“A Kumquat for John Keats”
Sweet pulp and sour skin-
or was it sweet outside and sour within?
For however many kumquats that I eat
I’m not sure if it’s flesh or rind that’s sweet.
– Tony Harrison
When most people think of kumquats they think of the mouth puckering tartness of the Nagami kumquat. However, there is a sweet little gem out there called the Meiwa kumquat. More simply, it is referred to as the sweet kumquat. It has a thicker skin than the Nagami giving it that sweet, candy like punch. It is best to roll them around a bit to release the aroma before taking a bite.
Kumquats make wonderful marmalades and jams. They can also be preserved whole as well as used in craft cocktails. Like oranges, kumquats are delicious in savory dishes. Since cooking them mellows their acidity, they make great chutneys and relishes that complement seafood, pork and duck. Simply sliced raw, kumquats add zing to salads of bitter greens such as endive or frisée. Meiwa is a hybrid of Nagami and Maruni kumquats.
At this point in citrus season, we also have the cocktail grapefruit. A cocktail grapefruit, as it turns out, is no grapefruit at all. It only looks like one. It’s a little smaller than most grapefruit though. The cocktail grapefruit is actually a delicious cross between a Frua mandarin and a pumelo. The pumelo side presumably gives it that deep yellow color and bright fragrance, while the mandarin side of its heritage gives it unparalleled sub-acid flavors of sweetness. Cocktail grapefruits have a bright tangerine flavor with a clean, refreshing grapefruit finish without the acidic bite.
A versatile winter fruit, cocktail grapefruit are enjoyed in beverages, deserts, salads and seafood to name a few. It might be your next morning meal. In fact, the cocktail grapefruit just might be the real breakfast of champions.
*Keep a lookout for our staff picks noted in orange.
Apple and Pear
Sweet Orin and Enterprise apples are done for the season. We still have many popular varietals available! Fujis are in good supply and price is holding for now. Galas are steady as they come. We’re seeing the last of Honeycrisp for the season so grab ‘em while you can. Some growers are winding down and we expect a price increase on Granny Smith and Pink Lady.
Imported Bartlett pears from Argentina are here! This medium sized fruit has soft thin skin and offers a juicy aromatic bite. This pear is unique in that its skin color brightens from green to yellow as it ripens. Green skin will yield a crunchy and tart pear while a golden yellow hue will give you a burst of super sweet juice. Red D’Anjou is plentiful with great pricing although D’Anjou is tightening and prices are on the way up. Bosc are also still available but limited; prices are expected to increase.
California Hass prices are unsteady and predicted to continue to rise. Let your Account Manager know if you’re interested in Mexican Hass, but prices are not much different given the tight market this season. While the Hass market continues to rollercoaster, why not focus on the beautiful green skins? The super creamy Ettinger is a staff favorite because of its incredible flavor and value! Contrary to its name, Bacons do not taste their name counterpart. They are buttery fresh and lighter than some other varieties.
Strawberries are in good supply with fruit coming in from Duncan Family Farms in Arizona and berries from Baja, Mexico ramping up. Blueberry prices are on the rise but quality has been impressive for California grown berries at this time of year. Raspberry and blackberries are steadily available but limited. Volume and price should improve mid-March.
Nagami kumquats have arrived! We’re seeing limited but steady supply from Beck Grove, located in Southern California. This specialty citrus is the size of an olive and can be eaten whole—skin and all. The inside is sour, but the skin has a sweet flavor. When eaten together it produces an unusual tart-sweet, refreshing taste. More supply will be available with fruit from Rancho del Sol Organics, located in San Diego, California starting soon. Keep an eye out for the coveted Meiwa kumquats, which have a sweet candy flavor, coming soon!
Navels are holding steady with several growers supplying the market. Sespe Creek Organics will be starting with their navels soon. Valencias are in good supply with B&J Ranch joining the mix. This popular grower is expecting a short season, so don’t miss out on getting some of their delicious fruit.
