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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. 


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!


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.



We’re Mad for Summer Melons

We can’t get enough of sweet summer melons and this glorious sunshine!  Now you can share our house-made Watermelon Salad with Queso Frescoavailable daily from our delis – with friends near and far.  Simple, refreshing, delicious, it’s sure to impress at your picnics and barbecues.  Enjoy!

Watermelon Salad with Queso Fresco


The Joy of Masumoto Stone Fruit


Rose Diamond Nectarines

It’s usually three to four weeks into California stone fruit season before the flavor of peaches and nectarines really starts popping with that textbook balance of sweetness and acidity. Almost all the peaches and nectarines that hit the shelves at the Bi-Rite Markets are from farms that we’ve built mutually-beneficial relationships with over several years. A couple of seasons ago we were able to take our peach and nectarine selection to new heights with a new farm-direct relationship with Masumoto Family Farm in Del Rey, CA. This beautiful 80-acre orchard is located just 15 minutes south of Fresno, and was purchased by the Masumoto family in 1948. Author and third-generation farmer, David “Mas” Masumoto, has mastered the art of building soil to support the growth of their beautiful trees, and they always harvest their fruit at the perfect level of ripeness.

Before I jump into all the stone fruit varieties that Masumoto grows, you’ll notice one thing they all have in common: beautiful yellow flesh. The Masumoto family is in love with the tang of the yellow flesh fruit and their sugar/acid balance that screams WOW!  This season Masumoto is trying some new farming techniques on a handful of selected trees in their orchard. They are watering less and not pruning as heavily, which produces “petite” stone fruit. These small little sugar bombs pack enjoyment for all!


Spring Lady Peaches

And for the uninitiated, peaches and nectarines are categorized in two ways: freestone and clingstone.  When the meat (flesh) of the fruit is attached to the pit, this is clingstone variety; they are sometimes the best eating but hard to work with in the kitchen. The flesh of the freestone varieties are completely detached from the pit, which makes them easier to work with for canning, freezing, and cooking.

Just last week, Masumoto sent us their first yellow peach variety of the season! They were harvested earlier in the year than ever before because of the warm winter and drought.  The clingstone Spring Lady Peach is a very juicy piece of fruit with a medium acidity level, and is just the thing to get the taste buds ready for what’s to come.

After the subtle flavor of the Spring Lady, the next stone fruit variety the Masumotos are harvesting is the clingstone Rose Diamond Yellow Nectarine.  Mas Masumoto’s daughter and fellow farmer, Nikiko, refers to the Rose Diamond as a “mini fire cracker.” The Rose Diamond is usually a large, richly-flavored nectarine with beautiful red skin, but this year the drought means smaller fruit that’s packing an extra sweet punch.

As for the rest of the season, in early June we should be seeing the semi-freestone Gold Dust Yellow Peach. Some folks consider this the best early-season variety of peach, with its firm texture and rich, sweet flavor. It’s the textbook peach for grilling! The Gold Dust will be shortly followed by one of the most popular varieties in California, the freestone Flavor Crest Yellow Peach. This variety is popular for conventional growers, who like a firm piece of fruit that can travel but also has good levels of sugar.  Next up is everyone’s favorite, the freestone Sun CrestIMG_2573 Yellow Peach, which is a large peach with a red-blushed skin and juicy texture. This is the peach that put the Masumoto Family Farm on the map! And the last variety of stone fruit we will see from Masumoto is the clingstone Le Grand Yellow Nectarine. The Le Grand is a large piece of fruit with a rich, sweet flavor and firm flesh, which makes it awesome for making nectarine ice cream.

Tree-ripened peaches and nectarines are some of the most exciting treats of the summer.  If you haven’t had the chance to sink your teeth into Masumoto fruit you have the next couple months to swing by the market and make it happen! Just ask us, we’re always happy to share a taste.

Here are a couple of recipes, created by Stephany from our Produce Team at 18th Street, to help you celebrate stone fruit season. Enjoy!







Cherish California Cherries!

