A late season stint of warm weather is doing wonders for the fall harvest.
The apple harvest is getting under way in Whatcom County, with pumpkins and squash arriving soon. The chances for a decent harvest weren't looking so good earlier this summer as cold days hung around longer than normal. However, this recent stretch of warmer, drier weather during the day combined with cool nights is helping bring out the flavor in the apples, said Dorie Belisle of BelleWood Acres.
"The apples are looking excellent now," said Belisle, who added that she would like to see this stretch of warm weather continue for a few more weeks to help the harvest along.
It's shaping up to be a bumper crop year for apples in Washington state. The Washington State Apple Commission is predicting this year's harvest will be the second-biggest ever, at nearly 109 million bushels (at about 43 pounds per bushel).
Currently BelleWood is harvesting Gravenstein, Zestar and Sansa varieties, with Honeycrisp and Tsugaru coming around the end of September. The Honeycrisp variety remains the most popular on this farm, although the Tsugaru, a variety from Japan known for being crunchy and sweet, is being sought out more, Belisle said.
U-pick is just getting under way at BelleWood and, according to its voicemail message, the Stoney Ridge Farm in Everson is scheduled to open Thursday, Oct. 4. Once it opens, hours will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
For BelleWood, operations at its new facility at 6140 Guide Meridian are going smoothly heading into the busy fall season, with the restaurant and distillery areas off to good starts, Belisle said.
"Everyone is excited about the new building, which I'm relieved to hear," Belisle said. "I feared that it would be considered too big, but many people have said it has a homey feel to it."
As U-pick gets into full swing, customers will notice a different system at BelleWood this year: Instead of weighing the apples after picking, the farm is selling empty 5- and 10-pound bags for customers to fill up. Belisle also wants customers to stop into the store and get directions to the apple trees. Golf carts and other transportation such as the u-pick train are available for those who prefer not to walk the trails.
"Getting directions is important so we help customers target the trees that have apples that are ready," Belisle said. "It's disappointing to get an apple that's not quite ready."
Fresh apple cider is just becoming available at BelleWood, and the distillery is open and available for tours and tastings, Belisle said. Customers will have seven varieties to choose from when the pumpkins are ready.
BelleWood is open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day. For details, visit bellewoodfarms.com or call 360-318-7720.
Up at Western Washington University's campus, a new Panda Express restaurant is going into the Viking Union, replacing the Burger Studio. A second Subway sandwich shop is also going on campus, at the Atrium area in Arntzen Hall. The other Subway shop is in the Viking Union.
Erin Baker's Wholesome Baked Goods is having a grand opening celebration at its new facility at 427 Ohio St. The event is happening Sept. 24-28, with prizes and sales at its retail store.
Seabreeze Coffee House at 21 Bellwether Way has applied for a state liquor license to sell beer and wine.
Retail Tip Sheet runs each Sunday.
Reach DAVE GALLAGHER at email@example.com or call 715-2269. Visit his business blog online at blogs.bellinghamherald.com/business or get updates on Twitter at twitter.com/BhamHeraldBiz.