The Color Purple

Purple Garlic

The arrival of spring brings us beautiful and colorful produce such as the unique and aptly named purple garlic. Garlic has been cultivated for thousands of years for both its medicinal and culinary attributes. There are over 600 varieties and within the garlic family, garlic is classified as either hardneck garlic or softneck garlic. Even with the multitude in variety, we can’t help but focus our attention on one group in particular.

Purple garlic is part of the hardneck family. It has even-sized cloves surrounded with a thick and stiff “neck” with vertical purple stripes on the bulb wrappers. In some varieties, the stripes appear as blotches. The purple coloration comes from anthocyanidin, an organic pigment and can vary depending on growing conditions, weather and other factors. The purple color also means this garlic is rich in antioxidants that offer anti-inflammatory and other health benefits.

Purple garlic stores well for up to 6-8 months. It tends to be richer in flavor and renders a sweetness when added to food. Because of this, purple garlic is sometimes used in desserts!

*Keep a lookout for our staff picks noted in orange.

Fruit

Apple and Pear

The domestic apple market is winding down and prices are on their way up. Galas from Washington are the exception with steady supply and volume. Add to your promotion calendar to take advantage of low pricing! Pink Lady is winding down fast and pretty limited. We’ll be seeing import Braeburns, Fujis, and Red Delicious in the next couple of weeks.

While apple pricing is skyrocketing, the import pear market has leveled out and we’re seeing sharp pricing on Abate Fetel and red Anjou pears. Supply is steady on Bartlett and Bosc to round out our pear collection.

Avocado

Avocado prices are still going up steadily as supply dwindles overall. Preconditioned Hass from Allied in 70 count is available right now. This fruit arrives to you ‘breaking’ and ready to go—perfect for customers looking to make guacamole for upcoming Cinco de Mayo celebrations. Supply is good on #2s which are just as delicious but may have some blemishes on the outside. Prices are expected to go up again in this tight market.

Berry

California blueberry season is fast approaching. Homegrown Organic Farms is starting up with their blueberry production out of San Joaquin Valley. The region’s sunny and dry climate grows delicious king-size blueberries of the southern highbush variety with incredible flavor. Strawberry production from the Watsonville area is up and running with good volume from Tomatero Farm, Coke Farm and Taste Me Do Good. Jacobs Farm berry production is also ramping up and we should be seeing regular supply of open pints. Mexican raspberry and blackberry supply continues to be spotty. Production information is unreliable.

Citrus

With the arrival of spring, citrus season is beginning to wind down. However, there is still plenty of quality fruit to be eaten! Starting May 3rd, Nagami kumquats will be steady and coming in from Beck Grove. We can’t get enough of the addictive sweet and sour citrus flavor! Also on the addictive list is ruby grapefruit from B&J Ranch. Supply is strong with plenty of sizes available. The beautiful jewel colored fruit is a perfect complement to fresh spring salads. Buck Brand is winding down fast on navel oranges and pretty much done with other fruit for the season. Cousins still has navels and expected to last until June. California Valencias are moving along with several growers coming on. Pricing is on the high side. Mexican Valencias are available with more competitive pricing. Lemon pricing is going up as desert and Central Valley supply wind down. Growers are peaking on larger sizes so plenty of larger fruit available with attractive pricing. Limes are in good supply from Peru. Don’t forget to stock up for Cinco de Mayo celebrations!

Kiwi

The kiwi market may start to get tight with less availability of select fruit sizes. Prices have gone up. We do not expect any gaps in supply.

Melon

Mini seedless watermelon is steady with some limited smaller sizes. Rundle Family Farms will be starting with their melons soon! The first honeydew of the season is starting from Divine Flavor with cantaloupe close behind. Rico Farms will be joining the melon party with orange flesh honeydew. With all the new varieties on the market, don’t forget about delicious Harper melons, available at sharp pricing! Harper melons arrive in 5 count, a great size for our processing customers.

Stonefruit

It’s a bit early for stonefruit but we’re certainly enjoying the early season. California yellow flesh Amber Crest peaches are sweet and tart with perfect sugar/acid balance. Alta Kirsty peaches grown in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico are also available and eating fantastically. Other California peaches and nectarines are still a few weeks out so get your stonefruit fix with these delicious early varieties. Rumors are that early California cherries may be available almost any day now, depending on the weather. The first varieties to be harvested are in short supply, but overall the crop is much stronger than the past two years.

