Grape season is underway and a plethora of varieties are hitting the market. Not only are grapes among the healthiest foods, they are also one of most colorful. Grapes range from blue-black to purple to red to green to very light green. While there are dozens of varieties, most people simply know them as red, black or green grapes. With so many options, which is the superior grape?
All grapes are rich in nutrients, especially minerals and vitamins. However, red and black grapes get their skin color from flavonoids, powerful antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory properties. The darker the skin of a grape, the higher the level of phytonutrients. Green grapes do not have flavonoids but still contain antioxidants and other nutrients. That means black grapes are more nutritious than red or green grapes.
Taste wise, black grapes tend to be sweeter than red and green grapes. Green grapes are sweet and tart. Red grapes are somewhere in the middle, depending on ripeness level. Some would say sweeter is the better grape while others claim that tart is the best.
While some grape varieties are sweeter or more nutritious than others, all are equally delicious. The winner of the grape debate really comes down to personal preference–so start tasting!
*Keep a lookout for our staff picks noted in orange.
Apple and Pear
Braeburn apples from New Zealand are here and in good supply. This is a great all-purpose apple that offers a spicy sweet-tart flavor and crisp bite. Domestic Fujis are winding down but still available. We’re seeing excellent prices on Gala. Time to stock up on this classic apple! Granny Smith is limited in the fancy grade but there is plenty of utility fruit available. Red Delicious from Argentina are coming on steadily. In the pear world, Autumn Bartlett and D’Anjou pear are steady. Bosc is winding down.
Domestic blackberries have started with Green Belle’s domestic program ramping up. Blueberry supply is limited but steady. Check out Sierra Cascade Blueberry Farm. This family owned and operated farm has been growing blueberries since 1986 near the foothills of Chico, California. Strawberries are in decent supply with both clamshell and open pint options available. Quality is high with sweet, evenly colored fruit. We love capturing the taste of strawberries at the height of the season in a delicious jam to enjoy all year long!
Summer is upon us and it’s time to welcome Valencias, the “summer orange,” to your menus and produce displays. Valencias are valued for their availability outside of the normal citrus season and also high juice-ability! Valencias have thin skins which may be a little more challenging to peel but its high juice content and low seed content more than make up for it. Don’t be alarmed if you see tinges of green on the skin—this is caused by chlorophyll to help protect the oranges from sunburn or as we like to call it, an all-natural sunblock! Green-tinged oranges are ripe and taste just as sweet. California supply of Valencias will increase as Mexican grown fruit winds down. Lime pricing has come down and supply is steady. We’re seeing great deals on larger sized lemons right now. Pricing remains high on more popular smaller sized fruit. Meyer lemons are looking good from Watsonville area grower Marsalisi Organics.
Red flame grapes are in good supply and prices are coming down. Sharp pricing on Mr. Grape flames—which comes in convenient retail friendly pouches. A blind taste test proved Mr. Grape to also be the sweetest most flavorful label. Green sugraone and black summer royals are available but at higher prices than the reds. The green sugraones are sweet and crisp, with a brix measurement of seventeen. Brix testing indicates sugar level and flavor. Seventeen falls between the good and excellent mark on the brix scale for grapes.
The last of California kiwis from Wild River is in-house. Grab some before the season is over! New Zealand kiwi is coming on next.
The mini seedless watermelon market is tightening up a bit and watermelon bins are limited until Rundle Family Farm starts up on June 10th. Cantaloupes are in good supply. Honeydew is more limited due to some reports of crop failure from one of our main growers. Orange honeydew is coming on soon just as Galias and Piel de Sapo have wrapped up.
Apricots are starting with Goldbar and Golden Sweets from Blossom Hill Apricots. Capay Organic and Dwelley Farms are coming on with their Blenheim apricots. White peaches are in good supply with many varieties available including Pearl White, Spring Snow, and Ivory Duchess. Yellow peaches have the best supply of all stone fruit. We’re seeing Princess Time, Sweet Scarlet, and Crimson Lady varieties. Masumoto Farm has also started up with yellow peaches of the June Crest variety. This popular farm has some of the juiciest delicious peaches we’ve tasted! Keep an eye out for more varieties from this grower. Yellow nectarines are limited but white nectarines are plentiful with Diamond Pearl and Polar Light fruit available. Larger sized nectarines may be a little tight. Plums and pluots are starting to trickle in. We’re getting everything we can but there is not much fruit on the market yet. Early production reports indicate that this year’s plum crop is 30-40% of last year’s volume. Excessive rain at the beginning of the year caused bee pollination issues, ruining a significant chunk of the plum crop.
