Home Posts tagged 'Albion'

Posts Tagged ‘Albion’


Strawberry Sensation

DSC_8332Throughout the month of March it was pretty exciting to see the rainy weather continue, though the rain didn’t bring complete joy to the local farmers and those of us who love local berry crops.  The strawberry fields took a hard hit from the rough weather – most of the fruit on the plants were damaged and the flowers knocked off.  Strawberry plants like to drink their fair share of water, but most of the growers use drip tape and get the water directly to the root systems. Now that this beautiful weather is upon us, April is setting up to be a sensational local strawberry month!

There is an abundance of strawberries in almost any grocery store you walk into this time of year, so what makes the strawberries at Bi-Rite Markets so special? The answer is simple: the farmers who grow them. We are fortunate to work closely with about 12 different local farms that will be harvesting extra sweet, juicy strawberries from April until October – the types of strawberries you usually find only at farmers’ markets and restaurants. Most of the strawberries that are sold at supermarket chains are harvested before they peak in flavor so that they are sturdier and can travel long distances, but farms like Tomatero Organic Farm and Live Earth Farm in Watsonville harvest their berries when the fruit has its most delicate texture, offering the ultimate sweetness.  It’s true that perfectly ripe berries might have the tendency to breakdown quicker than under-ripe berries, but these strawberries are delivered to Bi-Rite within 24 hrs of harvest so our guests can get them home in the looking – and tasting – beautiful.

The most common strawberry grown in California is the Albion variety; commercial growers love them because the plants produce large, firm fruit and when harvested a bit early they still have the high sugar content. Bluehouse Farm in Pescadero also grows Albion strawberries, but the combination of the perfect coastal climate, healthy, rich soil, and farmers that touch their plants every day leads to extra sweet flavor and a big juicy berry that melts in your mouth.  One of the benefits of working with a bunch of different growers in the Bay Area is that it allows us get a fresh delivery almost every day of the week and to taste how the same variety of strawberries grown in diverse climates and soil can differ slightly in texture and flavor.strawberry_coroplasts_webSwanton Berry Farm, located in Davenport, is a leader in workers’ rights; Swanton started growing organic strawberries in 1987 and has been growing high quality strawberries ever since. One of the things that makes Swanton unique is that they mainly grow the Chandler variety, an exceptionally flavored berry with a delicate and soft texture, not typically seen on the commercial market because they are so delicate. Most of the farmers we work with have a specialty variety or two that they bring us so that we treat our guests.  Oak Hill Farm in Sonoma grows everyone’s favorites, the Mara De Bois Strawberry.  This variety is small and tantalizing with a bright sweet flavor that seems to change from one berry to the next.  This berry usually doesn’t hit the Bi-Rite shelves until mid-summer.

BalsamicStrawberryAnd don’t forget the Creamery! Every year we eagerly await strawberries to come into season so that the Creamery can begin its  production of Balsamic Strawberry ice cream. We only make this flavor when strawberries are in full season and coming to us from our local growers such as Swanton Berry Farm and Live Earth Farms. We roast our strawberries at a low temperature with sugar and organic balsamic vinegar to reduce the water content and to intensify the flavor of the berries. We then add the berries to our organic ice cream base and turn it into this eagerly anticipated flavor. Balsamic Strawberry pairs perfectly with Ricanelas, Basil or Chocolate – look for Balsamic Strawberry returning around April 15! It may just be the beginning of local strawberry season but the flavors are already sensational! Stop by the Markets to taste the freshest, highest-quality strawberries of the season.


Strawberries Galore! The Best Farm-Direct Berries from Organic Growers

StrawberriesChandlerWe’re pretty lucky to be living in the Bay Area considering we have access to farm-direct, organic, local strawberries for about half the year. The fun starts in the end of March to early April, and really gets going in late April. Most of the farms we work with at Bi-Rite grow in the coastal environments that are perfect for strawberries. We’ve found it really important to build relationships with numerous strawberry farms so we always have a locally-grown berry on our shelves to share with guests during the Spring and Summer months.

Here are some of the incredible farms we work with, and the strawberry varieties they’ll be providing us this year: 

Swanton Berry Farm—Davenport, CA (62 miles close to Bi-Rite)
CCOF Certified Organic, Union-Grown (United Farm Workers, AFL-CIO), and Food Justice Certified by the Agricultural Justice Project
Varieties:  Chandler, Seascape

StrawberriesSwantonYerena Farms—Watsonville, CA (90 miles close to Bi-Rite)

  • CCOF Certified Organic
  • Varieties: Albion, Seascape, Eclair

Live Earth Farm—Watsonville, CA (90 mi close to Bi-Rite)

  • Certified Organic
  • Varieties:  Albion, Seascape

Fifth Crow Farm—Pescadero, CA (46 miles close to Bi-Rite)

  • CCOF Certified Organic, Bee-Friendly Farm Certified
  • Varieties:  Albion, Chandler, Seascape

Blue House Farm—Pescadero, CA (46 miles close to Bi-Rite)

  • CCOF Certified
  • Varieties:  Albion, Seascape

Tomatero FarmWatsonville, CA (90 miles close to Bi-Rite)

  • CCOF Certified Organic
  • Varieties:  Albion, Seascape, Sweet Ann

StrawberriesJW2JW FarmsWatsonville, CA (90 miles close to Bi-Rite)

  • CCOF Certified Organic
  • Varieties:  Albion

Strawberry Varieties You’ll See at Bi-Rite Market

Albions are a dark colored red and have the most consistent sweetness. They are the most common commercial variety in California because of their flavor and yield. It’s pretty amazing how different they can taste from one grower to the next.

Chandlers are red, firm, juicy, sweet, and tangy berry. Not as common in the retail world because they are so juicy and delicate, and need to be handled with more care than the Albion. This is the main berry that Swanton Berry Farm works with and they are the master growers of this variety.

Seascapes are a longer, conically-shaped berry with a glossy finish. They’re a very delicate, dark-red berry with a complex and floral flavor. They usually aren’t as sweet as other varieties but are very juicy. Seascapes are not common in the retail world but when we get them in it’s time to celebrate!

Sweet Ann is a fairly new variety, created in 2005 to grow in the coastal climates like Santa Cruz County. Sweet Anns are usually big, conically-shaped berries with excellent sweet flavor. Tomatero is the only farm that we work with that is growing Sweet Ann right now and they are very limited.

Éclairs are medium-size berries and are very sweet and fragrant. We don’t see them often, but every once in a while Yerena Farms treats us to a handful of flats.

Mara des Bois (French variety) is a small, delicate variety with an incredible fragrance that resembles a wild strawberry. It is a gourmet strawberry that is most commonly grown in home gardens and not for commercial productions. The farms we work with don’t take the time to grow these berries because of their delicate nature and low yield which require a lot of precious labor. However, with the help of some friends who work with farms in the North Bay we were able to get our hands on some for the first time last season. Shelton Market Garden in Healdsburg sometime have a small bumper crop of Mara Des Bois and they make their way to the City.

Everyone’s Favorite, Bi-Rite Creamery Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream!
This delicious seasonal flavor is the perfect combination of amazing local strawberries and extremely talented ice cream makers. Strawberry Balsamic is easily one of the most popular ice cream flavors the Bi-Rite Creamery makes and we always wait until our favorite farms have a steady supply of  extra-ripe berries to make it. The Creamery is making there test as we speak and it will be available at both Bi-Rite Markets, Bi-Rite Creamery, and the Scoop Shop at Bi-Rite on Divisadero on April 28th.