Strawberry Fields

Strawberry

It’s the peak of strawberry season and we’re more than a little giddy over the quality of sweet, plump fruit coming in. Dating back to the 18th century, the strawberry, also known as the garden strawberry or fragaria ananassa, originated in Europe as a hybrid of two wild strawberry species from North America and Chile. Today there are 600 varieties of strawberries.

No matter the variety, strawberries have been and still are wildly popular. Their characteristic sweet aroma, bright red color and juicy flavor make it easy to eat in large quantities. Although strawberries are often consumed fresh, its sweet flavor lends itself to jams, jellies, desserts and many non-culinary applications.

In addition to winning taste points, strawberries are considered one of the world’s healthiest foods. They rank among the top 10 fruits and vegetables for antioxidant content. An excellent source of nutrients and Vitamin C, strawberries may have benefits for heart health, brain function, immune system and blood sugar control.

 

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

 

Fruit

Apple and Pear

As domestic apples are winding down, prices are continuing to increase. We’ll have a steady but limited supply on Fuji, Gala and Pink Lady over the next couple weeks. Check in with your Account Manager for your apple needs. Granny Smith imports from Argentina and Chile have arrived. Braeburn and Red Delicious imports are expected here soon. Don’t forget we also have plenty of bagged Fuji, Gala and Pink Lady!

We’re seeing sharp pricing on Abate Fetel (pronounced ah-BAH-tay fa-TEL) pears. This is a great opportunity to build up a promotion for a special and delicious pear. Bred by Italian monks several hundred years ago, this slim and long pear is usually eaten when just barely soft. Taste wise, the Abate Fetel has rich sweetness with aromatic notes of honey. Import Bosc and D’Anjou are steady with excellent pricing.

Avocado

Not surprisingly, avocado prices are going up $2-$4 every few days. Supply of 70 count from Las Palmalitas Ranch is strong right now, so act fact! Supply on #2 quality is more limited than it has been in the past few weeks. Sunburn and scarring issues seen in some earlier fruit were in an orchard that has been picked through.

Berry

Strawberry production from the Watsonville area is strong with large sweet berries available in clamshell packs from Tomatero Farm and Coke Farm and open pints from Jacobs Farm. California blueberry season is well under way with steady supply from Homegrown Organic Farms. Dry pints and 18 ounce clamshells will be available soon. Hirahara blueberries are just starting up. Raspberry demand is still out pacing supply but seems to be improving. Prices are slowly coming down. The blackberry market is steady with competitive pricing! Take advantage of great pricing and availability of berries right now with a spring berry ad!

Citrus

Lemon prices continue to rise as supply remains limited. Patagonia limes are expected to gap for a few weeks as they size up. Meyer lemons are also expected to gap for a month as they color up. Grapefruit supply is steady and our exclusive grower, B&J Ranch, is peaking on 36, 40 and 48 count fruit.  Nagami kumquats are flowing in from Beck Grove. Supply is strong, making for a great promotion item. A limited amount of Meiwa kumquat from Rancho del Sol is also available. We’re seeing the last of Buck Brand navel oranges. Get ‘em before they’re gone! California Valencias are starting with several vendors coming on soon. Prices are high at this point in the season and may continue to go up. Mexican Valencias will last 2-3 more weeks; prices are also expected to increase. Gold Nugget tangerines are steady and tasting delicious! We’re seeing limited amounts of Murcott tangerines from Wild River. These are in-house now so order up! Ojai Pixies are most likely done for the season.

Fig

The first figs of the season have arrived! Gless Ranch’s Brown Turkey figs are plump, sweet and delicious! This all-purpose fig tastes great fresh on its own but we also love it on toast with Sierra Nevada Cheese goat cheese and a drizzle of honey!

Grape

California grown grapes are all coming on mid-May with great pricing right out of the gate. We’ll be seeing red flame, green sugarone and black grapes all within days of each other. Cold weather south of the border has caused delays in production from Mexico. Mexico grown grapes will be coming on later to allow the fruit to size up.