 

Vegetables

Artichoke

The tides have turned and artichoke supply is strong and plentiful. Prices are slowly coming down. Talk to your Account Manager if interested in volume deals.

Asparagus

California asparagus season is in full swing. Many growers have come on and green asparagus is in good supply. Pricing may come down slightly. Purple asparagus is still limited and we’re bringing in as much as we can find.

Bean

Green bean supply is expanding with many growers on the market. Prices have dropped and quality is strong. This is a great seasonal item to promote on ad or specials! Keep an eye out for Rundle Family Farm expected to come on in May. Fava beans, a spring time favorite are all also in good supply. This early in the season, favas may have some russeting on the outer pods, however the beans inside are protected and still delicious! In the U.S., the beans are removed from the pod before preparing. In most other parts of the world, the beans’ skin is not removed.

Broccoli

Following the Easter holiday, broccoli prices have been down and continuing to drop from the highs we were seeing in the past few weeks. Production reports indicate there is still unharvested broccoli in the fields so supply should remain steady.

Cabbage

Supply of cabbage remains limited and prices are high. Frazier Lake is experiencing labor shortages to harvest product; prices are expected to rise sharply to be more in line with the current market. Napa cabbage is gapping in supply. Early reports indicate we may not see any until June.

Carrot

Nantes carrots are steady from Givens Farms and Sunrise Organic Farm.  Bulk table carrots have been limited but we have some supply of 25 pound bags also from Sunrise Organic Farm. The carrots are slightly irregular shaped from overwintering but still taste great—sweet and crisp. All other bulk carrots are in good supply.

Cauliflower

Cauliflower prices have tumbled sharply, even more noticeably than the broccoli drop. We’re seeing beautiful clean cello wrapped heads from Watsonville grower Tomatero Farm. Bulk cauliflower is gapping in supply.

Celery

The celery market is still tight and prices are climbing. California product is not yet available but Earthbound Farms is offering quality heads with good color from Mexico.

Corn

Corn has started up with Mexican white corn from Divine Flavor. The ears are clean and trimmed. Early taste tests yield sweet milky kernels. It’s time to start thinking of corn promotions and menu changes!

Cucumber

The cucumber market is finally leveling out. Persians are of good quality and supply. Availability should continue to improve going forward. Slicers pricing has dropped rapidly with steady supply and great quality. Check out the fresh cukes from JND Farms, a new small grower from the Central Valley. English hothouse supply is steady.

Eggplant

Pasha is starting with globe eggplants from the Coachella Valley in Southern California. Quality is high and considered some of the nicest on the market. Supply remains steady with product from Wholesum Harvest and Aztlan also available.

Garlic, Ginger and Turmeric

Just in—beautiful purple garlic grown in Mexico! Purple garlic is similar to white garlic but has a richer full-bodied taste that renders sweetness when added to a dish. The presence of an organic pigment “anthocyanidin” is responsible for the purple coloration. Purple garlic has even-sized cloves with a thick and stiff neck with purple stripes—that can sometimes appear in blotches. Yellow ginger is in good supply with attractive pricing from Hawaiian grower, Kolo Kai. The turmeric market is starting to get tight so be sure to stock up before prices increase.

Greens

We seem to be through most of the seasonal transition for the greens market. Supply is steady from Jayleaf Specialities and our new greens producer, Josie’s Organics. Josie’s has been growing out of the Salinas Valley since the 1920s by the Braga family and has maintained the same high standards for quality, integrity, and sustainability. Baby spinach, spring mix and wild arugula are in good supply.

Collard greens supply is tight with limited availability from some of our main growers. Dino, aka lacinato kale has been steady but it’s unclear if the volume will continue. However, green kale supply remains strong with excellent pricing.

Leek

Many growers have finished with leeks for the season but fortunately local Watsonville grower, Tomatero Farm is back in supply. Quality is consistent with firm stems and clean leaves.

