Watermelon Mania

Watermelon

Watermelon is often synonymous with the first inklings of summer. Refreshing, delicious and healthy, this popular fruit has a deep history that goes back thousands of years. The origins of watermelon traces back to the deserts of southern Africa, where it still grows wild today. Its ancestor is a tough, drought-tolerant plant that was used to store water for tribes crossing the Kalahari. The first recorded watermelon harvest occurred in Egypt 5,000 years ago where watermelons were often placed in burial tombs of kings to nourish them in the afterlife.

Flash forward to today and there are over 1,200 varieties grown in 96 countries worldwide.  A watermelon’s stripes indicate variety; there are even some without stripes! Because there are so many varieties, they are often grouped according to characteristics, like fruit shape, rind color, pattern or size. The most common options are seeded, seedless, mini, and yellow or orange.

With so many options, how do you pick a good watermelon? This is a common question but can be easily answered! 1) Look the watermelon over–it should be firm, symmetrical and free from bruises, cuts, or dents. 2) Lift it up—the watermelon should be heavy for its size since 92% of its weight is water. 3) Turn it over—the underside of the watermelon should have a creamy yellow spot from where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun.

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

 

Fruit

Apple and Pear

Import apples are starting to come in as we wind down on domestic fruit. Domestic Fuji and Gala are still here but moving fast. Great pricing on Fuji from Cuyama Orchards. Argentinian imported Granny Smith and Red Delicious have arrived and look great. Look for import Cripps Pink and Washington-grown Golden Delicious coming in soon!

With spring fruit starting up, there is understandably less movement on pears at this time of year. Although supply is limited—there is still quality fruit available in Autumn Bartlett, Bosc and D’Anjou varieties. Large fruit is more available—a great option for our processing and juice customers.

Avocado

Prices continue to trend up, especially on 60 and 48 count avocado. Supply is strong on 60 and 70 counts–ask your Account Manager about pallet deals. The strong market is expected to remain high until the new crop from Mexico begins in September. #2 quality fruit is in good supply so prices are expected to remain steady. Good news for the latest avolatte trend combining lattes served in hollowed out avocados!

Berry

Strawberry supply is strong as more growers are coming onto the California season. Prices are competitive. Blueberry season is ramping up with steady supply. One of our main growers, Homegrown Organics is looking at a short season in the San Joaquin Valley this year and will be transitioning early to Oregon production. However, California supply will be unaffected with plenty of berries from Riverdance Farms, Hirahara Family Farm, and Sierra Cascade Blueberry Farm coming on. Look for the popular 10 pound bulk packs of blueberries from Sierra Cascade which are of the sweeter high bush variety. Blackberry supply is steady.

Citrus

Meyer lemons are still gapping in supply as growers wait for the fruit to color up. Lemon is in good supply with both California and Mexico grown fruit available. Pricing on choice fruit is going up slightly. Lime supply is steady and pricing has come down. Grapefruit is still going strong! B&J Ranch’s fruit is the best there is on the market. Great flavor and lots of sizes available. Growers are starting to come on with California Valencias with Pauma Valley Citrus leading the way with juicy and delicious fruit. Buck Brand and Cousins should be starting soon. There are limited amounts of Golden Nuggets still so get ‘em while you can! Kumquats are still in good supply from Beck Grove.

Grape

Grape season is ramping up just in time for summer celebrations! Red seedless flame grapes are in good supply and available in convenient 8 count pouches. They are sweet, crisp and perfectly sized for snacking and fruit salads. Prices are coming down as volume starts to pick up. Sugarones and black grapes have started with very high pricing on the green seedless.

Kiwi

Kiwi season is winding down in June. Supply is limited as Wild River finishes up. Get what you can before the season is done!

