By Seth Wright, courtesy of Capay Valley Farm Shop
It has been an unusually hot and dry spring here in the Capay Valley. The rain, which usually occurs from January until the end March, never really materialized. There have been many beautiful sunny, warm and cloudless days this spring. We valley dwellers have even endured a few of those oppressively hot 100-degree days. That kind of heat usually does not set in until late June.
Some crops here in the valley have benefited from this premature heat. Melons are one good example. Ideally melons need about 75 to 100 days of sun and warmth to produce lots of excellent fruit. Due to the warm spring here in the Valley, I had my first taste of Goddess melon (which is similar to cantaloupe in flavor and appearance) just this past weekend. It was sweet, delicious, and fragrant. If this heat keeps up there should be a bountiful melon harvest this year.
Speaking of bountiful harvests, stone fruit such as peaches and apricots are also ripening quickly. According to Nikki, Farm Shop Ordering Manager and farm liaison, two Capay Valley farms, Good Humus Produce and Manas Ranch, have been “picking like crazy” to keep up with the rapidly ripening fruit.
Even though warm weather is good for ripening stone fruit, temperatures over 100 degrees can be damaging. According to Annie Main, farmer and co-owner of Good Humus Produce with her husband Jeff, “when it gets that hot, (temperatures in excess of 100 degrees), the apricots can get a bit cooked right around the pit, causing a ”˜pit burn’. The only time you can tell if it has pit burn is when you open it up and see a brownish color around the pit. It isn’t bad to eat, as it is just a bit cooked, but the fruit will break down pretty fast, and it doesn’t look to pretty either.” Annie also noted that the apricot crop was “nice” this year and I couldn’t agree more. I thoroughly enjoyed the Royal Blenheim apricots from Good Humus last week. Hopefully, you did too.
Figs grown here in the valley have also benefited from this year’s early heat. In a recent article written by the Sacramento Bee, Capay Valley farmer Mike Motroni stated that he expected his first crop of ripe figs right around the 15th of June. The heat, however, has caused his figs to ripen up just a little more quickly than he expected. If you are a Bushel customer, you will get your first taste of his figs this week.
Of course for other crops, this heat can be disastrous. I am lamenting the loss of strawberries. The premature heat spell has sucked the life out of them and they are no longer producing flavorful fruit. I have been told that in past years they are typically harvested until the end of June. Harvesting of asparagus, my favorite vegetable, has also ended for the year. It is just too hot and dry for the plant to keep producing an excellent vegetable.
It is not for me to judge whether this unusual heat is a good or a bad thing, but I will say this: it has given me, and hopefully you too, a lot to look forward to eating and enjoying this summer.