Kishu tangerines are done for the season. For those mourning their departure, the Pixie tangerine is starting and will surely cheer you up. The small golf ball sized fruit is sweet, seedless and easy to peel. We like to call them “edible orbs of sunshine”
Ruby grapefruit from B&J Ranch is going strong and expected to go into May or June. We’re also offering cocktail grapefruit, officially known as Mandelo. Developed in the 1950s, cocktail grapefruit is a cross of the Siamese sweet pumelo and Frua mandarin. This fruit contains seeds but has excellent flavor—great for delis, food service and juicing!
Lemon pricing seems to be holding although supply may become more limited. The lime market is expected to remain tight but steady. Expect more price increases and possible gaps in supply.
Red globe grapes are done for the season. Check back for California grapes—which starts in late April or early May, depending on weather.
Peruvian grown Kent mangos are winding down so grab some of these before they’re gone! Tommy Atkins from Mexico are back in stock. We’re seeing high quality fruit with sweet, floral flavor. Tommy Atkins are highly valued for their long shelf life and tolerance for handling. In breaking news, the National Mango Board (NMB) has renamed the Ataulfo mango variety to “Honey.” Imported from Mexico, this newly renamed mango is in good supply with attractive pricing. No matter the name, don’t miss out on this sweet and creamy fruit.
Harper melons are still gapping in supply but we’re hopeful some fruit will become available soon. Mini seedless watermelon is more readily available but still limited in supply.
Fortune is on our side in terms of stone fruit! We’re happy to offer Fortune plums from New Zealand. We were hooked at first bite! The fruit has a beautiful deep purple skin and juicy yellow-red flesh inside. The flavor is sweet and aromatic. We are also featuring Happy Giant plums from Chile. Add a pop of color to your shelves and menus!
Cherimoyas, also known as the custard apple, have arrived! This specialty fruit has a greenish-yellow skin and creamy white flesh similar in texture to pear or papaya. The flavor is sweet and tart reminiscent of a mix of pineapple and banana. Neither the skin nor the large black seeds, which are toxic when crushed, are edible. Cherimoyas are usually eaten like an apple, scooped out with a spoon, or cut in half lengthwise and peeled.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are great way to give your grocery offering a boost. With an increasing number of consumers focusing on health, seize the opportunity to promote the many positive benefits of nuts and seeds. Our nut availability includes: almonds, cashews, and walnuts as well as sunflower and pumpkin seeds, all sourced from local California farms. Our nuts are offered in several pack types and available shelled or roasted and salted.
The artichoke market is tight on larger sizes. However, smaller sizes are in abundance with sharp pricing! Take advantage of these veggies while they are nutty and extra delicious during winter months. Fun Fact: California produces 100% of the domestic artichoke crop with heavy amounts of supply coming from Castroville, California—the “Artichoke Center of the World.”
Green asparagus supply is plentiful but pricing remains unsteady as new growers come on to the market. Look out for asparagus from Durst Organic Growers, located in the Capay Valley, starting soon. This fourth-generation farm is located in an area called “Hungry Hollow” where the unique microclimate and soils allow for superb tasting vegetables to grow. Purple asparagus is not yet available.
Green bean supply is tight. Many growers are either out of product or reporting quality issues due to wet weather. We do not expect the limited supply to last; quality beans should be available soon.
Bok choy is extremely tight and prices are significantly up on baby bok choy.
The broccoli market is more limited than recent weeks. Several growers are coming to the end of fields, impacting both quality and supply. Sweet baby broccoli, also commonly known as broccolini, is in good supply with product coming in from Tomatero Farm and Lakeside Organic Gardens in Watsonville, California. Romanesco is gapping in supply.
It’s raining Brussels! Brussels sprouts supply is plentiful and prices are as good as they can get. We have both California grown and Mexico grown product. This is a great item to promote on ad or specials!
