Falling for Winter Squash

Pumpkins may get a lot glory as we approach Halloween but let’s not forget about the many other varieties of hard winter squash available. Winter squash is sweeter, denser and firmer than summer squash. They also are extremely versatile and come in a myriad of colors, shapes and sizes. Although they often called winter squash, these fruits are actually harvested in the fall and will keep well through the winter months for which they are named. Winter squash are naturally low in fat and calories and lends itself to any number of preparations and recipes.

Common varieties include Butternut, Acorn, Spaghetti, Delicata and Kabocha. Some lesser known, but equally delicious varieties you may see are Red Kuri, Carnival, Sweet Dumpling and Baby Blue Hubbard, among others. No matter the variety, when selecting your squash, look for bruise free skin with the stem intact and a heavy feeling for its size. Don’t wait for the season to pass you by—winter squash time starts now!

 

Keep a lookout for our staff picks noted in orange.

 

 

Fruit

Apple and Pear

As we head into October, the market is flushed with many varieties of apples, including unique heirlooms. One of our favorite heirlooms is Cox’s Orange Pippin. This variety develops an orange tinge on the skin at ripening. It offers a tart, complex, distinctive flavor and incredible aroma. One of our most popular heirlooms, Arkansas Black is a unique apple that dates back to the 1870’s in Arkansas. It is a lively red color, deepening to purplish black when ripe. It is known for having a hard, slick skin and distinctive aromatic flavor. Cortland heirlooms bring a pop of color with their bright red skin. Their crisp white flesh and exceptionally juicy sweet-tart flavor makes this apple appealing inside and out. Other heirloom varieties on hand include Orleans Reinette, Spitzenberg and a limited amount of King David. There are great deals on US1 grade Honeycrisp from Washington. Gala is readily available from California and Washington growers. With plenty of classic apples on hand, don’t overlook Sweetie and Zestar—two early season varieties with delicious flavor and perfect for rounding out your apple display.

The pear market has picked up and we’re seeing some great fruit this season. Check out Bosc pears from Valley View Orchards in Ashland, Oregon. These have beautiful color and superb flavor. Comice are limited but we should see improved availability in a few weeks. Starkrimson pears have beautiful crimson color and juicy sweet flavor. Not to be outdone by their European pear relatives, Asian pears are making quite the impression. 20th Century tastes like a pumped-up pear, sweeter and warmer but with incredibly juicy smooth fruit. Kosui are sweet with satisfying crisp texture.

Berry

Strawberry supply is steady but production is down as we head into autumn. Prices have ticked up. Blackberry supply remains good. Import raspberries from Mexico are gapping in supply until production starts up in November. The blueberry market will be tight until Peruvian imported blueberries come on mid-October. Although the classic berry market is a little tight right now, kiwi berries are plentiful. This seasonal item looks like a miniature kiwi without the fuzz. It tastes very similar to its larger relative but sweeter. No need to peel the skin—just pop these into your mouth like grapes! And cranberries are on their way! Ask your Account Manager for quotes and pack options–cello, clamshell and bulk will soon be here.

Citrus

Lemon prices are coming down as supply has picked up. We have a small assortment of Meyer lemons with more coming soon! California limes from Beck Grove are in strong supply. Beck Grove is a small, family owned biodynamic farm located in the northern most part of California’s San Diego County. Valencia orange supply is tight but should be available until mid-October. Navel oranges are coming on in 2-3 weeks. Early production reports show that the navel crop is down 30% from previous years. Look for Satsuma mandarins towards the end of the month.

Grape

Grape prices are increasing as supply is dwindling. Expect prices to continue creeping up over the next couple weeks on all varieties.

Kiwi

California kiwi season has started! We’re offering bins and volume-fill cartons of the popular Hayward variety kiwi from Wild River, located in California’s Sacramento Valley. Prices are up this year from last due to a smaller crop and global kiwi shortage.

Melon

Watermelon season is winding down with just a little bit of supply left to ease the transition into fall. Order your last few cartons and bins before they’re gone! Cantaloupe is plentiful and priced for promotion. We’re approaching the end of the season for mixed melons as well. Canary and Sharlyn melons are the last of the specialty varieties.

Pomegranate

Pomegranates availability is improving as more growers come on. Some fruit may be light colored inside, which is common earlier in the season. However, flavor is not impacted by the coloring. Look for bins coming mid-month!  Convenient pomegranate arils will also be available soon.

