What is an Heirloom Tomato?

Walk through any natural grocery store or farmer’s market in the summer and you would be hard pressed to not see rows of beautiful brightly colored heirloom tomatoes. Heirlooms have become increasingly popular and are more readily available in the past few years. What exactly is an heirloom and how is it different from a regular tomato? Heirlooms are generally any variety of tomato that has been passed down through several generations of family because of its desired characteristics. They can be found in a wide variety of colors, shapes, flavors and sizes. Tomato experts break down heirlooms into four classifications:

(1) Commercial Heirlooms: open pollinated varieties introduced before 1940 or in circulation for 50+ years

(2) Family Heirlooms: seeds that have been passed down for several generations through a family

(3) Created Heirlooms: crossing two known parents to eliminate undesirable characteristics

(4) Mystery Heirlooms: varieties that are a product of natural cross-pollination

Every heirloom variety is unique with an evolved resistance to pests, diseases and adaption to the growing climate and region. They are grown for a variety of reasons ranging from historical preservation to taste. Heirlooms are generally sweet and lack a genetic mutation that gives tomatoes a uniform red color common in other tomatoes. Despite this common trait, each varietal is unique in name, color and taste—a good reason to try them all!

 

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

 

Fruit

Apple and Pear

Imported Fuji from New Zealand are here with sharp pricing. California Solana Gold Gravenstein and Gala should be starting towards the end of the month. Gravensteins have tart flavor and are great for cooking. Imported Cripps Pink have great pricing. Import Granny Smith are limited. We should start to see some California Granny Smith in August. Viva Tierra Organic California Bartletts are here! Asian pears from Homegrown Organic Farms should be starting the last week of July. Come August we should start to see California Bosc and Starkrimson from the Northwest.

Avocado

Hass avocado is getting more limited on supply. Prices are getting firmer.

Berry

Blueberry supply is strong from the Northwest; prices are steady. Strawberries are steady with plenty of California fruit on the market from different growers.

Citrus

Valencia oranges prices continue to rise.  Supply is tighter due to some growers coming on earlier and less fruit overall on the market. High temperatures have also made it challenging to harvest. However, supply should remain steady. Pauma Valley Citrus is gapping in supply for 2-3 weeks until their remaining lemons color up. Supply should still be steady with some Mexican fruit available to supplement California supply. Meyer lemons are limited but supply should improve in the next week or so. Limes are somewhat limited as some growers have been waiting to harvest until fruit sizes up.

Fig

Brown turkey figs from Gless Ranch are done.  Black mission figs are expected to come on towards the end of the month.

Grape

Flame red grapes are steady as well as green Sugarones and black emeralds. Muscat supply is tight as the grower is waiting to harvest to allow the grapes time to develop more sugar.

Kiwi

Gold kiwis have arrived from New Zealand. Gold kiwis differ from common kiwis in color, flavor and texture. The skin is smooth and hairless and inside the fruit is golden with edible black seeds. Taste wise, it’s sweet and tropical with notes of pineapple and mango.

Mango

Kent mango supply is strong and prices are steady. Amidst summer’s plethora of stone fruit and melons, Kents offer a delicious tropical reprieve. Kents have sweet and rich flavor with juicy, tender flesh and limited fibers. This variety is ideal for juicing and drying.

Melon

Seeded watermelon bins supply is tightening up as Rundle Family Farms winds down. Still plenty of fruit left to go around!  Mini seeded and seedless are steady with sharp pricing. Honeydew has strong supply; prices are dropping. Sweet with great texture, this is a great item to promote and sample. It’s melon mania with lots of specialty mixed melons rotating in on our list: Galia, Canary, Sharlyn, Charentais, Goddess, Piel de Sapo, Orange Honeydew and Tuscan Lopes. Talk to your Account Manager about which melons are right for you!

Specialty Fruit

Passion fruit supply is strong. This tropical fruit is well known but not often well recognized. It is round and roughly the size of a golf ball with yellow or dark purple skin. On the inside, the fruit is filled with juicy yellow and black seeds. Tart, sweet and slightly acidic—passion fruit can be enjoyed as is or in smoothies, desserts and more! Dragon fruit has just arrived! Supply is steady. To enjoy this unique fruit, slice lengthwise and either scoop out the flesh, or quarter it and peel back the leathery skin. Eat only the white parts with seeds—the pink parts are bitter.

