Spring is in the air and we could not be more excited! One of the earliest crops that makes an appearance are California peas. Sugar snap, snow, English—we love all spring peas. It’s hard to resist their vibrant green color and sweet flavor that reminds us of spring and sunshine.
Snow, snap and English peas are all climbing plants and members of the legume family. Although similar, there are notable differences among the three. Snow peas are also known as Chinese pea pods since they are often used in stir-fries. They are flat with very small peas inside; the whole pod is edible, although the tough “strings” along the edges are usually removed before eating. English peas, also known as garden or sweet peas, come in firm and rounded pods. The peas are inside and need to be shelled before eating (the pods are discarded.) The peas are sweet and can be eaten raw or cooked. English peas can get starchy and mealy if they sit too long in the pod or grow too large. Snap peas are a cross between English peas and snow peas. The whole pod is eaten and has a crunchy texture and very sweet flavor. There may be tough “strings” at the seams of the pod that need to be removed before eaten.
With so many delicious pea options, how do you choose? Try all three and let your customer decide!
*Keep a lookout for our staff picks noted in orange.
Apple and Pear
The last of the Ambrosia and Cameo are in house now so get these while you can! Red Delicious are winding down for the season with Granny Smith following suit soon. Pink Lady and Gala should last through May and Fuji through June. Growers are starting to drop off so supply is expected to become more limited as we move closer to summer. Certain sizes are more limited than others. If you’re interested in volume Fuji we have plenty of bins available with excellent pricing.
In pear world, Abate Fetel pears have just arrived. These are the most uniquely shaped of the many varieties of pears, appearing oblong or banana-shaped with a yellow background, red blush, and some speckling. The slightly crisp flesh is white and aromatic with a rich, sweet flavor and hints of honey. Like some other pear varieties, Abate Fetel changes only slightly in color when ripe. Bosc pear prices are going up up up! Check out imported Bartletts from Argentinean Fair Trade certified grower Sol Bio as a tasty alternative. The last of domestic D’Anjous are in house now, although red Anjous are still in good supply with great pricing.
We are running full steam ahead with domestic supply of Hass. Prices remain steady right now, but the market is still unstable due to Mexican supplies tightening up. The overall California crop is expected to be 30% smaller than last year, which explains the high prices. We are offering large quantities of #2 grade Hass from California’s Central Coast. Due to a pesky mite, called Persea, causing trees to lose foliage and exposing fruit to sunshine that normally would be shaded, we are seeing cosmetically challenged avocados with discoloration called ‘sunburn’. The interior quality and flavor are otherwise identical to higher priced #1 grade Hass. Check ‘em out. Perfectly good for ‘avocado toast’, the new healthy breakfast trend!
Recent rain in Watsonville and Santa Cruz have delayed local strawberry growers as they wait for the fields to dry out and get in there to clean. The rain did not reach Southern California so growers in Orange and San Diego counties are moving along with production at a heightened pace. The berries are firm with good color. Production of Arizona strawberries from Duncan Family Farm is winding down. Imported blueberry production is winding down while demand remains high causing prices to spike. Domestic blueberry supply remains limited as our main grower will not start California’s Central Valley production until mid-April. Raspberry supply has been very tight these past few weeks but is expected to improve. Blackberry supply and prices have been steady.
Recent rain has slowed packing for several of our citrus growers. Some navel growers have ended or are ending but supply should still be steady. Arizona Valencias are just about done but Mexican Valencias are here. California Valencias are expected to hit the market in April so there should be plenty of supply as we head into spring.
Ojai Pixie tangerines from Shore Packing are going strong but last week’s rain has slowed down production. The season is still expected to last a few weeks with Churchill Orchard and other growers from the Ojai Pixie Growers Association coming on later. Keep an eye out for murcott tangerines from Wild River and Schellenberg Farms starting soon. Murcotts are juicy and sweet with bright orange flesh. Because of their high seed content, murcotts make great juicing tangerines.
Ruby grapefruit from B&J Ranch is going strong and expected to go into May or June. We love the consistent juicy sweet flavor of the fruit. Try cutting a few open to sample to curious customers. One juicy bite and they’ll be hooked!
Kumquat season is well under way and supply is steady. Nagami kumquats from Beck Grove are tasting sweet and deliciously tart. Add to any dish for a pop color and refreshing flavor.