In cherry land, demand has been very strong and prices holding firm. California cherries are winding down so be sure to get in on the cherry action. Bentons are done for the season and Index and Santinas are finishing up. Ferrari Farms is starting with Bing, a staff favorite! Cherries from the Northwest are still almost two weeks out with Rainiers not expected to start until June 18th. Washington fruit is expected to be very good so prices will most likely come down when the region starts up.
Asparagus supply is limited. All growers are done for the season except JTF Organics.
Rundle Family Farm green beans are here and available exclusively through VV! Supply is strong and prices competitive. We love the bright flavor and refreshing crunch. Perfect for light, summery side dishes.
Broccoli prices are slowly coming down. The market is improving but supply is still somewhat limited due to quality issues with discoloration and uneven florets in the field.
Cauliflower prices are coming down as production picks up and more growers come on.
Celery production is finally catching up after weeks of tightness. We’re seeing steady supply from local growers: Alba, Coke Farm, Lakeside Organic Gardens and possibly Phil Foster Ranches. Prices remain high but expect it to ease up as volume improves towards the end of this month.
Corn supply is steady with attractive pricing—perfect for summer celebrations and BBQs! Slight imperfections on organic corn ears can often be attributed to corn earworms—a critter that loves corn as much as we do! If you spot earworm damage, clip off the tip of the ear and any affected kernels. The rest of the ear is perfectly fine to eat!
English hothouse is in good supply. California slicer cucumbers are in good volume with several growers on the market. Mexican slicers are wrapping up. Persians are plentiful.
The garlic market is tight. Several growers have reported a garlic shortage this year due to product loss in storage. Purple garlic is in better supply with sharp pricing.
Lettuce, Retail Greens and Herbs
The lettuce market is steady. Supply is good on leaf, butter and romaine lettuces. Prices are slowly coming down as production picks up and more growers come on. Check out our specialty lettuces including red oak and red butter Salanova from Duncan Family Farms and beautiful heads of red little gem from Route 1 Farm.
Earthbound Farm is winding down on cello retail bags of mixed baby greens and baby spinach due to packaging supply issues. The line will be discontinued once supply is done. Josie’s Organic is offering a new flavor of chopped salad in 6×11.5 ounce retail bags. The Sriracha Chopped Salad if a flavorful blend of fresh cabbage, romaine lettuce, carrots, radicchio and green onions. Pumpkin seeds, white cheddar cheese, tortilla strips, and Sriracha ranch dressing add a burst of flavor and spice to the salad kit. Try sampling out this flavor in-stores to create an interactive shopping environment and encourage customers to taste!
Cilantro and Italian parsley are in strong supply. Marjoram from Jacob’s Farm is gapping in supply. Chive and dill quality has improved and been steady.
Short day varieties of red, yellow and white onions are winding down. Supply is still plentiful, but select sizing with growers may be more limited. Rundle Family Farms has come on with their onions; supply should be steady. Intermediate varieties are expected to start up in late June and more growers will be coming on. Shallots are done for the season and will gap in supply until July.
Sugar snap peas are very limited right now. Supply is expected to pick up soon. Prices are holding.
The bell pepper market is tight; supply is very limited. We’re bringing in everything we can but expect some spottiness on red, yellow and orange bells until California growers start up. California green bell peppers have slightly better supply but prices are high.
New crop russets have arrived. Prices are high to start. Plenty of specialty potatoes available including Full Belly Farm German Butterball, Bintje, and Russian Blue.
Milperos have started from Coke Farms. These are a small, berry-size tomatillo that is a bit sweeter. Aloe vera supply is strong. 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. Stock up on this multi-functional vegetable for summer!
