Return of the Navel

It’s citrus season, which means many of our favorite fruits are back! Domestic Washington variety navels make their first appearance in mid to late October and are available in good supply through winter. The navel is a large seedless orange that is sweet and easy to peel. The juicy segments generally separate effortlessly which make these the perfect easy to eat snack citrus. Although there are several navel varieties out there the Washington and Fukumoto are the most common. Other varieties you may see are the Lane, Riverside and Skaggs Bonanza.

The navel originated from a single tree that was planted in Brazil in 1820. This tree had a mutation, causing two oranges to be produced within one single piece of fruit. The navel first made its break onto the California scene in the late 1800’s and helped create what we know as the California citrus industry today. The navel is one of the more famous standout products that California has to offer. This exceptional citrus grows all over the state giving us great supply and a long harvest season. So how can you tell the difference between a navel and other oranges? By its bellybutton of course! The navel gets its name from an underdeveloped immature fruit at the blossom end of the orange. There are many ways to enjoy these big juicy oranges so pick some up and add a piece of California history to your diet!

Keep a lookout for our staff picks noted in orange.

 

Fruit

Apple and Pear

Heirloom prices are coming down—time to stock up on your favorites! Spitzenburgs have rich, fruity aromatic flavor and crisp flesh. They make a great dessert apple and are often a favorite at Christmas time. Golden Russets were introduced in 1845 in New York state. They are usually considered the best flavored of the American russet apples thanks to its sweet honeyed taste. Ashmead’s Kernel, a traditional English russet apple, is popular for its distinctive pear-like flavor. Opals are juicy, crispy and delicious—everything you want in an apple! Kanzi is a cross between a sweet tangy Braeburn and juicy Gala with beautiful red and yellow coloring. Orins have a tropical aroma and sweet, crisp juicy flavor. This apple is low on acid and big on sweetness. Envy apples are succinctly named for its envy-inducing perfect blend of crunch, aroma and taste. With so many varieties out there, let’s not forget about the classics. Sharp pricing on Red Delicious, Honeycrisp and Fuji.

Pears are winding down. We still have Bosc, D’Anjou and Red D’Anjou in relatively good supply. Local Bartlett pears from Lake County, California are ending soon. Get them before they are gone!

Avocado

Hass avocado from Mexico are in good supply, with large sizes less plentiful than mid-sizes. We have Fair Trade certified fruit. Ask your Account Manager if you want other sizes in Fair Trade Hass. Currently we are focused on 60 count 2-layer. California-grown Zutano and Bacon have started harvest and should be available for the next month, although somewhat limited in supply. California Hass won’t be available until February or March, at the earliest.

Berry

Strawberry supply from Northern California regions is very limited. Recent rain will likely bring the season to an end.  Chilean blueberries are steady. Raspberry supply is expected to increase in December. Mexican blackberry supply is increasing; prices are coming down. Cranberry is readily available in cello bags, and bulk packs.

Citrus

Early Valencia from Mexico have started. Expect lighter color and less juice than end of season Valencias from California. Navels continue to improve in volume as more growers come on. We should see some of the Lou Lou variety from Deer Creek Heights Ranch (sold under the popular Buck Brand label) in a week or so. Lisle, the owner of the ranch named this navel variety after his wife, Mary Lou!  Cara Cara Navels are delayed until the first week of December. Grapefruit is readily available with sharp pricing. Pomelos have arrived! This unique citrus is much larger than grapefruit but the flavor is similar–sweet and mild and without the bitterness. The thick rind is sometimes made into marmalade, candied and even dipped in chocolate. More and more growers on coming with Meyer lemons. It’s the season for tangerine gift boxes! We’re offering 5-pound straight pack gift boxes of Satsuma tangerines. These boxes are festive and beautifully decorated for store displays.

