Thursday, June 09, 2011

Strawberry Season Fades in Heat Wave
But Cherries May Make It To Market This Weekend

Shopper at Beechwood Orchard's stall
at Rittenhouse Square last Saturday.
While May weather created some of the sweetest, most flavorful and juiciest strawberries I've sampled in recent years, the extreme temperatures of June are making it a short season.

The normal peak of the local strawberry season is early to mid-June, with late season berries continuing until the Fourth of July. But it looks like we'll only have another week of berries from most growers.

But fear not: sweet cherries from local orchards should appear this weekend, according to Benuel Kauffman, who operates Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce at the Reading Terminal Market. Ben says sour cherries for baking should be available by the end of the month.

Iovine Brothers' Produce at the Reading Terminal Market only sold berries from Bucks County's Shady Brook Farm for a few weeks; their season is done with now.

Prices at the RTM and local farmers' markets have ranged from $5 to $8/quart for strawberries, with most vendors at about $7. It's possible that if a vendor has a bunch of heat-softened, less than pristine looking (but incredibly flavorful) berries, you might be able to cut a deal. They'd be great for preserves or ice cream. I'm planning to turn the quart I bought from Ben today into sherbet (which is nothing more than a sorbet with some milk added).

Snow peas and new red potatoes at Kauffman's.
Don't expect to see local asparagus for much longer either, or the more tender lettuces, like Bibb. The latter does particularly poorly when Mother Nature raises the thermostat setting.

Beets, however, have started to turn up at farmers' markets. Some red baby beets I roasted last week (purchased from Blooming Glen at Headhouse) were sweet as could be.

Local cucumbers have also started to make their appearance. Fair Food at the RTM and A.T. Buzby at Headhouse were selling them at three for a buck; Iovine's had South Jersey beauties at five for a buck. I made some great kosher pickles (just a salt brine with pickling spices, no vinegar) this week. Iovines was also selling salad cucumbers at two for a buck.

The hot weather means it's a fine time for potato salad. All the local markets have baby red potatoes which are ideal. I used Mark Bittman's recipe last week, which calls for some onion and radish (I also added a little celery). When the potatoes are still hot, toss them in a mustard vinaigrette.

Boiled red potatoes were a traditional accompaniment to local salmon in New England, back when local streams still had vibrant Atlantic salmon runs. Those days are long gone, but John Yi at the RTM had a price break on wild Alaskan king salmon today: $19.99/pound; last week it was $21.99. Sockeye was, iirc, $15.99. The king filet I slow roasted a week or so ago was superb.

Queens Farm offered favas, sweet peas, sugar
snaps and snow peas Sunday at Headhouse.
Legumes are also making their seasonal debut, as seen at Queens Farm at Headhouse last Sunday. They were selling favas at $2.50/pound, sweet peas at $2 a pint, both in the pod. 

Those peas, the last of the asparagus and some carrots would make a great pasta primavera.

It's too hot to make Chile Relenos, but Iovine's had some fantastic looking, large poblanos today. They and the jalapenos were priced at 99-cents a pound. Red bells were $1.99, half a buck cheaper than the frying peppers.

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