We’re in green cabbage heaven after seeing the beautiful leafy heads from Rundle Family Farms, located in Fresno, California. This small local grower produces perfect sized heads that offer a sweet and peppery flavor. Make sure to stock up on this veggie for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations near the 17th! While checking out brassicas, don’t overlook Savoy cabbage from the Goldie label. The heads have mesmerizing crinkled leaves and a mild earthy flavor. Considered one of the healthiest vegetables in the kitchen, cabbage is extremely versatile to prepare whether shredded raw into salads, braised for soups or fermented!
Due to persistent cold temperatures, bunched carrots are still limited, especially Nantes. Be patient as the weather warms up and fields dry out. More growers will come on soon but timing really depends on Mother Nature!
White cauliflower is in good supply with several growers and pack types to choose from. We’re seeing excellent quality with tight, clean heads. The consumer cauliflower craze isn’t over yet, so be sure to keep plenty on hand when people are looking to make cauliflower “rice.” Unfortunately, the market is seeing an absence of colored crop—graffiti and cheddar are gapping in supply. We do not expect more to be available anytime soon.
Celery is in good supply with excellent pricing on Goldie celery. Be sure to grab some before prices pop up again! We also have imported product from Mexico coming in with beautiful color and quality. Add some of this veggie to brighten your display and dish!
The cucumber market is tight with prices on the rise. Heavy rain in Mexico has heavily impacted supply. In addition, many growers are experiencing a gap between plantings. The current planting is winding down and the next has yet to start. Slicer cucumbers and English hothouse are very limited and prices are expected to increase when supply becomes more available. Persian cucumbers are more steady both in supply and price.
The globe eggplant market is on the rise and anticipate prices to increase slightly. Graffiti eggplant is steady.
Garlic and Ginger
We’re seeing a new crop of Peruvian yellow ginger with increasing prices to match. Turmeric is in good supply with red, white and yellow varietals from Hawaiian growers Maui Olena and Kolo Kai.
There will be a small gap in supply on super colossal garlic from Christopher Ranch. This is a good opportunity to try the Argentinian imported white colossal garlic from Dovex. The heads are large and beautiful!
Many growers are starting to transition from desert regions to local growing regions so we’re starting to see product from both regions. The wet weather from February is not making transition easy; expect fluctuations in price, supply and quality.
Bunched dino (aka Lacinato) and green kale pricing has spiked. Chards remain steady but we anticipate pricing to follow suit. Chicories are in good supply. Bunched spinach is very limited with some aesthetic challenges—but the taste is great! Boxed arugula and spinach is very limited.
Lettuce, Retail Greens and Herbs
Have you tried the green and red living butter lettuce from Happy Living? Living butter lettuces are hydroponically grown in Encinitas, California. They are grown using 80% less water, 1/5 of the land and can grow year-round. The flavor is delicate and sweet with a firm crisp texture. Heads have cup shaped leaves that often resemble a flowering rose.
Romaine remains limited and pricing is high. Retail packs of romaine and loose hearts are in better supply. Little Gems are experiencing a short gap in supply so check out baby mix lettuce as a nice alternative. Green leaf is in good supply with great quality.
Retail greens supply is faring better than boxed greens. We have a variety of labels and salads mixes available in clamshells and retail bags; get your orders in as they are moving fast. Check out Josie’s Organics Chopped Salad available in three different mixes: Asian, Southwest and Sweet Kale. These are a staff favorite and perfect for fresh-cut and grab n’ go displays.
The iced herbs market is steady with good supply. Cilantro has sharp pricing and will probably stay but parsley may increase depending on weather. After much anticipation, tarragon is back in stock! Jacob’s Farm basil is still intermittent in supply.
Russet potatoes are in good supply and prices are steady. We’re seeing an increase in red and yellow creamers as some new crop hits the market. Red Lasodas from Full Belly Farm in Capay Valley has us in spud heaven! This beautiful red potato is a great boiling potato since it never loses its flavor. These are great option for those looking to celebrate St. Patty’s Day with a potato side dish!
The zucchini market seems to be getting tight but we’re holding steady with plenty of supply and good pricing. Yellow squash is still limited and we’re sourcing as much as we can. As this point in the season, hard squash pickings are slim. Butternut squash is plentiful but Kabocha is limited.
