Getting Figgy With It

Figs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although dried figs are available most of the year, nothing compares to the unique taste of fresh figs. Fresh figs have the perfect balance of sweet taste, chewy texture and their seeds provide a satisfying crunch.

The first mention of figs can be traced back as early as the Bible and other ancient writings. They are thought to have been first cultivated in Egypt and made their way to ancient Greece around the 9th century BC. They were later introduced to other regions of the Mediterranean and brought to the Western Hemisphere by the Spaniards in the early 16th century.

Figs grow on the Ficus tree, which is a member of the mulberry family. They have an opening, called the “ostiole” or “eye” which helps the fruit’s development, aiding it in communication with the environment.

Figs differ in color and texture depending on the variety (more than 150!) Some popular varieties include: Black Mission, Kadota, Brown Turkey, Adriatic and Calimyrna. The California fig season usually lasts June through September so get some fig action before they’re gone!

 

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

 

Fruit

Apple and Pear

It’s an exciting time in the world of apples as more California grown varieties are starting to come on. Gravenstein apples are an heirloom variety grown in California’s Sonoma County—where it was first planted in 1811. The apple has yellow-green skin with splashes of beautiful red coloring. Our taste tests found crisp and juicy texture and with aromatic sweet flavor. Keep an eye out for Pink Pearl, another heirloom variety that offers a colorful surprise inside with its rosy pink flesh and sweet-tart taste. California grown Gala, Granny Smith, and Macintosh apples have started. Jonafree, William Pride, Jonagold, Fuji and Red Delicious are expected to arrive at the end of the month. A heat wave in the Northwest has impacted apple supply coming from that region as excessive sun and heat often causes apples to drop.

California pear season has started!  Bartlett supply is steady. Hosui Asian is a staff favorite for its crispy texture and juicy flavor. Shinko Asian pear should be coming on soon.  California Bosc is expected to come on this month along with Starkrimson from the Northwest.

Avocado

The California crop is in serious short supply, and Mexican imports have been delayed, causing prices to skyrocket. But all the avocado marketing campaigns seem to have created a demand that matches the highest prices we have even seen! At least we can say the fruit is fantastic, and we are lucky to have any at all! We expect a few more weeks of limited quantities of domestic fruit, and will bring in Mexican grown Hass as soon as it is available. 

Berry

Raspberries and blackberries are in strong supply. Prices are promotable. Blueberry production from the Northwest has slowed due to heat and transition time to new varieties. The market is tight and prices are up.

Citrus

Valencia prices are on the rise. Supply is steady but expect the high prices to continue. At this point in the season, it is not uncommon to see fruit with some combination of orange and green skin. This is called “regreening.” Regreening is the fruit’s reaction to recent high temperatures. Warm weather can force the skin of Valencia oranges to reabsorb chlorophyll, the pigment in plants that gives them their green color, causing ripe fruit to partially turn green. However, the green color does not indicate unripe fruit nor affect the flavor and juiciness. Peruvian grown Minneola tangerines have arrived but supply is very limited. Lemons are in good supply with fruit from California and Mexico coming in. Fruit from California’s desert regions are about 3 weeks away. Meyer lemons are experiencing a short gap in supply but should be available soon. Limes are steady.

Fig

Fresh figs are a real summertime treat and we have plenty to meet your fig needs. Adriatic figs, sometimes called “white figs” have pale green to yellow skin with bright pink flesh inside. Their flavor is moderately sweet and works well as a dessert all on their own.  Black Mission figs have blackish-purple skin and dark pink insides. They are extremely sweet and often have syrupy juices which works well with a tangy cheese or yogurt! Brown Turkey have brownish-purple skin and milder flavor and less sweetness than other varieties. They work well in preparations where a sweetener might be used. Candy Stripe figs have beautiful pale green and yellow striped skin with deep red centers. Their flavor is bright and berry like.

Grape

Grapes are in good supply with many delicious varieties on the market. Champagne grapes offer intensely sweet flavor, with petite berries. Stella Bella, which means “beautiful star” is a green seedless variety prized for its large berry size, crisp texture, creamy color and clean flavor. Look for Thomcord grapes soon starting soon! This hybrid variety combines the popular Thompson seedless grape and Concord grape for an aromatic “labrusca” flavor mellowed by the Thompson’s mild sweet taste. Also on the horizon—Biodynamic Thompson seedless grapes from Marian Farms based in Fresno, California. Marian Farms grows grapes using Biodynamic agricultural practices and hand picks the grapes at peak ripeness. The grapes are harvested when they are at their sweetest which ensures ripe, full, and attractive fruit. Unlike both organic and conventionally grown grapes, they are never treated with gibberellic acid which is often sprayed on seedless grapes to increase grape size and yield.