Melon

Melon season is in full swing with many growers coming onto the market. We have large seedless watermelon bins with California grown fruit. If that’s too much melon for you, Nature’s Nectar has mini seedless watermelons with Capay Organics coming on soon. Rundle Family Farms experienced harvest delays this season due to heavy rain this year and is expected to come on with mini seedless watermelon in early June. Whether big or small, a ripe watermelon should feel heavy for its size. Look for the tell-tale creamy yellow spot where the fruit rests on the ground. This indicates ripeness! Lastly, thump the underbelly and listen for a deep hollow sound. Orange flesh honeydew and honeydew have started with strong supply from Mexican growers. California honeydew from Capay Organics will be starting soon with Goldie coming on in the next couple weeks. Cantaloupe is in good supply with both Mexico and California grown fruit on the market. As for specialty melons, we should be seeing juicy Galia and Crenshaw melons soon and newcomer Hami, starting at the end of the month.

Stonefruit

As we head into stonefruit season, we’ll start to see more and more varieties each week. Sweet cherries and coral champagnes have arrived with good quality and flavor. The fruit is showing a variety of beautiful colors, ranging from light blush to dark burgundy. Stay tuned for Bing cherries from Ferrari Farms arriving in a week or so! Apriums are just starting but so far we’re seeing good sizing and firm fruit with nice blush coloring on the Kylese variety from Blossom Hill. The fruit is eating sweet with just a touch of tartness. Tasty Rich apriums are also trickling in. The small harvest was due to wind damage but they certainly live up to their name. Look for Leah Cot apriums coming soon! Poppy apricots have started but also expected to be light in volume. Yellow peaches are just starting to trickle in. Supply will be limited for another week or two with mostly smaller fruit. White peaches are still a couple weeks away. Nectarines are on their way but will be a light harvest at the beginning of the season. Reports from our plum and pluot grower Wild River indicate that some recent hail damage will impact this season’s crop volume and quality. While some parts of the orchard received less hail than others, the fruit will most likely be utility grade rather than #1 quality. Early Dapples are expected to arrive mid-June. Flavor Grenade, Flavor Queen, and Crimson Royale will have good volume but significant hail damage. There will be no Dapple Fires.

 

Vegetables

Artichoke

Artichoke supply is strong with very competitive pricing. All sizes are available. Time to get these on promotion and build up those artichoke displays! Talk to your Account Manager for hot volume deals!

Asparagus

Prices are finally coming down on green asparagus. C Brand is done for the season. Prices on purple asparagus are also down slightly. Supply is limited to large sizes right now. Fun Fact: asparagus is often called “grass” in the produce industry.

Bean

Green bean supply is plentiful with excellent pricing. Quality from Desert West Organics has been very high. The beans are bright, crisp, sweet and juicy! Rundle Family Farms is coming on for a short 5 weeks with green beans. Fava beans are still around and available for special preorder in 10 or 25 pound cases from Coke Farm.

Broccoli

The broccoli market remains volatile. Supply is very limited on crowns. Prices are expected to increase.

Bok Choy

Baby bok choy is somewhat steady from Coke Farm and Lakeside Organic Gardens. Bok choy is more limited and prices are on the high side.

Brussels Sprout

Brussels sprouts prices are going up. Our main growers Mexus and 4 Earth are in good supply. Have you seen Veg-Land 8×1 ounce ‘sprout pouches on our list? Pouches are a great convenience item for retail customers.

Cabbage

Frazier Lake is winding down on green cabbage. Red cabbage supply is tight and prices remain high. Napa cabbage from Lakeside Organic Gardens should be available soon.

Cauliflower

Cauliflower is currently faring better than broccoli. Supply is steady with competitive pricing on 9, 12 and 16 count heads from Earthbound Farms.

Celery

Celery supply is tight and prices are high. Most growers are finishing up their Mexican program and California harvests are not expected to be ready until June. We do not expect to have any gaps in supply but prices will likely rise.

Corn

This early in the season, corn is still limited with supply here and there. We don’t expect supply to be steady until mid-June when most growers have come on. Stayed tuned for a batch of bi-color corn starting soon from an early harvest.

Cucumber

Persians are steady with sharp pricing. Slicers continue to be in good supply and pricing has come way down. JND Farms, a new small grower from the Central Valley is expected to have supply of California grown ‘cukes until July. We love the sweet juicy flavor and thick skin on this farm’s cucumbers!