Melon

Watermelon supply is limited on both seeded and seedless bins. Mini seedless watermelons are also available by the carton. Several rounds of tasting prove the fruit to be juicy, sweet and ready to eaten. We especially love the mini seedless melons from Capay Organic–a staff favorite! Did you know watermelon rind is edible? In many countries, it’s used as a vegetable and can be stir-fried, stewed or pickled. Cantaloupe from Goldie is in good supply with sharp pricing. Honeydew and orange honeydew have just started. Now is the time to build up your melon displays and promotions! Don’t forget to stock up for Memorial Day celebrations.

Stone Fruit

Stone fruit varieties are coming on in quick succession—be sure to try them all! Pearl White peaches have started from Naylor Organic Family Farm, located in California’s Central Valley. Yellow peach supply is tight but we’re seeing beautiful red fleshed Krista peaches and Mexico grown Tropic Beauty. Sauzee Queen donut peaches have started but supply is limited. They are high sugar, even slightly green! Polar Lights are one of the first white nectarines of the season and they are sweet and tasty! Yellow nectarines are in good supply with Zee Fire and May Bright nectarines starting. Tart and flavorful, the Zee Fires live up to its bold name! Wescot apricots offer a complex and perfectly balanced sweet flavor. Plums and pluots are coming soon! The cherry market is going strong with firm pricing. Check out the delicious varieties from Ferrari Farms, a family owned and operated farm in the San Joaquin Valley that have been growing organically for 45 years. Ferrari’s Bing cherries are about a week out—stay tuned! But we already have Bing cherries from Delta Fresh Organic in the house. Yum!

 

Vegetables

Artichoke

Warmer weather does not bode well for artichokes. Supply has become tight and prices are expected to go up. Growers are mostly offering smaller sizes.

Bean

Green beans from Rundle Family Farms have arrived with strong volume and sharp pricing. Bright and fresh, these beans are at the peak of the season and tasting great. We love these raw but they are also versatile enough to prepare almost any way you want!

Broccoli

The broccoli market is still tight and prices are on the higher side. Supply appears to be steady but limited.

Cabbage

Green cabbage is in good supply with attractive pricing. Build up a seasonal display and cross merchandise ingredients for cole slaw—a perfect summer BBQ side dish! Red cabbage prices remain high but supply is steady. Napa cabbage from Coke Farms is coming on but supply is limited due to slow growth and some heads going to seed. Savoy cabbage is still gapping in supply.

Celery

The celery market remains unsteady. Supply is limited with high prices and quality has been inconsistent. With Mexican production winding down, the supply situation will not improve until California production picks up from Oxnard, California in June.

Corn

California bi-color corn is in house, but supply is limited! Load up for summer holiday parties, celebrations and customers looking for the first taste of summer. The kernels are bright and shiny with sweet flavor. Imported yellow corn from Mexico is very limited. Corn loves to be stored at cool temperatures (32˚F– 34˚F). This optimal temperature range helps retain freshness and slow sugar to starch metabolism, which begins immediately after harvest.

Cucumber

Cucumber prices are up slightly and supply is limited. South Coast Farms, located in San Juan Capistrano, California will be coming on with ‘cukes soon.

Garlic, Ginger and Turmeric

California grown garlic is starting to come in very limited amounts. If you see it on our list, act fast! Hawaiian turmeric from Kolo Kai is winding down. Order some now—this is the last we’ll see of it until September!

Greens

Bunched green kale is in good supply. Lacinato, aka dino kale, is a bit more limited. New to the greens offering: green kohlrabi greens from Say Hay Farms and purple kohlrabi greens from Route 1 Farms. Although kohlrabi may seem intimidating, its delicious flavors are both familiar and unique. Part bulb, part bundle of greens, kohlrabi has the texture of a radish and sweetness of jicama and broccoli. The edible leafy greens are reminiscent of mild collards. The taste difference between purple and green kohlrabi is subtle; the purple is slightly sweeter.

Lettuce, Retail Greens and Herbs

The lettuce market is looking pretty steady and prices are starting to come down. Green leaf, red leaf, and red butter are all in good supply with beautiful heads from Blue Heron Farms and Perry Farms. Romaine supply is still a little tight but better than it has been in weeks. Earthbound Farms has discontinued the PowerMeal Bowl product line. Thank you to all the customers who supported this line! Cilantro supply is strong and prices have come way down. Basil supply is still tight.

