November is by far the most exciting time of year at Bi-Rite Market, due to our most food-centric holiday of the year coming at the end of the month. We’re very grateful to be able to provide so much amazing local produce for our guests’ Turkey Day celebrations! The weather this past month has been perfect for most of the farmers in Northern California–the combination of hot sunny days with a little rain here and there really make the vegetables growing in the field happy. Most local summer crops like tomatoes, eggplants, squash, and peppers are usually gone by November, but this year a handful of farms are still harvesting these crops. Here’s a quick breakdown of some of the fresh veggies and fruits that will be on our shelves for Thanksgiving week.
Balakian Farm in Reedley has been driving over 250 miles each way over the past 10 years to supply us with their pomegranates. Everyone should have at least a few of these for their Turkey Day fruit basket. They’ve been eating so well this year and are extra juicy!
The Fuyu Persimmons that we get from our favorite farms are always tree-ripe and great for eating out of hand. Although most Fuyus look the same, there are always subtle differences in flavor, so our produce crew loves to taste and compare the Fuyus from different farms; this year the Fuyus from the Bi-Rite Family Farm in Placerville are the front runner for best flavor, but the season isn’t over yet….
Hachiya Persimmons are similar in flavor to Fuyus, but usually sweeter and completely different in texture. Hachiyas are ready to eat when the texture of the flesh is soft like pudding; they’re a great piece of fruit for pudding or persimmon cake. Hachiyas are harvested firm and usually take up to two weeks to ripen, so we take it upon ourselves to ripen them up for our guests.
Apple Pie Time! DeVoto Gardens in Sebastopol is just finishing up the harvest and their availability is starting to dwindle. Stan did promise us that he’ll have plenty of their fresh picked Rome apples for Thanksgiving week, which are great for pies. Hidden Star Orchard in Linden just started bringing us beautiful Pink Ladies, and we have a good supply of their Fuji and Granny Smiths. Late season apple varieties form the Northwest are about to start up, so keep an eye out for more unique apples.
Frog Hollow Farm in Brentwood always has the best pears for fruit platters and desserts. The Warren Pear is perfect for a fruit platter, its silky smooth flesh and sweet flavor always a treat. The Bosc Pear is probably the best cooking pear from Frog Hollow and has good sugar even when firm.
Last year we started a new farm-direct relationship with Vincent Family Cranberries in Oregon. They’re a small family farm that dry-harvests extra-sweet cranberries for both the fresh berry market and their own bottled cranberry juice. Cranberries are one of the crops that have been taken over by large companies like Ocean Spray, and it’s really challenging to know exactly where the cranberries we consume come from. The Vincent Family is one of the only farms in America that actually makes juice from the berries they grow. Most cranberry juices are made with berries that are sourced from growers throughout the country. This Holiday season we will have two Vincent Cranberry juice blends: Cranberry/Blueberry and Cranberry/Agave Nectar, both which have a mild-sweetness and are perfect for cocktails.
We’re waiting patiently for the start of local citrus season! Usually the first citrus is the Satsuma Mandarin from Side Hill Citrus in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. This easy peeling, seedless mandarin offers the perfect balance between sweet/tart and kids love them.
The Veggie Scene
Yams are often mistaken for orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, but they’re not even related to the sweet potato. Instead, yams are thick, white tubers with a lot less flavor than sweet potatoes, and are rarely available in the United States. Sweet potatoes originated in South America and over a dozen varieties are cultivated for the marketplace. This year we’ll be highlighting several varieties of sweet potatoes from Doreva Farms in Livingston, including the dark red-skinned Red Garnet, along with the light skinned Hannah Sweets. All of these sweet potatoes offer classic flavor and texture; don’t be afraid to cook them up together.
Brussels Sprouts are one of the more challenging crops to grow organically, as they’re very susceptible to pests and take a lot of labor to harvest and clean. We’ll be getting over 400 lbs. of organic brussel sprouts from Rondoni Farm in Santa Cruz.
At the Bi-Rite Farm in Sonoma, we’re tending to our baby lettuce and chicory crops on a daily basis to assure that they’re perfect for Thanksgiving week. Escarole, the least bitter of the endive family, has leaves that are very tender and sometimes a bit crunchy. Escarole is perfect in a salad and really delicious when braised or added to soup.
Yes, we still have local dry farmed tomatoes from Dirty Girl Farm in Santa Cruz County! The flavor is awesome and hopefully the rain that’s falling as I write this won’t end the harvest. Come on, sun!
Last but not least, everyone’s favorite cold weather veggie: winter squash! Full Belly Farm has been harvesting all kinds of perfectly ripe winter squash. The Delicatas have been so yummy and roast up great, skin and all. Butternut squash is plentiful and our kitchen’s been all over them, making their butternut and apple soup. The Acorn, Kabocha, Spaghetti and Red Kuri Squashes are all yummy and very versatile. We also have some locally grown heirloom pumpkins like the Cinderella and the Musquee De Provence. These beautiful pumpkins can be used as decoration, then roasted up and turned into a delicious soup.