It’s hard to think of summer without thinking of delicious fresh sweet corn. But what is it and where did this popular crop come from? Sweet corn is a variety of maize with high sugar content. Unlike field corn varieties which are harvested when kernels are dry and mature, sweet corn is harvested when immature and eaten as a vegetable rather than a grain. Whole corn (on the cob) is considered a vegetable while corn kernels are considered a whole grain.
Once picked, sweet corn begins the maturation process and starts converting sugars to starch. For this reason, sweet corn should be eaten fresh and stored at optimal cool temperatures to maintain freshness and slow the sugar to starch metabolism. Alternatively, corn can be canned or frozen before the kernels become tough and starchy.
Sweet corn was first developed in ancient Mexico and believed to have been grown by Native American settlers. The Iroquois aka Haudenosaunee tribe gave the first recorded sweet corn to European settlers in 1779 which led to its popularity in several regions of the United States. Centuries of research and breeding have led to the development of hundreds of varieties of sweet corn. Through hybridization, the sweet corn we know of today has improved quality, sweetness and greater resistance to disease.
*Keep a lookout for our staff picks noted in orange.
Apple and Pear
We have transitioned to imports for most varieties including Braeburn, Gala, Granny Smith and Cripps Pink. There is some supply of domestic Fuji still—grab these before they’re gone! We should start to see California Solana Gold Gravenstein and Gala in 2-3 weeks! Pears are done until we start to see California grown Bartletts in mid-July and California grown Bosc in August.
Avocado supply is steady for now but the word is that California production will only last for another 5-8 weeks. Our favorite grower, Las Palmalitas Ranch, in the Santa Barbara area, has one tenth of the crop they had last year on their home ranch. Prices keep going up as supplies dwindles.
As we head into summer, strawberry supply should remain steady with both open pint and clamshell packs. Blueberry supply is tight as we have moved out of California production and the Northwest is just starting up. Raspberries are experiencing a gap in supply.
Lemon supply will tighten up but should remain steady. Prices will continue to rise. Meyer lemons are very limited with small shots here and there. Several growers are gapping in supply. Valencia oranges are going strong as more growers have started. Prices have gone up slightly. Juicy and sweet—Valencias are the perfect summer citrus to round out your fruit displays. We love adding them to salads! Plenty of Meiwa kumquats available! Meiwas are entirely edible (skin and all.) The sweet-tart flavor is a perfect addition to any summer dish.
Scarlet Royales are here in all their crisp, sweet glory! Green Sugrarones are holding steady. Don’t miss out on the black seedless Sweet Sapphires, also known as Witch’s Fingers for their unique elongated shape! Muscat grapes are starting soon. This variety has a uniquely sweet, almost floral taste and beautiful rosy color with splashes of green. Look for Black Emerald grapes grown by Pete Wolf and packed under the Fruitworld label also coming on soon.
Kent mangos have started! Supply is strong. Kents have sweet and rich flavor with juicy, tender flesh and limited fibers. This variety is ideal for juicing and drying (yum!) Kents have yellow undertones or dots that cover more of the mango as it ripens. Squeeze gently to judge ripeness.
Yellow seedless watermelon have arrived by the bin full! Initial taste tests reveal the melons are juicy, sweet and delicious! Red seeded watermelons supply is steady while red seedless and red minis have tightened up. Supply should improve in a couple weeks. Sharp pricing on green and orange honey dew. These are great items to promote during summer. Talk to your Account Manager if interested in volume deals. Check out some of the new mixed melon varieties such as Canary & Goddess melons. The Canary has white inner flesh with a distinctive sweet flavor that is tangier than honeydew. Its name comes from the bright yellow color of the skin that resembles that of a canary bird.