Eggplant

Globe eggplants are in good supply with California grown product from Pasha and Mexico grown product from Rico Family Farms and Aztlan. Specialty eggplant should be starting soon!

Garlic, Ginger and Turmeric

White Argentine garlic is winding down. Colossal and super colossal garlic supply from Christopher Ranch is tight. Purple garlic is steady and looking gorgeous! California garlic is about 40 days out.

Greens

Greens are finally through most of the harvest transition. Boxed greens supply is strong with minimal quality issues. Boxed spinach from Jayleaf has been limited and sporadic but expects volume to level out. Dino, aka lacinato kale is in better supply than recent weeks and prices have dropped slightly. Green kale supply remains steady. We’re seeing beautiful leafy green spinach from Lakeside Organic Gardens at competitive prices.

Lettuce, Retail Greens and Herbs

Romaine supply is still limited. We’re bringing in everything we can get our hands on from Pinnacle, Coke Farms and Route 1 Farms. Romaine hearts are slightly in better supply. One of our favorite growers, Say Hay Farms, from Esparto, California in the Capay Valley, has started with Little Gem lettuce and whole heads of red and green Salanova crispy lettuces. Spread over 50 acres in Yolo County, Say Hay Farms specializes in raising organic vegetables and pastured eggs in an integrated system.

Cilantro is in good supply from multiple growers. Basil from Tomatero Farm is not quite at steady production yet but volume has been gradually increasing. Route 1 Farms is steady with spearmint, rosemary and oregano. They will be coming on with lavender soon and basil at the end of the month.

Onion

Yellow medium onions are steady with California grown supply from Peri & Sons and other growers. Fresno based Rundle Family Farms has pushed back their yellow onion start date to allow more curing time. Reds are a little behind yellows with most supply from Mexico and some California product from Heger Farms. Peri & Sons and Rundle Family Farms are a little ways out. Cal-Organic has just started with white onions. Supply will be steady with Mexico onions until other California growers come on with their whites. Shallots are pretty limited; there may be gaps in supply.

Pea

Pea prices are still trending down as more growers come on and supply improves. California grown English peas are limited. Commanche Creek Farms will be starting with sugar snap peas. Commanche Creek is located just south of Chico, California and nestled against the Commanche Creek which allows the produce to be grown in the mineral rich soil of the Butte Creek alluvion fan.

Pepper

Orange and yellow bell peppers are limited with only Mexico grown product available. Red bells are steady with both Mexico and California product available but the market is tight overall. Prices are expected to rise. Green bells are in good supply. The chili pepper market has finally improved after weeks of tightness. Jalapenos and anaheims are both steady. Padrons are still gapping in supply. Sweet peppers are back on.

Potato

The market is booming with new crop potatoes. Prices on red and yellows are falling fast. These are great items for an ad promotion as the weather warms up for BBQ and picnic season. Specialty potatoes are in good supply with plenty of French fingerling, Russian banana and beautiful new ruby crescents.

Roots

Roots are winding down but there is still plenty to satisfy your root needs! Parsnips, rutabaga, turnips and jicama are available, although supply is dwindling. Grab some veggies before they’re done for the season!

Specialty Veg

Nopales (cactus) is almost here! A main part of traditional Mexican cuisine, nopales can be eaten fresh, boiled, roasted or grilled. Just be sure to carefully scrape all spines and bristles off with a blunt tool. Rhubarb is still in good supply. The natural tart flavor lends itself to both savory and sweet preparations—perfect for spring dishes! Fiddlehead ferns are available for preorder from Oregon. The curled fronds brighten up any dish with their fun shape and delicious flavors. Did you know we carry fresh aloe vera? Aloe vera is a powerful plant with dozens of topical and oral uses such as treating burns, relieving dry skin, removing makeup and freshening breath.

Sprouts

Sunflower sprouts supply has been tight due to production issues from a major grower. Cloudy weather the past few weeks have impacted steady production. Upcoming sunny forecasts should help stabilize production of these tasty microgreens.

