March 06, 2019

Calendar says Spring
But the Crops Say Brrr!

Spring (ahead) is here! When we set our clocks ahead this weekend, it’s proof that spring is just about here, even though below-normal temperatures persist (as I write this it is actually SNOWING).

This cool pattern is not exclusive to the Northwest. We are seeing cooler, wet weather patterns up and down the entire West Coast. We’ve even seen freezing temperatures in Arizona and Mexico. What does all this mean? This volatility in the weather right now has an immediate – and potentially a future — effect.

Row crops are presenting all sorts of challenges already.

For example, nearly all row crop vegetables are already presenting challenges. Items like strawberries are dodging rain, which interrupts harvesting. As far as future goes, this time of year is critical to planting crops that should be harvested over the next several months. We already know we’re behind compared to last year on most row crops. Gaps in planting, caused by the weather, may show up in 90-120 days. And some crops that are ready for harvest right now have been damaged already.

At least the huge snow pack that’s forming should help with water supply issues as we move into summer. For future crop gaps, not all is written in stone! One good stretch of good weather and the crop could catch up and growers could increase plantings. Everything rests with Mother Nature over the next several weeks.

Asparagus, Berries and Citrus Report

Having said all this, the spring asparagus crop is recovering quickly. Just a few warm days in Mexico last week means we’re off to the races. In fact, asparagus is on the March 6-12 Big Board for $1.98 lb. – that’s $2 off per lb.

We hope to see a new crop of California asparagus arrive toward the end the month. And my best guess for Washington asparagus is late April.

Asparagus with Peppers and Hazelnuts

Check our touchscreen kiosks in each market – we’ve gathered some of our favorite asparagus recipes, like Asparagus with Peppers and Hazelnuts (pictured). You can print them right there in the market, or text or email them to yourself (or anyone for that matter – like a major HINT HINT?).

Berries, berries, berries. We recently talked with California berry growers and they said the extra rain and mountain snowpack will benefit their strawberry season over all. But that doesn’t hold true for the immediate future. Rain stops harvesting and damages fruit that’s close to harvest, which forces growers to strip plants of damaged fruit and wait for new berries.

We’re finally moving closer to home for blueberries. We’ve had to get them from Chile for the last couple of months but next week’ we’ll move about 2,300 miles to the north to central Mexico. The crop apparently is off to a slow start, but the flavor is expected to be excellent. Again, cool temps on the West Coast means we expect the California blueberries to be a little later than usual. But when they’re ready, we’ll move even closer to home ASAP! Red raspberries may turn out to be largely unaffected by the weather – they always struggle in March and April but ramp up as we move into May.

Now is the time for virtually ALL citrus. March and April are famous for great eating citrus and you can’t go wrong with any of it, really. For me, the Sumo and Murcott mandarins, Cara Cara oranges and the soon-to-arrive Suki Nugget mandarin are my favorites. Suki mandarins is the trademarked name assigned to Gold Nugget mandarins by Suntreat – and some food bloggers say they have managed to produce these late-season mandarins with the flavor they were loved for when they first started showing up in Produce and Farmers markets.

Plums on display at one of Central Markets today.

Imported Plums – Short but Sweet

We have awesome imported plums in the markets right now. You might notice we do very little with imported nectarines or peaches. This is because we just aren’t confident that they’ll consistently eat well because of the distance to get to us. But in the case of plums, there are a few short weeks where the variety and nature of the fruit is simply great. I know it’s a long way from home, but it’s also a nice taste of summer and we’re basically four months away from comparable plums out of California.

Chokes, Cukes, Little Onions Lookin’ Good

Artichokes are just around the corner. Growers are complaining of frost, which turns an artichoke into something of an ugly duckling but does not do any long-term damage. Some say it even improves the flavor. As the weather warms, we should see supply and quality improve. Look for possible artichoke promotions as we move into April.

Interesting items this week include our new crop of Canadian hot house-grown mini English cucumbers. And organic red and yellow onions. These bunched onions (similar to bunched green onions) are a byproduct of growing organic onions -the onions must be thinned by hand to create space for the larger onions to grow. This thinning used to be done a little sooner than they do it now, and the onions plucked by thinning were discarded. But this grower figured out if they let them size up just a bit and then thinned them, they’d have a great product for the market. Available only a few weeks.

 Have a great week, remember to spring ahead an hour on Sunday, March 10.  Enjoy the extra hour of daylight in the evening that we’re essentially stealing from the morning – or something like that! — Joe

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