This is the time of year to visit a Farmers’ Market. Here is a rough schedule of some of what is ripe and available at different times in the summer.
May: Oranges, Summer squash, Broccoli, Broccollini, Kale, Swiss Chard, Onions, Garlic; In late May, Cherries, Apricots, Rhubarb and Strawberries
June: Cucumbers, Swiss Chard, Fennel; Cherries, Apricots, Cucumbers, Summer squash, Peppers, early Peaches (cling,) early Nectarines, Strawberries, Raspberries, early Pluots, Santa Rosa Plums
July: Peaches (freestone), Nectarines, Tomatoes, Pluots, Strawberries, Blackberries, Raspberries, Plums
August: Peaches (freestone and cling), Tomatoes, Pluots, Blueberries, Corn, Zucchini and other Summer Squash, Figs, Melons, Anise bulbs, Carrots, Cucumbers, Cauliflower, Broccoli
September: Apples, Figs, Peaches, Tomatoes, Corn, Cauliflower, Asian Broccoli
October: Apples, Pomegranates, Blueberries, Tomatoes, Pears
I usually wait until May to start going to my local Farmers’ Market–because I know in Northern California–cherries ripen in late May. Early varieties of apricots often start showing up at markets at the same time.
One reason to shop at Farmers’ Markets is for the unique produce that you will not find in the average grocery store. Large grocery chains often place their purchase orders long before the produce is ripe–so the quality may not be ideal when it is finally delivered. At a Farmers’ Market, you get to see what is ripe this week–and decide then and there if you want to buy it and eat it–depending on its quality.
For instance, with cherries, you may have a choice between Garnet or Bing cherries–or the lesser cherries that are planted for pollinating the Garnet and Bings–which are the Larian and other cherries. The Larian are softer and have less of the classic cherry flavor. I actually like Garnet cherries better than Bings.
When I can find them, I also like Van cherries, sometimes used as a pollinator, too. Brooks cherry is a later variety. Lapins and Sweetheart are other varieties. All cherries are not Bings and all cherries are not the same. Sellers feel, however, that they can sell their cherries for more money if they call them “Bing.”
Also, some growers sort their cherries very carefully, leaving out all the “duds” and the ones that have split or been pecked at by birds. That does make a difference when you are paying $4.00/pound. I buy from a grower that sorts them very well and they do not have a lot of field dust or blemishes on them. I have never found cherries in a grocery store that compare to the quality I find at a Farmers’ Market. If you love cherries, it’s worth the trip to your local Farmers’ Market.
With apricots, you will have your choice of which variety you want to buy. And, different varieties ripen at different times of the summer. My favorite apricot is the Royal or Blenheim, sometimes called the Royal-Blenheim apricot.
It is often a small apricot and it has freckles on the skin. It “ripens from the inside” which means the outside can look quite green up until the moment it is fully ripe. People are put off by that–which is a shame–because it such a delicious fruit and has that classic apricot taste you may remember if you have ever had an apricot tree.
The other common varieties of apricot are Patterson, Goldbar, Tilton, Poppy, Katy and Castlebrite. They vary in texture and size and also in their acid content. Usually, the more acidic the fruit is, the firmer the fruit is.
Apples will ripen over a 2-3 month period and then make it to the markets. Fuji and Gala apples are usually the first ones to show up. Then you will see Red Delicious, Pink Lady, Golden Delicious, Jonagold and Rome Beauty apples in the markets.
Photos and Text © 2013 Ann M. Del Tredici