February 8, 2024

February 8, 2024

New this week!

This Saturday, February 10th, is Lunar New Year and we wanted to make sure we had some kumquats to celebrate with since they’re a symbol of good fortune and prosperity! Nagami kumquats are one of the more popular varieties. They’re perfectly bite-sized with sweet skin and acidic pulp. They taste like an orangier version of a Lemonhead candy – sweet, tangy, and sour all at the same time! You can eat kumquats whole, just pop the entire olive-sized citrus in your mouth. There may be a few seeds here and there but they are generally tender. The rind’s citrusy oils might give a slight numbing mouthfeel best described as “gently spicy.” Joyce grew up eating kumquats both fresh and salt-preserved. Luckily, you could never really eat too many of them because they’re considered one of the few things that cool yeet-hay, a rare and special thing for the impulsive young fruit lover. Though little, kumquats feel like royalty with all that promise of wealth, prosperity, and “cooling” qualities packed into them. Store on the counter. Grown organically by Rainbow Valley Orchards in Woodlake.

In mid-November, we brought in Stan Devoto’s Arkansas Black apples and offered them fresh. But the Arkansas Black is actually considered a storage apple, which means that after harvest, it’s often stored at cold temperatures for weeks or months before eating. This cold hibernation can improve many of the apple’s qualities. A fresh Arkansas Black is quite dense but with storage, its texture softens. The sweetness intensifies and the color deepens beautifully to a crimson-black. Its thick and naturally waxy skin (really, these apples have not been waxed!) help it keep well. These Arkansas Black apples are grown by Byron and his crew at Cuyama Orchards. As far as we know, Cuyama is the only apple grower with an orchard this far south in California. Nestled in the uppermost part of the Cuyama Valley in Ventura County, just over the coastal range from Santa Barbara, their orchard sits at elevation 3,300 feet in a perfect apple-growing microclimate (Sebastopol south, if you will). Warm fall days and cool nights are ideal for ripening apples. For anyone who got to try a fresh Arkansas Blacks this fall, let us know which version you prefer! Store in the fridge. Grown organically by Cuyama Orchards in Cuyama. 

It’s hard to believe that despite storms up and down California, Forbidden Fruit’s tough little plants are still pushing delicious blueberries. It’s truly such a treat to get California-grown blueberries right now and with the cooler weather these past few weeks, the fruit is super-duper limited. The slower ripening means their flavor is extremely well-developed, even if the sugars aren’t quite there. They’ve got the varieties Jewel, Sapphire and Emerald planted, which will carry us until blueberry season really starts up in the spring. Store in the fridge. Grown organically by Forbidden Fruit Orchards in Lompoc.

Back again!

Last week was the first week of Tahoe Gold mandarins from Terra Firma Farm, but sadly the season has already wrapped up. Last weekend’s storm brought gusty winds of upwards of 60 mph which basically shook the remaining crop from the trees. On Monday after the storm, the crew picked what was left, but this is about it. All the more reason to savor these little gems; they’re the last of their harvest. Tahoe Golds are a type of TDE mandarin: a hybrid cross between varieties Temple Tangor, Dancy and Encore mandarins. High sugars balanced with high acid, the flavor of Tahoe Golds is unmatched. Its slight pebbly skin (which makes them easy to peel) and deep vermillion hue make them a stunner too! Our friends at Terra Firma know we have a special affinity for these, so we get play by play updates as the season develops. This season was a rough one, but soon enough the trees will flower, set fruit, and set next year’s crop in motion. Store in the fridge or on the counter. Grown organically by Terra Firma Farm in Winters.

This next variety of cherimoya is called ‘Booth’ which is a bit smaller than the ‘Dr. White’. Both are incredibly sweet like papaya with tropical notes of banana, guava, piloncillo, and pineapple. The texture is custardy with large black seeds sprinkled throughout the flesh which you’ll want to avoid. Cherimoya fruit is native to the valleys of the Andes in Ecuador and Peru. Closer to home, the tropical oasis of Good Land Organics in Goleta is the perfect environment for cherimoya to thrive, with leeward slopes protected from the direct ocean elements. The farm has a perfect climate for subtropical fruits and these cooler winter months benefit the cherimoya plants with a bit of chill. This piece of fruit is just incredible. In the Andes, a tiny native beetle pollinates cherimoya flowers. Pollinators like the honey bee are too large to fit between the cherimoya’s petals and the Andean beetle does not exist in California, so our friends at Good Land hand-pollinate each flower! The cherimoya is perfect to eat when it’s kind of soft and the skin starts to brown slightly. Store on your counter until then, though we have carefully ripened these so they are very nearly ripe. Once it’s ripe we recommend popping it in the fridge to chill for a bit for a cold, custardy ice cream experience! Grown organically by Good Land Organics in Goleta.

I was at a farmers’ market recently and noticed a couple asking for Washington Navels, which were tucked away in the back of the van, while ignoring the Cara Cara oranges on the table in front of them. Surprised, I asked them why they don’t go for Cara Cara oranges. They responded, “Well Cara Caras are some sort of orange and grapefruit hybrid and we just want a normal orange.” I thought that was interesting! But it is also wrong (lol), likely a case of mistaken identity due to their blush coloring. The Cara Cara variety was actually discovered as a result of a mutation on a Washington Navel tree in Venezuela in 1976 – the product of random genetic chance! In fact, there’s no grapefruit involved whatsoever. Cara Caras are easy to love: they’re sweet, juicy, lower acid, and have subtle berry undertones. We brought in Cara Caras for our holiday box in December from Murray. They were the first ones we’d seen in the market and even so early in the season, they were delicious. Now, having some time to hang on the tree with some cooler temps–they’re even MORE delicious. So fresh, so sweet, and just amazing flavor. Grown organically by Murray Family Farms in Bakersfield. 

As the weather has cooled, Ice Cream beans have come on in volume from our friends Kristen and Jay at Good Land Organics. The Ice Cream bean, Inga edulis, is native to South America. There are so many interesting things to mention about this fruit that it’s hard to know where to start. It’s technically considered a legume, like lentils and beans, but it grows on a tree! They are super fast growing and get up to ~90 feet tall! This is why they’re often associated with coffee farming, providing the shade canopies and nitrogen-fixing magic that increases soil fertility that make them the perfect companion to coffee plants. And yes, this is all happening in a unique little corner of California, tucked into the steep canyon folds of the Santa Ynez Mountains, within view of the Pacific Ocean. It’s nice to chill the Ice Cream beans for a bit before eating. Then, cut off one end and strip away the string on the seam longways to open up the pod like you would shell a pea or fava bean. We made a fun video on Instagram to demonstrate. The fleshy white interior is what you want to eat; discard the black seed in the center. Sweet, custardy, slightly vanilla-y, we think this one gets all 10’s for novelty. Grown organically by Good Land Organics in Goleta.
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