Summer Produce is Rollin’ In

Summer Produce is Rollin’ In

by Betsy Peirce, produce manager

It seemed for a while that it would never get warm, but summer is upon us at last. We are now into California summer fruit hot and heavy. The proof is in the peaches baby! This season enjoy organic grapes, cherries, plums, pluots (plum/apricot cross), apricots, apriums (apricot/plum cross), melons, berries, nectarines and of course, PEACHES! Not only is the joy palpable in the aisles when these tender beauties come in, there is always a little disbelief when it is truly summer fruit season. It’s almost as if we do not feel worthy of eating such sheer decadence after our long cold winter.

Dare we even speak of our rough winter of heavy frosts, cold wet weather and heavy rains which destroyed thousands of acres of all kinds of produce from Mexico to Florida all the way up to Northern California? That, along with the high price of fuel, affected transportation and inputs used on crops. Not only were the farmers devastated, but also we saw the highest prices on vegetables that we have ever seen.  We are still feeling the weather effects now six months later. Unfortunately, the word is that this is not a temporary situation. Nationally, produce prices are up 10% over last year – all produce not only organic.

How can we continue to eat the way we are accustomed to and still not break the budget? A few ideas came up in a recent Management Team brainstorming session. They were as follows: shop the sales, eat local and eat in season. Ask any friendly Co-op produce worker for tips on the best and cheapest.

This is partly why “local” season, this year especially, feels like a breath of fresh air. We are seeing easing on prices now that the local produce is rolling in. California Kale recently fetched $4.00 per bunch.  Luckily, due to decreased mileage and smarter inputs, our local farmers don’t need to charge that premium price.

We are also fortunate to have more local farmers each year who are extending their seasons with hoop houses and greenhouses. The local tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers that begin to show up in May are one example of this fortune. We are able to lessen our buying from Mexico, support a bunch of really great local farmers and lower our prices.  And the flavor, oh my goodness! It makes such a difference when produce can be picked when they are ripe rather than early and letting them ripen in the truck-ride across country.  The local tomatoes are summer-come-REALLY-early and the local peppers smell just like the pepper plants rather than the boxes they are shippped in.

Just like last year, we will be preordering organic blueberries from Michigan. We will again work with Blueberry Heritage Farm in Holland, Michigan to bring you the best blueberries ever. We’ve heard from Wayne Kiel, the farm owner, that prices are up from last year, but the crop is still too far off for pricing predictions (written in June). The reasons he cited were the cost of inputs and the lack of farm labor for picking. Look for 2# clams to pre-order sometime around the first of July. We are so lucky to be able to buy direct from this farm. Also, we will work with an organic farm in Michigan for peaches this year. He also has lots of different varieties of pears for us to try.

Enjoy these great blueberry and peach recipes this summer.

No-Bake Blueberry Cheesecake with Graham Cracker Crust

Bon Appétit | July 2003
Chill this overnight to develop the blueberry flavor and give the filling time to set.
Yield: Makes 10 servings
9 whole graham crackers
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
3 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin (measured from 2 envelopes)
12 ounces Philadelphia-brand cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 cups fresh blueberries

1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon sugar
4 1/2-pint baskets blueberries
2/3 cup blueberry jam



For crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Blend first 4 ingredients in processor until graham crackers are finely ground. Add butter and vanilla; process until moist crumbs form. Press crumb mixture onto bottom and 1 inch up sides of 9-inch-diameter springform pan. Bake crust until deep golden brown, about 12 minutes. Cool.

For filling:
Pour 1/4 cup water into small saucepan; sprinkle gelatin over. Let stand 10 minutes. Stir over very low heat just until gelatin dissolves. Set aside.

Blend cream cheese, cream, sugar, and lemon juice in processor until smooth. Add berries; puree until smooth (some blueberry bits will remain). With machine running, add warm gelatin mixture through feed tube and blend well. Pour filling into crust. Cover; chill overnight Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled. Run knife around pan sides to loosen cake. Release pan sides. Transfer to platter.

For topping:
Beat cream and sugar in medium bowl until firm peaks form. Spread cream mixture thickly over top of cheesecake. Place berries in bowl. Heat jam in small saucepan over low heat until just melted. Pour jam over berries; toss to coat. Mound coated berries in center of cream, leaving 1-inch plain border. Chill cake at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.


Peach and Cucumber Salsa

Bon Appétit | July 2003
It’s hard to believe that this sweet, crunchy and smoky salsa has only six calories per serving.
Yield: Makes about 3 cups

2 cups diced peeled pitted peaches (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 cup diced unpeeled English hothouse cucumber
3/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons apricot preserves
1 teaspoon chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce

Mix all ingredients in medium bowl. Season salsa to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 2 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Stir to blend before serving).