Summer is finally here, and the most recent heat has the local farms poppin’ with fresh produce. The weather in the Bay Area has changed so drastically over the past two summers–we have a lot more cold weather, which helps cool weather crops like greens, brassicas, and potatoes, but the late summer crops like tomatoes, eggplants, peppers are still a couple weeks behind their usual ripening schedule.
Summer lovin’ had me a blast; I met a peach sweet as could be! Local stone fruit season is going to hit its peak production in July:
• Our favorite growers Blossom Bluff, Balakian, Frog Hollow and Full Belly Farm will be delivering a unique selection of fruit to Bi-Rite throughout the summer months.
• Full Belly is really excited about their crop of June Pride Yellow peaches that should be ready in mid-July.
• Frog Hollow just started harvesting the Suncrest yellow peach and it’s already a front runner for the best piece of stone fruit in the store. Farmer Al will be harvesting this variety through mid-July and it will be followed by the Zee Lady yellow peach. He will also have Ruby Diamond yellow nectarines in mid-July.
• Balakian Farm in Reedley will continue to bring us their sweet and floral, medium acid White Saturn white peaches in the beginning of July. The Yellow donut peach will follow sometime later in July.
• Marchini Orchard in Placerville grows super yummy mountain fruit and will start harvesting in July. Located in the foothills of the Sierras, the cold nights mean that the fruit stays on the tree longer to ripen, but the sugars become more developed.
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 of the firm stone fruit we offer will finish ripening in 1-3 days at room temp, and will hold 6-7 days in refrigeration. The fruit always tastes better when it is out of the fridge for 1-2 days before eating.
Local berries are in full swing and the flavors have been amazing!
• We just got our first harvest of blueberries from Mom and Dad’s orchards in Placerville, CA and we are expecting big harvests for the month of July.
• Swanton Berry Farm has been supplying us with sweet and delicate “Chandler” Strawberries and they’re looking forward to a bountiful July.
• Andy Griffin of 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, and they’ll be smaller but sweeter.
• Yerena Farm continues to surprise us with their extra-special local raspberries; their blackberries will hit the Bi-Rite shelves for the first time in July.
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:
• The 1,500 tomatoes on the Bi-Rite Farm in Sonoma are 2 ½ ft tall and growing 6 inches a week. We probably won’t harvest our first tomatoes until mid-August, but when we do, they’ll be extra vine-ripe and highlighted throughout Bi-Rite.
• 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) 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; they’re growing slowly and the harvesting of heirlooms will start in late July.
Most fig trees have two harvests a season. The first harvest (breba crop) usually starts late June and comes from the previous season’s growth; it’s not as sweet and tender as the main crop, which comes from new growth around late August and can last through October.
• Capay Farm in Yolo County was hit with this recent rain; most of the Black Mission figs survived and will be delivered to Bi-Rite on July 4th.
• Everyone’s favorite the Candystrip Fig won’t be in the store until later this summer and Bi-Rite’s two fig trees in Placerville are setting up for a big harvest in August.
Potatoes are an easy crop to grow! Most of the small farms we work with dedicate a portion of their farm to grow this staple crop. We will carry potatoes from a handful of growers, so come in and do a local potato taste test.
• Purple Viking potatoes from Happy Boy Farm have beautiful purple/pink skin and a dense white flesh–perfect substitute for Russets in mashed potatoes.
• Mixed fingerlings from Full Belly are delicious, especially roasted whole.
• Our good friend and farmer Martin just started harvesting his potato crop in Salinas.
• Bi-Rite Farm in Sonoma has a ¼ acre of potatoes that we’ll start harvesting later in July–these will be prepared and served in our deli.
Local summer squashes are very bountiful right now, and we’ll be offering 4 varieties at all times. The Italian Costata Romanesco is a sweet and tender variety grown by Happy Boy. We also have 8 varieties growing on our farm in Sonoma, which will be highlighted in our deli and on sandwiches.
Organic corn is a very challenging crop to grow organically, as moths love to lay their eggs in the top of the ear and worms love to eat their way down the cob. Large conventional growers use crop dusters to spray chemicals and eliminate the insects. Meanwhile, organic growers have two main ways to cut back on the number of worms in their corn: crop rotation and bacillus thuringiensis (BT), a bacteria that’s harmless to humans but produces toxins 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’ll start harvesting in mid-July.
Can you say “LOCAL ORGANIC APPLES IN TWO WEEKS??” Johan from Hidden Star Orchard can!
• He’ll start harvesting his first Gala apples of the season in mid-July, and will continue to supply us with a wide variety of specialty apples through the New Year. Johan is also a master table grape grower; this is another crop that was slowed down by the cold weather in May.
Every growing season the produce buyers get so amped up to find new local farms to build relationships with. This year we have two farms that have helped us increase our local produce selection: Yerena Berry Farm in Watsonville and our newest addition, Free Wheelin’ Farm located just north of Santa Cruz on Highway 1, a stones throw away from the Pacific. At Free Wheelin’, the young farmers work nine acres on the chilly coast, and farm soil that was abused in the past, limiting what they can grow. They have found the crops that grow best in these conditions and are supplying us with some of the most amazing local lettuce we’ve seen.