Specialty Fruit

Although the quince season just started, supply is expected to be tight. Fruit grown in Watsonville, California was sunburnt during the late summer heatwave. Quince is inedible raw due to its tough and spongy flesh inside but transformed into a sweet, delicate and fragrant treat when cooked. 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. Sapote have started up. Supply is somewhat limited but should improve in a week or two. 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. Be sure to also check out Mexican guava! This aromatic fruit has a sweet tropical flavor with hints of pineapple and passion fruit.  It is jujube season but the market is weak and fruit is not readily available. Also known as a red date or Chinese date, this specialty fruit contains a single large seed inside and is red inside and out. The skin is edible and offers a crispy texture to compliment the sweet-tart apple like flavor of the fruit. Dragon fruit supply has been limited to white flesh fruit. But pink and red flesh are back and supply should continue through November!

 

Vegetables

Broccoli/Cauliflower

Broccoli is steady but limited as growers are trying to harvest enough product to keep up with demand. Fortunately, prices should be coming down. Cauliflower has been very limited. Recent warm temperatures affected young blocks of cauliflower and rendered more mature blocks unusable. Prices are expected to drop.

Brussels Sprout

It’s Brussels season! Supply is strong and quality looks great. We’re seeing clean, beautiful sprouts. Be sure to keep this popular item stocked as we inch closer to the Thanksgiving holiday.

Cabbage

Green cabbage is readily available with competitive pricing. Napa is also in good supply. Savoy has been limited and spotty due to sizing and labor issues.

Carrot

There’s no reprieve for the carrot market. Cal-Organic reported a gap in supply on bunched carrots for the month of October. This impacts overall supply and prices are on the rise. Bulk rainbow carrots are also gapping in supply for a few weeks.

Cucumber

The cucumber market has not improved much from previous weeks. Persian ‘cukes are very limited; there is not much supply available right now. Slicers are more plentiful with both California and Mexican product available. European cucumbers are in better supply and prices are promotable, but expected to go up.

Eggplant

Globe eggplant supply has suddenly tightened up. However, there’s lots of specialty varieties available on the market. Talk to your Account Manager if you’re interested in specific varieties.

Greens, Lettuce & Herbs

Boxed greens have been relatively stable. Baby Lacinato Kale and Baby Spinach are limited but Arugula and Spring Mix are in good supply. Bunched chard supply remains tights and prices are up slightly. Dino aka “Lacinato Kale” is not readily available but there is plenty of Green Curly Kale available at sharp pricing. Lettuce prices are expected to increase this month as production tightens due to gaps between blocks. Many growers are transitioning to new blocks which require some time to size up. Little Gem volume is slowing down but should be available until late fall. There is not much Basil on the market; supply is limited during transition from summer to fall. Bunched Oregano and Tarragon are more readily available but volume is still limited.

Mushroom

Now is the time to give your mushroom display a refresh. We have plenty on hand including Portabella, Shiitake, Crimini and delicious Beech mushrooms in white and brown. Supply is expected to be steady as head into the holiday season. Check out our ever-changing list of specialty mushrooms—Trumpet Royale, Maitake Frondosa, chef sampler and more! Specialty mushrooms require 2 days preorder so talk to your Account Manager about ordering ahead!

Pepper

Bell peppers remain pretty steady in supply and price. Specialty sweet peppers are starting to wind down. Jalapenos are in good supply. Habaneros have been high demand but unfortunately unavailable due to a shortage on the market right now.

Roots

Parsnip are becoming more available but the season is still early. Prices continue to be on the higher side. Rutabaga supply is steady. Scarlet and Gold turnips have strong volume. Purple-top turnips are slowly becoming more available. White daikon and Watermelon daikon are back in supply; prices are way up. Purple daikon has also come on the scene.

Sprouts

Sunflower sprouts production has been limited due to shorter days as we transitioned from summer to fall. We expect weaker volume until production improves.

