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Simon

Cherish California Cherries

California stone fruit season usually gets going in the beginning of May with the local cherry crop.  The lack of a robust cherry crop the past few years in the Bay Area due to warm winters and drought summers has really slowed down production of one of the best fruit crops know to humankind. With this being said, this year’s local cherry crop is off to an amazing start and we are so excited to celebrate these amazing farms and all different cherry varieties they grow.

BingCherries_HiddenStarOrchardsFrom now until July, Hidden Star Orchards in Linden brings us organic cherries straight from their orchard twice a week.  Johan at Hidden Star is like the “Cherry Whisperer,” he always harvests beautiful cherries right when they are peaking in flavor.  Hidden Star just started harvesting the Brooks cherry, a dark red cherry that is super juicy. This will be followed by the firm Bing cherry, which is considered one of the sweetest red cherries, but also with a little tang to the flavor.   The yellow and red-skinned Rainier cherry just hit our shelves and this large but delicate cherry has a sweet white flesh and is always a special treat.   Hidden Star will finish out the cherry season with lesser-known varieties like the Larian and Red Lac cherry.  Now is the time for cherry lovers to come by the Markets and sample this special crop.

CoralCherries_ChinchioloAt Bi-Rite we pride ourselves on building relationships with the farmers who grow our food, so whenever we have the opportunity for a new relationship we get very excited! This spring, we’re fortunate enough to start getting local cherries from the Chinchiolo Family Farms in the San Joaquin County.  This is a fourth-generation family farm that focuses on apples and cherries. Just this past week we received our first delivery of Red Coral sweet cherries and they did not disappoint!  The Chinchiolo family grows a firm cherry that has a sweet tangy flavor with plenty of juice.  This week they are harvesting the Bing cherry which will be at both Markets for the next week.

This is a really fun time of year at the Bi-Rite Creamery and Bakeshop with all local stone fruit and berries to cook with.  One of the most labor intensive crops to work with in the kitchen is cherries! Team Cream organized a couple group cherry pitting days where 500 pounds of cherries were hand pitted and cooked down in less than a week.  All this hard work will be turned into the seasonal release of the Cherry Almond Ice Cream, available only at the Creamery and Scoop Shop within the next couple weeks – keep an eye out for this once-a-season treat!


Simon

Give Peas a Chance!

When the springtime rolls around in the Bay Area most folks can’t wait to sink their teeth into a juicy local strawberry. After eating California citrus for the past four months, we’re all ready for some delicate sweetness.  Strawberries aren’t the only sweet produce treat that comes with the cool spring weather. This is time to give peas a chance!

Peas are the perfect crop to grow in the spring because they like the cool weather and farmers can get plant them in the late winter so they have a crop to harvest in the early spring.  At Bi-Rite, we love to celebrate Sugar Snap Peas and English Peas throughout April and May when they are eating the best, because they go so well other spring crops like spring onions, green garlic, wild mushrooms, and baby lettuce.

IMG_6554Sugar Snap Peas are the most common peas and much easier to grow than English Peas.  Farmers harvest Sugar Snaps when the peas are crunchy and sweet.  Snap Peas are a great snack for kids since the entire peas and shell can be eaten raw.  English Peas, on the other hand, are a little more challenging for the farmer to grow because no matter how big and beautiful the outer shell might be it all depends on the size and flavor of the peas inside.  If a farmer harvests the English Peas too early the peas inside are too small and if they are harvest to late the peas lose their tenderness and become starchy.  The outer shells of the English Peas are too fibrous to eat, but peas are also a great snack raw. The Produce buyers at Bi-Rite are always shopping around to find the best eating peas because the quality can change drastically from one farmer to another.

Sugar Snap and English Peas are very easy to prepare.  They can both be blanched for 1 to 2 minutes to brighten the flavor and get rid of any starchiness that might be in the pea. It’s very important to rinse the peas you have blanched with ice water to prevent them from over cooking. English Peas can be tossed on top of a salad or risotto and make great puree.  Sugar Snap Peas don’t puree well but chopped up can be used as substitute for English peas when needed. Sugar Snap Peas are great for stir fry and are a lot harder to overcook compared to gentle English Peas. The pea itself isn’t the only part of the pea plant that is a joy to eat – we also have pea shoots and tendrils, which offer the fresh, grassy flavor of green peas and are beautiful in salads, for sautéing, or adding to pastas and risottos.