Lettuce, Retail Greens and Herbs

The lettuce market is faring better than it has in weeks. Green and red leaf lettuce supply is steady with several growers on the market. Romaine and red romaine are still limited. Little gems are steady and coming in from Route One Farms and Givens Farm.  While tiny in size the crisp, crunchy texture and sweet flavor pack a big punch!

New to our retail offerings are fresh baby leaf and salad blends from Josie’s Organics. Baby arugula, baby spinach, baby kale, half & half, power greens, and spring mix are available in 5 ounce clamshells. Baby spinach and spring mix also come in 16 ounce clamshells.

Cilantro remains tight in supply with high prices. New to our list is basil from Tomatero Farm. Supply is limited but quality is great. Keep an eye out for when availability approves this season.

Mushroom

California maitakes from Gourmet Mushrooms are back in supply. Spring wild-crafted mushrooms from Far West Fungi are available for preorder including wood ears, lion’s mane, summer black truffles and morels. Despite reports of low production, shiitake supply is steady from Top Hat Mushrooms. Top Hat is a family owned farm on located on the western foothills of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon and has been operating since the early 1970s. This grower is committed to sustainable agriculture and demonstrates this by using solar power on the farm and utilizing mushroom by-product to build the soil.

Onion

The spring transition is in full swing for onions. California yellow onions are of the short-day variety which means they are sweeter than the long-day onions but have less storing power since they do not develop a thicker skin. Prices should be coming down as more California growers come on. We will continue to have some supply of Mexican yellows until the California season is well underway. Red onions are experiencing similar harvest trends as yellow onions. White onions will be mostly from Mexico since there is limited California onions available–typical at this time of the season. Shallot prices are going up as supply tightens. Wild ramps are available by pre-order, ask your account manager for details.

Pea

Pea prices are finally coming down as the season starts up and supply improves. A&A Organic is offering some of the nicest snap peas we’ve seen so far. Durst Organic Growers will be coming on soon with their snap peas grown in the Capay Valley. English and snow peas are steady.

Pepper

After weeks of tight supply, the pepper market seems to be improving slightly. Pasha Marketing, a grower and producer located in the Coachella Valley, will be coming on with green bell peppers and red bells in a week or two. Supply of red bells has been limited from Mexico. Orange and yellow bells continue to limited from Aztlan and Divine Flavor. Chile peppers are still tight but jalapenos are in better supply from Pasha.

Potato

California new crop red and yellow potatoes are coming on full force with excellent pricing. Top Brass reds are absolutely gorgeous and a staff favorite here! New crop Russian bananas, crescents and other specialty potatoes should be starting any day. New crop russets are not expected until late June.

Roots

Parsnips from Willow Creek are still happening in good supply with sharp pricing. Rutabaga is winding down, but supply is still mostly steady. Turnip supply is dwindling and prices are going up. Jicama is coming in steady with good quality. Bulk beet prices are going up as supply tightens. Lots of Chioggia available but red and gold are limited. Beet lovers take a look at bunched baby beets which are in better supply.

Specialty Veg

Rhubarb, the hallmark of spring is here and in good supply. The natural tart flavor is great for desserts and savory dishes. With strawberry season well under way, we can’t think of a better combination! Fiddlehead ferns are available for preorder from Oregon. Fiddleheads are fun to say and eat because of their unique shape! They are curled inwards and resemble the end of a scroll. Left on the plant, each fiddlehead would unroll into a new frond. Keep an eye out for nopales (cactus) coming in just in time for Cinco de Mayo!

Squash

Zucchini is in good supply and prices are dropping. Quality has been high with little scarring on the squash. Straightneck and yellow squash are steady. Sunburst and patty pan are more limited; we bring in everything we can. The hard squash market is pretty steady with butternut still coming from Hummingbird in California and imported product coming from Rico Farms in Mexico. Del Cabo is coming on with their Mexican hard squash in a couple weeks which includes acorn, butternut, delicata, kabocha and red kuri. The harvest for new crop California-grown hard squash is still several months away.

Tomato

One and two-layer tomatoes are in regular supply and prices should be dropping soon. Heirloom tomatoes have been tightening up but should hopefully improve as the season starts up and more product comes on the market.

 

Fresh-cut

Fresh and convenient are the name of the game and our fresh-cut program has everything you need to stay on top. Our list includes hundreds of items prepared in a variety of ways—peeled, cubed, julienned, sliced and more! We can even do seasonal custom mixes (think guacamole kits, mirepoix, or soup prep).

