As we ease into fall, there is no shortage of fruits and vegetables to inspire menus and delight palettes. One fruit we cannot get enough of are Asian pears. This fall fruit comes in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors. They can vary in color from golden yellow to green or even speckled and spotted. Some have a round shape like apples while others have a more traditional pear shape with bulbous bottom and elongated top.
Asian pears are prized for their sweet juicy low acid flavor and crisp texture. Did we mention they are also wonderfully fragrant? Because of the high water content, Asian pears have to be handled delicately and are often wrapped because of its tendency to bruise. The fruit maintains its crunchy texture long after being picked.
Asian pears can be traced back to Japan and China where they have been grown for 3,000 years. They first appeared in the U.S. in the early 1800s when a Chinese pear was imported to Flushing, New York. Today, they are grown in many countries and gracing menus, stores and fruit bowls everywhere.
Keep a lookout for our staff picks noted in orange.
Apple and Pear
Zestar apples are an early season favorite! This variety has crisp, juicy texture and exciting zesty flavor with hints of brown sugar. We also love Sweetie apples from Cuyama Orchards, down in Southern California. This variety is appropriately named for its super sweet taste and little to no tartness. Washington Fujis are starting to come on, supplementing California Fuji market. Braeburn apples are just coming up on the market. Honeycrisp apples from Washington are tasting delicious! Granny Smith is steady—Washington fruit is just starting up. Red Delicious is in good supply. Beautiful deep red Rosalyn apples have just come on from Washington based Daisy Girl. On the heirloom front, Pink Pearl is on hand and Cortland apples are just starting up.
Asian pears have strong supply. Shinko is winding down but plenty of other varieties are starting up. Sweet and crisp Kosui have arrived from the Pacific Northwest. This variety does not brown when sliced—perfect for advance preparation. 20th Century and Chojuro are here from California’s Pescadero region. The 20th Century fruit is like a pumped-up pear, sweeter and warmer but with incredibly juicy smooth fruit. Chojuro pears are known for their delicious butterscotch flavor. In other pear news, Bartlett prices are dropping on larger sizes. Great pricing on Bosc! Unclassified Comice pears have some cosmetic blemishes but offer great flavor. Adorable Seckel are in good supply—the small size is perfect for small hands and lunch boxes. Starkrimson availability is steady.
We are proud to partner with San-Diego based organic banana grower and importer Organics Unlimited to bring awareness to the GROW (Giving Resources and Opportunities to Workers) banana program. The GROW program benefits underserved communities in banana growing regions of Mexico and Ecuador through the sale of organic bananas. Since 2005, GROW banana purchases have provided over $2 million in aid. A percentage derived from the purchase of each box of GROW organic bananas is earmarked for the GROW fund. These funds are used for youth educational programs, health clinics and dental and vision care in Mexico, clean water and early childhood educational programs in Ecuador; and environmental initiatives in the San Diego-Tijuana border region. Let your Account Manager know if you would like to join the GROW banana social justice program.
Have you tried kiwi berries aka baby kiwi? This miniature fruit looks like kiwi without fuzz, but smaller! Taste-wise, it’s exactly like a kiwi but a little sweeter. The skin requires no peeling making the kiwi berry an easy snacking fruit! Strawberries, raspberries and blackberries are steady with great supply. Blueberries may become more limited with possible gaps in supply. Cranberries are coming mid-October but amidst early production reports that the crop is smaller overall.
Expect high pricing to continue on Valencia oranges. Peruvian imported Minneola tangerines are winding down. Lemon prices are coming down. Fingerlimes are plentiful. This fruit gets its name from the fact that it is about the size and shape of a finger. The pulp is shaped like tiny balls rather than elongated teardrops common to most other citrus fruit. To enjoy, cut the limes in half and squeeze up from the bottom to release the flavorful pulp. Fingerlimes are known as the caviar of citrus!
Prices are on the rise. Brown Turkey and Adriatic figs are limited. Black Mission is in good supply and is anticipated to be available through mid-October. These make great preserves—a great way to enjoy figs all year long!
Gold kiwi is in good supply. This delicious fruit has bronzed, smooth and hairless skin with beautiful golden flesh that has notes of pineapple and mango.