The kitchen at Bi-Rite is also celebrating this delicious spring crop, with a brand new summer pea hummus in the pre-pack case! It’s delicious and perfect for park picnics. While you might find peas at grocery stores year round,  spring is when they local peas are have the perfect texture and flavor – next time you’re in the Market ask the produce clerk for a tasty sample, and try our Eat Good Food English Pea and Green Garlic Dip recipe to savor the flavor of spring:

English Pea and Green Garlic Dip
Eat Good Food page 118
Serve with crostini or fresh spring veggies as a dip, or spread it on sandwiches.

1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oilIMG_6015
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
Kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper
1 cup chopped green garlic (2 stalks)
3/4 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 1/2 cups English Peas
1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano
2 Tbsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice
6 large mint leaves, coarsley chopped

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, a pinch of salt, and a grind or two of black pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft but not browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the green garlic and thyme and cook until the garlic is wilted and fragrant, another 2 to 3 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let cool. Bring a small pan of well-salted water to a boil. Add the peas and cook until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes.  Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again.

Put the peas in the bowl of a food processor along with the onion mixture, pecorino, lemon juice, mint and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Pulse a few times to blend, and with the motor running, pour in the remaining 1/3 cup oil, blending just until combined. Taste and add more salt or lemon juice as needed.


Simon

Strawberry Sensation

DSC_8332Throughout the month of March it was pretty exciting to see the rainy weather continue, though the rain didn’t bring complete joy to the local farmers and those of us who love local berry crops.  The strawberry fields took a hard hit from the rough weather – most of the fruit on the plants were damaged and the flowers knocked off.  Strawberry plants like to drink their fair share of water, but most of the growers use drip tape and get the water directly to the root systems. Now that this beautiful weather is upon us, April is setting up to be a sensational local strawberry month!

There is an abundance of strawberries in almost any grocery store you walk into this time of year, so what makes the strawberries at Bi-Rite Markets so special? The answer is simple: the farmers who grow them. We are fortunate to work closely with about 12 different local farms that will be harvesting extra sweet, juicy strawberries from April until October – the types of strawberries you usually find only at farmers’ markets and restaurants. Most of the strawberries that are sold at supermarket chains are harvested before they peak in flavor so that they are sturdier and can travel long distances, but farms like Tomatero Organic Farm and Live Earth Farm in Watsonville harvest their berries when the fruit has its most delicate texture, offering the ultimate sweetness.  It’s true that perfectly ripe berries might have the tendency to breakdown quicker than under-ripe berries, but these strawberries are delivered to Bi-Rite within 24 hrs of harvest so our guests can get them home in the looking – and tasting – beautiful.

The most common strawberry grown in California is the Albion variety; commercial growers love them because the plants produce large, firm fruit and when harvested a bit early they still have the high sugar content. Bluehouse Farm in Pescadero also grows Albion strawberries, but the combination of the perfect coastal climate, healthy, rich soil, and farmers that touch their plants every day leads to extra sweet flavor and a big juicy berry that melts in your mouth.  One of the benefits of working with a bunch of different growers in the Bay Area is that it allows us get a fresh delivery almost every day of the week and to taste how the same variety of strawberries grown in diverse climates and soil can differ slightly in texture and flavor.strawberry_coroplasts_webSwanton Berry Farm, located in Davenport, is a leader in workers’ rights; Swanton started growing organic strawberries in 1987 and has been growing high quality strawberries ever since. One of the things that makes Swanton unique is that they mainly grow the Chandler variety, an exceptionally flavored berry with a delicate and soft texture, not typically seen on the commercial market because they are so delicate. Most of the farmers we work with have a specialty variety or two that they bring us so that we treat our guests.  Oak Hill Farm in Sonoma grows everyone’s favorites, the Mara De Bois Strawberry.  This variety is small and tantalizing with a bright sweet flavor that seems to change from one berry to the next.  This berry usually doesn’t hit the Bi-Rite shelves until mid-summer.