Stone Fruit

Apricots from the Northwest are winding down. California growers are reporting low yielding harvests this season. Erratic weather patterns of extreme heat and cold have been hindering harvests. White nectarines supply is tight with not much available on the market at this point.  Yellow nectarines in small sizes are available but limited. Yellow peach supply is still very limited—we’re bringing in anything we can get. Supply may improve towards the end of the month. Masamoto Family Farm’s famous Suncrest peaches are here but probably not for long. Cult favorite Hunter Orchards is expected to come on this month with some fruit. Many of the mid-season varieties coming on now will be ‘free stone’ meaning the flesh pulls away from the pit cleanly when cut. Earlier varieties were semi-cling which means the flesh sticks to the pit. Black plums are in better supply than peaches or nectarines. More pluots are coming on including Flavor Queen. Dapple Dandy and Dapple Fire are staff favorites! We have about a week or two more on Dark Sweet and Rainier cherries from the Northwest. Get your cherry fix in while you can!

 

Vegetables

Bean

Green beans are in good supply; quality is high.  We’re seeing lots of beautiful specialty beans come on.  Romano beans are a flatter and meatier version of green beans. Look for small bright beans that snap easily when bent. Enjoy raw or cooked and anywhere you’d use other types of green beans. Chinese red noodle beans are a stunning red-purple color and can grow up to 18” long! They are full of nutrients and even keep some of the color when cooked.  Fresh garbanzo beans, also known as chickpeas, are a unique bean gaining in popularity. Each green garbanzo bean is in a protective fuzzy green pod that needs to be shelled before enjoying.

Broccoli/Cauliflower

The broccoli market is tight and supply is weak. Many growers are facing quality issues causing sporadic gaps in supply. Baby broccoli is steadier but also limited. Romanesco is in-house with goody quality for this time in the season. Cauliflower supply is tight as growers face similar quality issues as broccoli. Cheddar is more readily available than white cauliflower. We expect supply and quality issues to continue through summer.

Cabbage

Red cabbage prices are still high. We’ve seen limited amount of Savoy and Napa but supply is unlikely to continue. Green cabbage is in better volume.

Corn

This corn season has proved to be particularly challenging for many growers due to worm damage and other environmental factors. White corn is extremely limited and bi-color continues to be limited. New to the corn offering—baby corn from Heirloom Organic. Baby corn is mildly sweet and has a satisfying snap.

Cucumber

Specialty cucumbers are coming on strong. Painted serpent ‘cukes have beautiful dark green and pale stripes and excellent flavor.  Armenian cucumbers are thin, light green with smooth ridges. The flavor is sweet and refreshing! Persian cucumber supply is somewhat limited. Prices will be on the high side for a couple weeks.

Eggplant

Globe eggplant is in good supply. Specialty eggplants are plentiful from Riverdog Farm and Full Bely Farm. We’re seeing beautiful Fairy Tale, Listada de Gandia and Rosa Bianca eggplants. Fairy Tale eggplants are as dreamy as they sound. They are palm size with vibrant violet and white skin. The delicate flavor with creamy bite makes this a summer favorite! Check back often for new varieties coming on!

Lettuce, Greens and Herbs

Lettuce is in good supply on most leaf and butter lettuces. Romaine is steady with promotable pricing. However, lettuce supply can change quickly at this point in the season and subject to some gaps.

Availability on boxed greens is improving but summer temperatures may cause quality issues. Bunched greens are mostly in good supply except for dino, aka lacinato kale, which is in high demand and produces more slowly compared to other kales. Bunched spinach is very limited. Fennel is in good supply.

Oregano bunches are limited. Italian parsley is in good supply with sharp pricing. All other herbs are steady.

Pea

Snap peas are extremely limited. Snow peas are steady. English peas are also tight.

Pepper

Green, orange, yellow and red bell peppers are steady. Lots of specialty peppers on the market! Padron peppers hail from Northwestern Spain and have a mild sweet flavor but a small percentage can end up being hot! Italian sweet frying peppers are sweet and mildly pungent. Fried, stuffed or pickled—these are perfect for summer soirees.

Potato

Russets are extremely limited this early in the season. California red potatoes are done and the Northwest grown potatoes are starting up. California yellow potatoes are still available. We’re seeing plenty of specialty potatoes come on including the heirloom varieties Colorado Purple, Colorado Rose and Mascarade. Colorado Rose spuds have beautiful pink and white flesh on the inside!

