Sure­fire sea­sonal items are the things we antic­i­pate with glee and giddy. The dev­as­tat­ing losses of the Cal­i­for­nia cherry crop this year make the 2019 North­west fruit even more desir­able.

Cher­ries are one of the fresh­est pro­duce items avail­able for a very short dura­tion in the sum­mer.

Tree-​ripened, they are gen­er­ally har­vested, packed and shipped within two days, start to fin­ish.

North­west grow­ing regions are scat­tered through­out Wash­ing­ton, Ore­gon, Idaho, Utah, and Mon­tana. Small dif­fer­ences in the micro­cli­mates allow cher­ries through­out the region to ripen at dif­fer­ent times through the sea­son.

As har­vests win­dows depend on weather, Mother Nature had a heavy hand in this year’s late start. The sea­son has finally arrived. Now through August, we expect to enjoy scrump­tious North­west cherry varieties.

Read more: Cherries! →

The beauty of sum­mer pro­duce is that meal options become more abun­dant with very lit­tle effort. Life activ­i­ties rule. Exces­sive time in the kitchen is counter to the casual vibe we all desire.

Lucky then that fresh herbs, toma­toes, squashes, corn, avo­ca­dos, and let­tuces lay a foun­da­tion for sat­is­fy­ing one bowl or one plate meals.

Pro­tein addi­tions (eggs, poul­try, meat, fish, tofu or grains) enhance an already quick fix ensem­ble of col­or­ful and tasty veg­eta­bles.

Grilled or roasted arti­chokes, egg­plant or sweet pota­toes boost inher­ently good char­ac­ter­is­tics. Their smoky or earth­i­ness traits stand up to any culi­nary scrutiny.

Secret weapons like a very good Bal­samic vine­gar or honey-​whiskey glaze build more depth and dis­tinc­tion. Hardly any prepa­ra­tion is due when sim­ple and high qual­ity ingre­di­ents are in the bag.

Read more: Keep­ing It Simple →

In the land of fresh mar­ket sum­mer pro­duce, size does mat­ter. We can quan­tify cases by weights and by piece counts.

Cal­i­for­nia sum­mer stone fruits and mel­ons are poised to spoil con­sumers this sea­son. It’s impor­tant to know the value of size and how to pur­chase.

With an abun­dance of rain in most major grow­ing areas, we’re see­ing a larger-​size pro­file on early apri­cot, cherry, peach and nec­tarine har­vests. The plea­sure of eat­ing a nine or ten row cherry over, let’s say a twelve row, is super obvi­ous.

The row count, sim­ply put, is how many of the same sized cher­ries will fit lined up in a row across the car­ton. Nine across the box is a nine row cherry. Cher­ries mar­keted as “Nine Rows” mean that not more than 5 per­cent of the cher­ries may be smaller than 7564 of an inch. That is a very large bite of juicy cherry flesh.

Think of the visual impact of a large, plump cherry, glow­ing in gar­net, ver­sus a smaller, not even a mouth­ful (dare we say puny?) piece of fruit. Larger fruit implies higher qual­ity and typ­i­cally com­mands a higher price. Stone fruits like peaches and nec­tarines, will run the full gamut of sizes. Case weights reveal the net weight of the box. Fruit will be tray packed or vol­ume filled.

Sprouts are those skinny lit­tle veg­etable threads that are high on nutri­tion­als. They begin as seeds. When those seeds are exposed to the right tem­per­a­ture and mois­ture, they ger­mi­nate into very young plants. These ten­der young ten­drils are the edi­ble sprouts.

Com­mon sprout vari­eties include grains, beans or leafy sprouts. Three of the most pop­u­lar bean selec­tions are alfalfa, soy and mung bean sprouts. They can be served raw or lightly cooked.

The crunchy, tasty good­ness of bean sprouts can be incred­i­bly ben­e­fi­cial to over­all health. They are packed with plant pro­tein, con­tain no fat, and are very low in calo­ries.

While sprouts have been a part of East Asian, Indian sub­con­ti­nent and Mid­dle East­ern cui­sine for thou­sands of years, they’ve only recently become pop­u­lar in the rest of the world, includ­ing the West.

Edu­cated fans know that eat­ing sprouts can help pro­mote good health. At the same time, there is quite a bit of debate and dis­agree­ment regard­ing the safety of bean sprouts.

Like any fresh pro­duce that is con­sumed raw or lightly cooked, sprouts carry a risk of food­borne ill­ness. Unlike other fresh pro­duce, seeds and beans need warm and humid con­di­tions to sprout and grow. These con­di­tions are also ideal for the growth of bac­te­ria, includ­ing Sal­mo­nella, Lis­te­ria, and E. coli.

Read more: The “S” Word →