BalsamicStrawberryAnd don’t forget the Creamery! Every year we eagerly await strawberries to come into season so that the Creamery can begin its  production of Balsamic Strawberry ice cream. We only make this flavor when strawberries are in full season and coming to us from our local growers such as Swanton Berry Farm and Live Earth Farms. We roast our strawberries at a low temperature with sugar and organic balsamic vinegar to reduce the water content and to intensify the flavor of the berries. We then add the berries to our organic ice cream base and turn it into this eagerly anticipated flavor. Balsamic Strawberry pairs perfectly with Ricanelas, Basil or Chocolate – look for Balsamic Strawberry returning around April 15! It may just be the beginning of local strawberry season but the flavors are already sensational! Stop by the Markets to taste the freshest, highest-quality strawberries of the season.


Simon

Pixie Tangerines, Citrus Sunrise, & a Creamery Surprise!

Since the new year we’ve been crazy about citrus throughout the Bi-Rite Family of Businesses.  There are still over 20 varieties of citrus on the shelves at the Markets and some great surprises yet to come, but the season will start to wind down as we head into March. One of the most exciting parts of the California Citrus Experience celebration at Bi-Rite is that it comes to an end with one of the best-tasting varieties of the entire season: the Pixie Tangerine, a small, seedless tangerine with wonderful juice and super sweet flavor!

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Pixie Tangerines

Led by Jim Churchill “The Tangerine Man,” a group of dedicated small farmers work collaboratively to get these sugar bombs to markets throughout California. Located in the mountains of Ojai, California, these 40 farms (some as small as just a handful of trees) harvest their fruit when it’s at peak flavor. We’ve been lucky enough to build a solid, farm-direct relationship with Churchill Orchard that allows us to get freshly-picked organic Pixies delivered straight to the markets. You would think that a piece of fruit that tastes so good would be sold all over the place, but this variety has its limitations, which turns off a lot of commercial growers. The trees take at least 4 years to produce fruit after planting, and closer to 8 years before they produce really healthy crops. Plus the Pixie is an “alternating bearing” crop, which means it has a heavy harvest one year and a light harvest the next. But the harvest is just starting this year, so we’ll have fruit in both Markets through March!

citrus-sunrise

Citrus Sunrise Platter

The rest of the Family of Businesses have been loving the California Citrus Experience, too. From baked goods, to ice cream, to cocktails recipes, we’ve had a blast bringing you new and exciting ways to look at this quintessential California crop. Bi-Rite Catering has introduced a new, beautiful Citrus Sunrise platter as part of their Peak of Season Menu for your breakfast meetings and brunches. With an eye-catching spread of four types of citrus — Navel Orange, Cara Cara Orange, Blood Orange, and Mandarins — sliced perfectly for your guests, it is pure, mouthwatering Vitamin C!

Tangerine Dream Ice Cream

Tangerine Dream Ice Cream

Bi-Rite Creamery has been in on the Citrus fun since day one, and now that the season is winding down we want to make sure you get your fill of the creamy, tart, wonderful Tangerine Dream Ice Cream before the last of it is scooped. Our Vanilla Ice Cream with a fresh Tangerine Swirl, it’s fresh and bright and rich at the same time. Plus! We’ve got one last citrusy surprise for you on Friday, March 4th, when we introduce a new flavor for the month. Head to the Creamery’s Twitter feed to discover our #NewFlavorFriday, where we’ll be revealing a new seasonal flavor on the first Friday of each month!  Stop by the Markets and Creamery, or order from our online Market for convenient delivery to make the California Citrus Experience your own!


Simon

From Kishus to Cocktails

Kishus

Kishus

The California Citrus Experience is in full swing at the Bi-Rite Family of Businesses!  The beginning of February is when the California citrus season hits its peak, with so many diverse varieties and flavors.  Whether you want a piece of citrus to quickly peel and eat, or a variety to make your Grandma’s favorite citrus marmalade recipe, we have you covered.

Throughout California there are many different micro-climates that have the advantage in growing specific types of citrus. In the mountains of Ojai, just southeast of Santa Barbara, there’s a collective of farmers that grow some of the sweetest fruit you can find in the state.  Jim at Churchill Orchards is the master of growing Kishu and Pixie Tangerines.  The Pixie harvest doesn’t start until the end of February, but the bite-sized Kishu Tangerines are perfect right now. The Kishu is a seedless, easy-peeling, about 2 inches in diameter, and kids love them!