Date

As we roll into the holidays, dates are the perfect treat to satisfy a sweet tooth without feeling too indulgent. Dates are the edible fruit of the date palm tree. We have a wide selection of dates and date products.  Medjool dates are prized for their large size, extraordinary sweetness and chewy texture. Deglet dates are firmer and less sweet than the Medjool variety. Coco Rolls are ground dates rolled in dried coconut threads (yum!) Looking for a little crunch? Pecan Nuggets are rolled in chopped pecans and Almond Nuggets are rolled in chopped almonds. Did you know we also offer date paste? This is a great item for food processors and bakeries.

Fig

Unusual warmer weather at this time of year has extended fig season (lucky for us!) We’re seeing small amounts of Brown Turkey figs available. Grab these before they’re gone for good!

Grape

Red seedless grapes are very limited and prices are up. Green seedless are extremely limited. Black seedless are done for the season.

Persimmon

Fuyu persimmons are plentiful. Volume-fill packs are available at sharp pricing. This variety is great for eating when fresh and firm (including the skin.) Hachiyas are steady. To be eaten fresh, Hachiya must be soft and plump—otherwise they will be unbearably astringent. However, it is this quality that makes this variety perfect for hoshigaki. Hoshigaki are persimmons that are peeled and dried whole over several weeks through a combination of hanging and delicate hand-massaging until the sugars of the fruit form a delicate surface with a dusting that looks like frost. Hoshigaki are tender and moist with concentrated persimmon flavor. The labor intensive and unique method is traditional to Japan.

Pomegranate

Pomegranates are readily available. 30 count and 36 count are steady. 40 and 42 count fruit are gapping in supply. Larger fruit is available but more expensive.

Specialty Fruit

Aloe vera prices are up slightly due to increased labor costs. Cherimoya is gapping in supply but should be available in a week or two. And not a moment too soon—we can’t get enough of the creamy tropical fruit with that tastes of banana, pineapple, papaya and peach. Smatterings of Dragon fruit and passionfruit are continuing to be available, dependent on weather.

 

 

Nuts

There’s nothing nuttier than customers clamoring for roasted nuts during the winter months. Be prepared and check our inventory of tasty nuts! Jumbo chestnuts from Heath Ranch are available in 5-pound mesh bags.  Almonds are available every which way: roasted, roasted and salted, or shelled non-pariel. Walnuts and assorted nut mixes round out the selection. Check our list often more new offerings.

 

Vegetables

Artichoke

Artichokes are plentiful in most sizes and tasting delicious. The colder winter weather brings out flavorful “frost kissed” artichokes. Frost causes the outer layer of artichokes to blister, eventually turning it brown. Beneath the layer, the artichoke is the same familiar green color but with a concentrated and intense nutty flavor.

Asparagus

Asparagus prices are going up as supply tightens. Green tips and purple tips are limited.

Broccoli/Cauliflower

Broccoli supply is abundant as growers work on transitioning from Salinas to desert growing regions. Prices are sharp and should remain steady until all product moves to the desert. White cauliflower has strong volume and prices are attractive on all pack types. Graffiti (purple) is also readily available. Cheddar (orange) is available but not as plentiful.

Cabbage

Green, red, Napa and Savoy cabbage are all steady in supply. We love the mild taste of Napa cabbage. It is versatile enough for any number of winter dishes. Enjoy raw as a wrap or throw in stir fries, soups, slaws or try your hand at preserving by making kimchi.

Carrot

Juice carrot supply remains tight. Jumbo carrots are still gapping. Rainbow bulk and bunched carrots are in good supply and steady.

Celery

Celery has strong volume and sharp pricing. This is a great item to keep stocked and on promotion through the winter season when soups and stews are on popular on menus. Everyone has a need for celery! Talk to your Account Manager about pallet deals.

Cucumber

The market for Persian cucumbers has improved and bulk supply is now readily available. Slicer cukes’ are steady. English Hothouse prices remain low.

