Saturday, November 19, 2011

C-14 aka Royal Dawn Cherries

C-14 Cherries

Rainier Cherries

Rainier Cherries

We started picking C-14 (Royal Dawn) cherries a few days ago in Chile. C-14 is a very nice variety, so juicy, big size and it tastes wonderful. You will notice in the photos that they have a little nose bump, this doesn't affect the taste or quality. I love eating cherries fresh off the tree, at the beginning of the season I always stuff myself full. These will start arriving in North American markets next week. Our orchards are 80 kms south of Santiago in an area called Codegua and our partners have more fruit in the Curicó region. This season's crop is beautiful and the country is anticipating it's largest crop ever.

The Rainier cherries are ready too and gorgeous as you see; very big and excellent quality. We usually like them to color up a little more (red blush) before we begin picking. One of my favorite cherry varieties because they are so sweet. We lay reflective material (like mirrors) under the trees in the Rainier cherry blocks to enhance the sun's rays, this helps them color up nicely and speeds up harvest times. On Google Maps satellite view CHECK IT OUT HERE you can see the reflective material in our orchards. We will ship the Rainier as far away as Shanghai & Beijing.

Red-Striped Lapins Cherry

This is a new variety of cherry that appeared in the midst of the orchards last year. A oddball looking cherry that looks alot like the Rainier variety. We have grafted a few trees and will watch how they progress over the next couple of years. Quite unique with its yellow and purple flesh. Who knows you may see these in your local supermarkets one day in the not too distant future.

Young Pepper Plants

Young Green Pepper

Young Pepper Plants

No.1 Grade Extra Large Green Peppers

Young Pepper Plants

No.2 Grade Green Peppers

I always like to inspect produce first hand in the field and at the packing shed whenever possible. It's much easier to spot potential problems and manage at the farm level.

I've included a few shots of some young pepper fields in Oliver, B.C. taken in early July. This is a popular region to plant grapes, peaches, nectarines, plums, pears, apples, cherries and plenty of vegetables too.

Green Peppers picked at maturity should feel as hard as fresh picked apples (this applies to all peppers including hot varieties). When you break one open it makes a loud noise like biting into an apple or the sound you hear in those old Bick Pickle commercials. Produce buyers I deal with today are often amazed at the quality. Similar to Hot House Pepper quality without the Hot House price!

I usually like to spend some time discussing the right varieties to plant each season. Sometimes we make mistakes... As we continue to improve our quality, people like you will get better produce in your local supermarkets.

Free-to-use Green Pepper Transparents

Staccato Cherries

Centennial Cherries

Lapin Cherries

Lapin Cherries

Sweetheart Cherries

Packing Line in Wenatchee, WA

Besides growing and packing our own fruit each season, I spend countless hours inspecting cherry orchards during harvest. Controlling the fruit from orchard to supermarket is very important to me. I travel extensively during the growing seasons, I drove about 12,000 kms this year in Washington and British Columbia in about 6 weeks.

Not too many people get to eat as many cherries as I do, one of the perks of the job! I've uploaded a few cherry photos for my readers to enjoy. Notice how green and vibrant the stems are, a sure sign of freshness. Always check for green stems when you are shopping, the fruit will easily last a couple of weeks in your fridge.

Free-to-use Cherry Transparents

Ripe Baby Watermelon

Tasting a Slice

Inspecting the core

Fresh Picked Watermelon

Bin of Yellow Baby Watermelon

There's nothing better on a hot summer day than a slice of watermelon except maybe a beer! So I stopped by a friend's farm in Oliver, B.C. to chat and eat some watermelon. The yellow baby variety is much sweeter than red watermelon.

I've been selling yellow watermelon for almost 30 years and still some supermarkets today refuse to carry this wonderful fruit. I scratch my head at that.

Funny but true many people just can't get past the yellow color. So this variety is not for everyone, we call those people "the neighbors we never visit".

A problem I often encounter in supermarkets is a lack of training on how to handle this variety of melon. Yellow watermelon can spoil easily if they are not handled properly. I recommend buying halves instead, then you can make sure the melon is good inside.

Yellow baby watermelon have a shelf life of about 4-6 days.  So eat it right away, don't leave it in your fridge to spoil.

Pick up a melon and press very firmly with both thumbs against the rind, if the melon feels soft it is over-ripe. The rind should feel very firm with slight give (like pressing on a football). Yellow watermelon are unusual because you can actually feel the flesh of the melon move when you press your thumbs against the rind. It almost feels like pressing on packed snow and sounds like snow crunching beneath your feet.

The best test is still the taste test, most supermarkets today offer samples of fruit. Don't be afraid to ask for a sample. Enjoy and let me know what you thought after trying your first yellow watermelon...

* watermelon photos from King's Tomato Farm

Tasting a slice

Fresh picked Musk Melon

Bin of Fresh Musk Melon

If you love eating cantaloupe, you will love chomping down on fresh ripe musk melon even better. Musk melon have the same wonderful taste of cantaloupe but with a much bolder flavor. Grown locally and harvested in late summer they look almost indentical to cantaloupe. I cut a few melons open when I am doing field inspections and perform a taste test before I buy.

I like to visit growers on a regular basis to make sure they are following good farming practices. I can ask questions about the crop and they learn what my expectations are. This is important because many farms pick melons immature and they don't ripen properly (a common complaint). Field inspectors are a necessary part of a good buying program.

Choosing a good melon:

When choosing musk melon and cantaloupe, fruit with an underlying greenish color with take a long time to ripen. The rind will turn yellow as the ripening process progresses and give off a wonderful aroma. The belly button (where the vine was attached) should be clean and dry when you press your thumb against it. A clean belly button means the melon was picked at full maturity (called "full slip") and will ripen properly on your kitchen counter.

Ripen melons at room temperature until they smell nice (hold it up to your nose and smell). To speed up the ripening process put the melon in a plastic bag (2 bags is better) and tie the end. This traps the ethylene gas fruits naturally produce and will ripen the fruit 30-40% faster. Refrigerate ripe fruit.

Enjoy and let me know what you thought of your first taste of this fabulous melon...

Friday, November 18, 2011

Inspecting Apricots for hail damage

This Apricot variety sizes up well

I used to hate eating apricots because they were often dry and lacked much flavor. Times have changed and you can find many great tasting, juicy, new varieties available today. The Hargrant Apricot has become more popular as consumers experience its wonderful juicy, sweet flavor.

Hargrants can grow quite large as you can see from my photo above, and is quite normal. This variety has very unique bumpy, wrinkled appearance that turns off many people. You can pick these greenish 2 weeks before maturity and they will still ripen and taste great.

Many of my customers had doubts until they tried a sample. Don't be fooled by their appearance, Hargrants are one of the best apricot varieties in the marketplace today. Juicy and sweet like a ripe peach and without the peach fuzz! These can be picked and eaten with a little green tinge to them.

How to pick Apricots:

Press your thumb gently but firmly against the fruit and it should have slight give to the pressure, an indication of ripeness. Stem marks on the shoulders is normal and shouldn't be a deterrent. Although green shoulders means the fruit will not ripen fully. The flesh around the pit should look clean, brown or black coloration  is a sign of age

Perfect for supermarkets because they have a longer shelf-life. Developed by Eugene Hogue at the Summerland Research Station in Bristish Columbia, Canada. Available July thru August.

Please send me a message if you are in the Okanagan area in August and I will send you in the right direction for these delicious apricots...