Fresh Talker

Berry Season Heats Up
as Citrus Winds Down

The California citrus season is rapidly winding down. The eating quality of what we have is outstanding, but will not be around for much longer. The increasingly popular Sumo mandarins have finished shipping and our last deliveries will be arriving in our Markets Thursday, April 17. We hope these will last through next week, but be forewarned – supply is limited to what we have and they will go fast!

California strawberries have finally completed their transition from the Santa Marie growing area in the south – moving 175 miles north to Watsonville, just south of San Jose. This move will give a little longer shelf life to these great-tasting berries.

Speaking of transitioning berries, Family Tree Farms blueberries will be in moving from their Mexico growing area to California over the next few weeks. We expect to have an excellent supply by mid-May, if not sooner.

Several summer fruit and veggie options are on the horizon – something we’ve been looking forward to! We soon will have our first deliveries of sweet corn from G&S Farms out of their southern California growing areas. The plan is to harvest this Friday with delivery to our Markets Monday morning. Only white corn is available at first, followed by yellow and bi-color in a week or two....
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Rain, Rain Everywhere
But Drought Remains

While the California rain storms have managed to cause property damage and disrupt the state’s vegetable and berry harvest, they still haven’t put an end to the severe drought that plagues this major agricultural state.

Rain finally hit drought-stricken California growing regions this past week in a big and destructive way. Overall, it was a welcome and long overdue drenching of the area that is experiencing the worst drought in nearly a century, but it was too much too fast. Vegetable and strawberry harvests came to a swift halt on Wednesday, Feb. 26, and remained so through the

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Sumo Mandarins
Arrive Tomorrow!

Great news! Sumo mandarins arrive in the markets tomorrow (Feb. 20)! It hasn’t been an easy feat – a bad freeze that hit California’s citrus-growing areas in December resulted in a 30 percent loss of fruit due to frost damage.  This is placing even more demand on an already limited supply of fruit, so growers are carefully arranging distribution. This is a great example of why we establish partnerships with our growers – because of our relationship with this farm over the past few years, we will get our fair share of fruit. The other good news is that even though the frost caused damage, cold weather is actually good for flavor in citrus crops. So although the season may be short this year, it will be sweet! Sumos are virtually seedless, easy to peel and full of flavor.

We are expecting our first arrivals of the new blueberry crop from the Mexican farm of Family Tree Farms. You might ask: ‘Why Mexico?’ This move from Chile to Mexico is only possible because of Dave Jackson of Family Tree Farms of California. Five years ago, Dave seized an opportunity to produce his proprietary blueberry varieties on 250 acres in an area of Mexico with pristine water. Each variety is selected for its large sizes and crisp, sweet flavor....
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Mexican Blueberries
Poised for Harvest

Top: Family Tree Orchards blueberries ripening in the Mexican sun.
Above: Dave Jackson in his Mexican blueberry orchard last week.

Produce Specialist Joe Pulicicchio kindly took time out during his trip to Mexico today to send us a quick update on the new crop of fresh blueberries we’ll soon be getting from Dave Jackson and the Family Tree Farm in Mexico.

Family Tree Farms in the San Joaquin Valley in California is a longtime partner of Town & Country Markets. Dave Jackson is a seventh-generation farmer whose children and grandchildren have joined the family trade. We get a lot of our best eating stone fruit from Family Tree Farms, including our pluots, yellow and white peaches, nectarines and Brooks cherries. What sets Family Tree Farms apart is their commitment to not picking the fruit until it’s at its peak flavor – and they’ve now set up blueberry orchards in Mexico....
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May Your Holidays
Be Fresh, Not Frozen

Christmas is all but here!  With Christmas Eve only two weeks from today, we’re working diligently this week to secure our supply for all the traditional trimmings and a few not-so- traditional treats in fresh produce. You will have your choice of conventional or certified organic in many of these items.

We have secured all we can get of those incredible Cape Blanco cranberries, but we may run out as we get closer to the holiday. Hopefully we won’t but just in case you really, REALLY want this Northwest fruit, which I can understand, I recommend you pick up what you need ASAP. 

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Fresh for the Holidays
from Peru to Oregon

I recently had an opportunity to visit a partner farm in Peru. I should preface that with the assurance that we are very committed to locally grown produce. It’s our practice to not go any farther from home than we have to in order to get high quality, fresh products. We always move back closer to home as soon as possible! In the case of the winter supply of fresh asparagus – from late October through December – Peru is the best source for high-quality asparagus.