In the world of fresh fruits and veggies, there are only a handful of crops that get everyone super-excited, and California Sweet Cherries is one of them! When the end of April rolls around in the Bay Area, it’s time for our local Northern California cherries. Just 5 years ago, Bi-Rite had relationships with several farmers that would harvest their cherries and deliver them to our door within 24 hours. From the foothills of the Sierra Nevada to the flatlands of Brentwood, each variety of cherry is unique, depending on how and where it was grown. Unfortunately, due to warm winters and drought conditions over the past few years, cherry growers throughout the state are struggling to produce healthy crops. One of the main reasons for the decrease in the California cherry crop is the insufficient chill hours from October through February that are necessary to regulate their growth. With the uncertain future of the Northern California cherry crop, we at Bi-Rite have decided to celebrate the farmers that are still providing wonderful cherries in spite of these difficulties, and to cherish this year’s cherries to the fullest.


Warmer weather in the spring months also leads to cherry crops being harvested a week or two earlier than in typical years. Bi-Rite’s cherry selection always starts with the sweet Red Garnet Cherry from Ed George’s Peach Farm in Winters, California. Last year Ed had a complete crop failure on this variety and this year he only has 50 % of his crop. The one benefit of the smaller crops is that the cherries have more room on the tree to grow nice and big. There aren’t many crop varieties that produce the best fruit early in the season, but the Red Garnet is an exception. They are firm with a rich sweet flavor but are only around for 7-10 days.  The two other local farmers that bring their cherries to Bi-Rite are Frog Hollow Farm in Brentwood and Hidden Star Orchards in Linden.  Frog Hollow has almost had a complete crop failure the past couple years and only has enough fruit to bring to the Farmer’s Markets.  This leaves it up to Johann Smit at Hidden Star to be our main local cherry grower this season.  He usually starts us out with the Burlat Cherry, which is a softer variety with a very delicate sweet/tart flavor perfect to get the taste buds excited for cherry season.  The Burlat will be followed by some other sweet red varieties like the Bing, Brooks, Larian, and Red Lac Cherries. Johann also grows some beautiful yellow Rainier Cherries.


As the local cherry crop winds down in the beginning of June, we will continue to source cherries from other parts of California and finish the cherry season off with the amazing fruit from the Northwest. If you love to eat local produce and support Northern California cherry growers, May is your month to cherish the local cherries at Bi-Rite!


Citrus For All!

California grows more varieties of citrus than any other state— from the large Valencia Orange orchards near the border of Mexico, to the small Satsuma Mandarin orchards in the foothills of the Sierra. There’s a flavor for everyone! At Bi-Rite we strive to have a wide selection of great tasting and sustainably grown citrus that can be eaten in a number of different ways.

Mandarin Mania
Mandarin season usually starts in California in the beginning of November with the easy-peeling, refreshing Satsuma Mandarin and ends with the seedless, candy-like Pixie Tangerine in April. There are a handful of other varieties that hit the Bi-Rite shelves in the interim. The little seedless Kishu Mandarin from the mountains of Ojai, California has everyone excited from neighborhood kindergarteners to world-class San Francisco Chefs. Toss it in a green salad or a fried rice dish to add a sweet and juicy flare. Some of the other mandarin varieties that are just making their way to the market: Gold Nuggets, Murcotts, Pages and Clementine. All of these exciting mandarin varieties also make for a fun time with the juicing machine.
Orange Crush
There are three varieties of oranges right now that are so delicious it’s hard not to eat all three on a regular basis and spread the love. Cara Cara Oranges, aka the Pink Navels — from Tenalu Farm in Porterville, California — have been out of this world and their middle acid and sweet juicy flavor make them a perfect addition to a chicory salad. Tenalu also grows wonderful Heirloom Navel Oranges that have a little more acid than the Cara Cara but are also a bit sweeter. The Moro Blood Oranges are just getting started and with their nicely balanced sweet/tart flavor and berry-like tones they may be the most versatile piece of citrus in the kitchen. The Fennel, Blood Orange, Avocado Salad from our cook book Eat Good Food is great recipe if you’re looking for a quick and easy seasonal salad.

