Cactus fruit, aka prickly pears, growing at Eden Tropics farm in De Luz
Summer crops are coming into full swing, meaning heirloom tomatoes are on the way. On the sweeter side, stone fruits will be joined by melons as the month goes on, with sweet and spicy peppers showing up in greater varieties.
Adam Maciel Organic Farm has most of these covered. The Bonsall farm sticks to heirloom cherry tomatoes, offering single varieties or a colorful mix of red, yellow, purple, and green. Other colorful mixes it’s bringing to its market stands are sweet peppers and baby bells. It will also offer poblano peppers, milder Anaheims, and spicier jalapeños.
Later in the month, Maciel expects melons to be ripe, included seeded watermelons, cantaloupes, and ananas cantaloupes, a flavorful oval variety known for pale, aromatic flesh. It’s also offering three kinds of fig: mission, black jack, and brown turkey. Black jacks are larger and darker than mission, though similarly sweet. Brown turkeys are less so, but great for baking with prosciutto or bacon.
Over in Valley Center, Stehly Farms sees brandywine and purple Cherokee heirloom tomatoes turning up. They’ll also be bringing sweet white corn and later in the month anticipate an early appearance of the exotic superfood dragon fruit, also called pitaya. Most exciting to avocado fans is that Stehly reports the arrival this month of Reed season! The large, round, green avocados are exceptionally creamy and delicious, and hopefully will be around throughout the summer.
Down in Imperial Beach, Suzie’s Farm also has black Cherokee heirloom tomatoes and the beautiful Russian varietal known as black from tula — known for darkening skin and rich red flesh. Suzie’s Early Girl tomatoes are dry-farmed, meaning they ripen without being watered, resulting in denser, sweeter fruit. Suzie’s also heralds the arrival of five kinds of muskmelon (cantloupes and honeydews) and three types of eggplant.
Eden Tropics always has interesting fruit, and July is no different. Stonefruit such as plums, peaches, and nectarines are joined by tropicals mango and passionfruit. They have fresh figs as well, and the more unusual sapotes, which don’t often retail due to short shelf life. The sapote’s creamy flesh is often compared to flan or pudding. Also notable are cactus fruit, aka prickly pears, taken from the same cactus as nopales.
Second-generation farm Eden Tropics sits just past Fallbrook, straddling De Luz and Temecula at the county’s northern border. Its elevation and coastal air flow gives Eden a unique local microclimate: about ten degrees cooler than most in the summer, warmer in the winter. Consequently, the 20-year-old farm’s crops differ from many in SoCal, and rather than limit its focus, the Ayoub family that owns the farm has decided to shoot for crop diversity, resulting in smaller seasonal harvests of tropical fruits, stone fruit, berries, fresh olives, melons, grapes, figs, and nuts.
Eden crops provide food to local school districts, and while it recently stopped participating at Little Italy’s Saturday market, its unique fare may still be found at weekly markets in Rancho Peñasquitos on Saturday, La Jolla on Sunday.