Rio Red Grapefruit

Rio Red Grapefruit

Growing up back East, my main experience with grapefruits was cutting a Rio Star Grapefruit in half, sprinkling sugar on it to cut the tart flavor, and eating it with a spoon.  The grapefruit situation in California now is at a whole other level.  Grapefruits are historically known as a high-acid fruit, and most of the time the acid dominates the sweet flavor. We currently have three to five different grapefruit varieties in the Produce Department, and they all have their own unique flavor profile.  The Melogold Grapefruit from Deer Creek Heights Ranch in Porterville is a cross between Siamese Sweet Pomelo and a Duncan White Grapefruit. They have the sweet juicy Pomelo flavor and very few seeds.  The Cocktail Grapefruit from Cunningham Organic Farm in Fallbrook is very special because of the “acidless” flavor — it’s the best for juicing and making cocktails.

The California Citrus Experience at Bi-Rite wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t offer our guest some creative cocktail recipes to try out all this amazing fruit.  Josh Harris of The Bon Vivants was kind enough to create a few recipes that highlight not only citrus but some of our artisan liquors.  The Spicy Paloma is the perfect cocktail to showcase these unique grapefruit varieties.

Citrus_recipes

Not all citrus is for eating out of hand.  Some varieties need a preparation before consumption.  There are two varieties that are really hard to find and are the most versatile in the kitchen. The Seville Orange is sour, tart, and full of seeds but it’s very juicy, and it offers fragrant essential oils, and is perfect for marmalade.  The Bergamot Oranges are most commonly known for its skin’s essential oil, used in Earl Grey tea (and Bi-Rite Creamery’s Earl Grey Ice Cream!) It’s a combination of sour orange and lemon, and both characteristics come through in the appearance and flavor.  Here’s another wonderful cocktail recipe that highlights both of these sour oranges! We are loving the California Citrus Experience at the Bi-Rite Family of Business, and we hope you are too!

Citrus_recipes


Simon

The California Citrus Experience at Bi-Rite

Citrus_MailChimp

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Taste our wall of citrus!

Due to the shorter days and the colder weather, many local and California crops slow down for the winter. One crop thrives in cold weather and is farmed throughout our beautiful state — citrus! Citrus is one of California’s most bountiful crops, and the fruit is shipped all over the world.  At the Bi-Rite Family of Businesses we love to celebrate what’s in season, and for the next couple of months we will focus a lot of our attention on all varieties of citrus.  When folks come into the Produce Department, the Markets, or the Creamery we want them to experience all the different uses, flavors, textures, and juices that are produced by the 30 to 40 varieties of citrus that will hit our shelves from January to April.  Join us to explore winter in California as it should be – with the California Citrus Experience.

Cara Cara Orange

Cara Cara Orange

The California citrus season usually kicks off at Bi-Rite in November with the easy-peeling, seedless  Satsuma Mandarin that offers a very refreshing balance of sweet and tart.  Satsumas are one of the only mandarin varieties that flourish in Northern California.  The local Satsuma season usually goes through mid-January, but this year the cold rain damaged the fruit and ended the season early.  We’ll still have Satsumas from southern growing areas this month!  Satsumas are the first tangerine varietal of the season and we usually see two or three new varieties each month of the new year.

The season of the Navel Orange — one of the most popular varieties of citrus — begins in Southern California in December, but these early oranges don’t have the perfect balance of sweet and tart that will come with the Navels in January. By early February we are blessed with the textbook tree-ripe Navels harvested at Full Belly Farm in Yolo County. They are great to eat out of hand, by the segment, added to a salad, or simply juiced. The Cara Cara Orange is also known as the Pink Navel — they usually show up at the Markets around the same time.  If grown correctly, this can be one of the sweetest oranges of the season and is not very acidic.  The fruit has nice floral qualities and is ideal for cocktails and zesting.  Cara Caras are one of our most popular oranges of the season at the Markets!

Moro Blood Oranges

Moro Blood Oranges

As we head into the New Year one of the most beautiful pieces of citrus hits the scene.  Moro Blood Oranges, known for their dark red and purple flesh, might be one of the most versatile pieces of fruit in the kitchen.  Not only do do these oranges produce that amazing dark red juice, but when segmented and added to any dish they will make it pop with flavor and color.  The Moro Blood Oranges are usually around into March.

