Of course all the fresh fruits and vegetables we sell are certified organic. Some is also grown very close to here. In this neighborhood people seem to define “local” as “produced within 150 miles”. Other parts of the country use varying definitions, but we can keep it simple because we are blessed with some stellar growing regions within that radius. One of them features prominently in what we have to offer today, what we have to eat today.
Watsonville and Santa Cruz (and thereabouts) are roughly 100 miles away. Lots of fine product coming from there right now.
The farm that’s been delivering berries to us since spring (and has been for years) is JW Farms, a family operation in San Miguel Canyon in Watsonville. That they deliver to us directly (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday) has permitted us to have good prices on fresh strawberries all summer and into autumn. And lots of the nation’s best berries come out of Watsonville and Santa Cruz. There are modest-sized growers like Santa Cruz Berry Farms and large growers like Driscoll’s Strawberry Associates. You’ll see Watsonville-grown strawberries on the shelves of supermarkets in New York. But you’ll also see them here, about 100 miles from the fields. JW’s driver says it takes him about 2 hours to get here.
Right now JW Farms is also our primary supplier of heirloom tomatoes. When you think of fresh tomatoes you probably think of summer. But autumn-harvested tomatoes ripen slowly. If they mature properly, they can have fine, rich flavor. Many years growers all over California produce excellent tomatoes up until Thanksgiving. This drought year, some growers have faded early. So we are fortunate that JW is doing probably their best work ever with heirloom tomatoes. When this season passes, when tomatoes are shipped from Mexico and from California greenhouses, you will not encounter flavors, colors, and textures to match what you can have on the table today. Prominent varieties in the heirloom mix include Black Brandywine and Pink Brandywine, both considered “sub-acid”, nearly all sweet; Marvel Stripe, variegated bright gold, red and orange, with a touch of tartness; and the surprising Persimmon, orange-colored, shaped like a Fuyu Persimmon, with gorgeous flavor and a texture that starts out firm and then just melts in your mouth. Enjoy, please. This is wonderful stuff.
Before you knew you wanted only organic, you probably drank Martinelli’s Gold Medal apple juice. They make their juice from apples (mostly Pippin) grown in the Pajaro Valley. That’s Watsonville. Great apple growing country. Production volumes are such that by January we’ll have mostly Washington and Oregon apples. But first half of the apple-eating season we have plenty of local fruit.
So what apples are we offering from Watsonville (and Santa Cruz and Hollister and, you know, in the neighborhood)? Our first really good apple this season was a MacIntosh grown without irrigation by Alan Amaral. Mr. Amaral is sold out now. So we have another dry-farmed MacIntosh from Robert Silva. Both these gentlemen offered Mutsu, a big, dense, sweet green/gold apple (but done now, our current Mutsu is from Sebastopol). Braeburns, first from Phil Foster, now from Bruce Rider and Sons. Our excellent Fuji is grown by Rider. Newtown Pippins are coming from multiple growers. We’ve offered Pippins from Lakeside Organic Gardens and from Fruitilicious Farm and more growers are coming on. Make sure to taste Pippins now and put that flavor in your memory. Later Pippins from other growing regions have their own “terroir” (sense of place), these taste like “here”. We have Cameos, Spitzenbergs, Sunrise from Rider and Sons. And the biggest surprise of the apple season thus far – our Red Delicious. For the moment forget that nobody likes Red Delicious any more. Most commercial strains are easy to grow, bland, mealy, taste old even when fresh-picked. But Robert Silva is dry-farming one of the old-time strains. It’s dense, deeply crunchy, subtly juicy. The flavor has some of the wine-like richness and depth you might expect of a Jonathan. Please give this apple a chance. Maybe serve it up with crusty bread and a creamy Brie. Or try it as the nearly perfect caramel-dipping apple. Supply probably will only last another month or so. After you’ve tasted this terrific Red Del, you’ll know you can trust when Produce Notes says, “Surprise! Try this.”
Lots more fine product from the region (many vegetables and mushrooms), but no more room to talk about it today. We’ll catch up in the next edition. Thank for reading. Eat. Enjoy.
By Jay Moritz