California apricots are nearly done; we’re bringing in fruit from Washington now. Our Rainier and Darksweet cherries are coming from Washington and Oregon now, and prices are softening. Many packing sheds and growers in the Northwest do not label their red varieties and just use the catch-all term of Darksweet. They might be Lambert, Bing, Skeena, Lapin, or Sweetheart depending on what is ready to harvest, and it’s hard to keep track of. The term Darksweet is used for any and all red sweet cherries. Fresh sour cherries are not available on the West Coast in any big quantities; you have to go to Michigan to get them for your pie! White nectarines are strong and steady with sharp pricing. Small sized yellow nectarines are in pretty good supply. Larger fruit is much more limited. Peaches are steady on both yellow and white fruit. Keep an eye out for Masumoto Farms’ flagship Suncrest fruit coming on. The Suncrest peach has irresistible flavor that can only be described as the perfect balance of sun and summer! Pluots are experiencing a short gap in supply but we’ll be seeing Dapple Fires from Wild River soon. Red Raven black plums are in good supply with great pricing. Add these to your sample program so customers can taste see the beautiful colors inside the fruit. Sharp pricing on utility grade Yummy Beaut red plums, a great option for juicers, bakers and other processors, or anyone who wants a good deal.
Artichoke is in good supply with several growers on the market. Prices are steady.
Rundle Family Farms is done with green beans for the season, but never fear, Tomatero Farm’s crop has just started and will run about 6 weeks. Lots of specialty beans will be coming on soon including romano, wax and cranberry from Dwelley Farms and more purple beans from Sunrise Organic Farm. Purple beans have a beautiful violet hue shell on the outside and the same green flesh and light green peas inside as green beans. Like most purple vegetables, once cooked, the purple fades to green. Have you heard of Chinese red noodle beans? This stunning deep red-purple bean from Comanche Creek will draw lots of attention on your produce stand. The pods can grow up to 18” long! They are full of nutrients and even keep some of the color when cooked.
Cauliflower prices have gone up as supply has tightened up a bit. Graffiti cauliflower is very limited; however cheddar cauliflower is more steady.
Celery is in good supply and should remain steady for the next couple weeks.
More growers are coming on with white and bi-color corn. White corn from Oakley, California based Dwelley Farms is a staff favorite. Not only is it clean, the sweet flavor is gnaw-off -the-cob delicious! Through extra special TLC during the growing process, corn from this particular grower is completely worm free.
Lots of specialty cucumbers are starting to come on. Painted serpent ‘cukes have beautiful dark green and pale stripes and excellent flavor. Lemon cucumbers are round, yellow and size of a tennis ball. Contrary to the name, lemon cucumbers do not have a lemon taste but are mild and sweet; they just look ‘lemon like’. Mandurian Round cucumbers have pale green skin and a thin layer of fuzz (which can easily wiped off.) This is easily one of the sweetest and crunchiest cucumbers out there. These are just a few—check back often for more specialty varieties. Fun Fact: All melons and cucumbers are part of the cucurbits family. They are all related, along with squash and pumpkin.
Globe eggplant has strong supply and should be consistent for a few weeks. We’re starting to see specialty varieties come on such as soft and creamy Japanese eggplant, the stunning magenta striped Listada de Gambia and made-for-sautéing Chinese eggplant. Supply is limited and specialty varieties are popular during this so act fast if you see them on our list!
Lettuce, Greens and Herbs
Romaine volume is expected to be pretty good for the next week or so supply will be steady for a bit. With lots of product coming onto the market, prices are expected to drop. Butter lettuce supply may tighten up as one of our main growers has reported the heads need more time to size up.
Fluctuating temperatures never bode well for boxed greens. Supply may tighten up as hot days and cool nights can cause mildew pressure for greens.
Bunched basil is in good supply from Watsonville grower, Tomatero Farm. Quality is strong. This is a great seasonal item to cross merchandise with olive oil, mozzarella and heirloom tomatoes for the perfect summer Caprese salad.
Yellow onions are fully into the intermediate day varieties now which means the onions have had more time to cure and will have longer shelf life. Supply will soon be more consistent. Long day varieties are still at least a month out. Red onion supply is tight but we’re bringing in everything we can. We will have some intermediate variety white onions from California’s Fresno region but supply will primarily be from Mexico until August or later. In more onion good news, shallots are back earlier than expected! We’ll be seeing supply from Rundle Family Farms soon!
Peas are in strong supply; prices are falling. English, snow and sugar snaps are all available. Cooked or raw, peas are a tasty and vibrant item to add to summer dishes.
Orange bell peppers are steady with sharp pricing. Red bells are more limited. California growers are just starting to come on and Mexico supply is tight. More California grown chili peppers are starting. Padron and jalapeno peppers are steady. Santa Fe yellow peppers provide a pop of color as it matures from yellow to orange-red. The mild heat and slight sweetness makes this pepper a pretty option for salsa! We’re seeing more specialty peppers including Gypsy Yellow and Italian sweet frying peppers. Both have no heat but pack a ton of flavor!
