Summer is the season for locally grown, fresh fruits and vegetables that residents can pick up at a farmer’s market on the way home from work or as a member of a co-op in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). With the growth and availability of farmer’s markets and CSAs in the county, residents can get tomatoes picked the day before or sample varying degrees of sweetness in strawberries.
“Fresh just makes a difference,” said Dale Davis from Stony Hill Gardens and Farm Market last week in Hoboken. His Chester-based farm sells fruits, vegetables, and pastries at the local farmer’s market on Thursdays uptown on Hudson Street and on Saturday at the Garden Street Mews. He said that on his farm, the sweet corn is picked the night before the farmer’s market, which he said makes a difference because the vegetable hasn’t been sitting out for days.
Goodbye strawberry, hello nectarine
As the summer season shifts, so do the types of fruits and vegetables.
“Strawberries are ending,” said Davis. “Peaches are just starting.”
He added that nectarines, blueberries, and raspberries are coming into season as well. His table had rows and rows of strawberries next to blueberries with a few peaches in between.
“We’ve been getting some excellent ugly oranges.” – Janit London
Purple Dragon was started in 1987 by London as a way to access high quality organic produce for a small group of young mothers and their families. A new pod opened up in Hoboken in June. The group also has pods in Jersey City and Weehawken. Members get 20- to 30-pound baskets of fruits and vegetables every other week.
“We’ve been though fresh herbs, cilantro, dill, parsley, and basil,” said London. “You can’t have too much basil!”
She said that people “are crazy” for garlic scape, which is the green top of the garlic plant.
“Little cabbages should be ready soon,” said London. She added that sugar snap peas, baby beets with greens, rhubarb, and escarole are on their way.
“We’ve been getting some excellent ugly oranges,” said London. She said that the choice grade Valencia oranges sometimes have a purple or brown discoloration but pass the taste test. London said that a common expression she uses to determine if a fruit passes muster is, “does it eat good?” and in the case of the ugly oranges “they are incredibly delicious!”
You say tomato, I say tomahto
Unlike the popular expression, tomato is not tomahto, especially if the tomato is from New Jersey, which is known for the fruit. Tomato is one of the most popular items at the farmers’ market, followed by sweet corn, according to Davis. He said that the difference in the taste depends on the soil and that there is nothing like Jersey soil to cultivate a great tomato unlike you’ll find anywhere else.
Frost bites berries
Strawberries in the supermarket are often from the West Coast and referred to as “dry” berries while the strawberries grown in the East are “wet” berries, according to London.
“The taste is more floral as opposed to the west coast strawberry and they are extremely fragile,” said London. “The east coast strawberry has to be eaten pretty darn quick.”
Because of the dependency on the changing summer climate, Davis experienced a bit of frost with the strawberries that his farm saved through overnight irrigation while Purple Dragon had farmers they depend on that experienced a bit of frost with blueberries.
“Because a lot of farmers lost percentages of their crops to freezing, there is a very limited crop [of blueberries] this year,” said London. “The farmer we worked with for many years promised we would have enough for a lot of people.” Crops in Georgia and Florida, in particular, were affected by frost, noted London.
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at email@example.com.