Peruvian red globe grapes are back in supply. Quality is strong and the fruit is tasting sweet and juicy. Globes have large seeds in the center—so be careful before popping one in your mouth!
Ataulfo mangoes are in good supply with sharp pricing. The fruit has gorgeous yellow color and a rich, sweet taste. Add some to your morning smoothie for a tropical twist! Tommy Atkins are more limited and prices are up.
Harper melons are back in production but supply is limited. Watermelon and cantaloupe from Sunfed are projected to come on in mid-April, but unfortunately no honeydew this season. Del Cabo will be having orange-flesh honeydew, Crenshaw and Piel de Sapo around the same time, so stay tuned for melon madness.
The pineapple market continues to be tight with limited but steady supply of fruit from Costa Rica. Sizes may be limited so don’t wait to order!
We’re seeing great pricing on Braga Organic Farm’s roasted and salted almonds, grown in central California. Aside from snacking and using for recipes, the almonds also make delicious almond milk! Not crazy for almonds? We’re also offering cashews and walnuts, both sourced from local California farms.
We have beautiful artichokes from Coke Farms in various sizes. We’re getting everything we can but no guarantee on a steady supply. More growers should come on in a couple weeks.
The asparagus market is booming! Lots of green asparagus available with attractive pricing. Prices are expected to continue to drop. With several growers on the market, green asparagus should last through June or July, depending on weather. Imported purple asparagus from Mexico is steady and California crop should be starting in a couple weeks. Purple asparagus has 20% more sugar content than other asparagus varieties, giving it a sweet taste that really shines when eaten raw. It is also less fibrous and more tender than other varieties. When cooked, purple asparagus develops nuttier flavor reminiscent of artichoke, barley and almonds.
Fava beans are starting! We’re getting limited but steady supply from Mexico. Fava beans, also known as broad beans, are dense with nutrition. They have no saturated fat or cholesterol and have high amounts of dietary fiber, folate, iron, potassium and other vitamins. Fava beans can be eaten raw or cooked but the bean pods must be blanched and the mature seeds shelled before consuming. In other bean news, green beans are holding steady.
Bok choy supply is limited as our main grower is experiencing shortages during the transition from desert to Northern California growing regions. Prices have increase accordingly. We are doing everything we can to minimize disruptions in supply.
The broccoli market remains tight with spotty supply. Many growers are finishing up desert production and in the midst of transitioning to new fields in Salinas, California.
Just like that, brussels sprouts are back in action! We’re seeing steady supply of imported ‘sprouts from Mexico. The sprouts are good sized and clean with no bugs.
Cabbage supply is limited and prices are high as growers finish the last of their desert production and transition to local regions. We’re seeing some fresh supply from local growers including Frazier Lake Farms and Riverdog Farm.
Our carrot growers are still in process of transitioning from the desert but supply seems to be improving. Givens Farms and Sunrise Organic Farm are both still gapping for a week or two. However, other growers are faring better so bunched, baby bunched and rainbow carrots should be steady.
Cauliflower supply continues to be tight, especially for product from new fields. Many growers are still transitioning from desert production.
Prices are up for celery as the domestic supply is limited during the harvest transition. Mexican product is also available but has not alleviated increased prices. Supply and price should level out as more growers start up with new fields. Excellent pricing on processing grade celery for our juicing, deli and food service customers.
Persian cucumbers continue to be limited; we’re getting what we can. Slicer cucumbers are also limited and prices high. For those needing their ‘cukes, take a look at English hot house which are currently steady in supply.
Graffiti eggplant continues to be limited. Globe eggplants are in good supply with attractive pricing. When much of the market is in transition, take advantage of items like the globe which is steady and strong. Globes are a great meat substitute due to its fleshy texture. Delicious braised, deep fried, pan fried, pickled, roasted or grilled—they can be prepared any number of ways! Due to its porous nature, eggplant absorbs large amounts of oil or liquids when cooked. Pro tip: salting and draining sliced eggplant will reduce the amount of liquid it absorbs.
Ginger and Turmeric
Ginger prices are finally coming down but stormy weather and flooding in Peru may change this trend in coming weeks. Red and yellow turmeric from Hawaii is steady. White turmeric is now available by preorder only. Talk to your Account Manager if interested! Turmeric continues to be a popular and trending herb this year. Consumers are increasingly health focused; educate customers on the powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of turmeric.