I am happy to say that the farm where we get that asparagus continues to grow, and is able to support its local community

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A bumpy ride south
to new growing areas

The Northwest row crop continues to wind down fast. The transition to the southern growing areas is always a little bumpy – it may be that way for the next few weeks. Demand is exceeding supply in row crops like lettuce, beans, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, cabbage, eggplant, etc., because California is also approaching the end of its season and the winter growing area around Yuma, Ariz., is behind by a couple of weeks.

We also are seeing unusually wet weather hitting growing areas in Mexico, which only compounds the problem.  The good news is that in general, fresh produce is very forgiving when the weather comes back on line and a region comes into production. So, it will be bumpy for the next few weeks but we hope – and expect – to see improvement as we move into November.

Other vegetables that are in transition from our summer sources are the tomatoes, English cucumbers and peppers. Canada is all but done on these hot house products and mainland Mexico is now expecting yet another tropical rain storm to hit this week. So again, supply is falling short of demand, but I do not expect this to hold for long. If the weather will settle down, these markets will correct quickly...
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Chanterelles for Chillin’
and Pumpkins for Pies

A carving pumpkin in the field at Sterino Farms (phone for scale).

(2013) The true sign that fall has officially begun is the arrival of our variety pumpkin displays at the front or our markets. We offer one of the widest varieties of Northwest-grown pumpkins in the area.

All of our stores are receiving their initial deliveries of the Sterino Farms (Puyallup) Jack-O-Lantern Pumpkins this week. We’ll be adding all the other Northwest varieties over the next several days. The varieties include Knucklehead, Pink, Cinderella, Ghost, Sugar Pie and Long Island Cheese pumpkins. Sugar Pies are exactly what the name suggests – they’re known for their sweet, thick flesh that’s great for making pies.

But, if you really want to experience the ultimate in pumpkin pie, try the Long Island Cheese pumpkin. It is a member of the Butternut squash family and truly makes a wonderful pumpkin pie, among other great things (we have it in both conventional and organic). Our culinary resource folks developed a pie recipe just for those Long Island Cheese Pumpkins – check it out in our Recipe section.

In addition to those pumpkins, you’ll see a wide variety of ornamental pumpkins, corn and gourds along with corn stalks everything you will need to complete your Halloween decorations.

Need more signs that fall is really here? By early October, you won’t see any more of those berries, melons and stone fruits – they’re slowly disappearing and being replaced with a new crop of Northwest apples and pears.

Other Northwest fall items that are coming into full production as we move into October are hard squashes, chanterelle mushrooms and potatoes.

The chanterelles are having an exceptional year.  Look for an excellent value on this wild and wonderful mushroom Oct. 2-8. Chanterelles, which look almost like an exotic flower, have a distinctive, and pleasing, aroma – often described as similar to apricots or peaches.  Their season usually runs from September into November.  They keep well in the refrigerator if wrapped in waxed paper or a brown paper bag until they’re cleaned. Cleaned ones can stay in the fridge for a few days. ...
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Apples, Pears ‘Shrooms
Lead Autumn’s Approach

(Above: Pears in the Produce Market)

(Sept. 11, 2013) With Labor Day behind us, summer is winding down fast. I know the weather doesn’t say so … yet. But out in the fields, the transition to fall is already upon us.

We have had a fantastic Northwest berry season this year, but all good things must come to an end. The blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries are finishing up fast. On a more positive note, we do have fresh “wild Mountain Huckleberries” available, but I wouldn’t wait too long to freeze up your needs for the holiday season. To freeze simply rinse, drain, throw them into a freezer bag and place them in the freezer.

Fresh figs have peaked, although they should be available for a few more weeks. The supply will shrink each week but we will keep fresh figs available as long as possible.

The Turlock melon varieties are all but done, but we will have cantaloupe and honeydew for several more weeks. The orange honeydew (the best tasting of all) will end soon without notice. I’m hopeful we will have them through Sept. 20.

But all that winding down doesn’t mean you have to give up fresh and seasonal! Northwest apples have started and new varieties arrive each week. Galas started a few weeks ago and we added the Honeycrisp and Jonagold apples over this past week or so. The new crops of Granny Smith, Golden Delicious and Fuji all arrive this next week....
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Turlock Farms Growers
Let the Melons Decide
When it’s Time to Pick

(July 30, 2013) I just returned from a quick visit with our melon growers at Turlock Farms in Turlock, Calif., and I’m happy to announce that the melons are coming into their peak of perfection!

Four generations have grown melons on this farm, which brings nearly 100 years of experience into growing the finest eating melons to be found.  It all started with Don’s dad, known as “Cantaloupe Smith,” in 1918. Don Smith, the second generation, was born and raised in Turlock and even though he’s now well into his 80s, he still has his hands in the farm. Steve Smith is th

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