Check out joyloop retail packs of popular fresh-cut vegetables. 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. Talk to your Account Manager to see how we can support your fresh-cut program.

 

Grocery and Dairy

In addition to the freshest organic produce, we offer select grocery items from organic producers. A growers’ co-op, Maple Valley Co-op produces delicious high quality maple syrup and maple products using sustainable methods. Maple syrup is available in a variety of pack types—from 12 ounce squeeze bottles (no mess!) to 5 gallon pails. Yes, maple syrup is GMO-free, gluten-free and vegan!

Along with your maple syrup, check out organic biodynamic eggs from Stueve Organic, located in California’s Central Valley. Stueve’s chickens wander on pesticide free native ground, cohabitating with organic cows. Both the cows and chickens are moved to fresh pasture every two days—which gives all parties new fresh grass, clover, grubs and other insects. The chickens live, eat and lay eggs in a mobile chicken coop, which offers them a safe place to shelter and sleep at night. Their diet is supplemented with organic, methionine free feed from a local grain milling facility. Biodynamic pasture raised eggs are cleaner, loaded with Omega 3, fresher and incredibly tasty!

We also offer a variety of cheeses, yogurts and milk from local creameries, Mi Rancho tortillas, dried beans, quinoa and Hodo Soy tofu. Talk to your Account Manager to learn more about our grocery program.

 

Floral

Full Belly Farm is gapping on all straight pack floral bouquets. Cool weather the past few weeks has slowed floral production down for both Thomas Farm and Full Belly Farm. As we head into spring, warmer weather should turn things around for a rocking May! With Mother’s Day around the corner on May 14th, don’t forget to plan ahead for your floral department on what will likely be busy flower weekend.  Thomas Farm will fulfill orders on a ‘first come, first serve’ basis, so the sooner you pre-order for the holiday, the better your chances are of having your order completed.

 

Merchandising Corner

Extending Shelf Life

As a very perishable item, produce needs to be received and stored in the right temperature zone as quickly as possible to reduce loss of product quality. Oliver Wyman, an international retail consulting firm, published a 2014 report titled “A Retailer’s Recipe, Fresher Food and Far Less Shrink” in which they noted, “Customers who are satisfied with freshness will spend 33% more in the produce department of their primary store compared to those who are not satisfied. At the same time, customers will spend 8% more of their total grocery spend exclusively with the retailers whose produce they are please with than the shoppers who are not happy with that store’s produce.”

Receiving

  • When an order arrives at your store, sign the invoice or packing list; keep one copy for the store and return one to the driver.
  • Review the order for accuracy and damaged product including:
    • Quantity and sizes ordered match product received.
    • Quality meets store standards (note if any issues exist and if credits/returns are needed).
    • Keep any notes with the invoice and communicate with the vendor in a timely manner to resolve issues.
  • Make sure received product is logged for accounting purposes.

Storage

  • Organize and clean coolers and dry storage areas in preparation of a delivery.
  • Never place product directly on the floor to avoid exposure to contaminants.
  • Use a standard dating system for each box as it enters the store; when storing, ensure the date faces out so older produce is pulled first. Educate everyone in the department to understand the dating system.
  • Understand the proper storage area for each item of produce.

Temperature and humidity also play an important role in shelf life and are directly related to each other. For example, if a cold room temperature increases by only 2˚F, the relative humidity drops approximately 7%, which reduces produce shelf life by 50%. Leafy greens last 4 times longer when stored in a room with 95% relative humidity than in a room with 80% relative humidity.

According to a publication from the University of California, produce respiration increases 200-400% for each increase of 18˚F, up to temperatures of about 77˚F to 86˚F. Additionally, it is important to note that a byproduct of respiration is heat. This means a storage area with an ambient temperature of 32˚F may have produce registering 2-4˚F higher. Therefore monitoring, the ambient temperature may not be sufficient. Optimal storage and transport of fruits and vegetables varies by product with optimal temperatures ranging anywhere between 32˚F with 90-95% relative humidity for strawberries as one example, to 55˚F-59˚F with 85-90% relative humidity for grapefruit.