The bunched dino (aka Lacinato) kale market is still tight. Most growers are still finishing up desert production or gapping in supply as new fields are not ready to harvest. As we move into April, more product will come onto the market with almost all growers up and running by the end of April. Limited amounts of Bloomsdale spinach are coming on with beautiful quality and a premium price to match. Green curly kale, collards and chards are in better supply with better pricing although experiencing similar transitions until mid-April.
The boxed greens market is faring slightly better than bunched. Supply on wild arugula and baby spinach is still weak but most of the other varieties of greens are back on. Due to the tumultuous desert season this year, you may come across cotyledon leaves in your spinach mix, which are not weeds or grass but early spinach leaves. Cotyledon leaves are the first leaves that emerge when a seed sprouts. In spinach, they grow as two long slender leaves that form a long “V,” like a seagull flying. They are perfectly edible and taste just like spinach. The transition back to Salinas and Hollister, California is just around the corner! We expect the market will level out in a week or two.
If you haven’t yet, take a look at the delicious nettles from Route 1 Farms in Santa Cruz County. Nettles can be eaten raw or cooked and have diuretic and soothing properties when ingested or used topically. Nettles are also known as “stinging nettles” for the tiny hollow hairs on its leaves and stems which can produce a stinging sensation when touched. We recommend wearing gloves when handling! Stripping the stalks of leaves and wilting or blanching will remove the sting. Once blanched, it tastes and looks very similar to spinach and the leaf can be consumed.
It’s good to be a leek right now. Supply is strong from local California growers with great quality. Leek whites and light green parts can be used any place onions are used while the dark green leaves are perfect for soups and stocks.
Lettuce, Retail Greens and Herbs
The lettuce market is starting to stabilize with many small and large growers coming through with product. Prices are still on the high side but should hopefully come down soon. We’re seeing quality red and green leaf, red butter and romaine. Little Gems are a little further behind in the transition but we’re seeing some come in here and there. Don’t overlook green and red butter lettuce from Happy Living, which are grown hydroponically in Encinitas, California. These heads have excellent quality and long shelf life.
Cilantro prices and supply should stabilize as more product becomes available out of Salinas and Watsonville growing regions. Parsley has been stable and expected to stay there. Limes leaves are gapping in supply but should be available in a couple weeks. Nasturium edible flowers will not be available until late spring/early summer. Ask your Account Manager about other edible flower varieties available for preorder.
It’s a transitional time in the season for onions. Nevada grown yellow onions are completely done and California and the Northwest are winding down. New crop short day yellow onions are a couple weeks out but there should be no gaps in supply. Nevada-grown red onions are done but supply from the Central Valley and desert regions in California should keep us going through April and possibly May. California white onions are also done; Mexican onions will come on to supplement the market. Keep an eye out for red spring onions from Coke Farms which are starting to make their first appearance this season.
California snap peas have started! Supply is strong and pricing is competitive; California snap peas are in line with Mexican product. English peas and snow peas are still coming in from Mexico but California peas should be coming soon.
The pepper market is tight with limited supply on most varieties. Yellow and orange bells are very limited and we’re getting all we can. Reds are tight, but check out the jumbos which are a hearty size and available at sharp pricing. Green bells are the exception with steady supply from Wholesum Harvest, grown in Mexico. The market shortage applies to specialty peppers as well; both chilies and sweet peppers are limited.
It’s a tough time for potatoes as many growers are running through their supplies of old crop (cured) potatoes and new crop potatoes are just starting up. Yellow potatoes are very limited but do have some supply from Stukel Mountain and Nature’s Pride. Red potatoes are in better supply. From the new crop, red lasodas and Bintjes from Full Belly Farm in Capay Valley are looking and tasting great. Purple sweet potatoes (stokes) are ending early this season and the price is up for Japanese sweet potato.
Supply is steady for bunched red and gold beets but prices are up. As for bagged beets, supply is strong on regular red and gold but jumbos are limited and sporadic. The jumbo size is only determined once the beet has been harvested which makes crop planning challenging. Chioggias are scarce and we’re running through the last of the supply from desert production. There may be a small gap in supply until mid to late April.
Bunched radish supply has tightened. Recent rain and hail has soaked fields and prevented several California growers from harvesting. Parsnip prices continue to increase due to limited supply. Our favorite roots: turnip and rutabaga are still here with great pricing. Try mashed root veggies or root vegetable gratin for an affordable and healthy side dish! With Passover around the corner, don’t forget to stock up on horseradish!