Sweet Scarlet red grapes are done for the season. Scarlet Royal and Timco are starting up. Black grapes are limited. On the green seedless front, Stella Bella is in good supply. This variety has a large berry size, crisp texture and sweet clean flavor. Thompson has started and will be in supply until mid-December. Concord grapes have arrived! This slip-skin variety has a dark blue or purple skin that can be easily separated from the fruit. It has large seeds and is very aromatic with sweet flavor. This variety is often used to make grape jelly, grape juice and candy.
Keitt mango season has started in California’s Coachella Valley. This variety has large fruit with green skin that has occasional red blush. Inside the fruit is sweet and smooth. The small flat seed makes cutting this mango a breeze. Prices are promotable and the season is short so snag some of these mangoes!
Cantaloupe supply is very tight. We’re getting all we can but several growers are gapping in supply. Mini seedless watermelon has strong availability with sharp pricing. Seeded bins are less plentiful, but steady. Full Belly Farms is winding down on their specialty melons. However, there are still plenty of variety to keep your melon display interesting. Canary melons have great pricing. Snow leopards, Piel de Sapo, orange honeydew, Galia and Charentais are still here!
Mexican grown pineapple is in good supply with sharp pricing. Costa Rican fruit is limited with higher pricing.
Pomegranates have come on with steady supply. For eager pomegranate lovers, it’s typical to see fruit with minimal color inside this early in the season. Flavor is not impacted by the light coloring.
Quince has arrived! This relatively unknown fall fruit is related to pears and apples since it grows on trees, but the similarities end there. Quince fruit is knobby and irregular shaped with gray fuzz on under ripe fruit. Ripe quince is golden in color with smooth skin. Quince is completely inedible raw due to its tough and spongy flesh inside. When cooked, quince is transformed into sweet, delicate and fragrant treat. This specialty fruit also boasts another secret—its aroma. When left to ripen at room temperature, it releases a delicate fragrance of vanilla, citrus and apple. Dragon fruit supply is strong. We’ve got all colors: red, pink, white and rainbow (pack!) Take advantage of the dragon fruit extravaganza–especially the amazing price on white fruit! Jujube are limited in supply. This specialty fruit is also known as a red date or Chinese date. They contain a single large seed inside and are red inside and out. The skin is edible and offers a crispy texture to compliment the sweet-tart apple like flavor of the fruit. Passion fruit supply is still going strong. Sapote have come on. This tropical fruit is also known as a Mexican apple. The pulp of sapotes are creamy-white and similar in texture to ripe avocado. Its flavor can range from banana-like to peach to pear to vanilla flan.
Stone fruit season is winding down. We’re seeing the last of yellow nectarines, peaches and plums. Pluots still have decent supply from the Northwest.
Broccoli crowns should be steady although prices have gone up a bit. Several growers are in transition. Baby broccoli supply is tight. Reports from one of our main growers showed that the popular baby broccoli variety we normally carry is facing a seed shortage until November. We’ll have an alternate variety during the period. The new variety has a natural checkerboard pattering in the coloring of the crowns coloring that may look like cat-eye but in fact is normal for the variety. Romanesco is very tight and gapping in supply. There is some supply of cauliflower, but the market is not yet steady. Cheddar cauliflower is in better supply.
As we gear up for fall, brussels sprouts supply is improving but not yet steady.
Carrot prices continue to rise on bulk and bunched.
As we approach the end of corn season, we’re bringing in everything we can find. We anticipate a couple more weeks of supply at most.
Slicer cucumbers are in better supply than previous weeks with California product available and Mexican to supplement supply. Persian ‘cukes are still limited.
Greens, Lettuce & Herbs
Now that temperatures are cooling off in the Salinas Valley, baby kale and baby spinach supply is starting to improve but still not consistent. Spring mix and arugula are faring much better, both in terms of availability and quality. Mildew has been an issue for boxed spinach due to the recent heat in Northern California but should subside as temperatures drop. Bunched greens are limited overall as many growers are transitioning their fields. Bunched spinach is very pricey. We’re seeing vibrant rainbow and eye-catching peppermint chard from Pie Ranch, located in Pescadero, California. Peppermint chard has a unique two-toned look with white stems, vibrant fuchsia streaks and lustrous green leaves. Romaine is back in steady supply. Iceberg is still limited but we don’t expect to see any big gaps in the near term. Leaf and butter lettuces are abundant. Cilantro prices are coming down. All other iced herbs are steady. Bunched oregano and tarragon is gapping in supply.
