Fall has come on fast this year. After such a long, hot, dry summer with nearly every crop coming in two or three weeks earlier than usual, it’s not surprising that autumn arrived with a bang at the tail end of August.
I did a little comparison on where we were with summer fruit and melons last year at this time. It’s clear we were still in a full-summer seasonal mode all the way through the end of September. This year, however, we’ll see many summer items coming to an end by the week of the Sept. 21. Peaches, nectarines and nearly all plums with be off the menu followed by nearly every variety of melon, except for cantaloupe and green honeydew. There may still be some of the other melons out there in storage, but we just don’t want to take the chance of selling something that might be a disappointment. We’re hoping to finish on a good note and move right into the autumn season.
For example, Northwest pears are ramping up with nearly the full variety available by the time we get into the second half of the month. A new crop of Northwest apples has arrived – Gala, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp and Golden Delicious are already in the markets. Jonagolds – one of my favorites – arrive next week! Jonagolds are crisp with a sweet-tart flavor that comes through from its Golden Delicious and Jonathan parents. We will be adding new varieties nearly each week from this point on until mid-October when the full line of Northwest apples will be in our Produce Markets.
One thing to note about the 2015 apple crop is that because of the unusually hot, dry growing season the crop is peaking about two sizes smaller than last year. This could be good thing though, because smaller apples generally hold their crispness longer. Also, as a general rule, we move to the northern Washington growing area as quickly as possible. I believe the warm days and cooler nights of the northern growing area produce a more dense cell structure resulting in a crisper eating experience.
Another win in this off-schedule schedule is the early arrival of the hard squash varieties. The most popular are the Acorn, Butternut and Spaghetti; but don’t forget to explore other varieties, like Delicata, Buttercup, Kabocha and red Kuri. All have endless possibilities when you begin to consider different cooking methods, seasonings, sauces and finishing butters. My personal favorite happens to be the spaghetti squash. They’re easy to bake or microwave and shred with a fork. Then it’s just a choice of which pasta sauce I am in the mood for; or maybe I just want to smother it in butter, garlic and Parmesan cheese.
Chanterelle mushrooms have arrived and the rain we received over the past couple weeks has really helped increase the bloom. If you remember last year, conditions never allowed this wild crop to explode with abundance. Cost is already dropping rapidly and at this point I expect that trend to continue right into October. Of course we will be bringing our retail prices down just as quickly as the market allows. Keep your fingers crossed because I am hoping for several promotions along with other wild mushrooms this season.
Last but not least, the Northwest potato season continues to ramp up. We will be moving from the east side of Washington to the west side over the next week or so.
Have a great week. – Joe