Squash

Zucchini supply is strong with several California growers on the market in addition to Mexico grown product from Del Cabo. Sunburst and straightneck squash should be coming on soon along with mixed squash from Commanche Creek, a customer favorite! Hummingbird is winding down on butternut squash for the season. Lots of large sizes are available—let your Account Manager know if interested! Delicata is very limited as the new crop is just starting. Supply and quality should improve as the season gets underway. Acorn and Kabocha are steady along with new crop Mexican spaghetti squash.

Tomato

One and two-layer tomatoes are in regular supply with sharp pricing. Tomatoes-on-vine are steady. Recent low prices are not expected to last. Sweet grape tomatoes are coming into good supply. Heirloom tomatoes are very tight and prices are on the rise.

 

Fresh-cut

With summer on the horizon, customers will be looking for fresh and healthy items to fill their baskets. Now is the time to inventory your fresh-cut displays and make sure it has the latest and greatest. Don’t have a fresh-cut program? Talk to your Account Manager about getting started today! 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).

We’ve been getting great feedback on joyloop fresh-cut retail packs. 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.

 

Grocery and Dairy

In addition to the freshest organic produce, we offer select grocery items from organic producers. Our organic biodynamic eggs are 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 offer milks in various pack types and yogurts from Straus Family Creamery, located in Marshall, California. The sweet, well-rounded flavor of organic Straus milk is a result of a combination of things: sweet pasture grasses, climate, soil, and terrain–all unique to the mild, coastal climate of Marin and Sonoma counties. The farm’s 275 dairy cows (Holstein and Jersey-Holstein cross breeds), 35 dry cows, 170 heifers, 82 calves and 3 bulls have 500 acres of pasture on which they roam during the day; and at night they sleep on cow mats with natural bedding in an open barn.

We also offer a variety of maple products from Maple Valley Co-op, Sierra Nevada cheeses, Mi Rancho tortillas, dried beans, quinoa and Hodo Soy tofu. Talk to your Account Manager to learn more about our grocery program.

 

Floral

Mother’s Day is coming up this Sunday, May 14th. If you would still like to order, talk to your Account Manager. Orders may be unconfirmed due to availability, but we will do all we can to help you fill those floral shelves! The Full Belly Farm spring floral collection is back in good supply. Agrostemma, Bachelor Button, CalendulaSnap Dragon, and mixed bouquets of various sizes are available and ready for pre-order.

 

Merchandising Corner

Why Organic?

As part of offering excellent customer service, ensure everyone in the Produce Department can confidently answer the commonly asked question: “Why buy organic produce?” The following list, provided by the Organic Trade Association, shares the top reasons why buying organic produce is “better for the earth, better for people and animals, and better for eaters.”

  • Organic products meet stringent standards. Organic certification is the public’s assurance that products have been grown and handled according to strict procedures without persistent toxic chemical inputs.
  • Organic food tastes great! It’s common sense—well-balanced soils produce strong, healthy plants that become nourishing food for people and animals.
  • Organic production reduces health risks. Many EPA-approved pesticides were registered long before extensive research linked these chemicals to cancer and other diseases. Organic agriculture is one way to prevent any more of these chemicals from getting into the air, earth, and water that sustain us.
  • Organic farms respect our water resources. The elimination of polluting chemicals and nitrogen leaching, done in combination with soil building, protects and conserves water resources.
  • Organic farmers build healthy soil. Soil is the foundation of the food chain. The primary focus of organic farming is to use practices that build healthy soils.
  • Organic farmers work in harmony with nature. Organic agriculture respects the balance demanded of a healthy ecosystem: wildlife is encouraged by including forage crops in rotation and by retaining fence rows, wetlands, and other natural areas.
  • Organic producers are leaders in innovative research. Organic farmers have led the way with innovative on-farm research aimed at reducing pesticide use and minimizing agriculture’s impact on the environment.
  • Organic producers strive to preserve diversity. The loss of a large variety of species (biodiversity) is one of the most pressing environmental concerns. The good news is that many organic farmers and gardeners have been collecting and preserving seeds, and growing unusual varieties for decades.
  • Organic farming helps keep rural communities healthy. Organic agriculture can be a lifeline for small farms because it offers an alternative market where sellers can command fair prices for crops.