by Jenny Ohlsen, Produce Manager
Yes indeed, we should all take a moment and give ourselves a congratulatory pat on the back, we have finally made it to summer fruit season. Hooray! When those first strawberries show up on the produce aisle in April I know that berries, grapes, melons, and stone fruit just can’t be too far away. Please don’t misunderstand, I am always thrilled to welcome the season’s newest apple in the fall and the arrival of the winter citrus can put a little skip in my step but nothing can match the excitement of the summer fruits. For me, I think it’s the sheer diversity of fruit that makes the summer fruits so exciting. Let’s take a minute and check out the fruit offerings that lay before us this summer.
We already have a few melon varieties hanging out on the produce aisle during the month of May, but June is the time that those prices start to drop and flavor is on the rise. Watermelon, honeydew, galia and canteloupe are the four varieties that you will see most often here at the Co-op. During the month of June we will be getting most of our melons from California, but if you’re willing to hold out a couple of months, you will find yourself knee deep in local melon season in August. Each variety that we sell satisfies a different taste for me. The honeydew and the galia are super flavorful, very sweet and have a very smooth texture, though I think the galia is even sweeter than the honeydew. The canteloupe (actually a muskmelon) is a bit more subtle and refreshing though still sweet. It always brings back a fond memory or two about my childhood as it was always Mom’s favorite melon. Watermelon is by far the most festive of all of the melons—juicy, sweet and bursting with flavor.
We will be featuring melons a lot during the month of June in our cut fruit section in the produce aisle. We have an exceptional group of people (Jonah, Katie and Melissa) cutting fruit and making beautiful and tasty creations every day. Stop on by and pick up a container. I can guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.
We saw the very first of our domestic grapes hit the produce aisle during the month of May. A lot of us fruit connoisseurs cannot resist the temptation to buy that first green grape but now that it is June the grapes are on the way to being truly bountiful. We generally tend to carry only the green and the red grape. Calling the grapes green and red is actually a huge oversimplification as there are many varieties that grace our aisle throughout the summer season. The variety switch is important because it ensures that we receive the most flavorful grape throughout the summer and fall. Grapes are a must in my home. It just wouldn’t be a lovely summer day without a bowl of grapes on the kitchen counter.
This topic is particularly broad as it encompasses peaches, nectarines, cherries, plums and apricots. What they all have in common is the large, hard pit in the center of the fruit. I’m not sure any other fruit feels more like summer than a fabulous peach or a bowl of cherries. The month of June marks the beginning of the stone fruit season. Just as we experienced with grapes and melons, the prices for our stone fruit friends will drop and the flavor will get better and better. Though as all of you know, the search for the perfect peach can at times be a bit elusive. The stone fruit that we buy has to travel a long way to reach the final location of the Willy Street Co-op. I can’t even begin to guess the number of hands one peach has passed through or the number of trucks that same peach was transported in. The end result is that this peach needs supreme care to get to our Co-op, and the hope is that the flavor will be out of this world. The key to a great peach or nectarine is to ask your friendly produce person. Sometimes we sell our fruit so fast that we don’t even have an opportunity to ripen fruit and give it a proper taste test but I can tell you that our produce staff is pretty darn knowledgeable and happy to slice off a piece to taste. No problem!
Last but not least is a huge favorite for me, berries of all varieties. You should be seeing the wonderful summer standards of the blackberry, blueberry, raspberry and most certainly the strawberry. While the blueberry arrives on our aisle toward the latter half of summer, we can really count on the strawberry for the beginning of the summer. We will have plenty of California strawberries to share with you at the beginning of the month of June, and we are so very lucky to have local strawberries for the last half of the month. We buy our strawberries from two different farms: Avalanche Organics and JenEhr Family Farm. Keep your eye on that fruit section because those local strawberries are just around the corner.
Let’s savor the summer with the fabulous offerings of summer fruit. I want to remind all of our member owners to ask your favorite produce staff member about their favorite fruit pick. Heck, we would be happy to give you a sample or too. Don’t be shy, just ask!
In celebration of the warm weather and summer fruit we are offering a pretty impressive offering of local produce on special. We are featuring rainbow chard and red chard for the whole month from the wonderful Keewaydin farm. The Haucke family runs this lovely farm and what a delightful group they are. We are offering both varieties of chard for $1.29/bunch down from $1.79/bunch. We are also featuring bags of arugula from Harmony Valley for 1.99/bag. What wonderful local treats!
That’s about it from the produce department. I wish you all a bright and sunny month of June and don’t forget to get your fill of the wonderful organic summer fruits.