Time for local produce
to take center-stage
and fill our markets

Summer officially arrives June 21 – but unofficially, many of us feel like it’s already here, even if the weather can’t decide.

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The warm summer-like weather we experienced at the end of May led us to think locally grown strawberries from Skagit Valley’s Hayton Farms might be here by June 5 or 6. But, alas, the cool and damp weather of that last weekend slowed them down. We’ve been getting a trickle of organic strawberries from Don Kruse at Skagit Sun, also in Skagit Valley. While Danny at Hayton Farms said he thought we’d get a start with his crop this week, I see rain (and thunder storms?) in the forecast for this weekend. Light rain wouldn’t be an issue, but sustained rain will likely postpone the harvest until early next week.

We took a gamble and put those local berries on sale starting June 13. Fingers crossed.

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Our local strawberries are picked fresh and delivered daily. We try to run out late in the day to ensure we have fresh berries every morning. But, keep in mind they’re picked in the morning and then have to make the trip to our markets. This means we might not have them until late morning on some days. If it rains on the berries, we won’t get fruit that day at all. The local strawberry season is always short and very sweet. The June-bearing fruit is only available for about 15 days from start to finish, give or take a couple of days. So enjoy these sweet berries while you can.

Our first Washington-grown sweet red cherries are in the markets now and they’re off to a great start. These are Chelan cherries – the earliest variety available in Washington. They eat pretty well, but I do have to say that several varieties that follow the Chelan over the next eight weeks will be even better.

Grower Nate with Chelan Fresh says the harvest of Rainier cherries began yesterday (Wednesday, June 6), so they should be cooled and packed for pickup Friday morning! That means we could have them in the markets as early as Saturday morning, June 9. We’re starting off the Rainier season with the biggest and best available. All this fruit we have coming is “export grade,” meaning they’re the highest quality cherries, because only the best is chosen, packed and shipped all over the world. I expect a good supply of Washington Rainier cherries for four to five weeks, barring rain or wind events. The Rainier is so delicate that a single wind event while the fruit is still on the tree can cause bruising and discoloration. Let’s hope for calm, dry weather over the next few weeks so we can enjoy these Washington gems.

Some of the best varieties of yellow-flesh California peaches will arrive in our markets over the next several weeks. We’ll go through several great varieties between now and the start of the Washington peach season in late July. As for white-flesh peaches, we have some good ones now, but Brenton with Family Tree Farms said the harvest of giant Pearl varieties of white-flesh peaches is expected to start June 20. That means we should have them in our markets by the week of June 25-30.

The nectarine story is just like the peach story. Some of the vest varieties of California yellow-flesh nectarines should show up over the next several weeks. Some are called “sub-acid” varieties, meaning they are super sweet! We already have some excellent varieties of white-flesh nectarines and it’s only going to get better as we move through June and July.

donut-peaches-triple2Just to whet your appetite, I need to mention it looks like both “Peach Pie Donut” peaches and Plumogranate Plumcots should arrive sometime around June 20. You may remember these varieties – they’re among our favorites. Its name notwithstanding, the Peach Pie isn’t actually for making pies, but tastes like peach pie all on its own. For a simple, fantastic dessert, remove the small pit, grill on the barbecue until warmed through and place atop a snickerdoodle cookie from our Bakery. Top with vanilla ice cream and wow. Family Tree Farms even made a video about creating this summer dessert – check it out! As far as the Plumogranates are concerned, all I can say is you have to try this one! It is incredible.

If melons are on your mind, I recommend our organic cantaloupes, orange honeydew and mini-seedless watermelons through late this month. All are certified organic and eat great. If you’re wondering about Turlock melons – another of our favorite growers – their season doesn’t start until after July 1. Stand by, I’ll have more to say on those later.

After all that good news, I figure you can handle some bad. Washington asparagus is done for the year. We’ll have a short period next week where you’ll see some from California, but I expect we will be back to getting asparagus from Mexico by the following week.

But while asparagus is receding to the south, green beans are on the move north and should transition from Mexico to California this week. Their quality is excellent. After a couple of weeks, we should start to see our first Oregon green beans followed by Washington!

On the locally grown front, we’ve already started offering green cabbage. Next week, we’ll see locally grown leaf lettuces, zucchini, yellow squash and maybe some green onions, napa cabbage and bok choy. We’ll also have organic leaf lettuces from Dharma Ridge Farm near Quilcene on the Olympic Peninsula.

Also, I know it’s not exactly apple season, but we have a new variety from New Zealand called “Koru.” This has to be the best apple I’ve tasted in recent years. It rivals both the Kiku and Honeycrisp. With a yellow background and red blush, the Koru is sweet-tart, crisp, crunchy and full of juice and flavor. This is another must-try fruit item. Feel free to ask any of our team members for a sample!

Have a great week! – Joe

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