June 13, 2016

Rain Calls Abrupt Halt
to Hayton Strawberries

It’s raining pretty good up in Skagit County this morning, bringing a swift end to the local strawberry season from Hayton Farms.

We had an excellent season this year and I hope you were able to enjoy them often over the past three weeks. Unfortunately the early start (May 23) meant an early end this year. Hayton Farms does have organic red raspberries and blackberries that are just now ramping up, but with the rain, their availability may be hit or miss over the next few days. These berries are picked fresh each day and delivered the following morning after they have had several hours to chill down. Raspberries, blackberries and blueberries actually hold up best if we get them chilled down before shipping to market. Speaking of blueberries, Rodger Hayton and his daughter Angelica say their organically blueberries should start this coming week with a harvest start date of sometime between June 20 and 25.

Variety berries from Sterino Farms have started early and in a big way. I visited Jake Sterino last Friday to check how the berries were coming along and he already had been harvesting his obsidian blackberries for about five days. The fruit looks and tastes excellent. I think the obsidian variety is the best blackberry of the year. It’s big and sweet and has very tiny seeds.

sterino Red Raspberries

Red raspberries in my hand at Sterino Farms in Puyallup Friday.

If you freeze blackberries, this is a good week to get it done. Friday morning I was surprised to see the red raspberries were ready to get started and would be in our markets on Saturday. Believe it or not, this is about 20 days early for the Tulameen variety that Jake grows. Here again, I think the Tulameen is the best variety of red raspberry we see all year. It’s big, sweet and bursting with flavor. Jake also has red, white and black currants along with red and green gooseberries, tayberries and gold raspberries. All of these are in our markets as we speak. The crop looks excellent his year – but rain is not a good thing when it comes to berries at harvest time. Jake will not pick berries if the fruit is wet. All the berries are pre-chilled overnight and delivered fresh the next morning for best quality. If it rains too much one day it may interrupt supply the following morning. Our local berries are delivered fresh seven days a week.

I cannot emphasize enough how early the local berry season is this year! Overall, all varieties are 10 to 20 days early. That means an early end as well. To give you an example, the tulameen red raspberry generally starts around June 30 and peaks around July 12. It’s basically finished by July 24, give or take a few days. With a June 10 start this year, the season will likely end sometime near July 4. If you’re planning to preserve or freeze any fresh Northwest raspberries, I would get it done ASAP or you may miss out. Cross your fingers the rain remains light through the end of the month.

Washington cherries have been exceptional this year. Both the Rainier and dark sweet cherries are big, firm and sweet. This Thursday, I’ll be headed to Gunkel Orchards near Goldendale in Eastern Washington to check out Gunkel’s Private Reserve red cherry. You might remember we talked about this cherry in April when I had a photograph of the trees in bloom.

Gunkel Reserve Cherries

Gunkel Orchard’s private reserve red cherries have gone from April pink to June red.

I have another picture of the fruit as of June 7 – it’s light red now and already huge, relative to red cherries. The harvest will start Friday, June 17, when the fruit will be even larger and have a rich, deep mahogany color. I think Gunkel’s Private Reserve sweet cherry is one of the best of the entire year. We should see this fruit in our markets by Monday June 20, weather permitting. Supply is limited and they will go fast!

The giant “Pearl Princess” white peach and the “peach pie” donut peaches are here from Family Tree Orchards in California and the fruit is outstanding! The white flesh peach is low in acid and has its best flavor while still on the firm side. We should have excellent supply for the next three weeks or so on these select variety white peaches. As for the “peach pie” donut peaches, they are not for making pie! But they are for eating out of hand. They got their name from Daniel Jackson of Family Tree Orchards because the flavor reminded him of his grandmother’s peach pie when he was a young boy. I love these peaches grilled and then topped with ice cream. Just cut the small pit out of the center, grill until warm, place on top of one or our snickerdoodle cookies from the Bakery and top with vanilla ice cream. Here’s a video of the folks at Family Tree Orchard making a peach dessert with these beauties: http://youtu.be/8awi07Ml1pA

Last but not least the Walla Walla Sweet Onions have started and will be in our markets by the end of this week! More to come.

There are so many great tasting summer options available it is impossible to mention them all in this update. Summer is already here in a big way! Enjoy


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