I try hard not to talk about the weather on the farm every week in the newsletter, but sometimes it’s difficult. We were anticipating losing some crops this week due to excessive heat and wind, and we did: strawberries and peas were destroyed over the weekend. Somehow the lettuce survived long enough for us to harvest it for your boxes this week, but the season is now over.
Our summer crops don’t like the wind much either, but the warm nights especially have accelerated their growth. We fully expect to have tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet corn, watermelon and green beans in your boxes by mid-June. It’s the next two weeks we’re not so sure about.
What we’re really going to miss, in more ways than one, is our early stone fruit. As I mentioned in other newsletters, we lost over 80% of our peaches and nectarines — and 100% of our apricots — in the February freeze. Those are all fruits that we normally heavily feature in your early June boxes. Most years, we would have a crew of 4 people harvesting stone fruit every day right now. This year, it’s taking one person an hour or two each week to pick all the fruit.
In place of our own fruit, we’re talking to other growers in the area who somehow avoided the freeze. We’ll have some Apricots in a couple of weeks from a grower in nearby Esparto. We’re also talking to a neighbor about supplying us with blackberries.
In the meantime, we will be relying on the humble Valencia Orange to provide you with some sweetness. Valencia oranges are normally considered “juicers” because they’re hard to peel and often have seeds. But they are delicious when cut in slices or quarters and eaten out of hand as well. And they ripen in late spring, aka, now.
We have two small orchards of Valencias. Interestingly, they are vulnerable to freezing in mid-winter, and we’ve lost them several times even when our other citrus fruit was not damaged. That’s because sugar acts like anti-freeze during cold weather — and the Valencias develop their sugar much later than Mandarins and Navels.
Because the freeze this year occurred in late February, the Valencias had built up just enough sugar to avoid being damaged.
If someone had given me a choice, back in February, of one crop to save from the freeze, it wouldn’t have been Valencia oranges. But that’s not how farming works, especially in the age of climate change. We’re thrilled to have them, and we hope you are too.