Onion

Yellow, red and white onions have good volume and quality for this point in the season. Supply is steady with domestic and Mexico product on the market. Rundle Family Farms is not yet starting with onions as they focus on green beans (check them out!) Shallots from Gilroy, California based Christopher Ranch is limited but steady.

Pea

Sugar snap peas are looking really sharp right now but supply is tight. Mexico production is gapping but we’re getting everything we can from California growers. English peas are very limited. Snow peas are gapping in supply. Fun Fact: snap peas get their name from the common test for quality: to be crispy enough to easily “snap” in half.

Pepper

All varieties of bell peppers are holding pretty steady. California grown red bells are available in the Pasha label but at much higher prices than Mexico grown product. Mexico grown red bells are limited as our main grower, Wholesum Harvest, waits for a new field to be ready for harvest. Chili peppers are in good supply. We’ll start to see more California jalapenos as prices between imported and domestic level out.

Potato

Russet potatoes are just about done. Prices are on the rise until the new crop starts up in June. Supply is steady on red and yellow potatoes. Prices are slowly coming off. Specialty potatoes are starting with beautiful Russian blues, Bintjes and German butterballs from Full Belly Farm and Russian Bananas from Tomorrow’s Organics. Look for more growers coming on soon including Riverdog Farm and Terra Firma.

Roots

Red beets in regular sizes are limited and the overall beet supply is tight. We’re getting in all the golds and jumbos we can. Prices remain high but should come down when more Salinas Valley growers start up and supply improves. Parsnips are done for the season. Rutabagas are finishing up but there is still some supply available. We’re seeing beautiful purple daikon from Coke Farms and a very limited amount of watermelon radish here and there.

Specialty Veg

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. 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.

Squash

As we head into the warmer months, we’ll see more and more varieties of summer squash. Comanche Creek Farms’ mixed summer squash is a dazzling mix of squash in all shapes and sizes and shades of yellow and green. Although varieties may differ from box to box, the most common squash may include Romanesco, Zephyr, Sunburst Squash, Magda, Gold Bar, and Cue Ball. Unlike their winter counterparts, these summer varieties have soft, thin skin with flesh that can vary from light to dense. They can be eaten raw or cooked, including the skin!  These summer squash varieties offer a mild flavor that ranges from sweet to nutty. Flavor differences between varieties are subtle but distinct—try them all for a delicious smorgasbord of summer’s bounty! California grown zucchini supply is expected to improve in the coming weeks as the weather warms up and inventory becomes available. Until then, prices are up and supply is limited.

Red Kuri and spaghetti squash are steady. New crop Kabocha and butternut from Mexico are starting—both on the smaller size. Acorn squash from Rico Farms is finishing up but supply will be steady in the near term.  Delicata is winding down but still in decent supply as we head into summer.

Tomato

Mexico grown heirloom tomatoes from Ram’s Farm is winding down; supply is limited. Domestic supply is still tight as the season starts up. Prices on one and two layer tomatoes are up; supply has been steady but limited. Prices on tomatoes-on-vine (TOV) may be coming down following a dip in the conventional market.  Cherry tomatoes are in good supply. Prices are up slightly on sweet grapes.

 

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

Did you know we sell cheese and other dairy products from Sierra Nevada Cheese Company? The organic jack cheese wedges, available in five varieties: Traditional, Garlic & Herb, Smokehouse, Jalapeno, and Baby Bella Mushroom are favorites! Made with the highest-quality fresh, organic cow’s milk produced from northern California dairies, these ultra-creamy organic jack cheese will leave you swooning. The Garlic & Herb Organic Jack balances the right amount of garlic flavor with a clean herbaceous aroma. The Smokehouse variety is light on the palate yet smoky in flavor. Made with organic peppers, the Jalapeno variety is bold and spicy yet creamy and light. Finally, the Baby Bella Mushroom Organic Jack is an exceptional combination of an earthy aroma and a mild flavor. Check out other delicious Sierra Nevada Cheese products on our list including cream cheese, goat cheese, white cheddar cheese and unsalted butter.

