Mirror Contributing Writer
Rain, hail and frost in the northern San Joaquin valley have set back early fruit crops like cherries, apricots and plums. You might remember the early hot snap we had in February of this year, when temperatures hit the nineties – causing fruit trees to bloom early. Those blooms were subsequently hard hit by cold, rainy weather, and recent hail has damaged small fruit that was just beginning to set. Farmers tell us that cherries and apricots will be two to three weeks late this year – and the cherry crop will be small due to loss and damage. The bloom continues, and rain is forecast again for this week, leading to more uncertainty on the part of California farmers. Cool weather has slowed down and delayed some of the bloom; later fruit should not be too badly affected. Still, it has been a tough spring for farmers.
Next time you are at a market, try sampling some of Adams Olives cold-pressed olive oil. The Adams’ have been growing olives since the late 1800’s, and their stand features dozens of different olives – pitted, stuffed, Greek style, dried, as well as oil and a new line of vinegars. Olive oil is susceptible to rancidity if it is exposed to light, which is why Adams’ olive oil is stored in steel containers and bottled a little at a time. Adams’ features primarily Manzanilla, Mission and Abequina oils, all “extra virgin” oil pressed from fresh olives. Olives start out green, but gradually turn red and then black on the trees. In the fall, Adams brings fresh cured, butter-soft green olives to market. Later in the season as the olives hang on the tree, they are harvested and pressed, which is why the flavor of the various oils have such distinct characteristics. Mission oil is good for dipping and eating, and tastes most like a fresh olive. It is also bottled in an “unfiltered” version, which is really fresh and fruity. Manzanilla olive oil has a stronger, spicy flavor and is good to use as a finish for cooked foods. Pungent herbs like basil nicely complement its strong flavor. Abequina olive oil is harvested last, as late as March, and it makes the spiciest of the olive oils. The Adams’ also produce a blood orange-infused Mission olive oil, which adds just a hint of warm citrus flavor – perfect for dressings.
In addition to its various olive oils, Adams Ranch is also producing a line of vinegar. You can choose from balsamic, red wine or raspberry vinegar and pair them with one of the farm’s fruity olive oils for salads, dressings and toppings.
Wong Farm is bringing in a variety of hydronically grown cherry tomatoes now that the weather has warmed up a bit. You can sample the sweet, orange Sungold tomato that is one of the best tomatoes on the market. The “Jolly” is a characteristically pale pink Japanese tomato that has a distinctive point at the blossom end. There is also a small “Juliet” roma style tomato, perfect for slicing on salads or for cooking. And you can also pick up some classic round red cherry tomatoes for snacking or salads. Wong Farm is located in the desert near the Salton Sea, and the family specializes in winter tomatoes, grown outdoors in beds of nutrient-infused water. The tomatoes come to market early, and have plenty of flavor and a rich, meaty texture. Irrigation from the tomato beds are used to water grapes and, late in the summer, the Wongs bring in their much-anticipated Keitt mangoes.