.

Speaking of heat having an impact, I just received a call from Dan Gunkel of Gunkel Orchards in Goldendale, Wash., about what the recent heat wave is doing to his peaches and nectarines. Don’t worry – the fruit is eating great! The challenge is that when temperatures remain above 100 degrees for any length of time, the trees shut down and move into survival mode. They stop devoting energy to growing fruit and shift to staying alive. Thus the fruit stops getting larger and ripens sooner. Dan expects the fruit to be a little smaller than usual for the next two weeks or so. The cooler weather arriving this week should snap the trees back into growing fruit.

August should be an exceptional month for peaches and nectarines from the Northwest. Canning peaches should be available by late August this year.

Late summer grapes have started to arrive. August and September are the two best months for California seedless grapes. The varieties we’ll start getting in the next couple weeks are bigger, crisper and sweeter than ever. There are a couple of interesting grapes from the grapery that have arrived already. The “Witches Finger” grapes and the “Flavor Promise” black seedless grapes arrived last Friday. We are limited by the grower to just a weekly handful for the next few weeks.

The Witches Finger variety (at left)  is interesting, to say the least. I think kids will love them. The Flavor Promise is a line of grapes the grower has committed leaving on the vine until flavor and sweetness are at their peak. They’re not harvesting these grapes based on minimum allowable sugar required by the state of California, which by the way would still be sour! Instead, they’re harvesting for best eating experience! Another new grape we have received – “Flavor Pop” – is so limited that we are only allowed five cases each week for the next four to five weeks. So I’m sending all five cases to just one store each week. This grape lives up to its name – it just pops with sweet flavor. This is going to be an exceptional variety for the future and I expect them to go fast once they arrive. I sent the five cases to out Central Market Poulsbo last week. Next week, they’ll go to our Shoreline store, then Bainbridge and so on down the line. Hopefully we get through all five stores before they are done.

We have started fresh fig season. Calimyrna figs arrived last week, Black Mission start this week and Kadota and Brown Turkey will follow that (pictured at right are Black Mission, Brown Turkey and Green Kadota). August is Fresh Fig Month and as everything else, I expect a fast and furious season. We seem to be starting about a week or so early. In years past, figs would go well into September.

A new crop of garlic is starting to arrive and the latest is the organic red Chesnok variety. This grower harvests this garlic and ships to market before it is completely cured, so if you pick up extra be sure to store in a dry area with plenty of ventilation. This is “hardneck” garlic, which typically have fewer (four to six) cloves per bulb. They’re easy to peel with a great flavor so if you love garlic, this is the one for you.

Stay turned – Hatch chile peppers are just around the corner!

Have a great week – Joe

Posted in Fresh Talker | 1 Comment

One Response to "NW Fire and (no) Rain
Dominate Crop News

  1. Written by Nancy O - July 22, 2014

    Another great post Joe–love them. Reminds me of my dad, a Santa Fe Railroad man for >45 years. Walking/checking those freight trains in/out of Chicago he knew exactly what was in season. He would come home and tell my mother–OK, now is the time to buy whatever it was that was timely. Of course produce and its production was a far different story than today–talking here some 60 years ago.

    Anyway, love the information and I do buy accordingly.

    With Regards,

    Nancy O’Neill

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