Cool as a Cucumber

The California cucumber season may be over but thanks to our growing partners in Mexico, we will have supply of ‘cukes through the colder months. Cucumber is a fruit from the Cucurbitaceae family. Scientifically known as Cucumis sativus, it belongs to the same family as zucchini, watermelon, pumpkin, and other types of summer squash. The cucumber plant is a creeping vine that typically grows along the ground. Commercial cucumbers are grown on trellises. That is how they can achieve that straight perfect uniform shape and size. The cucumber originated in India but now are commonly grown all over the world.

Persian and English cucumbers are both considered specialty cucumbers. They are both thin-skinned and the skin is tender and totally edible. Both of them are nearly seedless too making them a great choice for people who do not want a cucumber with too much prep involved. English cucumbers are often sold wrapped tightly in plastic and tend to be about a foot long, while Persian cucumbers are considerably smaller around about 5-6 inches.

Slicing or Slicer cucumbers are the most common variety here in the U.S. You will find these offered on sandwiches, at salad bars and as a main ingredient at juice bars. These cucumbers are thicker skinned and generally preferred to be eaten peeled.

When selecting cucumbers, no matter which variety you are choosing, look for firm fruit. Make sure the cucumbers have been displayed in a cool place like a refrigerated case. Heat tends to cause damage and softening of the cucumber. Likewise, when storing cucumbers, keep them refrigerated. This will keep them fresh and prolong shelf life for about a week.

Keep a lookout for our staff picks noted in orange.

 

Fruit

Apple and Pear

Trucking shortages from Washington are impacting apple availability. We expect some challenges in supply but are doing everything we can to keep up with demand. Braeburn are plentiful with attractive pricing. Fuji prices are on the rise. Honeycrisp and Opal are winding down towards the end of the month. Pink Lady from Cuyama Orchards has beautiful color and are tasting delicious.

Asian pears are officially done and pears are winding down, overall. Bosc, D’Anjou and Comice are available now. Red pears are sold out. We won’t see import Bartlett from Argentina until March.

Avocado

The avocado market is still all over the place. California Hass are starting up in more reliable quantities, although priced higher than imports. Mexican Hass supply is still uneven due to the holidays (delayed picking and packing.) Larger sizes are getting tighter while smaller fruit is becoming more abundant. Organic Fair Trade fruit from Calavo is seeming similar availability issues. Prices are in flux. We’re expecting things to start stabilizing soon. Fuerte, Zutano and Bacon are still available and just as delicious as their Hass counterpart. With the Superbowl around the corner, start planning for promotions and displays!

Berry

Rain in Northern California has stopped strawberry supply out of Watsonville. However, production from Ventura and Orange County should be starting soon. California blueberries are relatively steady. Delays and damage from the recent rain are being assessed. Raspberries and blackberries are in good supply.

Citrus

Blood oranges from Buck Brand came and went! We may see a small shot of Sanguinelli in a few weeks, along with Moro bloods from Beck Grove and Cousins. Mexican Valencia availability has also been affected by trucking shortage related issues. Navel oranges are in good supply. Be sure to check out the Cara Cara Navel from Homegrown Organic Farms.

Ruby grapefruit from B&J Ranch is abundant with promotable pricing. We wait all season for this grower’s fruit! Look for some B&J Ranch Rio Red grapefruit next week! MeloGold is a sweeter grapefruit variety, with less of the trademark tartness, which means less vitamin C. These sweeties will turn even the most skeptical grapefruit critic into a fan. Pomelo are in good supply. Pomelos have mild grapefruit flavor, but are much larger with a thick outer skin. The peel can be used to make marmalade, candied, or dipped in chocolate.

Meyer lemon and lemons are readily available. Lemon prices are creeping up and supply will tighten when desert supply runs out.  California limes from Beck Grove will be limited for the next 4-6 weeks.

Clementines are in currently in good supply. However, road closures from mudslides in the Santa Barbara/Montecito area may cause delays in availability. Dancy tangerine and Orlando Tangelo on hand now. Kishu is a staff favorite—this variety is seedless, a nice balance of sweet and tart, and easy to peel. Minneola, nicknamed “The Honeybell” because of its bell shape is a cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine. Sweet, tart juice make this variety a seasonal favorite. Stock up on citrus in the coming weeks. Tangerines, oranges and pomelos are popular during the Lunar New Year because the round shape and golden color which symbolize fullness and wealth.

Mango

Tommy Atkins should be available starting January 23rd with Ataulfo following suit in the beginning of February.

Melon

Mini seedless watermelon is gapping until mid to late January. Mexico grown Galia and Harper melons have strong supply. Galias have and pale green flesh that is uniquely sweet, spicy and aromatic. Harpers have orange skin similar to that of a cantaloupe. The flavor is sweet and rich with notes of honey.

Stonefruit

Sweet red cherries from New Zealand have steady volume and availability. This is the first good crop in 3 years from the Southern Hemisphere!  Get ‘em while you can! Plums from Argentina and New Zealand are expected to arrive in February.

 

 

Nuts

There’s nothing nuttier than customers clamoring for roasted nuts during the winter months. Be prepared and check our inventory of tasty nuts!  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 for more offerings.

 

 

Vegetables

Asparagus

Asparagus supply remains tight but starting to pick up. We seeing limited amounts of green asparagus.

Bean

Green bean is plentiful from Mexico production. Prices are steady.

Broccoli/Cauliflower

Broccoli supply has tightened and prices are on the rise. Crowns have better. Cauliflower supply has improved as local desert production and Southern California production are both up and running. Prices are ticking down.

Brussels Sprout

Brussels sprouts have strong volume. Prices are coming down. Quality is high—the sprouts are clean!

