By Carolyn Twesten, Weaver Street Market Produce and Meat Merchandiser
Late summer is the peak time for US-grown summer grapes. We have the full gamut in the stores right now, but our favorites are the certified biodynamic Thompson grapes from Marian Farms in Fresno, California. Our relationship with Marian Farms goes back more than a decade from when farmer and owner Gena Nonini approached Weaver Street looking for independent grocers to carry her products. You won’t find these grapes in a big box store! Since then our customers and staff have looked forward to the little paper bags of sweet, juicy Thompson grapes arriving in late summer.
These grapes don’t look—or taste—like your average Thompson: big, green, and crunchy. They are a dainty size and range from a pale green to a golden bronze, the latter of which are the sweetest tasting. Marian Farms does not use any growth enhancers to make the grapes larger, as this affects the flavor of the fruit. The delicate grapes are picked by hand to avoid damage. Gena told us she pays her workers by the hour (not by the weight of grapes picked) to encourage them to pick carefully. Grapes are picked as orders come in, not picked ahead, and workers let the fruit ripen naturally on the vine before picking and packing, as opposed to storing green fruit for longer periods of time. This practice means that the Marian Farms grapes you buy on our shelves are at peak ripeness, and have a sweeter, juicier flavor.
In addition to being delicious, these grapes are also biodynamically grown! Biodynamic practices go beyond those of organic farmers, by incorporating spiritual and cosmic forces into plant, animal, and soil science. Certified biodynamic farms are prohibited from using rendered animal fertilizers and restricted in their use of even non-synthetic pest controls. Instead, these farms focus on building soil fertility through the use of carefully composted animal manures and biodynamic preparations (homeopathic herbal tonics for plants and soil), and on creating healthy populations of beneficial insects.
At the risk of ruining all other grapes for all time, try the luminous green grapes from Marian Farms this fall. We promise you’ll look for them every year to come. And look for their biodynamic Thompson raisins packaged in our produce departments!