When are Apricots in Season

There is nothing like a perfectly, ripe, juicy piece of stone fruit. For years I only really ever had peaches or nectarines, but I have learned to expanse my horizons into other types, including apricots. A really good apricot is truly a treasure and I hope that I can help you find one for yourself. To find a good apricot one must understand when they are in season. First we need to know where they grow.

Early Apricots

Where Do Apricots Grow?
Apricots can be a tricky fruit to grow as compared with other stone fruit. It is blooms before other stone fruit, which means it’s more vulnerable to frost damage. Places like Georgia and South Carolina that grow a lot of peaches, tend to shy away from apricots. They simply bloom too early and the risk of frost is too great. California is much better suited for growing apricots. Their chance for a frost when the apricots are in bloom is much, much lower. This is why California makes up more than 90% of the commercial apricot crop grown in the U.S. Most of the other apricots come from Washington with Utah making up less than 1%. My home state of Michigan also grows apricots, but it’s not a very significant crop nationally as risk of frost damage is high each year. You can find them at farmer’s markets and some stores that really focus on local produce.

Monstercot Apricots

When Does Apricot Season Begin (and End)?
Even thought apricots bloom early than peaches or nectarines, you still find them showing up at stores the same time as peaches and nectarines in late April to early May (I bought my first apricots on May 14th in 2015). The California crop wraps up in late July. The Washington apricot season runs from June to August. The month of August pretty much exclusively belongs to Washington. The Michigan apricot season is a little later and shorter than the Washington season, running from July to August with some late varieties ripening in September.

What to Look for When Buying Apricots
The idea that bigger is better does not reign true with apricots. I find that the larger ones tend to be less flavorful and more measly. Look for small sizes, which can be hard to find. The more red blush you see on the apricots tells you it was exposed to more sunlight, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to taste better.

Special Varieties to Look Out For

Angelcots

Frieda’s Speciality Produce releases their Angelcots apricots during the month of . I have been able to find them at Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s and Kroger in past seasons. They are a little colored apricot with honey sweet flavor. I made some awesome jam with this variety last year.

Angelcot Jam

Black Velvet Apricots

Well not a true apricot, a velvet apricot is technically an aprium (an apricot and plum mix), but you will find them labeled as velvet apricots, are amazingly sweet and flavorful pieces of fruit that you can buy mainly in June and July. I have gotten these at Whole Foods and Meijer stores in years past.

Uncured/No Nitrate Added Meats at Costco

in Meat Buying Guide

Uncured No Nitrates Added Costco Meats

What do you think when you hear the words “preservatives”? Do you have a favorite preservative? Do you love you some sodium nitrate? When it comes to food and preservatives most of us would say we want to avoid them, yet we buy food with them in it all the time. One of the biggest culprits has been lunch meat or other pre-cooked meats and one of the most used preservative has been sodium nitrate. There has been a big push in the last couple years to see more meat products sold without this nitrate. The push has gotten even bigger in the last year as more and more products are showing up with labels like Uncured or No Nitrates added. If this is something that appeals to you, you can find some of these products at your local Costco, I have a guide of some of the things you might find on the shelves as part of my own going series on whether it’s worth your money to invest in a Costco membership.

Product Price
duBreton Organic Uncured Ham 18oz $9.89
Jones Uncured Canadian Bacon Cherrywodd 24 oz $9.99
Sausages by Amylu Chicken Sausage 3 16oz packs $12.99
Coleman Natural Chicken Sausage Mild Italian 48 oz $13.99

Let me take a moment to highlight a few items from the list.

Jones Uncured Bacon

The package indicates that no nitrates have been added. A note at the bottom indicates except those naturally occurring in salt and celery powder. A lot of things labeled as no nitrates or uncured use celery powder or juice instead. It is a high source of naturally occurring nitrates. This Canadian Bacon has been smoked using cherrywood, my favorite wood for smoking meats – I just think it tastes the best.

Coleman Chicken Sausage Costco

A classic mild Italian sausage made using chicken instead of pork. The chicken were raised with no antibiotics or no added hormones. Hormones are not allowed by law in raising chickens, so every chicken is raised without hormones, so that label is really meaningless, yet you see it used all the time. The no antibiotics thing is something to look for.