Bell peppers are readily available. Red bells have attractive pricing that may drop slightly. Lots of great chili pepper and specialty peppers available! Cayenne chilies are the pepper form of the popular “cayenne pepper” dried spice. Great flavor combined with moderate heat make this a versatile pepper raw, cooked or dried. Witch stick red peppers have a unique twisting shape and ripens from green to red. The flavor is sweet but watch out for some heat near the stem!
Parsnip prices remain high. As more growers come on, prices should come down. Jicama is in good supply; quality is strong. Turnips are steady. Bagged beets are plentiful with all colors and sizes available. Prices have been fluctuating. Bunched beets are in good supply.
One and two-layer slicer tomatoes are in good supply. Tomatoes-on-vine are steady. Roma supply has improved from recent weeks. We’re seeing beautiful mixed heirlooms from Veliz Organic Farm based in Hollister, California. This father-son family business previously worked for Michael Halpern of the beloved Frazier Lake label. Lots of cherry straight packs and mixed medleys available. ‘Early Girl’ or Saladette dry farmed tomatoes are still at the top of our list for best tasting! Grab some before the season is over!
Grocery and Dairy
Did you know we sell maple products? We are currently offering a full line of delicious maple products including maple syrup in various size packs, maple sugar candy, and even whipped maple cream (great on toast, pancakes, yogurt and more!) All products are certified organic and great to have as we head into fall. The products are sourced from Maple Valley Co-op, a producer co-op modeled after famed Organic Valley. For the month of September, all maple grocery products are 15% off, bulk items are 10% and maple candy and maple cream are 5% off. Talk to your Account Manager for details.
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, tortillas from Mi Rancho, 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.
Our floral program includes seasonal mixed bouquets as well as straight packs from Thomas Farm and Full Belly Farm. Thomas Farm is offering gorgeous Dahlias in mixed colors and Sunflower straight packs. Full Belly’s list includes straight packs of Cockscomb, Red ‘Hopi Dye’ Amaranth, Globe Amaranth (red, rose or mixed) and Celosia Plume (red or gold.) Full Belly sunflowers are in between fields and gapping for a few weeks. Strawflowers are done for the season.
Everyday Tips for Merchandising
Setting up displays in a produce department can be much like starting a home garden, it requires careful planning and consideration of color, texture, landscaping, and containers or props. Typically, when customers walk into a store, the produce department is the first thing they see. Over 65% of their buying decisions are made on impulse. Creative, eye catching fruit and vegetable displays will encourage your customers to grab a few extra items. If the department looks unpleasant or poorly organized they are likely to shop elsewhere. Even if you have the freshest produce in town, bad displays can discourage sales.
Taking advantage of contrasting colors is one of the simplest ways to add strong visual impact. By planning your displays to show of the rainbow of colors it will make the items pop visually and increase the length of time the customer spends looking at the produce and how much they purchase. Avoid overlapping similar colors or creating a large block of green leafy vegetables. The direction in which you display a product can also enhance the color, for instance, turning baby bok choy horizontal or vertical rather than stem end out shows off the vibrant green and white leaf, and the same is true for fennel, leeks, radish, lettuce and greens. In general, most vegetables have a greater visual impact displayed in this way because the customer can see the whole item. Think farmer’s markets which is almost entirely eye candy.
Landscaping and Props
This is another area where you get to create the beauty of the flow. Displaying produce at varying heights with good color contrast on your dry tables creates artistic and visual excitement. The product in these displays should flow together. You want to create a vast horizon rather than a bunch of peaks and valleys. Pyramiding individual items creates a lot of space in between product and generally does not hold the eye captive. Having a table that is tiered or angled will give the look of abundance with less product. If your table top is flat you can build it up using props and containers. Integrating wooden boxes for height can easily and affordably give you a tiered effect needed to create a beautiful landscape.
It can be difficult to create a color break depending on the season and the size of your produce case. Like color, texture can provide contrast to help create and draw in visual interest from your customers. Brussels sprouts and asparagus are similar in color and yet wildly different in texture and together make a striking display. Paying attention to opposing textures of vegetables and fruits will help keep your displays attractive and eye catching. Integrating baskets can give the department a more natural texture and farmers market feel.
When merchandising your department, remember these display tips and your department will soon resemble a beautiful and abundant garden.