Grapefruit Goodness
The days of cutting a Florida grapefruit in half and sprinkling sugar on it to cut the bitterness before gobbling it up with a spoon are over. The grapefruit scene has come a long way since the mid-80’s and the Bi-Rite produce crew is super excited about a few varieties that have become a big part of our citrus selection. For folks who just want an everyday grapefruit we always have a Star Ruby Grapefruit from Bernard Ranch in Riverside, California with its beautiful dark pink flesh and sweet/tart flavor. Bi-Rite staff have been rallying around the Pomelo from Tenalu Farm this year. This large piece of citrus is perfect for folks who want a mild sweetness and not an overwhelming amount of juice. The Cocktail Grapefruit from Cunningham Orchard in Fallbrook, California is a very unique piece of fruit. This cross between a Siamese Sweet Pomelo and Frua Mandarin produces the most amazing sub-acid sweet juice perfect for cocktails, syrups, sauces, and more.

It’s OK to be Sour
Sour oranges are the most unique California citrus crop and call for some creativity in the kitchen. The Seville Orange with its thick bumpy skin smells like a regular orange but the flavor is tart and sour. Sevilles have very oily skin that is used for essential oils. The most common use for Seville Oranges is marmalade, but it also works well in syrups, vinaigrettes and cocktails. The Bergamot Orange is a cross between a sour orange and lemon, most commonly known for the oil from the skin that is used in Earl Grey tea. The zest is used to flavor cakes and cookies and the juice is used for syrups, cocktails, and jams.

California citrus season is a 5 to 6 month long tasting journey that offers so many marvelous flavors. At Bi-Rite we love to celebrate this time of year with the “Citrus Explosion” by offering over 20 varieties in our produce department at one time. If you would like to learn more about this incredible crop please make your way to one of our produce departments and ask for a sample of all the varieties we have in-house!


A Winter Sir Prize

SirPrizeCutCalifornia is the land of the Hass avocado. For roughly 10 months of the year, we are bombarded with beautiful organically-grown Hass avocados at Bi-Rite Market. However, the quality of the Hass can drop off dramatically during the winter months, and a lot of Hass are imported from Chile and Mexico to fill the gap of California production. The past few years at Bi-Rite, we’ve been focusing our attention on other seasonal avocados that are harvested in the winter months before the Hass Avocado season kicks resumes. Many of these seasonal varieties might not have the same high-oil content and rich buttery texture, but are unique in their own ways and a pleasure to eat. But one winter variety that absolutely has the produce lovers at Bi-Rite super excited this time of year is the Sir Prize Avocado.

Our Sir Prize Avocados are grown by Tenalu, a 5th-generation family farm located in Porterville, CA, in the Sierra foothills. The Sir Prize avocado was created during the University of California open-pollinated breeding trial, and is considered the “Grandchild of the Hass.” Able to grow in colder and more northern climates than the Hass, they ripen up to 2 months before the Hass crops in California.

SirPrizeBunchThe Sir Prize is a thin skinned, pear-shaped avocado that turns black and gets very soft when it’s perfect to eat.  They also have the most flesh to seed/skin ratio of any commercial avocado. The Sir Prize avocado has a nutty taste and high-oil texture that is great in guacamole or just sprinkled with a bit of salt and lemon. If you love to eat with the seasons, this is one you can’t miss, so come by one of the Markets and ask for a taste!


The Joy of Masumoto Stone Fruit

It typically takes three to four weeks into California stone fruit season before the flavor of our local peaches and nectarines really starts popping with that celebrated balance of sweetness and acidity, but this year we’ve already got some great ones rolling in. Almost all of the peaches and nectarines that hit the shelves at the Bi-Rite Markets are from farms with which we’ve spent years building relationships, but last season we were able to take our peach and nectarine selection to the next level with a new farm-direct relationship.

masumoto red diamond

Mas Masumoto with his Rose Diamond Nectarines

Masumoto Family Farm in Del Rey, California is a beautiful eighty-acre orchard located fifteen minutes south of Fresno. It was purchased by the Masumoto family in 1948 and its current owner is third-generation farmer and author Mas Masumoto, who has mastered the art of building soil to support the growth of the beautiful fruit-bearing trees. At Masumoto Family Farm, fruit is always harvested at the perfect level of ripeness, and you’ll notice one thing all varieties of Masumoto stone fruit have in common: beautiful yellow flesh. The Masumoto family loves the tang of the yellow flesh of the fruit, and their fruit boasts a sugar/acid balance that is a dream-come-true for summer refreshment.