Garlic and Ginger

Garlic is a frequent item on winter shopping lists. Expect steady shopper demand as we head towards the holiday season. Fortunately, garlic has strong availability and should have no problem keeping up with demand. Garlic contains allicin, a powerful antibacterial only present after garlic is crushed and before it is heated. Adding fresh garlic to food, tea or consuming raw may help fight off those pesky winter colds.  Ginger prices are low and steady but don’t expect this to last. Hawaiian grown turmeric is flying off the shelves. Turmeric is known for its beneficial anti-inflammatory properties. As health continues to be a trend among consumers this year and into next, make sure your turmeric is always stocked! Supply should continue through January.

Greens, Lettuce & Herbs

Growers are still in the process of transitioning their fields from the coastal and Salinas Valley regions to the desert regions of California and Arizona. Although the transition period can bring challenges in availability and quality, we expect to be in good supply through our diverse mix of suppliers. Spring mix and baby kales have excellent low pricing. Bunched kale and chards are steady and available. Romaine lettuce has good volume. Red Butter supply is spotty. Little Gems should be available until the first frost.

Although Thanksgiving is over, holiday dinners and parties will continue well through the end of the year. Make sure you’re stocked on holiday mix herbs in bunches and clamshells! The holiday herb mix is a warm, woodsy combination of rosemary, sage, savory, and thyme. These are the go-to herbs traditionally used during the winter holidays for roasted meats, dressing & stuffing, mushrooms, and side dishes. Oregano is gapping due to poor quality.

Mushroom

Mushrooms are the new meat! Include chopped mushrooms in burgers, sauces, soups or anything that needs to be beefed up with earthy flavor. Supply is steady on most classic ‘shrooms: Crimini, Portabella, White, Shiitake, Beech and Oyster.  Specialty wild varieties like Maitake and Trumpet Royale are more limited so talk to your Account Manager early! Trumpets are a staff favorite for their delicate flavor and meaty texture.

Pea

There is some supply of California snap peas available but at high prices. Mexico snaps are becoming more regular in supply. Mexico snow peas have come on and English peas are very close to starting up.

Pepper

Green and red bell peppers are plentiful. Orange bells are still limited and hard to come by. Both California and Mexico chilies are available and priced accordingly. Mini sweet peppers supply has improved and is steady.

Squash

Zucchini supply and prices are holding steady with mostly Mexico product. California growers are winding down for the season. Plenty of hard squash on hand. We have an impressive list with something for everyone. Our favorites Green Kabocha and Blue Kabocha offer sweet, nutty flavor with the smooth texture of sweet potato or pumpkin. Butternut is readily available in multiple sizes. Goldetti is an orange spaghetti squash with beautiful color and sharp pricing. Promotable pricing on #2 quality Spaghetti—a great option for food service or processing. Check with your Account Manager about great deals on Jester squash, a variety similar to Delicata.

Sweet Potato

With sweet potatoes on every holiday table, take this opportunity to introduce customers to varieties that they may not be familiar with. Purple Stokes have vibrant skin and flesh that adds a pop of color to standard potato dishes. Japanese Sweets offer sweet flavor and flesh that turns golden when cooked. Hannah Sweets are less sweet with a dry texture that is great for mashing. Prices are competitive and supply is ample. Time to up your sweet potato game!

Tomato

With Mexico’s growing season underway, the tomato market has improved overall. One and two-layer are readily available. Tomatoes on the vine has strong volume and promotable pricing. Romas are in better supply than previous weeks but not yet normalized. Cherry tomatoes supply has improved on all varieties and prices are down. Sweet grape tomatoes sold in compostable fiber baskets are gapping. #2 quality beefsteak tomatoes from Wholesum Harvest are now available. The quality is strong and great for processors, delis and restaurants.

