Town & Country Markets

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All Berries All the Time
with Cherries Closing In

 (The dynamic summer duo – blackberries and raspberries.)

While the first day of summer officially arrives Saturday morning (at 5:51 or 6:51, depending on who you believe), it’s well under way in our Markets. We’ve already seen a few tayberries (cultivated in Scotland in the late 1970s as a cross between a red raspberry and a blackberry, and named after Scotland’s River Tay) and golden raspberries from Sterino Farms near Puyallup.

Jack Sterino is picking a small number of red raspberries, but he told me this week that he expects things to pick up quickly over the next few days. Look for red raspberries to fully arrive in our Markets by the June 28-29 weekend. We might even see a few blackberries that weekend, as well as red and black currants and red gooseberries. Jake expects the raspberry season to peak July 2-15, so if you’re planning to make raspberry preserves or jam, or freezing them for the long cold winter, I suggest you not wait! We might have fruit later than July 15, but the supply is not certain. You have a little more time when it comes to putting up blackberries, as that season will run well through the end of July.

Northwest organic and conventionally grown blueberries are in the Markets as we speak and I’m happy to report that this year’s quality, texture and flavor are all excellent!

Sadly, Northwest-grown strawberries are on their way out. We hope to have a supply through this week, but likely will not the following week.

(Rainier cherries – that nice red blush on the
yellow background indicates the sweetest!)

I made the trek to visit Dan Gunkel at his orchard near Goldendale (near the Columbia River Gorge) last Friday. His Royal Brooks sweet red cherries are getting the first round of harvest today. Dan said he’s planning three separate picking occasions, about two to three days apart to ensure the best flavor. This is one of my favorite varieties of red cherries. Exceptionally large in size, these cherries have a firm texture and an intense flavor. I expect our first deliveries into the Markets as early as Monday morning. This variety is limited and will only be available for a short time!

Not to worry though – the Lapin variety sweet red cherry is arriving on the heels of the Royal Brooks and is another great tasting cherry. We also have Sweet Red Blush Rainier cherries in the Markets as well. The key to selecting the most flavorful Rainier cherries is to look for size and a nice red blush to the yellow background color. These will be the sweetest.

We also have Gunkel Orchards’ very popular Robada apricots arriving Monday. Dan picks them right. They will be extra-large in size and full of flavor. Dan truly tree ripens this fruit to ensure a great eating experience. If you are an apricot lover, this is the one for you! (That’s a Robada pictured at right)

The Black Mission figs I mentioned last time have come and gone. The quality was outstanding. This was just the opening act for fresh figs as June offers only a short taste, but the main season for figs arrives in August. Not only will the Black Mission come back in a big way, we will also have Kadota, Calmyrna, Brown Turkey and a few Asiatic figs.

The California peaches and nectarines have been exceptional this year – a great size and a great flavor. I have been particularly happy with the white-flesh peaches and the organically grown yellow peaches. Nectarines just keep getting better and better. I will be making my annual trek to California to visit with Family Tree Farms and Homegrown Organic Farms to select our peaches and nectarines for the Independence Day holiday period. Look for Washington-grown fruit to begin as we move through July.

While in California, I’ll also visit Steve Smith at Turlock Fruit Co., the third-generation Smith at Turlock (and he’s chairman of the California Melon Research Board).  I’ll be checking on the progress of those great-tasting variety melons that will be arriving over the next several weeks. Cantaloupe and green honeydew are just the beginning. The orange honeydew, my personal favorite, is just round the corner, followed by heirloom cantaloupe, Sharlyn, Casaba, Crenshaw, Hami, Peil De’ Sapo, Canary and Galia. Turlock is – hands down – the best melon grower in the game.

Last year a partner grower of Turlock’s perfected the organic mini seedless watermelon and we’re hoping for a repeat this year.

From Turlock Farms I will travel to G&S Farms in Brentwood, Calif., to check in with Glen Stonebarger (the “S” in “G&S”) on the July corn crop.

My last stop will be in Esparto, just northwest west of Sacramento, to visit Durst Family Organic Farm. We have already started Durst’s variety cherry tomatoes. Look for this season to peak during July. We have up to 12 varieties this year. My favorite is always the Sungold, but I also like the Black Cherry. If you would like a sample, we would be happy to make that happen so you can decide which one you like for yourself. (At left – cherry tomatoes getting nice and ripe and sweet)

Have a great week! Joe

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