Due to the warm winter, Masumoto harvested this year’s first yellow peach variety earlier in the year than they can remember ever having done before, and this past week we received our first shipment of Spring Lady Peaches. This is a very juicy peach with medium acidity that falls into the clingstone category of stone fruit (meaning that the flesh of the fruit is attached to the pit, the best to eat but hard to work with in the kitchen, as opposed to freestone fruits where the flesh is detached from the pit, making them easier for canning, freezing or cooking). We’ve been enjoying these beautiful, delicious peaches and they’ve definitely primed our tastebuds for what’s still to come.

Soon after the Spring Ladies, we received the first of Masumoto’s Rose Diamond yellow nectarines. Mas’s daughter Nikiko, who is keeping the family farming tradition alive into its fourth generation, refers to this clingstone nectarine as a “mini firecracker.” The Rose Diamond is usually a large, richly-flavored nectarine with a dazzling red skin. This year, due to the lack of water caused by the drought, this nectarine is smaller than usual but is packing an extra-sweet punch.

masumoto peaches

Beautiful Masumoto Peaches

Early June should see the arrival of the semi-freestone Gold Dust yellow peach, considered by some to be the best early variety for eating. With its firm texture and rich, sweet flavor, it’s the textbook grilling peach. The Gold Dust will be followed shortly by one of the most popular varieties in California, the freestone Flavor Crest yellow peach, and shortly thereafter by everyone’s favorite, the freestone Sun Crest yellow peach (large with red-blushed skin and very juicy, it’s the peach that put the Masumoto family on the map). The last variety of stone fruit we’ll see from Masumoto is the clingstone Le Grand yellow nectarine, a large piece of fruit with rich, sweet flavor and firm flesh, making it great for producing nectarine ice cream!


The Perfect Peach by the Masumoto Family

Tree-ripened peaches and nectarines truly are some of the most exciting treats of the summer. If you haven’t had the chance to sink your teeth into Masumoto fruit, you have the next couple months to swing by our Markets, so make it happen!

Stephany from the Produce Team at 18th Street is a huge fan of the Masumoto family’s fruit, as well as an accomplished cook, and she has pulled together a few recipes here to help you celebrate the season!

“Rose Diamond” Nectarine & Habanero Salsa

  • 6 ripe yellow nectarines, not too soft but with a little give (any bright flavored yellow peach or nectarine with medium to high acidity will work, but Masumoto’s “Rose Diamond” is particularly amazing & flavorful)
  • 1 habanero pepper, with slits cut all around sides but left whole
  • ½ bunch cilantro
  • 1 spring onion or ½ red onion, sliced finely
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Dice the nectarine into ¼ inch cubes. Add to a bowl with the slit habanero and stir around. Chop cilantro and onion finely, add to salsa. Season with salt and pepper.  Let sit for at least 15 minutes, then taste and add salt, and a squeeze of lime or honey to adjust the acidity or sweetness as needed. If it is spicy enough, you can remove the habanero, although cutting the slits as opposed to chopping lets the flavor get out without adding too much heat, and the floral notes of the habanero go particularly well with yellow nectarines & peaches. This can be done 1-2 days ahead. Store refrigerated.

Wonderful on grilled or roasted meats: chicken, pork, salmon. Try it on toast with ricotta or burrata for a quick appetizer, on fish tacos…the possibilities are endless!

Stone Fruit & Pt. Reyes Mozzarella “Caprese” Salad

  • 1 lb mixed stone fruit, ripe but not mushy: nectarines, peaches, plums, pluots, cherries…whatever you like. Or try a mix for color and flavor
  • 1 ball fresh mozzarella, such as the lovely Pt. Reyes mozz we have right now. Burrata is also delicious in this.
  • ½ bunch basil
  • A few handfuls arugula
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, such as Bi-Rite’s own PUBLIC label oils, something grassy with a peppery note is good to offset the sweetness
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Good sea salt, such as Maldon or fleur de sel…something with a crunch

Slice up your stone fruit and mozzarella. Layer the cheese and fruit on a large platter over the arugula. Tear some basil and sprinkle it around. Dress with olive oil, balsamic, and coarse salt. Eat right away!

