One of the first signs we see as we move through the month of May and steam toward summer is the approach of sweet cherries from California.
Our first deliveries arrived this past week and what we’ve seen so far looks good. They’re a little lighter in color but they eat well for early California fruit. We see cherries getting even better as we approach Mother’s Day weekend. As we speak, growers are loading up the Coral variety, which will be followed by the Tiogas. These are relatively new varieties from California that are extra-large, sweet and firm. We do our best to buy the biggest and best varieties available and these should be in the markets by the weekend.
We likely won’t see Northwest cherries until after June 1. At this point, the projections for those beauties are for the peak of season to arrive sometime in July. I will have more information on predicted arrival dates once we get through Memorial Day weekend.
We will be looking closely at California stone fruit – apricots, peaches and nectarines – this coming week. Early varieties have been available but we have chosen to sit it out until we see the fruit has some size and offers an eating experience – reliably – that meets our standards. So we remain, for now, at “wait-and-see.” It’s possible we’ll end up waiting until the week leading up to the Memorial Day holiday before offering these peaches and nectarines.
Another clear sign summer is on the way is the hint of the coming local berry season. The berry season does look promising. It’s just going to be a little later than last year. The bright side is that an early start means a later end of the season. Last year we had an exceptionally early start to Washington-grown strawberries and raspberries. Believe it or not we had local strawberries on May 20, and Sterino Farms’ red raspberries arrived June 10. But everything is closer to normal this year and we don’t expect locally grown strawberries before June 5. I’m figuring local raspberries will arrive on or around the July 4 holiday. I’ll update you further on the local berry season as we move toward the end of May.
On yet another bright side, we do have exceptional quality when it comes to conventional and organically grown blueberries out of California, which are now in our markets. Our raspberries this week are from the tail end of Southern California’s growing areas. We just received information that we should see a new crop of red raspberries from Watsonville, Calif., the weekend of May 19. This will be our source for red raspberries until local arrives in early July.
Washington asparagus typically starts in mid-April and peaks during May. Not this year. Not only did it start late, but with the prevailing cool temperatures, it’s still coming on slow. Three days of temperatures in the 70s is just not enough to raise ground temperatures, which is what’s needed to spur rapid growth. The good thing is that what we’re getting exceptionally high-quality asparagus. It’s running larger because slow growth upward means continued growth outward! So slow isn’t all bad. Contrary to popular belief, the larger asparagus is in circumference, the more tender and sweet. The key is to buy asparagus that is all green and has a little white at the bottom of the stalk. You also may see a slightly purple tint to the tips, but that’s caused by cooler temps and is also a good thing. I think purple tips add flavor.
Until next time … Happy Mother’s Day! Joe