We all read the updates on weekly mar­ket con­di­tions. Weak, strong, up, down, esca­lated, Acts of God, legs, no legs. All pro­duce lingo to inform end users on the state of let­tuce, berries and veg­eta­bles.

It all sounds fine in an update on paper. Real­ity sets in when we as con­sumers shop and take our fruits and veg­eta­bles home for meals pre­pared in our own kitchens.

For the past sev­eral weeks, exces­sive and pro­longed heat (triple digit tem­per­a­tures) in our prime grow­ing areas is news­wor­thy. Next came the head­lines of mul­ti­ple fires through­out Cal­i­for­nia, Ore­gon and Wash­ing­ton. Smoke and ash con­tinue to push air qual­ity in to unhealthy ranges.

Warn­ings of short sup­plies, higher prices and tight mar­kets are a direct result of those late sum­mer events. Har­vest dis­rup­tions due to lack of labor or min­i­mum time avail­able to pick, sort and pack have worked against grow­ers.

Prod­uct alerts tell retail­ers and chefs to order tight or “truck to shelf or truck to plate”. Valen­cia oranges have suf­fered from heat stress. Romaine, ice­berg and leafy let­tuces are now show­ing the affects of insect dam­age and high tem­per­a­tures.

Grow­ers do their best to mit­i­gate all qual­ity con­cerns in every crop. It makes good sense for the farmer to want to make the most of their sales. Still, unavoid­able cir­cum­stances have pre­vailed this sum­mer to give grow­ers more headaches than usual.

Since most meals are now being made or con­sumed at home under COVID restric­tions, pro­duc­tion dis­rup­tions hit close to home on food waste and the wal­let. Fewer store trips for mar­ket­ing mean the per­ish­ables need to last and go farther.

Read more: Esca­lated & Weak →

Late sum­mer to early fall is a per­fect time to pick and high­light bell pep­pers. They tend to thrive in the hot Cal­i­for­nia sun, so the recent heat wave was not a deter­rent to these col­or­ful beau­ties.

The 2020 Wash­ing­ton state apple har­vest is just under­way. This season’s crop looks to be stel­lar and close to last year’s size in vol­ume.

Apple farm­ers keep grow­ing larger crop sizes and more vari­eties to please the world­wide con­sumer demand of this favorite fruit.

For the sec­ond straight year, Gala apples will be the high­est vol­ume vari­ety pro­duced at 23 per­cent. Red Deli­cious is pro­jected at 17 per­cent, fol­lowed by Fuji apples at 14 per­cent. Granny Smith and Hon­ey­crisp are at 13 per­cent each of total pro­duc­tion.

This year, new­com­ers Cos­mic Crisp is fore­casted to come in at 1.2 per­cent of the total crop and Cripps Pink at 5 per­cent. Pretty good for the new­bies.

Organic apple pro­duc­tion is on track to be about 16 per­cent of the total, or 21 mil­lion boxes. This is up from 15 mil­lion boxes in the 2019 apple crop. By the way, not all organic pro­duc­tion is ulti­mately packed, sold and mar­keted as organ­i­cally grown.

Read more: “A“mazing →

Late sum­mer to early fall is a per­fect time to pick and high­light bell pep­pers. They tend to thrive in the hot Cal­i­for­nia sun, so the recent heat wave was not a deter­rent to these col­or­ful beau­ties.

Orig­i­nat­ing in South and Cen­tral Amer­ica, Colum­bus brought them back to Europe in the 15th cen­tury. They soon became culi­nary stars across the globe.

Bell pep­pers are part of the chile fam­ily. Unlike their spicier coun­ter­parts (ser­ra­nos, jalapeños and habaneros), they do not con­tain cap­saicin, the com­pound that gives chile pep­pers their heat.

At their peak in late sum­mer and early fall, bell pep­pers are avail­able in a rain­bow of col­ors. Their mild fla­vor and sat­is­fy­ing crunch make serv­ing them raw a pop­u­lar choice. Sal­ads and fresh veg­gie plates are dressed up with bright bell pep­per rings or juli­enned strips.

Roast­ing, grilling, bak­ing, or stir-​frying them brings out a deeper, sweeter taste. Their hol­low cav­ity and sturdy walls makes them ideal for stuff­ing. This menu appli­ca­tion seems to fit right in with the tran­si­tion of sum­mer to fall.

There are two major fac­tors that deter­mine a bell pepper’s color. One. The time of har­vest­ing and the degree of ripeness at har­vest time. Two. The pep­per vari­etal.

All bell pep­pers start out green and change color as they mature. If it’s not picked, a green pep­per may become yel­low, orange, or red, depend­ing on its vari­etal. The longer the fruit stays on the vine, the sweeter it becomes. Addi­tional time on the plant also means that more nutri­tional value is gained.

Since they were less ripe when picked, green bell pep­pers have a longer shelf life, but are less nutrient-​dense than bell pep­pers that have matured to other colors.

Read more: Pep­per Picks →

Labor Day 2020 comes in the midst of a global pan­demic and an era of essen­tial work­ers.

Since early March, front-​line work­ers, across mul­ti­ple indus­tries, have faced unprece­dented con­di­tions to per­form our most cru­cial ser­vices.

Typ­i­cally, Labor Day marks the offi­cial “end of sum­mer” fes­tiv­i­ties, vaca­tions and leisure pas­times. Kids go back to school and fam­i­lies set­tle in with more struc­tured rou­tines.

Sport­ing events, con­certs and back­yard bar­be­cues are Amer­i­can high­lights from Labor Days past. Not this year. Card­board cutouts will suf­fice to enter­tain base­ball fans and online vir­tual con­certs intend to ser­e­nade lis­ten­ers.

Back­yard grilling will be served to a restricted num­ber of peo­ple. No crowds or large par­ties allowed this year. Gath­er­ings will be lim­ited. Amaz­ingly, those respon­si­ble for feed­ing Amer­i­cans have shown remark­able resilience.

Farm­ers in Cal­i­for­nia have bat­tled destruc­tive fires through­out major grow­ing regions this sea­son. Still, they con­tinue to har­vest, pack and ship.

On the table, and with­out much inter­rup­tion, we con­tinue to eat our fresh pro­duce. Mel­ons, toma­toes, sweet corn, cook­ing veg­eta­bles and salad ingre­di­ents mag­i­cally find there way to the gro­cers and restaurants.

Read more: Essen­tial Labor →