This is a great alternative to the classic caprese while we let the tomatoes do their thing and get delicious! In the fall and winter I do the same salad with persimmons & citrus!

“Gold Dust” Peach-Ginger Shortcakes with Bourbon Whipped Cream

  • 4 yellow peaches, such as the “Gold Dust” we just got in from Masumoto (which is hands down one of the best peaches I have ever had)
  • A 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated or minced finely (I use a microplane, one of my favorite kitchen tools)
  • A handful of brown sugar or turbinado sugar, depending on the sweetness of the peaches
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream (I love Straus for the rich, grassy, buttery flavor)
  • 1 shot of your favorite bourbon whiskey- anything with nice caramel or brown sugar notes is delicious, like Bulleit or Elijah Craig
  • 4 shortcakes, from Bi-Rite Creamery or homemade (chopped crystallized ginger is a nice addition if you’re making your own!)

Dice or slice the peaches as you wish. Place in a bowl, and add a sprinkle of sugar and a pinch of kosher salt. If the fruit is very sweet it will need no more than 1-2 tablespoons. Add the ginger, stir, and set aside to macerate for a few minutes. This can be done up to 1 day ahead.

Whip the cream to soft peaks with the bourbon, a sprinkle of brown sugar (to taste), and a pinch of kosher salt. This is best done right before serving. Though it can be whipped a few hours ahead, the cream tends to break down after a day or so. To fix this, re-whip to desired texture.

To assemble: Warm shortcakes briefly in the oven to re-crisp (5 minutes at 375 should do it). Cut the shortcakes in half crosswise, and layer peach compote and bourbon cream over bottom half. Top with second half of shortcake and serve.  A little fresh basil or thyme adds a nice herbal note. A drizzle of salted caramel sauce is also a great addition.

Pickled “Gold Dust” Peaches

  • 6 peaches, ripe but quite firm. Masumoto says the “Gold Dust” yellow peach is particularly delicious pickled.
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • 1 tsp each coriander seeds, black peppercorns & fennel seeds- or whatever spices you like!
  • 3 dried arbol chiles (or use your slit habanero left over from the nectarine salsa!)

Bring everything but the peaches to a boil to dissolve the sugar and salt. Slice or dice peaches as desired and place in a clean jar. Let the liquid cool slightly. Pour over the peaches, let cool to room temp, then refrigerate overnight. Enjoy them the next day! They are a delicious addition to a charcuterie platter, grilled pork chop, or a grilled cheese sandwich. Their brightness cuts nicely through anything rich and fatty.


Local Cherries and the Realities of the California Drought

cherriesWith the arrival of the first red sweet cherries from the Central Valley coming later than usual, the reality of the Northern California cherry crop failure has set in. Now more than ever, it’s critical that we support local, organic farms and farmers.

Over the past ten years we’ve started cherry season at Bi-Rite with the amazing Red Garnet cherry form Ed George, followed a week later by cherries from Hidden Star Orchard and Frog Hollow’s Burlat Cherry. By the time the third week of May rolls around, we’re usually knee-deep in Brooks, Bings and Rainier cherries from our favorite local growers. Unfortunately, the warm weather and drought this winter wasn’t kind to the cherry trees. Without enough cold nights this winter, the trees never met their chilling requirement after entering dormancy. The lack of cold nights, coupled with the stress of drought conditions, means that instead of beginning to produce fruit from the dormant buds, the trees go straight to preparing for the next season.

cherries 3

Cherries are currently on our Produce shelves!

Ed George, who has historically brought us our first cherries of the year from Winters, CA, had complete crop failure, leaving him with only a handful of cherries per tree. Johann Smit of Hidden Star, who usually brings us the season’s first organic cherries, said he’s gotten about 50% crop failure (we will have some of the Hidden Star cherries on our shelves this year but it won’t be the epic cherry celebration we’ve come to love). Meanwhile, Farmer Al of Frog Hollow lost about half his crop and only has enough for farmer’s markets.

We will do our best to source California cherries throughout May but the price will be a little higher than usual, starting the season at $9.99/lb. Most likely, the cherries coming in from the North West in June will be some of the best of the season. We do have some good cherries on the shelves now, but if you can’t get your hands on them in time or if the prices prove too high, “Eat a berry instead of a cherry.” And for the sake of all of our local farmer friends and all of our guests who count on us for good local produce, let’s hope that weather conditions improve soon!


