October 09, 2014

Orchards Runneth Over
with NW Apples
and Other Fresh Facts

There is no shortage of apples.  In fact, you might want to change up that old saying: “An apple a day …” to: “Several apples a day … “

The Washington apple crop is estimated to be 30 percent bigger in many varieties over the 2013 season – we’re talking record volumes. You might remember that in 2013, the apple crop from Michigan and New York was a virtual bust. That placed even more demand on the Washington harvest. This year’s outlook for those eastern states is for increased production, which should lead to more promotional opportunities and lower costs overall. Even better news – an abundance in apples usually results in raising the bar in quality as well.

The California citrus crop is looking good at this point. Last year we had several challenges with that crop, thanks to a solid freeze hit the growing areas in December of 2013, wiping out much of the production in many varieties. So far, reports are that the water shortage in California has not impacted the anticipated volume of this year’s crop in all varieties.

So expect to see an early start in some varieties by as many as two weeks. I am even hearing that the Satsuma harvest will start next week with some being available as early as the week of Oct. 20. We don’t typically jump on the first-of-the-season harvest in citrus because the sugar levels are often just at California’s minimum requirements so they simply don’t eat well.  Much of the early harvest mandarins are conditioned with heat to get a nice exterior color, but this doesn’t increase sugar in the fruit.

We’ll watch closely and test the fruit over the next few weeks to be sure we’ve found acceptable flavor before getting started in the markets. The exciting thing is that we are only about four months from the Sumo Mandarin season. Cross your fingers that we do not get any extended deep freezes in the growing areas this season, but we do want SNOW in the Sierra Mountains to bring relief to the drought-stricken state.

Fresh cranberries are in the Markets – but if you can hold on until the end of next week, we’ll have something really special- Cape Blanco Cranberries. What makes these special is that they are 100 percent Northwest grown – harvested and packed in western Oregon. Cape Blanco harvests several times throughout late October and mid-November ensuring sweeter, larger, full-color berries throughout the holiday season!

Looks like the Hass avocado crop is finally coming back on track. Avocados are one of those crops that have alternating seasons. One year it’s abundant and the following year, not so much! We have just finished the tail end of the lighter 2014 California crop and have started what looks to be the beginning of an excellent year out of Mexico. If history holds true, we should see enough avocados from the Mexico growing areas to be able to offer them at promotional prices well into 2015 – hopefully followed by an abundant year when California starts up again in the spring.

It’s been a great Northwest growing season but, as you know, all good things come to an end. And so it is with row-crop vegetables. We have begun the transition of sourcing fresh produce back south in many items such as lettuce, summer squashes, cucumber, broccoli, etc.

On the other hand, Brussels sprouts are actually continuing to work their way north. Fall is a season in which this vegetable takes center stage. The volume will build over the next several weeks with those popular Brussels sprouts “trees” arriving in the next week or so. These aren’t actually trees, but a fresh harvest with the sprouts still on the stalk. Some swear they are sweeter. For sure, their season is short. The “trees” will come and go by the Thanksgiving holiday! Just a little trivia, these are called sprouts because each and every plant must be topped a few weeks before harvest to force the sprout to form and grow in size.

Squash lovers are in heaven about now. There are several varieties of fall hard squashes in our Markets now.  Although many are on promotion as we speak, this next week we will be focusing on the increasingly popular spaghetti squash. This squash is very versatile and gets its name because of its likeness to noodles – lots of people substitute it for pasta. More flavor and fewer carbs (7 grams in 1 cup compared to pasta, which is 78 grams in one cup!). Yes you can top with your favorite red sauce, but lately I have personally had it smothered in a Mushroom Alfredo Sauce.  Hey – it’s still fewer carbs!

Last but not least check out the Great Pumpkin Patch at our Markets. You’ll find more than six varieties of Jack-O-Lanterns, along with fall decorative things like ornamental gourds, corn stalks and “Wee-B-Little pumpkins!

Have a great weekend! Joe

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