Mango

Kent mango from Del Cabo is starting. These mangoes are grown exclusively in the Los Cabos region of the Baja peninsula, which has uniquely been designated a pest-free area. Unlike most other imported mangoes, Del Cabo’s do not require chemical or hot water treatment—a requirement that disrupts the ripening and compromises the integrity of the fruit. Instead, Del Cabo farmers harvest fully tree-ripened mangoes under the desert sun at their peak flavor. The fruit is creamy in texture and offers a rich fragrance.  These mangoes are also Fair Trade certified which means a premium from each sale goes back to programs to support the workers. The season lasts a short three weeks so don’t wait to try this variety. Esquire mangoes are also in good supply and tasting amazing. The flavor is subtly sweet.  This variety comes from the Salton Sea area in Southern California.

Melon

Mini seedless watermelon is plentiful and pricing is attractive on cartons. Bins from Rundle Family Farm is dwindling but supply should be steady with fruit from other growers. Honeydew volume is strong with promotable pricing. Cantaloupe is also steady. As for specialty melons, Snow Leopard from Say Hay Farms is limited and Ambrosia melons are extremely limited.

Specialty Fruit

Who will win in this game of summer fruit? Something tells us dragon fruit will come out on top. Supply is a bit uneven for this “super fruit” chock full of antioxidants, fiber and vitamins. Due to recent cool weather, there will be a short gap in supply, followed by a spike in production and then a steady flow through November. This beautiful and unique looking fruit has sweet kiwi-like flesh inside that varies from white to pink to red. The variety that we carry normally has magenta colored flesh.  The fruit’s outer skin is cactus like (but no spines), resembling that of the scales of a mythical dragon. Passion fruit supply is still going strong with sharp pricing. Known in Hawaii as Lilikoi, the fruit is tart, sweet and slightly acidic—this flavor is perfect for ice cream, smoothies and even cocktails!

Stone Fruit

Apricot supply from the Northwest is winding down. White apricots are done for the season. Giant Pearl white nectarines are a season favorite. This variety is packed with sweet and juicy flavor and a hint of subacid making for a delicious way to wind the season down. Redhead yellow nectarines from Ferrari Farms are going strong. This will likely be the last of the California yellow nectarines fruit. It’s been a tough season for yellow peaches. Several late season growers reported lower than normal harvests due to a late frost in May-June that impacted the crops. Supply is much more limited which means we will like not have an extended season of peaches this year. Pluots are in good supply and should last for a few more weeks. Black and red plums are steady and are expected to continue to be available into October.

 

Vegetables

Bean

Green beans are in strong supply. Lots of specialty beans available including purple, yellow, Romano and Chinese noodle beans. Chinese noodle beans are a gorgeous deep red color and grow up to 18” long!

Broccoli/Cauliflower

The broccoli market is volatile right now and prices are on the high side. Supply is limited due to aphid pressure in the fields. At this point in the season, it is common to see some “knuckling” on the heads, which is the uneven formation of florets. Knuckling occurs when there are long periods of daylight. Although a bit imperfect, knuckling is a natural occurrence that does not affect the flavor and quality. Romaneso is also limited in supply, but quality is high. Cauliflower is in better supply than its cruciferous counterpart. Graffiti cauliflower remains very limited, cheddar is somewhat limited and white is plentiful.

Cabbage

Green cabbage prices remain low. Red cabbage prices have come down as well. Napa cabbage supply is tight; prices are high. Savoy cabbage is limited with small sizing.

Cucumber

Slicer supply has improved greatly. The English cucumber market has tightened. Supply is very limited and prices are up.

Greens & Lettuce

We’re approaching the last couple months of the Salinas, California growing season for boxed greens. The market is stable for the time being but may experience fluctuations in price, supply and quality as growers begin transition back to the desert growing regions in the fall. Spring mix and spinach are in good supply. Bunched chard remains tight and prices are high. Green kale and dino kale are in good supply.

The lettuce market is relatively steady with good supply on most varieties including romaine, red leaf, green leaf and Little Gem.

Onion

The onion market is starting to stabilize. Yellow onions are in good supply with several growers on the market. Red onion is steady; prices should start coming down. Larger sizes on white onions is very limited but mediums should be available. Shallots are in strong supply.

