August bestows upon us the most bountiful local produce of the year, since all of the hot weather crops start producing. We spend nine months of the season with limited options for tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, melons, and grapes…then all of a sudden, multiple varieties of each arrive in our produce department!
Local Apples have started to arrive, and as always the first apple of the season is the Gravenstein. First planted in Sonoma in 1811 by Russian Trappers, this is a versatile apple that is wonderful for eating fresh, reducing into a sauce or baking into apple pie. With crisp texture and a sweet and tart juice, they should be eaten within 3 weeks of harvest or risk losing their crisp texture and becoming soft (at which point they become a mean juice apple!) Devoto Gardens in Sebastopol grows over 50 varieties of heirloom apples and Stan has delivered his first batch of Gravenstein and Pink Pearl apples. Devoto will be harvesting new varieties and delivering to our door through November. Another one of our favorite apple growers, Hidden Star Orchard located in the foothills of the Sierras, just started harvesting their Gala apples, with Fujis to follow. We’ll have their extra crispy apples through the New Year.
Stone Fruit is still coming from Blossom Bluff and Balakian Farm, but the selection from these Central Valley growers will wind down by the end of the month. Frog Hollow in Brentwood will continue to harvest tree-ripe yellow peaches and nectarines for the rest of the month, and just started bringing us their scrumptious Dapple Dandy Pluots! We’re patiently waiting for our first delivery of peaches from Dry Creek Valley Orchard in Healdsburg. This small family farm is one of the only organic stone fruit growers north of the city that treats us to its fruit.
Melon, Melons and Mo Melons: they rely on hot weather more than any crop. Full Belly Farm has become our main melon grower over the past few seasons and really knows how to harvest them when the sugars are at their peak. Look for the unique green fleshed Haogen and yellow fleshed Yellow Doll Watermelon. The Piel de Sapo (that’s “skin of the frog” in Italian!), another specialty variety we offer, has an amazingly sweet and crisp yellow flesh.
The second rounds of figs are ripening on the trees, and we’ve received our first delivery of Black Mission figs from Capay Farm. Everyone can’t wait for them to start harvesting their delicious Candy Stripe figs with their jam-like flesh.
We are very lucky to have so many amazing tomato growers in the Bay Area! Most of our favorite growers, such as Happy Boy, Full Belly and Mariquita Farm, are going to be knee deep in heirloom and cherry tomatoes for the entire month of August. One of the really cool things about working with growers from different regions throughout Northern California is that they grow many of the same varieties, but the flavors vary depending on the weather and the harvesting technique.
Peppers are awesome right now! We have a wide selection from sweet to hot. Andy at Mariquita was the first farmer in the area to grow the Pimiento Padron and harvest them at the smaller size; one out of ten peppers has a little heat and they’re perfect sauteed for tapas! We also have the Jimmy Nardello sweet frying peppers and red Gypsy peppers.
Eggplants seem to be a vegetable that people either love or hate; it doesn’t help that the globe eggplants available for a majority of the year are not a great representation of how tender and flavorful eggplants can really be. At this point in the year, Full Belly Farm harvests Italian Rosa Bianca, purple and white striped Listada and long Asian varieties, all bound to turn any hater into a lover.
Every summer we get so excited to work a new small farm into our produce selection. This year, Dirty Girl Produce, located on 40 acres in Santa Cruz, has been taking the time to delivery their fresh veggies to our store. Dirty Girl grows over 20 varieties of fruits and veggies and supplies 10 farmers markets throughout the Bay Area. Their young farmers are harvesting some of the most beautiful and tender beans I’ve experienced. We currently have their Haricot Vert french bean and some nice Blue Lake green beans… the Cranberry “shelling bean” is not far behind!