For those eager to experience summer’s tomato bounty, we’re seeing beautiful heirloom tomatoes from Ram’s Farm, grown in Mexico. At the peak of their season, this grower has hit their stride with attractive pricing and consistent and reliable quality. Tomatoes on vine (TOV) have strong supply with sharp pricing while Romas are bit more limited. We’re also excited to announce that Wilgenburg Greenhouses will be starting soon with slicing tomatoes and heirlooms. Run by Hans Wilgenburg, this farm has been operating for 30 years in Dinuba, California. Wilgenburg offers really excellent quality produce due to their gentle “kid gloves” handling and controlled greenhouse growing methods. Seeds are planted into pouches filled with coconut fibers and worm casings—from their very own worm farm!
We offer a full line of fruits and vegetables prepared in a variety of ways—peeled, cubed, julienned, sliced and more! Stay ahead of trends by making sure your store, deli and walk-ins are stocked appropriately to take advantage of increased demand for convenience items. Talk to your Account Manager to see how we can support your value-added program.
Joyloop packaged fresh-cut vegetables are great additions to any store. They offer sweet potato spirals, sweet potato “rice” as well as zucchini spirals and cauliflower “rice.” All varieties are great alternatives to traditional pasta or grains and have a shelf life of 10-12 dsddays. Each 8 x 8 ounce bag is approximately 2-3 cups of veggies. These are great items to promote and have on stock as customers are looking for easier ways to eat healthy.
Maple products are predicted to be at the top of food trends this year. We are currently offering a full line of delicious maple products including maple syrup in various size packs, maple sugar candy, and even whipped maple cream (great on toast, pancakes, yogurt and more!) All products are certified organic and great to have through the winter months. The products are sourced from Maple Valley Co-op, a producer co-op modeled after famed Organic Valley. If you need a healthy sweet treat, maple is the way to go. Ask your Account Manager for the details.
Everyday Tips for Merchandising
Setting up displays in a produce department can be much like starting a home garden, it requires careful planning and consideration of color, texture, landscaping, and containers or props. Typically, when customers walk into a store, the produce department is the first thing they see. Over 65% of their buying decisions are made on impulse. Creative, eye catching fruit and vegetable displays will encourage your customers to grab a few extra items. If the department looks unpleasant or poorly organized they are likely to shop elsewhere. Even if you have the freshest produce in town, bad displays can discourage sales.
Taking advantage of contrasting colors is one of the simplest ways to add strong visual impact. By planning your displays to show of the rainbow of colors it will make the items pop visually and increase the length of time the customer spends looking at the produce and how much they purchase. Avoid overlapping similar colors or creating a large block of green leafy vegetables. The direction in which you display a product can also enhance the color, for instance, turning baby bok choy horizontal or vertical rather than stem end out shows off the vibrant green and white leaf, and the same is true for fennel, leeks, radish, lettuce and greens. In general, most vegetables have a greater visual impact displayed in this way because the customer can see the whole item. Think farmer’s markets which is almost entirely eye candy.
Landscaping and Props
This is another area where you get to create the beauty of the flow. Displaying produce at varying heights with good color contrast on your dry tables creates artistic and visual excitement. The product in these displays should flow together. You want to create a vast horizon rather than a bunch of peaks and valleys. Pyramiding individual items creates a lot of space in between product and generally does not hold the eye captive. Having a table that is tiered or angled will give the look of abundance with less product. If your table top is flat you can build it up using props and containers. Integrating wooden boxes for height can easily and affordably give you a tiered effect needed to create a beautiful landscape.
It can be difficult to create a color break depending on the season and the size of your produce case. Like color, texture can provide contrast to help create and draw in visual interest from your customers. Brussels sprouts and asparagus are similar in color and yet wildly different in texture and together make a striking display. Paying attention to opposing textures of vegetables and fruits will help keep your displays attractive and eye catching. Integrating baskets can give the department a more natural texture and farmers market feel.
When merchandising your department, remember these display tips and your department will soon resemble a beautiful and abundant garden.