Pepper

Green bell pepper is in strong supply. Orange and yellow bells are very limited. Red bells are limited but in better supply than orange and yellow. In Chile Land, serrano and jalapeno are plentiful and poblano is steady. Look for Hatch chiles starting up soon! This popular chile is named after the original growing region in Hatch, New Mexico. Hatch chiles grow in the Hatch Valley where intense sunlight and cool nights give these chiles their unique flavor. Hatch chiles range from mild-medium heat to hot.

Potato

Russets are in good supply and prices are holding steady. Prices are high on yellow and red potatoes from the Northwest. Lots of specialty potatoes available! Amarosa fingerlings have a beautiful red flesh and retain their color even when cooked. Their sweet and creamy flavor only enhances the uniqueness of this variety. Mascarade potatoes have attractive purple and white abstract shapes on the skin making them almost too pretty to eat!

Squash

There’s no shortage of variety in hard squash at this point in the season. Sugar Pie pumpkins have started! This petite pumpkin usually grows to 6-8 inches in diameter and is known for its sweet flavor and smooth firm texture. Butternut squash, acorn, delicata, Kabocha and spaghetti are all steady in supply.

Tomato

Heirlooms are in good supply and prices are holding steady. Roma availability seems to be improving. One and two layer slicing tomatoes are limited with high pricing. Recent cool temperatures in Northern California have provided less than ideal environments for tomato plants. Tomato-on-vine (TOV) prices are up slightly but supply is steady and provides a great alternative given the tight slicer market. Cherry tomato supply is improving and becoming more consistent.  Early Girls are starting to come on with both dry farmed and non dry farmed fruit available. Dry farming is a complex method of growing that produces less volume but more flavorful fruit. After a few waterings, irrigation is withheld from the rooted tomato plant. Look for these under the “Saladette” tomatoes on our list.

 

Grocery and Dairy

We offer organic tortillas from Mi Rancho which has been making tortillas since 1939. When Mi Rancho first opened in Oakland, California, it was the only Mexican grocery store in the area—drawing people from all around. Robert Berber Sr. and Robert Berber Jr. purchased Mi Rancho in 1954 and grew the business to become a permanent fixture in Oakland as the best place to find Mexican chiles, spices and fresh tortillas. Mi Rancho eventually expanded beyond the grocery store and focused on making premium tortillas accessible to more people. All Mi Rancho tortillas are still made at the company’s headquarters in San Leandro, California and whenever possible, are made with California ingredients. All tortillas are also certified Kosher by Orthodox Union.

We also offer Stueve Farm organic and biodynamic certified eggs, a variety cheeses from Sierra Nevada Cheese Company, organic milk and yogurts from Straus Family Creamery, maple products from Maple Valley Co-op, Hodo Soy tofu, Wild Rose Farms quinoa, Masa Farms brown rice, and Marian Farms raisins and almonds. Talk to your Account Manager to learn more about our certified organic grocery program.

 

Floral

Our floral program carries fresh organic flowers from Full Belly Farm and Thomas Farm, updated weekly for new seasonal varieties and mixes. Check with your Account Manager and subscribe to our weekly floral availability list for the most up to date details. Mixed bouquets from both growers are also available in various sizes as well as a rotating list of seasonal straight packs. Thomas Farm is offering Dahlia, Cosmo and Sunflower straight packs. Full Belly has added many new flowers to their offering including Strawflowers, Lacy Blue Statice, Zinnias, Cocks Comb, Lisianthus, Marigolds, Sunflowers and more! Strawflowers are a favorite this season. They have sturdy dry petal structure and come in vibrant shades or pinks, reds, oranges and whites. Brightens any room and works well for drying. Shipped in buckets with water, but packed inside boxes, organic flowers travel well, and stay fresh longer than non-organic flowers.

 

Merchandising Corner

Utilize Different Types of Effective Sampling

Active Sampling

A designated staff member or a third-party representative actively hands out samples to customers; don’t forget to sample with store staff as well so they become advocates for the Produce Department. Coupons and/or cross merchandised items can be incorporated into the sampling display. Merchandise the sampled items in close proximity to the sampling area so shoppers can easily grab the item(s) they enjoyed tasting.

Suggestive Sampling

Be ready to offer a sample whenever a customer asks “How does this taste?” or “Which of these tastes the best right now?” You can also offer information about the grower or suggested uses while cutting the item.

Passive Sampling

This sampling method lets the product speak for itself. Pre-cut the produce item and display the item in a tray under a sampling dome. Incorporate excellent signage near the display and make sure the item is displayed close by. As with active sampling, passive sampling can incorporate complimentary products such as cheese or dips.