Squash

Recent cooler temperatures are impacting Zucchini and specialty squash quality. Supply continues to be tight and prices are ticking up. Although soft squashes are not faring as well with colder weather, it is THE time for hard squashes. Our hard squash list is extensive and changing every day. The classic players—Acorn, Butternut, Delicata, Kabocha and Spaghetti have good volume. Take a look at some lesser known varieties such as Baby Blue Hubbard which have a blue-gray hard shell and sweet, golden flesh inside. Carnival squash not only have a fun name, they look fun! Carnivals have beautiful orange and green speckled skin and are a hybrid of the Sweet Dumpling and Acorn squashes. They are nutty and sweet and soon to be your favorite winter squash! With Halloween around the corner, let’s not forget about pumpkins! Jack O’ Lanterns are slightly limited but Sugar Pie pumpkins are steady. Can’t decide which squashes to stock? Ask about our mixed squash bins! Sharp pricing makes these a no brainer for the fall-winter season.

Tomato

As we approach the tail end of heirloom season, supply is tightening up and prices should go up accordingly. Early Girl tomatoes are also following suit. California grown cherry tomatoes are winding down. However, Fair Trade sugar plum cherry tomatoes from Mexico are abundant with promotable prices. Fair Trade tomatoes-on-vine from Arizona based Wholesum Harvest Farms, are competitively priced with strong volume.

 

 

Nuts

It’s the most wonderful time of the year; chestnut season is here! Our chestnuts are from Heath Ranch in Orland, California and available in jumbo and large sizes. Their mild and sweet texture make them perfect for both sweet and savory dishes. Fresh chestnuts can be prepared in any number of ways—roasted, steamed, boiled, deep fried and even microwaved! Don’t forget to score the skin of a fresh chestnut before cooking to allow steam to escape and prevent exploding chestnuts. Keep this popular item stocked during the winter months!

 

 

Grocery and Dairy

Fans of Straus Family Creamery dairy products have another reason to get excited. The creamery has just released their new Organic Chocolate Whole Milk. The milk is minimally processed with only five ingredients: homogenized organic whole milk, organic cane sugar, Fair Trade Certified™ organic cocoa powder, organic vanilla extract, and a lactase enzyme.  No stabilizers or emulsifiers are used which means the chocolate milk has natural separation. This requires an extra shake or two of the bottle to blend the ingredients before drinking. Straus’ chocolate milk contains 38 percent less total sugars than other organic chocolate milk brands in the market today. It is also a good source of protein with 16 grams per serving which, along with milk’s natural fat, provides satiety in a healthier treat option.  Sold in recyclable, reusable glass 32-ounce bottles, this item is preorder only!

All of Straus Family Creamery’s certified organic milk products are Non-GMO Project Verified, certified kosher and gluten free.

 

Floral

Fresh flowers will be available for a few more weeks but then we will transition into beautiful dried wreaths and dried bouquets. Each one is different—stay tuned!

Full Belly is hosting their yearly community event, the Hoes Down Harvest Festival on October 7th and will not be shipping flowers again until Thursday, October 12th so please plan accordingly.

 

 

Merchandising Corner

Fall Feature: Pomegranates

Fall brings us a welcomed change of pace and some fantastic new seasonal items. Pomegranates need no formal introduction. We all wait patiently for these familiar friends to come into season every year. Pomegranates have been gaining popularity over the years due to the marketing and year- round availability in juice or packaged form but nothing beats a fresh pom! Pomegranate seeds, known as arils, add a sweet tart crunch to any meal and are a great addition to salads, yogurt and granola.

Cracking a few open to place on display helps to promote sales as customers can see the inside color as well as taste the fruit. What’s the best way to open a pomegranate?

  1. Place the pomegranate on top of a cutting board.Since pomegranate juice stains pretty much everything, you may want to protect your cutting board with a cloth and your hands with rubber gloves.
  2. Cut the top crown around the top of the pomegranate until you can pop it off like a lid.Remove it and dispose. The fruit should be in a cone shape after your cutting.
  3. Slice the skin along the ridges of the pomegranate.The ridges are at the boundaries of the internal sections of the pomegranate – you’ll be able to see where they naturally lie. You do not want to cut through and slice the seeds. You only need to score the skin, so only cut through until you hit the white parts. A set of sections radiate from the calyx (top or blossom end) and a second set from the stem end. The two sets are divided by a ridge running around the pomegranate about two thirds of way down from the calyx.
  4. Gently pull the pomegranate apart.It will fall into a star shape. If you didn’t slice the bottom, the individual slices will be attached at the center, like a flower. You can then eat the pomegranate as is, or separate the arils

Be sure to keep an eye out for the availability of these fall treats. They aren’t around for long!