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IN SEASON

An Apple a Week

October 07, 1998|RUSS PARSONS

Kenton Kidd, head of the California Apple Commission, sounds like a football coach--and not a winning one either.

First of all, his team is having its worst season in years. After an unseasonably cool early summer and a suddenly scorching August and early September, not only is this year's apple harvest smaller than any this decade, but the apples are smaller also.

"We had all that rainy cold weather, and that didn't give the apples a chance to grow. Then when we did get hot weather," he says, "they ripened up right away, but a notch or two smaller than normal."

What's more, his traditional rival, Washington state, is enjoying its best year ever. According to Jim Thomas, communications director for the Washington State Apple Commission, Washington's harvest will be 30% bigger than last year's, roughly 2.1 million tons (about 60% of the fresh-market apples in the United States). California's predicted harvest is a fraction of that, about 142,000 tons.

But it gets worse. Normally, because California's growing area is a little warmer, the crop ripens earlier than Washington's. That usually gives the home team three or four weeks to sell apples before the big guys hit the scene.

"Because of the weather, we're two weeks late this year and they're a week early," says Kidd. "They slammed that window shut on us. They're rolling right into us right now.

"We're going head to head with them, and it's a very difficult situation because they have a big crop and big bucks for promotion. We're putting some good stuff in boxes, but there's just not enough of it.

"It's going to be slim pickings this year."

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Farmers' Market Report

There's so much good stuff at the farmers' market held at Torrance's Wilson Park every Saturday that it's difficult to know where to begin. Do you single out the Paniaguas from Thermal, who sell the most remarkable barhi dates, so liquid they're almost like biting into a sugary cloud? What about chicken man Paul Hong from Barstow, who sells four kinds of birds--including the black-skinned Silkies used by Asian cooks for medicinal broths--as well as Silkie, Araucana and duck eggs? And then there's Dry Dock, the farmers' market fishmonger, which last weekend had Santa Barbara shrimp, opah, ahi and bluefin tuna, white sea bass, whole yellowtail, corbina and sheepshead as well as half a dozen other types of seafood.

Weiser Farms from Lucerne has cantaloupes and Galia melons as well as jujubes, winter squash and Fuji and Virginia Gold apples. Thys Farm from Fallbrook has Fuyu persimmons, kumquats, cactus pears, Mission figs and sweet limes. Kosmo Farms from Cuyama has Granny Smith, Red Delicious, Braeburn, Golden Delicious, Gala and Jonagold apples. Yasutomi Farms from Pico Rivera has hydroponically grown greens, including mitsuba, romaine, mizuna and basil.

Briarpatch from Kingsburg has Shinseiki, Hosui and Yali Asian pears. Rosendahl Farms from Caruthers has Fuji, Gala and Summerfield apples as well as the last Angeleno plums, Flavorite pluots (a plum-apricot cross) and Arctic Snow white nectarines. And Nipomo's Top Knot has Yellow Wax, Blue Lake and Romano beans as well as haricots verts, poblano and Anaheim chiles and raspberries.

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