Earl Grey Ice Cream

Earl Grey Ice Cream

The California Citrus Experience at Bi-Rite is just getting going and if fresh-cut citrus is not for you, the Produce Department is teaming up with Bi-Rite Creamery & Bakeshop to use citrus in so many tasty treats this season.  Keep an eye out for the debut of our newest ice cream flavor in January, Tangerine Dream — Bi-Rite’s classic Vanilla Ice Cream with a Tangerine Swirl. Plus, we’re bringing back a couple of our guests’ favorites — Earl Grey Ice Cream (containing the oils of the Bergamot Orange) and Meyer Lemon with Gingersnaps Ice Cream.

We’re citrus-crazy in the bakeshop, creating a bunch of goodies like the Cream Cheese Lemon Cookie with Citrus Glaze, Lemon-filled Yellow Cupcake with Vanilla Buttercream & Candied Citrus, Orange Olive Oil Cake, and our Sour Cream Lemon Pie with Graham Crust.  Have a taste of your favorite citrus variety and stop by the Bi-Rite Family of Bussinesses to try something new!


Simon

A Winter Sir Prize

SirPrizeThe drought conditions in California make it more and more challenging to cultivate Hass Avocados, especially in Southern California where most of them come from. This year the organic California Hass season ended more quickly than it has in the past decade. Typically, we are bombarded with beautiful, organically-grown avocados for about 10 months out of the year but the quality of the Hass can drop dramatically during the winter months, so a lot of them are imported from Chile and Mexico to fill the gap. In recent years at the Market we’ve been focusing our attention on other seasonal avocados to fill the void before Hass season starts. These seasonal varieties may not have the same high-oil content and rich buttery texture, but they’re unique in their own ways and a pleasure to eat.

The one winter variety that has the produce lovers at Bi-Rite excited this time of year is the Sir Prize Avocado grown by Tenalu in Porterville, CA. The Sir Prize avocado was created during the Open Pollination Breeding Trial by the University of California, and it’s considered the “Grandchild of the Hass.” The Sir Prize is able to grow in colder climates and ripens 2 months before the Hass in California.

CitrusAvoFennelSaladThe Sir Prize is a thin-skinned, pear-shaped avocado that turns black and get very soft when it’s perfectly ripe. They also have the most flesh-to-seed/skin ratio of any commercial avocado. It has a nutty taste, and it’s high-oil so it’s great in guacamole or just sprinkled with a bit of salt and lemon. Avocados are most commonly thrown on a sandwich or whipped up into guacamole, but if you like to eat seasonally, they pair really well with another crop that’s in season– citrus! Try our Fennel, Blood Orange, Avocado Salad recipe from Eat Good Food, that highlights three of our favorite seasonal produce items and pairs them with Dungeness crab. We are staying optimistic for California’s Dungeness Crab Season this year, as crab really takes this salad over the top!  Even without the crab this salad demonstrates how fresh California winter can taste with clean raw fennel, sweet citrus, and wonderfully nutty avocado. Since Blood Orange season has yet to begin, try it with Navel Oranges or Satsuma Mandarins. If you love to eat with the seasons, don’t miss the Sir Prize Avocado! Come by one of the markets and ask for a taste today.


Simon

Pomegranates + Persimmons = Flavors of NorCal Fall Fruit

IMG_6400Lately, autumn in the Bay Area means beautiful warm weather. In the Bi-Rite Market Produce Department it’s all about the transition from juicy and mouthwatering summer fruit to fall fruit that offers a much different eating experience. Local apples and pears are always an exciting crop in the fall, but there are a couple other crops that don’t get the recognition they deserve.  Persimmons and pomegranates not only represent the colors of autumn, they add unique flavors and texture to seasonal dishes.

Fuyu Persimmon

Fuyu Persimmon

Growing up on the East Coast, I had never even heard of a persimmon! In Northern California they are growing in back yards throughout the Bay. The squat-shaped Fuyu Persimmon is the most common variety— they are similar to an apple in the sense that you can eat it out of your hand when it’s firm in texture and ripe.  A Fuyu is ripe when the skin is bright orange, but depending on the exact variety or the growing region it can be pale in color.  Fuyus have a nice crunchy texture and the flavor that is mildly sweet with hints of cinnamon.  They are a great piece of fruit to chop up and add to savory salads and salsa since they add perfect texture and sweetness. Fuyus are very high in potassium and lycopene (a cancer-fighting antioxidant.)

