Lucky Us, Living and Eating in Washington State

[Photo by  Dane Deaner  on  Unsplash ]

[Photo by Dane Deaner on Unsplash]

Less than ten days until the Bellevue Farmers Market opens for the season on Thursday, May 17! We recently had some folks to dinner who hailed from southern California, and the wife said it took some adjusting to move up here and "eat seasonally." I did wonder what grocery store she went to, since all the ones I know subscribe to the "it's summer somewhere" mindset. Strawberries and blackberries midwinter? No prob. But maybe she meant she likes to eat locally wherever she finds herself. In that case, yes, seasons matter. And we are entering the most wonderful time of the year, eating-wise!

Did you know Washington State is the third largest exporter of food and agricultural products in the United States? That 95% of Washington farms are family-owned? Washington farms provide 164,000 jobs, and each farmer feeds 155 people. Washington wheat and apples and potatoes get sent all over the world, but, lucky us, we who live here just get to sit right back and reap the bounty. Of the top ten Washington-grown products, I've seen these ones in our Market:

  1. apples,
  2. milk,
  3. potatoes,
  4. cattle (beef),
  5. wheat (flour at Hedlin Farms),
  6. cherries,
  7. pears, and
  8. eggs

(If you're wondering about the other two products, they're hay and hops, and I guess you could argue that hops are available in the beers you can buy at our Market.) How lucky we are that our farmers grow a variety of crops, so that, when the "season" hits, our seasonal eating is so rich.

When we support our farmers, we're supporting our local and state economy, as well as eating the freshest foods from the hands from the folks who grew it (or at least work alongside the ones who grew it). And how nice for us that eating Washington-grown foods seasonally requires no deprivation. (Unless you still aren't ready for a break from citrus and bananas.)

Ten more days...

Summer with a Cherry on Top


Summer is officially upon us. Hope you're all getting your fill of cherries! And thank heaven for multiple varieties to extend our season. The Chelans have given way to the Bings, which WSU lists as ripening 10-12 days later than Chelans. photo (10)

Bings are the cherries of my California childhood, and I remember orchards in San Jose which are probably long plowed under and built over. All those dark red cherries do blend in people's minds, however, to make way for Rainiers, which, also according to WSU, originated in Prosser, Washington, where my in-laws always buy their cars! Rainiers are a cross between Bings and Vans and command top dollar, as you've probably noticed.

Blushing beauties

Since our warm weather came on so early this year, the downside is that our cherries and berries will be done sooner, but I'm happy to report there are some "late season" varieties that will carry us a few more weeks. Look for Lapins and some of the "red" cherries as we go along. (Bings are considered "dark" cherries.) WSU reports that Washington State grows the most sweet cherries in the United States, more than double California, most likely because of the plowing under and building over I mentioned earlier... How much is the Washington cherry crop worth? Well, in 2015, nearly $540 million! I don't know about your household, but ours is certainly doing its part to make sure Washington hits its dollar goals again in 2016.

And, to return to the organic versus non-organic conversation, I was pleased to hear another Marketgoer asking one of our cherry farmers whether the fruit were spray-free. He replied that no cherries or soft fruits in Washington were spray-free, but that they used organic-approved pesticides, which were sprayed always on the tree and never on the fruit. Basically, the only way in Washington to get soft fruits that have never known a pesticide, organic or conventional, would probably be to grow it yourself. Darn. Everyone has their standards, but I don't think I could ever give up soft tree fruits (peaches are my hands-down favorite), so organic pesticide will just have to do.

In other news, did you read our Market Director Natalie Evans' interview on the blog Fried Dandelions? Give it a go here, as Natalie talks about the new Power of Produce (POP) kids' program. 53 kids signed up the first week!!! Amazing. Hope POP develops another generation of produce lovers.

And I did mention that summer is here? That means eating dinner or at the Market or picking up some burger patties or sausages for the grill. Bliss.

photo (8)