Amylu Sausage Costco

Looking for something a little different, try this other chicken sausage that contains apple and gouda. Please note that if you are avoiding pork, this sausage does use a natural pork casing, so even thought it says chicken sausage it still technically contains pork.

What about Kirkland brand meats?
I was unable to find any Kirkland brand meats that were uncured or nitrate free. I know for certain that their Black Forest ham contains nitrates.

What about Columbus Meats?
The Columbus meat products I found contains no nitrates, but their ingredient list did include things like potassium cholordie, soy protein isolates, sodium phosphates. This was the first I heard of soy protein isolates. The Soyfoods Association of America defines it this way : “Soy protein isolate is a dry powder food ingredient that has been separated or isolated from the other components of the soybean, making it 90 to 95 percent protein and nearly carbohydrate and fat-free.

Should I Only Eat “Uncured” Meats?
I am not pretending that I know all the answers. There is a lot of debate on whether sodium nitrates are bad for you or not – some say avoid them like the plague, others say they are fine for us and even have health benefits. The internet is full of a million opinions on the subject. The point of this post is present to you what products that Costco carries that have no added sodium nitrate. I recommend you doing the research and determining what you feel comfortable consuming. Make sure you read your ingredient lists so that you know what you are buying and putting into your body.

When Does Nectarine Season Begin (and End)?

in Fruit & Vegetables

When are Nectarines in Season

When it comes to stone fruit, people have their preferences. While I like pretty much everything, there are those that have trouble with say, peaches. How could someone not like a peach? It’s not like they don’t like the flavor of the peach, it’s the fuzz on the outside that is giving them troubles. Never fear – the nectarine is here (well almost). Today I wanted to take a moment to focus in on nectarine season – when does it start, when does it end, and what are some of the best varieties to look out for it.

When Does Nectarine Season Begin (and End)?
As with much of the fruit we eat in the United States, the story all begins in California. When you head to the grocery store chances are pretty good that the nectarines you find will be California grown. The season begins in early May (sometimes late April). Kingsburg Orchard’s (Kingsburg, California) first nectarine of the season is their Ruby Fire variety that is available around on April 26th.

Zee Fire Nectarines

The early varieties that come out I find to be more on the acidic side, with sweeter fruit coming later. The season really gets going with the variety “Zee Fire” which is ripe in mid to late May. This is a commercial variety of nectarine that you rarely seen mentioned on a store sign, but you can kind of predict it’s arrival when nectarine displays grow larger and the prices gets cheaper. It’s one of the best early season pieces of stone fruit, with good flavor and good balance of sweetness and tartness.

The Zee Fire nectarine is also as prime example of what happens when a new variety doesn’t have a good plan. What do I mean? This nectarine was released in 2003. Trees were easy to come by and everyone was planting it – like I said it’s a flavorful variety and it’s productive and pretty. Everyone planted it, so within 8 years the value of this variety plummeted. The orchards race to be the first one to ship theirs before prices go down. You can read more about this on the Good Fruit Grower website. What this shows us is that there is more going on behind the scenes that many of us think about. And it effects both selection and the price we pay at the grocery store.

Below you will find a video of the Zee Fire Nectarines being packed for shipping by Summeripe.

The California season wraps up at the beginning of September. Kingsburg Orchards’ last variety of the season is called Orange Honey Heirloom and it’s available around September 2nd.

Do Other States Grow Nectarines Besides California
Absolutely. Any place that grows peaches most likely as grows their smoother cousins. In most grocery stores across the country, the only nectarines you are going to see are California – they dominate the commercial nectarine market. On occasion I have seen Washington grown nectarines. One of my favorite varieties of the season is actually from Washington – the Nectafire, which is a donut or flat nectarine that is just packed with rich nectarine flavor. I have never seen a southern nectarine here in Michigan. None from Georgia or South Carolina. You can find them (Jaemore Farms in Georgia grows them but most likely they don’t go much further than the borders of those states.) California is definitely dominant in the nectarine category. I do buy Michigan grown nectarines at my local farmer’s market, but most orchards here seem to stick to just growing peaches and not nectarines.

