Sunday, June 21, 2009

Cherries and Berries

The hint of cherries last week has developed into a rush. And rush you should, too. The rains have played havoc with this first of the stone fruits, causing cracks. Ben Wenk of Three Springs Fruit Farm, which sells at the Headhouse Square Market, told me today he lost one-third of his crop to the innundations.

The rain, however, didn’t hurt the cherries he brought to market. I tried his Queen Anne white cherries (well, rosy yellow, actually) shown in the photo and they were firm and tasty. The sweet red cherries from Beechwood Orchards were deep dark all the way through and just as tasty. None of these were perfect specimens, with occasional cherries showing some cracks, but if you don’t let them sit around for more than a couple days they still make fine eating. Three Springs’ priced the Queen Anne’s at $5/pint, the reds at $4. Beechwood was $3.50/pint and $6.50/quart. (BTW, the early Chalen cherries I picked up a week earlier at the Clark Park Farmers’ Market from Fahnestock Farm improved from a few days’ storage in the fridge.)

Ben says to expect sour cherries for pie (montmorency will be the first variety of to appear) next week. He also had some red raspberries, $4 for a half pint.

Blueberries are also available. A.T. Buzby was selling South Jersey blues for $4/pint. Beechwood’s blues were priced similarly.

Beechwood was one of the few vendors at Headhouse which still had strawberries $3.50/pint, $5.50/quart). Like the cherries, rain has taken its toll on this year’s crop, so you won’t be seeing them much longer, if at all. Beechwood also offered a couple pints of apricots; expect to see more in coming weeks. Owner David Garretson said so far his apricots, peaches and apples are holding up through the rain, but that could change. Ben Wenk of Three Springs is seeing some skin-deep scarring, which should only be cosmetic and not impact flavor and flesh quality.

The prior week at Headhouse, Savoie Farms offered a small supply of mulberries, a blackberry-like fruit. You can’t separate the stems from the fruit, but they tend to disintegrate in cooking. Since they are a bit less sweet than their cousins, should you find any (unlikely, since the season is pretty much done) be sure to add sugar. They tasted fine in some irregularly-shaped hamentashen I made with refrigerated pie dough.

My supply of homemade Kosher-style sour pickles is dwindling, but the kirby cucumber crop is arriving just in time. Most of the produce vendors, at both the farmers’ markets and the Reading Terminal, are offering them and regular salad cuke. Tom Culton’s kirbies looked particularly attractive this week.

Over at the Reading Terminal Market, the Fair Food Farmstand’s blueberries were $3.50/pint. You could also obtain North Carolinas for $2/pint at Iovine Brothers Produce. You could find West Coast red cherries at Iovine’s for $3.99/pound, which is slightly less than a pint, so there wasn’t any savings compared to the less-travel locals. O.K. Lee had bags of red cherries for $1.99/pound, but there was a reason for the low price: they were soft and not nearly as flavorful as the locals. Ben Kauffman’s red cherries, $4.95/pint, were firm and flavorful.

A notable bargain at Iovine’s this week were the Italian style frying peppers, 50-cents a pound. I roasted them in the oven with some olive oil and will be adding them to sandwiches all week long, or maybe frying up some onions and tossing them together with pasta. Vidalias, which I’d rather use raw than cooked, were also 50-cents a pound recently.

Cahbage is cabbage, though the arrowhead variety found at Blooming Glen at Headhouse this week looked particularly attractive. Here’s the photo

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