What's Tasty at Sigona's Farmers Market

July 11, 2012

Home Sweet Home Ranch

Home Sweet Home Ranch

Sweet Home Ranch farmer Paul Buxman places nature and family first to provide you with the sweetest, most perfect stone fruits in the entire Bay Area!

By Robbie Sigona

Sweet Home Ranch farmer Paul Buxman

“You know how I stay cool all day on my tractor in 100-plus degree heat,” Paul Buxman asked me from his Sweet Home Ranch in Dinuba, CA just south of Fresno. “I place a towel under my hat and fill it full of ice every hour. The cold water just drips down onto my head and shoulders. Sometimes I’m cold even when it’s 112 degrees out!”

The only things more delicious and sweet than Paul’s humor are the nectarines, peaches, plums and additional stone fruits his farm grows on his 55 acre ranch.

That’s because unlike fruit that may be stored for up to three weeks and picked green, produce from Sweet Home Ranch is plucked from branches at the peak of ripeness. Then, in the blink of an eye, it’s delivered and placed on our shelves here at Sigona’s for you and your family to enjoy. With produce that fresh, no wonder it’s bursting with so many exquisite flavors.

Having forged a close friendship with Paul over the years, I know one of the things he prides himself on the most are his growing techniques. Every piece of produce from his farm is certified California Clean. In a nutshell this basically means that all his succulent fruits are grown sans organic or synthetic pesticides. While Paul’s produce may not be certified organic, his unique and intricate growing techniques are still environmentally friendly and yield the best-tasting fruits you’ve ever had.

Before I could practically finish asking Paul his opinion on which stone fruits are looking especially good right now, he exclaimed excitedly, “The Diamond Ray nectarines! It’s packed full of calcium, zinc and additional minerals that your body craves.”

Having tasted these beauties myself, I can personally attest that you’ll want to try one the next time you’re in the store. I’d also highly suggest the Snow Princess and Ice Princess peaches as well. These fragrant white-flesh peaches possess floral notes with a touch of honey and rose.

Paul says that his peaches are about as perfect as they can be right now due in large part to ideal climate conditions. “While they’re roasting out there in the Midwest and the East, we’ve had a relatively mild summer here so far with only a few days over 100. All early ripening fruits prefer 90-degree weather, which we’ve had, and this allows for 2 to 3 more days on the trees to give them those flavor profiles that people expect and love.”

Sweet Home Ranch is constantly striving to attain the perfect peach, plum, nectarine and more. From tweaking watering patterns to pruning techniques, Paul leaves no leaf unturned.

Paul is equally attentive and dedicated to creating a nourishing family environment for his workers. This enables them to live and thrive as vibrantly as the peaches that are eventually picked from the trees.

“There’s a huge labor shortage in the farming industry right now. This is because the system currently requires six to eight weeks of hard labor, but then workers are laid off. That’s no good,” Paul stated emphatically. “So we find ways to have our employees working year-round – along with two months of vacation for them to travel and visit their families.”

To counter those days of “dead time” when most employees would be laid off, Paul and his wife Ruth diversify their peachy portfolio by making precious preserves. This off-season work increases the amount of days his employees can be compensated for their efforts.

Along with providing his employees with a steady stream of income, Sweet Home Ranch also makes sure its valued workers are surrounded by a safe environment. You might be astonished to know that when it finally gets just too darn hot out there, Paul sends his workers home – paid! “What’s more important: the loss of a few peaches or the potential for heat stroke? Without our workers we’re nothing.”
Sweet Home Ranch now has employees that have been with the company for over two decades. Many of these loyal folks now have kids working for the company. (Hey! That sounds just like Sigona’s Farmers Market!)

As Paul so eloquently put it, “It really is heaven on earth here, except for days when it’s 110 degrees out.”

We look forward to seeing you in the store this summer for the best stone fruit you’ve even tasted. And don’t forget to check out our recipes, including Honey Vanilla Fromage Blanc and my Uncle Carmelo’s Simple Stone Fruit Salad.

Robbie Sigona’s Produce Tips: Stone Fruit

Robbie Sigona’s Produce Tips: Stone Fruit

  • Stone fruit should have a slight give if you want to eat them right away.
  • Store them in the fridge if it’s breaking or ripe and they should last four or five days. If it’s firm then leave them on the counter for a day or two until ripe and ready to eat.
  • For Diamond Ray yellow nectarines, there are a lot of “sugar dots” as Paul Buxman likes to calls them. They have a bit of a crude look but are fantastic. The more of these sugar dots the better.
  • You want to pick a nectarine (or a peach for that matter) with a nice yellow background. I always like to turn my fruit over and look at the stem end to get a true indication of the color. It’s not the red blush color that you are looking for.
  • And of course, you’ll want your stone fruit free of bruises.

