Food & Drink

What’s freshest at farmers markets right now, blood oranges & more

Blood oranges and clementines are still in good supply at Valley farmers markets.
Blood oranges and clementines are still in good supply at Valley farmers markets.

Warmer than normal weather may have you thinking about your favorite fuzzy peach, juicy strawberries or sweet tasting cherries, but be patient they will be here in due time.

Instead, take advantage of a range of fresh fruits and vegetables that are still available and in good supply.

Cruise through your favorite farmers markets and you will likely find plenty of crisp butter lettuce, romaine, Swiss chard, mustard greens, spring garlic and hearty carrots. Carb lovers can still indulge in their favorite potatoes, including russet, golden and red.

And don’t forget about citrus. Vince Iwo, of Vince’s Organics in Reedley, has specialty citrus like Cara Cara navels, a lower-acid orange with a pinkish flesh. The orange has been growing in popularity for its flavor and color.

“And this time of year, the Cara Cara’s are really sweet,” Iwo says.

Also, popular right now are blood oranges. Iwo grows three varieties, moro, sanguinello and tarocco. Along with a striking reddish orange color, the blood oranges are sweet tasting with a hint of raspberry. They are great for drink recipes and in cooking. Moro’s have the boldest color and tarocco’s the lightest.

Iwo says the tarocco tends to be the sweetest in flavor and will be available in about 10 days. Iwo is a regular at the Vineyard Farmer’s Market at Blackstone and Shaw avenues in Fresno. The year-round market opens on Saturday mornings from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. and on Wednesdays from 3-6 p.m.

Market manager Felix Muzquiz says the market is slowly starting to transition to a new season of warmer weather crops.

Among the earliest spring arrivals is the fiber-rich asparagus. The tender spears are literally working their way out of the ground right now.

Westside farmers Steve and Christina Couture, of Couture Farms, will be delivering their asparagus to farmers markets, including the Vineyard Farmer’s Market.

“Asparagus is like a harbringer of spring,” says Couture. “It’s one of those crops that people wait for every year.”

Valley grown asparagus will be available from March through May, barring any major weather issues.

You will have to be a little patient for some other springtime favorites, including strawberries, blueberries and cherries. Although the weather has been favorable, even above average, neither of those fruits is ready. But it won’t be long.

Kim Sorensen of Triple Delight Berries estimates her families crop of big, sweet and juicy blueberries should be ready by mid-April, maybe sooner. The family has a roadside stand at Nebraska Avenue and Highway 41.

Sorensen says many of her customers buy them in bulk, freeze them, and use them during the winter months. When the fresh crop arrives, they load up again and with no wonder. Fresh blueberries have become a favorite with consumers. You can use them in baking, smoothies, or just gobble them right out a bowl.

“When people buy berries that taste good, they don’t tire of them,” Sorensen says. “They eat them all the time.”

If good weather continues, strawberries could make an appearance in several weeks. Last year, strawberries arrived in mid-March.

Cherries are also progressing well, thanks to colder temperatures during the fall and winter. Blossoms have just begun popping in some Valley areas, including Easton.

Farmers estimate the crop may be ready by early May.

“It is always a waiting game,” says Vicki Erickson, of Harry's Cherries fruit stand at Elm and American avenues in Easton.

Robert Rodriguez: 559-441-6327, @FresnoBeeBob