Strawberries Galore! The Best Farm-Direct Berries from Organic Growers

StrawberriesChandlerWe’re pretty lucky to be living in the Bay Area considering we have access to farm-direct, organic, local strawberries for about half the year. The fun starts in the end of March to early April, and really gets going in late April. Most of the farms we work with at Bi-Rite grow in the coastal environments that are perfect for strawberries. We’ve found it really important to build relationships with numerous strawberry farms so we always have a locally-grown berry on our shelves to share with guests during the Spring and Summer months.

Here are some of the incredible farms we work with, and the strawberry varieties they’ll be providing us this year: 

Swanton Berry Farm—Davenport, CA (62 miles close to Bi-Rite)
CCOF Certified Organic, Union-Grown (United Farm Workers, AFL-CIO), and Food Justice Certified by the Agricultural Justice Project
Varieties:  Chandler, Seascape

StrawberriesSwantonYerena Farms—Watsonville, CA (90 miles close to Bi-Rite)

  • CCOF Certified Organic
  • Varieties: Albion, Seascape, Eclair

Live Earth Farm—Watsonville, CA (90 mi close to Bi-Rite)

  • Certified Organic
  • Varieties:  Albion, Seascape

Fifth Crow Farm—Pescadero, CA (46 miles close to Bi-Rite)

  • CCOF Certified Organic, Bee-Friendly Farm Certified
  • Varieties:  Albion, Chandler, Seascape

Blue House Farm—Pescadero, CA (46 miles close to Bi-Rite)

  • CCOF Certified
  • Varieties:  Albion, Seascape

Tomatero FarmWatsonville, CA (90 miles close to Bi-Rite)

  • CCOF Certified Organic
  • Varieties:  Albion, Seascape, Sweet Ann

StrawberriesJW2JW FarmsWatsonville, CA (90 miles close to Bi-Rite)

  • CCOF Certified Organic
  • Varieties:  Albion

Strawberry Varieties You’ll See at Bi-Rite Market

Albions are a dark colored red and have the most consistent sweetness. They are the most common commercial variety in California because of their flavor and yield. It’s pretty amazing how different they can taste from one grower to the next.

Chandlers are red, firm, juicy, sweet, and tangy berry. Not as common in the retail world because they are so juicy and delicate, and need to be handled with more care than the Albion. This is the main berry that Swanton Berry Farm works with and they are the master growers of this variety.

Seascapes are a longer, conically-shaped berry with a glossy finish. They’re a very delicate, dark-red berry with a complex and floral flavor. They usually aren’t as sweet as other varieties but are very juicy. Seascapes are not common in the retail world but when we get them in it’s time to celebrate!

Sweet Ann is a fairly new variety, created in 2005 to grow in the coastal climates like Santa Cruz County. Sweet Anns are usually big, conically-shaped berries with excellent sweet flavor. Tomatero is the only farm that we work with that is growing Sweet Ann right now and they are very limited.

Éclairs are medium-size berries and are very sweet and fragrant. We don’t see them often, but every once in a while Yerena Farms treats us to a handful of flats.

Mara des Bois (French variety) is a small, delicate variety with an incredible fragrance that resembles a wild strawberry. It is a gourmet strawberry that is most commonly grown in home gardens and not for commercial productions. The farms we work with don’t take the time to grow these berries because of their delicate nature and low yield which require a lot of precious labor. However, with the help of some friends who work with farms in the North Bay we were able to get our hands on some for the first time last season. Shelton Market Garden in Healdsburg sometime have a small bumper crop of Mara Des Bois and they make their way to the City.

Everyone’s Favorite, Bi-Rite Creamery Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream!
This delicious seasonal flavor is the perfect combination of amazing local strawberries and extremely talented ice cream makers. Strawberry Balsamic is easily one of the most popular ice cream flavors the Bi-Rite Creamery makes and we always wait until our favorite farms have a steady supply of  extra-ripe berries to make it. The Creamery is making there test as we speak and it will be available at both Bi-Rite Markets, Bi-Rite Creamery, and the Scoop Shop at Bi-Rite on Divisadero on April 28th.