- Robbie Sigona is our produce buyer. He works with local farmers and scours the market for the very best in fresh fruits and vegetables — some you won’t find anywhere else.

Free Local, Farm Fresh Pastured Eggs from Wattle and Comb in Pescadero, Calif.

Click coupon for an easy-print version

Sigona’s Weekly Specials: July 11-17, 2012

Sigona’s Weekly Specials: July 11-17, 2012

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Click image to enlarge

Sigona’s Dried Fruit and Nut Specials: July 11-17, 2012

Sigona’s Dried Fruit and Nut Specials: July 11-17, 2012

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Click image to enlarge

July 4, 2012

Sigona’s Dried Fruit and Nut Specials: July 4-10, 2012

Sigona’s Dried Fruit and Nut Specials: July 4-10, 2012

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Click image to enlarge

Sigona’s Grocery Specials: July 4-10, 2012

Sigona’s Grocery Specials: July 4-10, 2012

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Click image to enlarge

July 3, 2012

Sigona’s Fresh Press Olive Oil of the Month: July 2012

Sigona’s Fresh Press Olive Oil of the Month: July 2012

July means sunny skies, celebrating our independence on the 4th and summer barbeques with friends and family. And what barbeque would be complete without a piece of mouth-watering, extra-virgin-olive-oil drizzled bread adorning your plate?

That’s why we’re excited to let you know that our fresh pressed extra virgin olive oils from the southern hemisphere have just arrived in the store. The first oil we’re going to feature is Empeltre from Chile. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to drink a salad, taste a sample the next time you’re in the store – just be careful of that peppery goodness on the back end.

Sigona’s July 2012 Olive Oil of the Month

Empeltre (from Chile)

This oil:

  • Is like eating a salad
  • Boast notes of celery, fresh lettuce and additional vegetables
  • Delivers a jolt of throat-closing pepper on the back end
  • Packs a robust polyphenol count of 398

Try this recipe from Veronica Foods

Super Robust Olio Nuovo Empeltre EVOO Focaccia with Rosemary & Caramelized Shallots

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups all purpose, unbleached flour
  • 2 cups lukewarm water; filtered if possible
  • 1 cup cooled, unseasoned, mashed russet potatoes
  • 1/3 cup + 1/3 cup + more for drizzling of Sigona’s fresh pressed Empeltre EVOO
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 medium shallots thinly sliced
  • 1 package active dried yeast, or 2 1/4 teaspoons
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves rough chopped
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Sea salt to taste

Directions:

If making the dough in your bread machine, follow its instructions for the order of adding ingredients. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the water, sugar and yeast. Allow the yeast to bloom for about 5 minutes. Add 1/3 cup of olive oil, mashed potatoes and sea salt. Mix to combine.

breadWith the mixer running on the lowest speed, begin to add the flour, cup by cup, until the dough has come together and becomes elastic and just slightly tacky. Reserve any leftover flour for rolling the dough out.

Cover the bowl and allow the dough to rise in a warm place for one hour.

On a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment, gently push the dough to the edges, using fingertips to stretch it and make dimpled indentations. Cover and allow the dough to rise for another hour in a warm place.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Distribute the thinly slices shallots and rosemary evenly over the focaccia. Drizzle with the remaining 1/3 cup of Sigona’s fresh pressed Empeltre EVOO. Add a sprinkle of fresh ground pepper and sea salt.

Bake for approximately 35-40 minutes until golden brown. While still hot out of the oven, drizzle with more extra virgin olive oil to taste. Serve warm and enjoy.

Click here for more great recipes!

June 27, 2012

Robbie Sigona’s Produce Tips: Corn

Robbie Sigona’s Produce Tips: Corn

  • Getting corn from local farmers is great because it’s fresh. The sugars in corn start to convert to starch as soon as it’s picked, so corn is sweeter and more tender the fresher it is.
  • Produce pros recommend leaving husks on the ears until you’re ready to cook, but we do offer the convenience of husking at our stores.
  • Choose corn with husks that are tightly wrapped, grass green and slightly damp. The corn silk showing at the top can be dry but not rotting. The ends should appear fresh-cut.
  • Keep corn in the fridge until you use it.
  • Although it will hold up in the fridge for 5-6 days, it’s always best to eat corn as soon as possible after purchase.
  • Corn is best from May through September.
  • White corn is typically sweeter than yellow corn.