The zucchini market is steady with increasing volume. Prices are expected to decline. Sharp pricing available on medium zucchini, which makes it a great item to put on promotion. Mixed summer squash from Comanche Creek is in good supply. Straight packs are also available for any of the mixed varieties. Let your Account Manager know if interested! Plenty of crookneck squash available with competitive pricing thanks to JND Farms. Deals available for volume orders! Summer squash is a great item to move in large amounts this time of year. Squash is a versatile vegetable that can be grilled, roasted or used as a pasta substitute. With California crop about to flood the scene, now is the time to plan your squash merchandising strategy. Since squash does not need to be refrigerated it can be floor stacked or displayed anywhere. An end cap with complementary items such as tomatoes, basil, olive oil and parmesan is a great opportunity to cross merchandise with other departments in the store.
Kabocha, Red Kuri and spaghetti squash are winding down. Prices are going up. Butternut is limited and mostly small/medium sizes. Delicata squash is done. California grown hard squash is projected to start end of June.
Steady supply on one and two-layer tomatoes in the 5×7-6×7 sizes Wilgenburg Greenhouses, growing out of Dinuba, California. Look for larger sizes coming soon. Attractive pricing on Mexico grown Roma tomatoes. No word yet on when California growers are starting up. California grown cherry tomatoes from Coke Farm and Comanche Creek are starting to come on in small amounts. Still plenty of Mexico grown cherry tomatoes to keep overall supply steady. Wilgenburg has also come on with mixed heirloom tomatoes that are good variety and color. Mexico heirlooms are still here and priced lower than the domestic product. Other growers are still 4-6 weeks away with California heirlooms.
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).
Grocery and Dairy
In addition to the freshest organic produce, we offer select grocery items from organic producers like Three Trees almondmilk. Three Trees produces unsweetened almondmilk made without gums, additives or added sugar. Clean and pure, the distinctively creamy and almond-rich taste comes from the quality and quantity of the organic almonds that are used. Three Trees uses the best fresh organic almonds which are then blanched to remove the skin, and steam pasteurized for food safety. The filtered water used in the milk undergoes a reverse osmosis filtration system to ensure consistent quality and taste. To minimize the impact on the environment, the water is sourced from local municipalities where the milk is produced, rather than trucking in spring water from faraway places. Available in unsweetened original, unsweetened vanilla and cold brew coffee Three Tree’s almondmilks are rich, delicious and nutritious!
We also offer biodynamic eggs from Stueve Organic Family Farms, milk and yogurts from Straus Family Creamery, maple products from Maple Valley Co-op Creamery, Mi Rancho tortillas, Wild Rose Farms quinoa, Masa Farms brown rice, Marian Farms raisins and almonds and Hodo Soy tofu. Talk to your Account Manager to learn more about our grocery program.
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 Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is good for sun burns but what else is it good for? Turns out, it is actually good for quite a lot. Aloe is a superfood with a long list of health benefits such as having powerful anti-inflammatory properties, helping to stabilize blood sugar and can aid in reducing high blood pressure just to name a few. Aloe is also one of the only plant sources of vitamin B-12. If you’re vegan or vegetarian, that’s import information to store away in your brain bank. The variety we sell here at Veritable Vegetable is called Aloe Barbadensis and is grown in Brawley CA by Zinn Packing. Most aloes have beneficial properties but the Barbadensis is the most potent of the varieties. It also has broader thicker leaves which provide more edible product. This unassuming succulent sure does pack a powerful punch of goodness and is also easy to use. Other than eating this aloe vera fresh, you can fillet the leaves and use the gel in smoothies or apply directly on burns, cuts, or dry skin. Aloe does have somewhat of a mild bitter flavor profile but in a healthy, good-for-you nutritious way.
Use this information to educate customers on the many uses and healthy properties of aloe vera. In addition, strategic display and promotion are the the keys to successful sales. Here are some tips for merchandising aloe vera:
- Aloe vera should be displayed with your specialty vegetables such as mushrooms and eggplant. It does not need to be refrigerated and should not get wet.
- Print out recipes and tips and leave near the aloe vera display to inspire customers.
- If your store has a sampling program, pass out samples of aloe vera smoothies, aloe vera juice or fresh pieces of aloe vera.
- Incorporate aloe vera into your deli department as a way of cross merchandising.