This is the time of year that makes San Francisco such an amazing place to live! There are not many places in the country where you can eat a big bowl of local strawberries and raspberries on your stoop while carving your Jack O Lantern pumpkin in the hot October sun. Throughout the Bay Area harvest festivals like the Hoes Down at Full Belly Farm (Sam and I went with our families this past weekend!) are a great way to kick off the fall season.
Matt our produce buyer is working hard to keep California stone fruit on our shelves through the month of October. We just started a new farm direct relationship Hunter Orchards Stone Fruit. John and Kirsten are very passionate organic growers who farm on 10 acres, at 3,000 ft above sea level. Their farm looks on to views of Mt. Shasta and the surrounding mountain ranges of Northern-most California. The stone fruit they grow is tree ripened, which equals amazing flavor and sugar. We will also be getting their pears, apples, and prune plums soon!
Al from Frog Hollow is still supplying us with two slamming Pluots. The Flavor Treat is a large piece of burgundy fruit with sweet and juicy flesh, and the Emerald Beaut has unique light green skin and extra sweet flesh! When local stone fruit officially disappears we’ll have yellow peaches and nectarines from the Northwest through the end of the month.
Local berries are still coming in strong! Swanton’s Chandler strawberries are some of the sweetest and most delicate berries of the season, and Yerena Farm in Watsonville continues to amaze us with their raspberries. Andy from Mariquita says that his strawberry plants still have a bunch of flowers and should produce plenty of fruit throughout October. Berry season in the Bay area can continue into November as long as we don’t get hit by any major rain storms, so keep your fingers crossed. Happy to say that these early rains didn’t hit the berry growers, so stay tuned!
Fall figs are poppin’ right now! The Adriatics from Maywood, filled with an amazing “jelly-like” flesh, are the figs of choice amongst the Bi-Rite staff. In the middle of October we will be harvesting Brown Turkey figs from our ranch in Placerville and also getting some super ripe Black Mission figs from a small orchard in Sonoma.
Local apple season is going off right now and we have new varieties coming in every week. At the moment the Mutsu apple from Devoto in Sebastopol is ridiculously sweet and crispy, with an enjoyably dense flesh. Devoto always brings us great cooking apples; at the moment it’s the Sierra Beauty. The Northern Spy and Hawaiian (they have a taste of the tropics!) apples are two new heirloom varieties that were just delivered. Hidden Star Orchard is harvesting the September Wonder apple, the biggest apples ever to hit our shelves–usually Matt and I as buyers shy away from apples that are the size of melons, but these are delicious. We also have Granny Smith and Galas from Hidden Star, with their tasty fresh-picked flavor and texture.
Autumn really doesn’t hit our fruit section until local persimmons and pomegranates arrive. Balakian Farm grows some of the most beautiful and best tasting pomegranates ever! Ginger lets the fruit ripen up nice on the tree, and the seeds and juice are perfect. They’ll start harvesting them in mid-October and we’ll have them through Thanksgiving. Balakian also grows Fuyu and Hachiya persimmons, which start ripening up in mid-October. We pride ourselves on buying fruit when the flavor is perfect, and not just because some farms decide to harvest early to be the first to the market place. Balakian always starts its Persimmon harvest with their jumbo fuyu that can eat like an apple.
The Early Girl Tomatoes from Two Dog in Davenport are out of this world! They should be harvesting them throughout October, unless we get hit with any big rains or cold weather. All of the other tomatoes are still eating well, and the tomatoes at Bi-Rite Farm in Sonoma are still coming on strong–just try Sergio’s Gazpacho!
Andy at Mariquita Farm says that the field workers are in “full tilt boogie” trying to harvest the last of the summer crops and plant their fall crops. Mariquita will be bringing us their amazing Padrons for the entire month of October, so get your tapas on! The escarole that Andy grows is truly incredible, and the heads are nicely blanched and very tender. Escarole is a great substitute for romaine in a Ceaser salad. Mariquita also has a huge field of Broccoli Romanesco and Cheddar Cauliflower to harvest all month long.
Full Belly Farm has started harvesting a wide variety of winter squash, and they already taste great. Their wonderful organic Jack-O-Lanterns have seeds that are so yummy when roasted with a little salt. Their unique heirloom pumpkins will start arriving toward the end of October when the cold weather sets in and it’s really time to make soup.
Fall weather is the best growing conditions for greens, and all of the local growers are taking advantage. Blue House Farm in Pescadero has nice cool conditions for growing extra tender kale and rainbow chard. We are very excited to get our first ever organic brussels sprouts on the stock from Blue House. Brussels sprouts are very challenging to grow organically because of all the pests that love to call them home.
Our good friend Martin in Salinas is going big on his arugula and little gem lettuce plantings for October. These greens are perfect for fall salads, especially when you add pomegranate seeds and persimmons. We’ll be getting mixed baby lettuces and bunched carrots from Freewheelin’ Farm in Santa Cruz all month long.
As for other specialty veggies we’re excited about, sunchokes (Jerusalem Artichokes) have arrived; these tubers from the daisy family are great added to a roasted veggie dish. Chanterelles from the Northwest are coming on strong and should be around through Thanksgiving. Autumn veggies offer so many unique flavors–when in doubt, just roast em’ up with a little olive oil and salt!