Hachiya Persimmons

Hachiya Persimmons

The elongated, oval-shaped Hachiya Persimmon is a whole different ball game than the Fuyu. First off, a Hachiya can’t be eaten when it is firm like a Fuyu, due to its astringent qualities. The fruit needs to ripen up to a “pudding-like” texture, and the piece of fruit should feel like a balloon in your hand.  Once the Hachiya is ripe, the easiest way to eat it would be to peel of the top layer of skin and to spoon out the sweet, silky, and smooth pulp. The Produce Crew at Bi-Rite spends a lot of time ripening the Hachiya Persimmons, so that we have them ready to eat when we put them on the shelf. Many other retailers sell them in a rock-hard state and it may take 4-7 days to ripen on the kitchen counter before they are at their desired ripeness. Hachiyas are very versatile in the kitchen, from spreading the ripe pulp on toast like jam to making persimmon pudding and cakes.

For the past 10 years, from fall through the holidays, we’ve been lucky enough to have beautiful IMG_6391“Wonderful” Pomegranates straight from Balakian Family Farm in Reedley, California. Like most fruit, the longer the fruit gets to hang on the tree and ripen, the better the flavor will be. If a pomegranate is harvested too early the juice and arils (seeds) will be tart in flavor. The flavor of the Balakian Pomegranates is perfectly balanced between sweet/tart and the arils are plump and juicy. It can be challenging to pick out a ripe pomegranate, but we are fortunate enough to work with a farm that harvests them when they are truly ready, taking the hard work out of choosing the perfect fruit. Pomegranate arils are a great addition to chicory salad and also pair nicely with the flavor of persimmons.

Come in to either Bi-Rite Market today and have a taste of our incredible fall fruits!


Simon

Enjoying the Peak of Tomato Season

IMG_5651One of the most exciting times of year in the Bay Area is when the local farms start harvesting tomatoes in early June. By the time September rolls around, the local tomato season has hit its peak. All the local farmers from the Pescadero Coast to the Sierra foothills have vine-ripened tomatoes that offer different flavors depending on the growing practices and climate. Throughout September in at both Bi-Rite Markets, we are celebrating the Tomato Triple Play, which highlights three different tomato crops— Heirloom, Cherry, and Dry-Farmed Early Girls. All of the tomatoes we sell during the season come straight off the field to our shelves, allowing our growers to let them stay on the plant a little longer and develop that perfect flavor before picking. Be sure to check out our recommended pairings to make the most of your tomatoes–just visit our store on Instacart.com for a shopping list, and  even order everything you need online for delivery in San Francisco in under an hour!

Heirloom Tomatoes are an open-pollinated variety that have been circulating among farmers and backyard gardeners for more than 50 years—and many of the varieties were introduced before 1940! Heirlooms are not only important because they offer us so many different shapes and sizes to cook with, but they allow us to maintain genetic diversity in the agricultural world. The Cherokee Purple Tomato is one of the most popular. With its thin skin and meaty texture, the juicy, acidic flesh offers a rich, old-fashioned sweet flavor. They take BLTs and Caprese salads to the next level of enjoyment.

Cherokee Purple Heirlooms

Cherokee Purple Heirlooms

We are currently getting Cherokee Purples from Bluehouse Farm in Pescadero and Mariquita Farm in Watsonville. Another popular heirloom is the Brandywine Tomato.  Farmers love them because they get huge on the plants and the meaty flesh doesn’t break down easily when ripe.  Don’t let the large size fool you! These are one of the sweetest tomatoes out there. The Green Zebra Tomato is a small variety that starts out green but turns yellow with green stripes when it’s ripe. The sweet/tart flavor works really well with salsas and salads.

Our guests really get excited about tomatoes when the Dry-farm Early Girls hit our shelves! About 10 years ago we started selling these tomatoes from Two Dog Farm in Davenport. They’re the first farm in Northern California to grow these Early Girls, and over the past 5 years more farms have made the effort. Dry-farming is a farming technique used in a lot of climates where there’s not much rain. The roots of the plants can tap into moisture in the soil and go through the entire growing season with no irrigation. Two Dog Farm grows on the coast, getting moisture from the fog and the high water table in the soil allowing them to never water. The resulting tomatoes are usually smaller and lower in yield, but they pack pleasantly intense flavor and a dense, firm texture. 