- Robbie Sigona is our produce buyer. He works with local farmers and scours the market for the very best in fresh fruits and vegetables — some you won’t find anywhere else.

Get Grillin’ with Local, Fresh-Picked Corn

Get Grillin’ with Local, Fresh-Picked Corn

Shuck it, grill it, put it in a salsa — one of the summer favorites is arriving daily at our stores and it doesn’t get any sweeter than fresh-picked. Plus, get a free tote of corn just in time for the 4th of July!

By Robbie Sigona

Ah, summer. Barbeques send swirls of mouth-watering scents through the air, kids run through sprinklers, you favorite fruits are now coming from local growers and iced tea is brewed in the summer sun. Speaking of barbeques, did you know you can cook almost anything on the grill? This includes corn on the cob. There is no reason to heat up the kitchen more than it already is by boiling a large pot of water. Just throw those cobs on the barbie!

Corn is fantastic when grilled, whether it’s left on the cob or sliced off to be used in salsas, salads or other dishes. We have some delicious corn recipes on the blog, including Green Beans with Roasted Corn and Green Onions inspired by Food Network’s Guy Fieri.

Let’s Get Corny

Did you know that a stalk of corn only produces one good ear? It’s true! Our local farmer John Spina only harvests the biggest and best ear from the stalk. Or how about this: did you know you really only need to let corn swim in boiling water for about 2 minutes if that’s the cooking method you choose? Well, corn doesn’t really need to be cooked at all before you eat it – in fact, if you’re in the employee room during corn season, you might just see a Sigona peel back the husks and start eating an ear of corn as is…no cooking required.

There’s nothing like fresh-picked corn on the cob, either dressed up with a smear of butter and a dusting of salt & pepper, or grilled and incorporated into a summer salad. Judging by the popularity of our corn display the majority of you agree. We get daily deliveries of white corn from our friend John Spina of Spina Farms in Morgan Hill. The corn is picked in the morning and delivered to our stores in the afternoon so we have fresh corn every day.

Such a quick turnaround is significant because fresh corn is sweeter. This is because once picked, the sugars in corn begin converting to starch. Same with asparagus. Moral of the story: corn is best eaten as fresh-picked as possible.

One of the biggest myths about corn is that it needs to be cooked for a long while before it’s edible. Even the freshest ear, when cooked too long, can taste starchy and stale. Grilling corn allows its natural sugars to caramelize, which adds another layer of flavor and makes for a more chewy texture. Again, just don’t keep it on the heat for too long. Slice the grilled corn off the cob and incorporate it into a citrus-based salsa and you’ll be the talk of the town!

Meet the Farmer

We’ve worked with the Spina family – John, his father and his son (all named John) – for nearly 40 years. They have a small produce stand of their own in Morgan Hill, too, and used to buy some items from us at our old roadside fruit stands along Old Monterey Highway…back when we were called Coyote Berry Acres. A lot has changed for us since then, but our relationships with farmers have stayed the same. We wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for our local farmers.

John Spina

John Spina of Spina Farms

Corn got a late start this summer, just like most California produce, but John says the stalks are doing well now and should be in steady production until November.

“We have 150 acres on which we’re growing a few different varieties of white corn this season,” said John. “We grow different varieties each year to find which respond the best to the conditions and farming techniques. Quality is very important to us and we pick only when the corn is at its peak so Sigona’s and its customers get the best.”

In general, white corn is more tender and sweeter than yellow corn, which has a more chewy texture and hardy corn flavor. My Uncle Carmelo remembers when white corn was a rare find in markets; it wasn’t until the 1970s that the demand for white corn grew and farmers began planting more white than yellow. Until that time, yellow corn was the norm – Golden Bantam was popular in the 1950s and Golden Jubilee was the rage in the late 1960s.

In addition to white corn, Spina Farms grows peppers, tomatoes, beans, squash, Indian corn and 67 (yes 67!) different varieties of pumpkins and gourds, many of which you’ll see decorating our stores come fall.

The Spina family also operate the Spina Farms Pumpkin Patch on their farm in the fall, featuring train rides on the Spina Pumpkin Express, hay ride tours of the pumpkin patch and Indian corn field, pumpkin decorating and more. It’s a great destination for the family in the fall and it’s open beginning the last weekend in September through the month of October.

Remember to take advantage of the coupon we’re offering this week…just in time for your 4th of July celebrations! Bring in your coupon and when you spend $30 or more you can walk away with a free tote bag full of corn. Also make sure to check out our recipes for corn, such as Sautéed Corn with Cherry Tomatoes and Basil and Fresh Corn Salad with Black Beans, Tomato and Cilantro.

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