California new crop russets continue to be extremely limited. Red and yellow potatoes are in better supply and should be steady. Fingerlings are very limited with high prices. New crop sweet potatoes are coming on soon. Expect prices to be on the high to start.
Okra volume is starting to pick up and supply is steady. This specialty vegetable is a nutritional powerhouse and a great source of fiber. Okra can be tough to chew and is often boiled or steam to soften. When cut, okra produces a mucilaginous liquid that is often used to thicken soups and stew–like gumbo! Tomatillos are in good supply with several varieties available including green, milpero and pineapple. Milperos are about half the size of a green tomatillo (1- 1 ½ inch diameter) with more concentrated sweet flavor and less acidity. Pineapple tomatillos are yellow and have hints of pineapple flavor. Raw or roasted, tomatillos add amazing flavor to salsa, sauces and any number of dishes.
Mexico grown hard squash is just about done as we move into the new crop from California’s San Joaquin Valley region. Butternut, acorn, delicata, green Kabocha, and spaghetti are all in-house!
Roma tomatoes are still limited on both Mexico and California supply. One and two-layer prices are also on the rise. California grown cherry tomato prices have been high as the season is just starting. Expect them to come down soon. Heirloom season is upon us—a time many people wait all year for! Plenty of straight packs and mixed packs available. Prices are expected to come down quickly. Dry-farmed tomatoes are not expected to start until the end of August or beginning of September.
Now that we have passed the Summer Solstice, 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 kebab kits).
Grocery and Dairy
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 loaded with Omega 3, fresher and incredibly tasty!
We also offer a variety cheeses from Sierra Nevada Cheese Company, organic 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 certified organic grocery program.
Love Beets offers delicious beet and beet and ginger juices in 6-pack bases of 14 ounce bottles. Beet juice is full of powerful antioxidants and nitrates, boosting stamina and endurance. All juices are 100% natural and gluten free, with no added sugars, artificial colors or preservatives. Love Beet’s unique filtration system allows for a desirably smooth taste.
Not a beet fan? We also carry lemon juice, lime juice, apple juice and orange juice from Columbia Gorge in ½ gallon containers.
Both Full Belly Farm and Thomas Farm have beautiful flowers right now, and due to a weather related late start this season due they are looking for more business. Check with your Account Manager and subscribe to our weekly floral availability list for the most up to date details. Thomas Farm is offering Dahlia, Cosmo and Sunflower straight packs. Sunflowers are sold by 16 count bunches with 5-7 stems per bunch. Full Belly has added many new flowers to their offering including Aloha Rose, Black Eyed Susan, Lacy Blue Statice, Ornamental Quinoa, Queen Anne’s Lace, Safflower, Sunflowers (5 stems per bunch) and more! Mixed bouquets from both growers are also available. Shipped in buckets with water, but packed inside boxes, they travel well, and stay fresh longer than non-organic flowers. The vitality of these flowers brings joy. Try some for impulse buyers or to grace your dining experience. Floral programs have taken off all over the country, but these organic farmers take floral to a whole new level.
Samples Sell Produce
Sampling is a great way to engage with customers and helps demonstrate your commitment to their satisfaction. Sampling also sells product! Did you know sampling produce for a customer when they enter a store significantly increases the proportion of produce the customer purchases on that visit? Although sampling increases shrink, the benefits far outweigh the loss. Impulse purchasing increases when customers can actually taste the product. Remember to log any sampled product.
Keys to a Successful Sample Display
- Only sample produce that tastes great! Samples reflect on the quality of the department, so make sure samples are exceptionally high quality.
- Sanitize hands, cutting board and knife before prepping samples. It is the responsibility of produce staff to cut samples; never leave a knife on the sales floor.
- Make it easy for the shopper to try it!
- Appropriate sized samples.
- Napkins, toothpicks, tongs, and trash receptacles for any waste.
- Signage communicating item name, price, grower, certification, county of origin, and am encouragement to taste!
- Nearby product displayed for easy purchasing.
- Take advantage of store traffic by sampling when the store is busy.
- If active sampling is used, ensure the person is well informed about the sample produce.
- If passive sampling is used, check the display regularly and replenish to keep stocked at all times.