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NW Berries and Cherries
Outstanding – and Early!

Let’s start with Northwest raspberries. While the Driscoll raspberries on this week’s Big Board Buys are very tasty – they taste like summer to me! – we all look forward to the local season, as well.

I visited our partner grower Jake Sterino at his Puyallup farm last Friday and his raspberries look great. In fact, we should be seeing our first Northwest red raspberries sooner than expected as they look to be about two weeks early this year.

The bad news is that it’s likely they’ll all come at once and end sooner than expected, as well. I suggest not waiting if you plan on making jams or jellies. Also we won’t have any in September this year. After several disappointing years, Jake has decided to not put in any late-season raspberries. The weather is just too unpredictable and raspberries simply don’t do well if we get rain.

Everything is looking great when it comes to the rest of the Northwest variety berries from Sterino Farms as well. The blackberries are coming along and Jake is focusing on just a couple of his best varieties. One of those varieties is the Obsidian, which is obscenely large with great flavor. Look for this variety in July. Jake also will be our source for red, white and black currants; gooseberries; gold raspberries; nectar berries (a very large blackberry variety); and tayberries. Other notable fresh produce we get from Jake includes Northwest leaf lettuce – you’ll see it start this week – and cabbage, the following week. The celery is in the ground along with many other veggies for later this summer.

Northwest blueberries are on the horizon. We expect Oregon to get started around the middle of June and we hope to see some Organic Blueberries from Eastern Washington as soon as Father’s day weekend.

Northwest cherries will be here by this weekend. These are all early-variety red cherries like Chelan, Brooks and Tiatan. Expect to see the first Bings arrive around Father’s Day. The one I’m most excited about is the Royal Brooks. This exceptionally large, flavorful, deep mahogany red cherry was completely rained out last year. But things look good for this year and I’m looking forward to its brief (10 days at the most!) but oh-so-sweet window of opportunity.

We may see some Rainier cherries as early as June 10. That’s in keeping with what seems to be the theme for 2014 – just about everything looks to be running a week or two early this year.

Expect the cherry market to start out commanding top dollar. Until growers fill the market needs, they can pretty much name their price. The California season was very short this year which has increased demand worldwide for the Washington crop. The good news is the crop volume looks excellent – our state’s crop is estimated at 20 million cartons – so we expect that once the initial demand for fruit is met, the cost will drop quickly. Keep your fingers crossed that we get no rain between now and the end of the month. At this stage, rain would be a disaster for cherry growers. 

Corn, Figs and Vidalia Sweet Onions

G&S Farms in the Brentwood, Calif., growing area is now in all our Markets. We partner with G&S – owners Glenn Stonebarger and Roy Ghiggeri – and they’re our only source for corn until later in the season, when we buy our corn from Jake Sterino. We start with G&S in the southern Coachella area and move to Brentwood in early June through July. Hands down, G&S Farms white, yellow and bi-color sweet corn is consistently the sweetest and most flavorful. Both our partners are strictly non-GMO growers.

First-of-the- season fresh black mission figs are in the Markets as we speak. Figs are one of those crops that offers a short, limited early season followed by the bigger harvest in August.

In general, California peaches and nectarines are off to an early start this year. We will see late June varieties arrive about two weeks ahead of schedule – in keeping with our theme! The fruit is sizing up and the flavor is unseasonably good.

Speaking of sweet, the Vidalia sweet onions are exceptional this year! Vidalias naturally run on the smaller side with a 3-inch diameter onion qualifying for the “extra large” grade. Most of the crop this year will achieve a “jumbo” grade – which is not much bigger. We pay a little extra to get the colossal sizing for two reasons. For one, they seem to just taste better and, secondly, they fit the burger bun better! Personally I think the Vidalia sweet onion is the best eating of the year. Sadly it will be done before the end of the month, but just in time for Walla Walla sweet onions to take center stage.

Have a great week! Joe



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