Sunflower sprouts are extremely limited due to the weather. Pea sprouts are in good supply and wheat grass is steady but becoming more limited. Check out our full sprout offering which includes alfalfa, broccoli, clover and mung bean.
Imported zucchini is in good supply with excellent pricing. Take advantage of this price break and add ‘zukes to your ad or specials program. Straightneck squash, also imported, is limited. As for hard squash, we’re seeing amazing pricing on butternut squash from Mexico. Talk to your Account Manager for volume deals! Kabocha squash is gapping in supply but we have beautiful delicata squash and red kuri to hold you over.
Tomatoes on vine (TOV) are plentiful with sharp pricing and beautiful color on the fruit. Grape tomato supply has tightened but we’re getting all that we can. Heirloom cherries are seeing an uptick in price. Heirlooms are holding steady with great low pricing.
Our fresh-cut program includes hundreds of items prepared in a variety of ways—peeled, cubed, julienned, sliced and more! We can even do custom mixes!
We’ve seen increasing popularity for retail packs of fresh-cut vegetables from joyloop. Their items include zucchini spirals, sweet potato spirals, sweet potato “rice” and cauliflower “rice.” All items are sold as 8×8 ounce packages and have a long shelf life of 10-12 days. Stay ahead of consumer trends by making sure your store, deli and walk-ins are stocked appropriately to take advantage of increased demand for healthy convenience items. Talk to your Account Manager to see how we can support your fresh-cut program.
Grocery and Dairy
Did you know we offer grocery items such as maple products from Maple Valley Co-op, Hodo Soy tofu, Stueve olive oil and eggs, Mi Rancho tortillas, dried beans, quinoa and rice? We also offer a variety of cheeses, yogurts and milk from local creameries. Cold brew coffee almond milk from Three Trees will have you replacing your morning joe with this “café au lait” that’s rich, smooth and refreshing. Made with real almonds, Madagascar vanilla, and Fair Trade cold brew coffee, this almond milk is delicious and addictive!
The Full Belly Farm spring floral collection is here! Anemone, Calendula, Ranunculus and Dutch Iris bouquets arranged with care are ready for pre-order. Big changes in the Thomas Farm bouquet offerings starting this week. All single bucket boxes have been discontinued, which could be good news for your floral department, show that abundance! Stay tuned for more varieties coming soon from both growers. Full Belly Farm predicts sweet pea bouquets to be available any day now.
Customer Service 101
We have all heard the saying that the customer is always right but customer service is more than just that. Providing excellent customer service is going above and beyond to satisfy our customers. With so much completion out there, it’s important to not only bolster your reputation for offering the best fresh organic produce, but to also strive for the excellent customer service as well. How do you do that? There are several quick tips to quickly enhance your customer service.
1) Sampling – For most Produce Departments this is standard practice but if you’re not already doing this, consider starting. Sampling is a great way to form trusting relationships with customers, up sale other produce or product in the store and increase sales because the customer had a chance and was encouraged to try the product.
2.) Providing customers with verbal information- Signage is great and provides important information but actually having a conversation goes a long way. Spending a few minutes talking with a customer about the product and the farm that grew it, leaves a lasting impression and gives the customer a personal connection to the produce they are purchasing. This little bit of extra time and information leaves a lasting impression and creates a memorable shopping experience. Remember, you are that bridge that connects the customer to the farmer.
3.) Walking the customer to the product- Often while out on the floor working, you will get interrupted by customers looking for a product they are having difficulty locating. Most stores will point in the general direction or tell the customer what aisle the product is located on. It is better to actually walk the customer to the product. It may sound insignificant but it makes a world of difference to someone who may be new to the store or struggling to locate an item. It also pretty much guarantees a sale when a customer can find what they are looking for.
4.) Floor Sales- Having a body on the sales floor at all times is highly encouraged. If you have the labor to provide the coverage, make it a rule of thumb that there always be a person on the floor to be available to assist at all times. Nothing is worse than going into a store and having no one acknowledge you or be able to help you out. It leaves a negative impression.
These are just a few suggestions to get you started on you path to providing excellent customer service. If you have any questions or are interested in expanding your customer service, we can help. Contact your Account Manager and ask about our Merchandising program. We’ll come to your store!