We also offer a variety of maple products from Maple Valley Co-op, milk and yogurts from Straus Family Creamery, biodynamic eggs from Stueve Organic Family Farms, Mi Rancho tortillas, dried beans, quinoa, rice and Hodo Soy tofu. Talk to your Account Manager to learn more about our grocery program.

 

Floral

The time has finally come–both the Full Belly Farm and Thomas Farm spring floral collections are in full bloom! Thomas Farm is now offering Dahlia, Cosmo and Sunflower straight packs. Sunflowers are sold by 16 count bunches with 5-7 stems per bunch. Full Belly is continuing with Sunflower, Bachelor Button, Calendula, and Snap Dragons (limited availability). Mixed bouquets from both growers are also available. New varieties are available weekly so check back often!

 

Merchandising Corner

Merchandising Stone Fruit

Even though it is just now barely spring, it feels like summer and that means it is stone fruit season! Many of us wait all year for this highly anticipated season. There’s nothing like eating a delicious juicy peach but how much do you really know about that peach? Where did it come from? How did it get here? Peaches are originally from China and mentioned in Chinese writings as early as the 10th century. They made their way around the world thanks to Spanish explorers but it wasn’t until the 17th century that an English horticulturist brought them over to the new world, our current day North America.  Native Americans then took the peach and cultivated it across the country.  However, it was not until the 19th century that peach began to be commercially grown here in the states. Now peaches and other stone fruit are grown all over the US.  Peaches are now mainly grown commercially in California and Washington.

Commercially grown peaches and other stone fruit like nectarines, plums, and apricots come packed in a few different ways. There are volume-fill boxes which means that they are packed by weight. These are usually a better price point value than sorted sized fruit but may not be the best option for picky customers looking for perfect product. 1-layer and 2-layer tray packs are the others ways that these fruits are sold. One thing to remember, the larger the number on a 1-layer or 2-layer pack, the smaller the fruit. For instance, 70/72 count peach is going contain smaller but more pieces of fruit than a 48/50 count case.  Large fruit is generally the more popular and sought after size but also more expensive. Everyone likes the idea of a nice big juicy peach but there is a pro to the smaller fruit and that is price point. Two 48 count peaches weigh about a pound whereas customers can get four to five 72 count peaches for less money. Another option that can benefit both your produce department and the customer is to offer various sizes and blend the price. This allows you to keep your price down and make some extra margin dollars by selling the less expensive fruit for a slightly higher price. This can also save you time because you have one peach price per pound so you don’t have to worry about changing your price every time you have to change sizing due to supply.

As much as we all love the peach, they can be a bit tricky to display due to the fact that they can be damaged quite easily. Peaches and other stone fruit can’t be piled up as high as apples and citrus but if you choose the fruit correctly you can make decent sized attractive displays with minimum to no loss. When purchasing and displaying fruit it is key look for under ripe, more firm fruit to start with. Under ripe stone fruit ripens up nicely and with full flavor. It’s good to have a system that allows you to provide various stages of ripeness for your customers. Daily rotation and culling will help you achieve that. Depending on the volume of product you move daily, you may need to stage product so that you can always have ripe fruit to top off your display with. When you have firm unripe fruit, you can stack them 2 layers deep and top with a third more ripe layer. You will have customers that want fruit ready to eat that day and some that they can eat in a few days.  We also suggest keeping a few cases of ready to eat or softer fruit as “toppers” for your display so you can keep the display filled throughout the day when it gets shopped down. This allows you to keep your layers of greener fruit on the bottom and the softer fruit easily accessible on the top of the display for your customers. Stone fruit displays do take a little more work to maintain but we only have the summer super stars for a short time so they do deserve the rock star treatment.