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Dry-farm Early Girls

Unfortunately, Two Dog Farm lost a majority of its crop this season due to the heat wave that hit the Bay Area. Crops grown on the cool coast can’t handle the heat! But we’ll have plenty of the tasty Dry-farm Early Girls from Live Earth Farm, Bluehouse Farm, and Tomatero Farm for the rest of the season.

When Heirlooms and Dry-farm Tomatoes are in full swing the Cherry Tomato varieties just don’t get the same amount of love. Cherry Tomatoes might be one of the easiest plants to grow, but keeping up with the daily harvesting and their delicate nature can make them a challenging crop for farmers. Similar to Heirlooms, there are a ton of different varieties but only a handful of them make sense for the retail marketplace. The Sweet 100 Tomato is one of the most popular for farmers to grow because they are a classic red tomato, extra sweet, and keep producing large clusters of fruit for most of the season. The Sun Gold Cherry Tomato is the most popular non-red tomato out there, with their sweet-but-tart flavor that explodes in your mouth.

Mixed Cherry Tomatoes

Mixed Cherry Tomatoes

The Yellow Pear Cherry Tomato is a teardrop-shaped tomato with tangy flavor and low acidity. You can get them along with our Sweet 100 and Sun Golds combined in a mixed baskets. Cherry Tomatoes are not only a perfect snack for kids, but they can add a flare to pasta dishes and almost any salad. They’re especially wonderful in cucumber salads!

One of the best parts of having all these local tomatoes at the Bi-Rite is that we get use them throughout the Family of Businesses—from the world-famous Gazpacho in the Deli to the Mozzarella and Cherry Tomato Skewers on the Bi-Rite Catering Summer menu. We also have an endless number of grocery items that enhance the tomato experience like the Public Label Tuscan Style Olive oil, Pt. Reyes Mozzarella, and Josey Baker’s Breads.  Do you know which tomato variety is your favorite? If not, this is the perfect time to swing by one of the Markets and ask for some tomato samples so you’re better prepared for tomato season next year. Enjoy!


Simon

Getting Figgy With It

Fig trees are one of the most common fruit trees in backyards throughout the Bay Area. You would think IMG_5393this would lead to them being a super popular fruit in the area, but this isn’t the case!  Figs are one those pieces of fruit that usually taste better the uglier they get – but a lot of consumers buy figs that are under-ripe, are still extra-firm, and are not that sweet.  At Bi-Rite we realize that the best tasting figs are the ones that sit on the tree longer to develop their sugars, and are harvested just when the jelly-like flesh of the figs is about to explode out of the skin with sugary goodness.  The fresh fig selection at the Markets changes every day depending on which varieties our favorite farms are harvesting and delivering to the Markets.

Black Mission Figs are the most common fig you see at grocery stores.  They have a thicker skin than most other varieties, which makes them a good crop for shipping long distances.  If grown to the perfect level of ripeness, their dark purple flesh makes them one of the sweetest varieties. The Brown Turkey Fig is similar to the Black Mission in appearance, but a little lighter in color with green skin next to the stem. Brown Turkeys are known to be the largest growing fig and have beautiful rose-colored flesh.

IMG_3004The green fig varieties bring a lot of excitement to Bi-Rite each season with their lime green skin and beautiful reddish pink flesh. These are usually the some sweetest varieties of the season and a perfect dessert fig.  Adriatic, Kadota, and Calimyrna Figs will all hit the Bi-Rite shelves between now and the end of September. I can’t forget to mention the Candystripe Fig with its yellow skin and green stripes – it’s always a main attraction in the produce department in August! The flesh is crimson-colored and they taste like raspberry or strawberry jam.

Throughout the month of August we will be celebrating all of these amazing figs and the local farms that grow them! From Bi-Rite Farm in the foothills of the Sierra, to the legendary fig farmers at Knoll Farm in Brentwood, each fig variety will bring a different flavor to the table.  We are also highlighting the awesome Point Reyes Bay Blue Cheese and have adapted a killer recipe from our book, Eat Good Food, combining figs, blue cheese, and prosciutto that is going to blow your mind! Shop for the ingredients in our Markets or directly from our online store at Instacart.com and have them delivered to your door. And if you don’t remember what a big, juicy, ripe fig taste like please come by either Market and ask for a sample.

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