August is going to be the most bountiful local produce month of the summer. The end of July is usually the time of year when local farms are the busiest and all of the hot weather crops are in full swing. However, this year everything is three weeks behind, which means the big harvest will happen in August. Matt and I spend nine months of the season with limited options with regards to tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, melons, and grapes; then all of a sudden there are multiple varieties of each to celebrate!
Local Apples have started to come in, and like always the first apple of the season is the Gravenstein. Nana Mae Orchard in Sebastopol is one of the only orchards in the area who have continued to grow this symbol of Sonoma’s agriculture history. First planted in Sonoma in 1811 by Russian trappers, this versatile apple is wonderful for eating fresh, cooking into sauce or baking in apple pie. The Gravenstein has a crisp texture and a sweet and tart juice. We also carry Nana Mae’s apple cider in the grocery section. Hidden Star Orchard, located in the foothills of the Sierras, will start harvesting their Gala apples in the beginning of the month, which we’ll have through the New Year.
The local berry season has been great so far this summer, but some varieties, like Swanton’s Chandlers, will slow down. We’ll still have plenty of Mariquita Farms‘ flavorful Albion strawberries for the entire month, and we’ll bring in other specialty strawberries like the Seascape from a handful of local growers. Yerena Farm will continue to supply us with their plump and juicy raspberries.
Frog Hollow in Brentwood just started harvesting their Dapple Dandy Pluots, so full of juice! Their stone fruit season lasts through September, after which we’ll rely heavily on Marchini Orchard in Placerville to keep the California stone fruit season alive. Marchini has been supplying us with the most flavorful and juicy fruit of the season; the long growing season in the Sierra Foothills really adds to the flavor of the fruit.
Melon, Melons and Mo Melons! Melons rely on hot weather as much as any crop. Full Belly Farm has become our main melon grower over the past few seasons; Dru Rivers and her team really know how to harvest them when the sugars are at their peak. Look for the unique orange-fleshed Orchid Watermelon and yellow-fleshed Yellow Doll Watermelon. They also grow a wide variety of musk melons and other specialty varieties. By the end of August we should see the Piel de Sapo (aka “the skin of the frog”), which has an amazingly sweet and crisp yellow flesh.
The second rounds of figs are ripening on the trees and should be on the shelves by mid-August. Everyone can’t wait for Capay Farm to start harvesting their delicious Candy Strip figs with their jam-like flesh.
We are too lucky to have so many amazing tomato growers in the Bay Area! Our staple growers like 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.
On our own Sonoma farms we have 1,500 tomato plants of 12 different varieties that should ripen up by the middle of the month. They’ll be the backbone of Sergio’s Gazpacho in the deli and on our new late summer menu!
Peppers are awesome right now, and we have a wide selection from sweet to hot. Andy at Mariquita was the first farmer in the area to grow the Pimento Padron; he harvests them at the perfect time so that one out of ten peppers has a little heat (amazing for tapas!) Andy will be our Monday Night Farmer in front of the market on August 15th serving them up. We also have Jimmy Nardello sweet frying peppers and Flamingo peppers.
Eggplants seem to be a vegetable that people either love or hate, and the globe eggplants available for a majority of the year are not a great representation of how tender and flavorful eggplants can really be. Between our Sonoma Farm and Full Belly, we can offer 6 varieties: the Italian Rosa Bianca, the purple and white striped Listada and long Asian varieties. Look for these on our new Grilled Eggplant ‘Shawarma’ Sandwich!
Oh Yeah –I can’t forget to mention the wonderful organic sweet corn from Catalan Farm in Hollister that will be available through the end of September.
And I’m spent!