 

Dried Fruit

Don’t be the fruitcake without organic dried fruit on your shelves this holiday season. Check our delicious selection of dried jujube, dried persimmon from Biodynamic producer Beck Grove, and dried pitted prunes. Sweet, delicious Biodynamic Thompson raisins from Marian Farms are a staff favorite. The raisins are lightly sprayed with certified organic safflower oil to prevent clumping and makes for easy pouring and scooping. Sundried tomatoes have sweet, concentrated tomato flavor that easily makes it a stand -alone snack or addition to salads, pastas and more!

 

Grocery and Dairy

Did you know that Straus Family Creamery offers eggnog through the holiday season? If you haven’t tried their old fashion eggnog you’re missing out. This delicious beverage is only available for the holiday season. It never disappoints, as a matter of fact, their eggnog is rather addictive!

In juice news, Columbia Gorge orange juice will now only be available in gallon jugs. Other varieties including lime, lemon, and grapefruit are still available in half gallon jugs.

 

Floral

Due to wet winter conditions, Thomas Farm is done with all fresh flowers until tulips come on in December. Dried bouquets and dried wreaths from Full Belly Farm are still readily available. Dried wreaths are sold individually—each one is unique and different! Dried bouquets are sold in 6 counts. Dried floral arrangements are great centerpieces and gifts for the holidays.

 

Merchandising Corner

Don’t Forget the Mushrooms!

With the cooler weather upon us and the abundance of the crops it brings, our attention often turns to warm hearty foods. It’s time for roasting vegetables and making soups. You will find no shortage of winter squash, leeks, potatoes, root vegetables and greens right now but don’t forget the mushrooms! There are a wide variety of cultivated and wild mushrooms out there will complement any dish you have in mind. They are packed with vitamins and minerals and also naturally contain vitamin D. To store, refrigerate in a paper bag with the top folded over; do not wrap in plastic wrap or store in an airtight container. Washing mushrooms is usually not necessary. If you must rinse them, do it lightly, then dry them immediately—and gently—with paper towels. Never soak fresh mushrooms in water, which will cause them to become soggy. This method works for all mushrooms except morels

Crimini and Portabella: Botanically there is no difference. Crimini is smaller and considered more desirable due to the tight closed caps. These can be prepared whole chopped or sliced. Portabellas need a little prep before cooking. Portabella are the more mature stage of the agaricus bisporus mushroom. The cap is completely open and the gills are exposed. Remove the stem the gills before cooking. The gills will leak black liquid if not scraped off. You can do that easily with a spoon. Now your caps are ready to be sliced or stuffed. Crimini and Portabella also are mild in flavor but offer a meatier texture. These varieties are great for just about any use but are especially good blended in to cream sauces are added to soup stocks

Oyster Mushrooms: Oyster are naturally a tree dwelling mushroom but are now also widely cultivated and sold almost everywhere. When cooking with oysters, remove the lower half of the stem from the cap, or scallop at it is called on the oyster mushroom. If you are cooking with wild oysters be sure to flush the gills of the mushroom gently to make sure they are insect free. Oyster mushrooms have a soft delicate flavor and texture. Sauté with a little butter and garlic and they will go well with everything! Not only are oysters a fantastic gourmet mushroom, they are also used medicinally because of their high level of statins. Oysters mushrooms are also currently the focus of a study in environmental clean-up. They show much promise in their ability to absorb toxins like mercury from the ground. This mushroom sounds like some sort of super hero! It eats. It treats. It restores.

Shiitake: This vitamin B packed mushroom is chewy and intense compared to most other common varieties. Shiitakes are most commonly used in Asian cooking but they are also very versatile and pair well with just about any dish. To prepare the shiitake before cooking, wipe down or rinse then remove the whole stem at the cap. Shiitake stems tend to be too tough and fibrous to consume. Shiitakes are all around amazing. They’re delicious and are loaded with beneficial nutrients. They also contain all 8 essential amino acids so these are definitely mushrooms that you should be eating more often. Shiitake mushrooms are great for roasting and pair well with potatoes, greens and meats. Just remember to remove their tough stems.