Yes it’s September and that theoretically means fall, but with this Indian summer we’re having (and a Dry Creek Orchard yellow peach in hand) one might think it’s the middle of July! We have so much fun this time of year bringing in all the fresh produce from our favorite farms, many of which are overflowing with crops like tomatoes, giving us the opportunity to spread the love and offer some really amazing deals. Here’s a quick look at all the inspiring small farms that take time in their day to deliver fresh goodies to Bi-Rite’s door.
Tomatero Organic Farm is located on several different plots of land from the coast of Watsonville to the valleys of Hollister. They’ve been a Bi-Rite rock star this summer, with their produce quality so top-notch. We have great deals on their dry farmed Early Girls and heirloom varieties like the Cherokee Purple, Marvel Stripe and Brandywine. We’ve tasted a lot of local tomatoes this season and these are by far the most flavorful!
Mariquita Farm in Hollister has done a terrific job keeping their ripe Albion Strawberries on our shelves all summer long. This is not an easy task considering how the hot weather ripens them extra quickly and the cool weather slows them down, but Farmer Andy seems to have his green thumb on it. And their Spanish Padron peppers never get old!
Yerena Berry Farm in the rolling hills off the coast of Monterey is the raspberry king! From little berries that pack a sweet punch to the large, plump, juicy ones that melt in your mouth, Yerena has a berry for everyone.
Capay Farm = Candy Stripe Figs; the flavor and texture get better with each delivery.
Apple season is in full swing right now and we are very fortunate to have three farms that help us celebrate the season:
- Coco Ranch, an organic certified ranch between Winters and Davis, grows a lot of cool heirloom varieties that are hard to find, along with others like the Sommerfeld (a cross between Gala and Fuji).
- Devoto Gardens in Sebastopol is another orchard that grows heirloom varieties like the Jonathan; with its crispy texture and sweet/tart flavor, it eats great out of hand and is one of the best baking apples of the season. The crunchy green Mutsu will be ready for harvest by the end of the month.
- Hidden Star Orchard has been the backbone of our local apple selection for the past five years and they are just about to harvest a new “September Sweet” Fuji. We also have their wonderful Gala on the shelves and are expecting the NY Special (Braeburn crossed with Gala) by the end of the month. Johann also grows a bunch of different grape varieties; the Princess Grape is perfectly sweet right now.
Local pears from Frog Hollow Orchard are just around the corner, and Farmer Al always starts off the pear season with the sweet and buttery Warren Pear. This is one of those pieces of fruit that, when you bite into it, make you think you’ve never had a good pear before. Frog Hollow also grows the Taylor Gold pear, which will battle the Warren for “local pear of the year”.
Full Belly Farm masters the art of growing everything well! Most of their land is dedicated to vegetable row crops but they also have plenty of orchards. Their peaches have been eating so well this year, and they have a couple more varieties that will come later this month, so stay tuned. Full Belly has become our specialty melon grower; they do an amazing job harvesting sweet ripe melons that still have that firm and sometimes crunchy texture we look for. For those of you thinking fall, they just started harvesting Butternut and Acorn squash!
All of this summer fruit can sometimes take the spotlight away from the coastal growers who keep all the greens coming! Free Wheelin Farm in Santa Cruz grows the best baby lettuce south of the city. Twice a week they drop off multiple varieties of baby lettuces; their full sized Red Butter lettuces aren’t too shabby either. And Bluehouse Farm in Pescadero is another group of young farmers taking advantage of their growing climate and growing big, tender bunches of Rainbow chard and Lacinato kale.
Oak Hill Farm in Sonoma, one of our newer farm-direct relationships, has been one of the first farm partners on our new Public Label line. In the spring, Farmer David asked me whether there were any crops we would like him to grow for us (talk about great service!). So we went for it, and Oak Hill just harvested 2,500 lbs. of “pickling” cucumbers over the course three weeks, soon to be released as a jarred pickle under our new Public Label.
Oh yeah, one last thing! Although not grown locally like everything I mentioned, Keitt mangoes from Southern California are the bomb! This is the only mango variety from California that makes it to the Bay Area, and it’s usually the best of the year; silky-smooth, creamy goodness that’s only around for about a month.