Nectafire Flat Nectraine

Nectarines to Watch Out For
I already mentioned the donut nectarine called Nectafire (seen in the photo above) that is a must have, but there are a couple others you should be on the look out for.

Honey Fire Nectarines

Honey Fire from Trader Joe’s
Trader Joe’s sells their peaches and nectarines in a cardboard crates. The variety name is printed on the side of these crates so you can actually see what variety you are buying. One of my favorites to watch for is the Honey Fire variety. It is sweet, flavorful, and not too acidic. I bought them last year on June 14th – so look for them in early to mid June at your local Trader Joe’s. You will not be disappointed.

Mango Nectarines

Mango Nectarines
No, these are not a combination of a mango and a nectarine – it’s just a marketing name. It is an all-yellow nectarine like a yellow mango. It has an unique flavor that kind of reminds me of a mango with it’s finish, but still tastes like a nectarine. It’s worth searching out for something different, especially if you are a nectarine fanatic. I found these at Whole Foods Market last year during the month of July. They are distributed by Frieda’s Produce.

What Organic Produce Does Costco Sell?

in Buying Organic

Organic Produce at Costco

There is no doubt that the organic trend is here to stay. More and more people are striving to buy only organic. Yet there is still a lot of people that don’t buy organic because they simply cannot afford it or they don’t want to pay the increased cost. Time magazine recently reported that a lot of consumers believe that organic labels are just an excuse to charge more. Clearly cost is clearly an issue when it comes to shopping for organic, that brings me to the topic of today’s post – if you are a Costco member, can this membership make organic produce more affordable for you? During my April 2015 visit to Costco, I recorded what kind of organic produce they had and the prices of that. Kept in mind, produce price vary a lot based on season, particularly something like berries.


Fruit/vegetable, price
Strawberries 16 oz, $3.99
Blueberries 6 oz, $4.88
Blackberries 12 oz, $7.98
Bananas, $.66/lb
Gala apples, $1.99/lb
Peeled carrots, $1.20/lb
Whole carrots, $.70/lb for 10 pound bag
Romaine hearts, $4.49 for 6 count bag
Earthbound Farms 1 pound salads, $4.49
Earthbound Farms Power Green in 1.5 pound bag, $3.66/lb

Organic Produce Costco

Some of the organic containers of berries at Costco are larger sizes than your normally find. The blackberries came in a 12 oz clamshell where most stores sell the 6 oz clamshell. Costco had the usual Driscoll’s berries. You can tell whether they are organic just by looking at the color of the label, a green label means organic, and a yellow label means conventional. Simple!

Organic Produce Costco

They also had berries from Naturipe. The prices of blueberries is one that wildly changes. Going into summer, expect lower prices, going into the winter, expect higher prices and small containers.

Organic Produce Costco

Costco also sells products from Earthbound Farms, a huge organic operation out of Central California. Their stuff is everywhere. Costco sells 10 pounds bags of carrots that would be great for juicing for the low price of 70 cents per pound.

Organic Produce Costco

They also have the 1 pound clamshells of organic baby spinach. One thing they had that I haven’t seen elsewhere is the 1.5 pound bags of Power Greens, which is a combination of baby kale, baby swiss chard, and baby spinach – one of my favorite salad mixes and at what works out to $3.66 a pound, it is also the cheapest I have seen this mix going for. It’s excellent for salads – also for juicing or on a pizza for a healthier dinner.

How Does the Price of Organic Produce at Costco Compare to Whole Foods?
Whenever we talk organic, we just have to bring up Whole Foods Market. They played a huge roll in bringing the organic movement to the forefront and they offer more varieties of organic produce that anyone else (keep in mind NOT all of Whole Foods produce is organic!) Their selection will beat Costco every time. You can get a lot of basic produce items at Costco and the prices are cheaper. For example, organic bananas at Whole Foods cost $.99/lb where they are $.66/lb at Costco or Earthbound Farms 1 pound salads are $5.99 at Whole Foods and $4.49 at Costco. But I didn’t find organic beets, leeks, onions, celery, swiss chard, sweet potatoes, etc. If you are an organic shopper take advantage of Costco’s savings while taking advantage of the Whole Foods selection.

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