Si’s July Produce Outlook

Summer is finally here, and this beautiful weather really has things growing fast on the local farms.  All of our favorite summer crops–tomatoes, melons, corn–have arrived on our shelves.

Local Stone Fruit season is going to hit its peak production in July!  I’ve been buying produce for Bi-Rite for the past 10 years and this is probably the most flavorful stone fruit I’ve ever experienced! It’s hard to explain in words, you’ve got to taste it! Our favorite growers Blossom Bluff, Balakian, Frog Hollow and Full Belly Farm will be delivering a unique selection of fruit throughout the summer months:

  • Full Belly is really excited about their crop of June Pride Yellow Peaches, which should be ready in mid-July.
  • Frog Hollow just started harvesting their Suncrest Yellow Peach, already a front runner for our “best piece of stone fruit in the store” prize.  Farmer Al will be harvesting this variety through mid-July, followed by the Zee Lady Yellow Peach.  He will also have Ruby Diamond Yellow Nectarines in mid-July.
  • The apricots have been ridiculous and should be around for most of the month.
  • Marchini Orchard in Placerville grows super yummy mountain fruit and will start harvesting in July.
  • Yes! We still have local cherries from Hidden Star Orchard in Linden CA, but they’ll only be around until mid-July.  Then we’ll be getting cherries from the Northwest.

Stone fruits are like bananas: they continue to ripen after harvest.  The goal is to harvest the fruit when it has full color and still is a bit firm.  Most to the firm stone fruit we offer will finish ripening in 1-3 days at room temp and will hold 6-7 days in the refrigeration.  I think stone fruit tastes better when it’s out of the fridge for 1-2 days before eating.

Local berries are in full swing and the flavor has been amazing!

  • Swanton has been sending us sweet and delicate “Chandler” Strawberries and are looking forward to a bountiful July.
  • Andy Griffith at Mariquita Farm is very enthusiastic about his 5 acre plot of strawberries.  The plants have a bunch of flowers, which means there will be plenty of “Albion” strawberries, smaller but sweeter than Chandlers.
  • Yerena Farm still continues to surprise us with their extra-special local raspberries and blackberries.
  • Blueberries from Hidden Star Orchard are awesome right now; we’ll also have blueberries from Mom and Dad Mogannam’s Placerville Orchard throughout the month.

Local tomato season is knocking on the door and we can’t wait to let it in!  Happy Boy, Mariquita, Balakian, Tomatero and Full Belly Farm will have specialty varieties of cherry and heirloom tomatoes starting in July:

  • Cherry tomatoes are usually the first local tomato to ripen up, and are a perfect way to get the taste buds going. We just got our first hit from Happy Boy Farm in Freedom, CA.
  • Balakian Farm in Reedley (just south of Fresno) has delivered their first harvest of Cherokee Purple tomatoes and will bring more varieties throughout the month.
  • Full Belly has 4 plantings of tomatoes on 12 acres, but they’re growing slowly; their plan is to start harvesting the heirlooms by the end of July.
  • The 1,200 tomatoes on our own Farm in Sonoma are 3 ft tall, and growing about 6 inches a week.  We probably won’t harvest them until mid-August, but when we do, they’ll be extra vine-ripe.

The local melon scene is gaining speed! Full Belly has become one our favorite growers, and has over 10 varieties in the fields this year.  Yellow Doll and Orchid watermelons offer unique flavor and texture, a far cry from the commercial red seedless watermelon.   Some of the other varieties to keep an eye out for are the Galia, Goddess, Honeyloupe and Charentais.  All of these melons have amazing flavor and juice, perfect for a big bowl of melon salad.

Corn is a very challenging crop to grow organically, as the moths love to lay their eggs in the top of the ear, and worms love to eat its way down the cob. Large conventional growers use crop dusters to spray chemicals and eliminate the insects. Organic growers have two main ways to cut back on the number of worms in their corn: crop rotation, and bacillus thuringiensis (BT) bacteria (which is harmless to humans, but produces toxin that kill certain insects.) We’re lucky to have Catalan Farm in Hollister and Full Belly in Guinda on the forefront of the local organic corn movement; they both just started harvesting.

One of our favorite small farms is Free Wheelin’ Farm, just north of Santa Cruz on Highway 1.  The young farmers there work 9 acres on the chilly coast and farm soil that was abused in the past, limiting what they can grow.  Over time they’ve figured out which crops grow best in these conditions; they now supply us with some of the most amazing local lettuces we’ve seen.

Can you say “local organic apples in three weeks”?? Johan from Hidden Star Orchard can! He’ll start harvesting his Gala apples in mid-July, and will continue to supply us with a wide variety of specialty apples for the duration of the year.  Johan is also a master table grape grower; his crop was slowed down by the cold weather in May, but we should see them come in around the end of the month.


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