Roots

Purple top turnips and burdock is gapping in supply. Jicama is very limited to quality issues. We’re seeing small amounts of watermelon daikon in but supply is not expected to be steady. Celery root is slowly coming back on.

Squash

The zucchini market is holding steady on price and supply. Summer is the time to check out the various specialty squash on the market! Comanche Creek’s mixed medley offers a smorgasbord of the season’s best varieties in all shapes and sizes. Although varieties may differ from box to box, the most common squash may include Romanesco, Zephyr, Sunburst Squash, Magda, Gold Bar, and 8 Ball. Unlike their winter counterparts, these summer varieties have soft, thin skin with flesh that can vary from light to dense.

As for hard squash, we’re seeing new crop butternut squash from Central California grower Tutti Frutti. Acorn, Kabocha and spaghetti are steady. Delicata squash is limited.

Tomato

‘Tis the time for heirlooms! Heirlooms are holding steady in supply. Prices are expected to come down soon. We’re seeing mixed packs and straight packs in several varieties. Purple Cherokees are known for their beautiful dusty red-purple color and unmatched sweet and rich flavor. This variety is a popular favorite among heirloom enthisiasts and often wins tomato taste tests! Berkeley Tie Dyes offer a psychodelic tomato experience! The skin is dark pink with green striping while the flesh is pink with yellow streaks. The flavor is sweet and complex. California Roma tomatoes are steady but limited and prices are up. Cherry tomatoes are plentiful with both California and Mexico fruit on the market. Early girls have started with both dry farmed and non dry farmed fruit available. Look for these under the “Saladette” tomatoes on our list.

 

Fresh-Cut

Summer is in full swing and it’s time to stock your shelves with summer picnic and BBQ essentials. Customers will be searching for healthy and fresh items for their celebrations. Now is the time to inventory your fresh-cut displays and make sure it has the latest and greatest of popular items such as cut melons, veggies for crudité and more. 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 and fruit salad mixes).

 

 

Grocery and Dairy

Have you tasted freshly made tofu? Hodo Soy tofu is made from organic, non-GMO, U.S. grown whole soybeans. This Oakland, California based company has a mission to craft the highest quality tofu and create innovative and delicious tofu-based artisan foods that will change how you think of tofu. The difference is in the ingredients and how the tofu is made. Hodo Soy starts with select, organic soybeans that are ground to a puree with optimum thickness using a very fine stone grinder. The puree is then simmered and pressed to extract the “bean juice.” This juice or soymilk is the base ingredient in all Hodo Soy products. To make tofu, calcium sulfate, a naturally occurring mineral is used to coagulate the soymilk. The coagulated soymilk is broken into curds to release whey and the curds are deposited into cheesecloth-lined molds which are then hand-wrapped and pressed. Hodo Soy tofu has on average 50% more protein than other tofu on the market.

We also offer Stueve biodynamic eggs, 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.

 

Floral

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 Strawflowers, Lacy Blue Statice, Zinnias, Globe Amaranth, Celosia Plumes, 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.

 

 

Merchandising Corner

Fermentation and Pickling

Fermentation is a word we hear a lot these days but what does it really mean and what is the difference between fermenting and pickling? Both fermenting and pickling are ancient methods used to preserve food. The confusion between the two happens because they actually overlap. Some fermented foods are pickled, and some pickled foods are fermented. Still confused? Let’s break it down a little more.

Pickling is a method that preserves food in a brine (salt or salty water) or an acid like vinegar or lemon juice. Fermentation is a technique that preserves and transforms food by using the benign bacteria that lives naturally on the surface of the food. The actual definition is the chemical breakdown of a substance by bacteria, yeasts, or other microorganisms, typically involving effervescence and giving off heat. But what does that all really mean? What fermentation means is that the sugars and carbohydrates present in the food have been eaten by the good bacteria (often lactic acid bacteria). The bacteria then convert that sugar into other substances, like acids, carbon dioxide, and alcohol and those substances preserve the food and add to its flavor. So that is the secret to why fermented food is so tasty, all those active bacteria!

The confusion between the two happens because most fermented foods, like pickles, start out in a brine.  Some items can be both pickled and fermented. Now that we have sorted that out it’s time to start making your own pickled and fermented foods. We are in the peak season to make and try some creative ways of storing away some of your summer favorites for a cold gloomy winter day.  And remember, even though pickling and fermenting crossover a bit, it’s the fermented foods that provide amazing health benefits like beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics. Now go have fun and get crazy with those recipes!