Celery

Celery desert production is ramping up. The variety grown in the desert may be paler in color than what is seen from local regions but taste and quality are strong. Mexico production will likely be in supply later this month.

Cucumber

Persian cucumber availability has improved after weeks of gapping. Prices are high! Slicer cucumbers are readily available with steady prices. European ‘cuke prices are sharp!

Garlic & Ginger

30-pound super colossal garlic is gapping. Other sizes and pack types are steady. Ginger prices are climbing fast. Turmeric is plentiful with attractive pricing. As we brace ourselves for one of the worse cold seasons yet, turmeric is a great item to promote for its many medicinal and anti-inflammatory properties.

Greens, Lettuce & Herbs

The greens market is strong. We’re seeing good volume on collards, rainbow chard, green and lacinato aka dino kale. Desert production is supplemented by supply from local growers. Due to colder weather in local regions, leaf sizes may be smaller than what is seen from the desert. Dandelion greens have been limited and expensive. Josie’s Organics Sriracha Ranch chopped retail salad is gapping. All other flavors are steady.

Romaine, butter and leaf lettuces are in good supply. Little Gems are more limited.

We are aware and closely following the recent E.Coli outbreak associated with romaine lettuce in Canada and the U.S. The Public Health Agency of Canada has issued a public health notice stating that the foodborne illness outbreak in Canada appears to over. Officials with the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have posted updates as well, noting the likely source appears to be leafy greens but officials have not specifically identified a type of leafy greens eaten by people who became ill.

Public health agencies in both the U.S. and Canada are informing consumers that there are no concerns about consuming any particular food, while they continue their investigations into what caused this E. Coli O157:H7 outbreak that began in November. Currently, no common supplier, distributor, or retailer of leafy greens has been identified as a possible source of the outbreak. Based on these statements, both governments have concluded that the food responsible for this foodborne illness outbreak is no longer in the market.

Cilantro and parsley prices are on the rise. Thyme and rosemary are both limited due to quality issues. Basil availability has improved, but bunched and 4-ounce clamshells are still gapping. Marjoram and tarragon are back in good supply.

Leek

Prices are up, but supply remains steady.

Pea

Snap peas are extremely tight; we’re bringing in everything we can. Snow peas are steady.

Pepper

Bell peppers are abundant in all varieties. Prices on orange and yellow bells are coming down quickly. Green and red bells have exceptionally sharp pricing. Chili supply is tightening up a bit but we do not expect any gaps in supply. Mini sweet peppers are still gapping.

Potato

Red and yellow potatoes are in good supply. Check out our offering of delicious specialty potatoes! French fingerling, Ruby Crescent, Russian Banana and Amarosa are just a few of the varieties available. Amarosa potatoes have red flesh that retains its color when cooked! The sweet and creamy flavor is satisfying on all fronts. Huckleberry Golds have deep purple skin and golden flesh on the inside. The luxurious creamy texture makes it the perfect potato for baking, roasting or adding to a creamy soup. Keep an eye out for ‘spuds from Road 20 Twenty Farms, a project of Food Commons Fresno, an initiative for growing a community food system that fosters health, stewardship, equity, and economic development in Fresno and the surrounding San Joaquin Valley. Road Twenty Farms grows in the land that was previously occupied by T&D Willey Farms.

Root

Bunched red radish is limited; prices are up. Burdock root supply remains tight. Turnips are also limited. Red and gold beets are readily available but prices are up slightly. Rutabaga is in good supply.

Squash

Zucchini has become very limited; prices are going up quickly. Butternut squash is plentiful. We have some extra-large Delicata with some cosmetic flaws that are great for processors or food service.

Tomato

Slicer tomato supply seems to be holding steady. Tomato on vine (TOV) prices are up slightly; expect supply to tighten soon. Roma is steady. Sugar plum prices are coming down as volume improves. Heirlooms from Ram’s Farm are coming on strong. This farm is located along Baja California, Mexico where the Pacific breeze and mild climate is ideal for growing produce. The heirlooms are hand selected to prevent bruising and pre-cooled prior to shipment to preserve freshness and integrity.

 

Fresh-cut

If you haven’t looked into our fresh-cut program, now is the time. We offer a full line of fruits and vegetables prepared in a variety of ways—peeled, cubed, julienned, sliced just to name a few! When convenience and health are top of mind in 2018, stay ahead of trends by making sure your store, deli and walk-ins are stocked appropriately to take advantage of increased demand. Talk to your Account Manager to see how we can support your value-added program.

Looking for retail fresh-cut items? Josie’s Organics has a line of fresh cut organic vegetables that are delicious and convenient. The line includes Broccoli & Carrots, Broccoli Florets, Broccoli Slaw, Cauliflower Florets, Green Beans, Power Mix and Vegetable Medley. All ingredients are washed, cut and ready to be eaten or cooked. Bags are 9-12 ounces depending on the ingredients and sold 6 bags per case.

Another great item to stock for the New Year are our red cooked beets from Love Beets that are peeled and chopped. The beets are vacuumed packed and cooked sous-vide to maintain freshness. They are also gluten free, all natural and certified kosher, with no added colors or preservatives. Conveniently packaged in 8.8- ounce packages, this item is extremely versatile and can be enjoyed hot or cold in a variety of dishes, from sandwiches to salads and even desserts, smoothies and juices.

 

 

Grocery

For our food service customers, we offer a variety of juices from Columbia Gorge including grapefruit, lemon, lime and orange. Look for fresh, seasonal tangerine juice coming soon!

Eggs are limited, as expected during this time of year. Like most life cycles, the chicken-egg laying process is affected by nature’s fluctuations. During the winter, daylight decreases which signals to the hen that the temperature is going to drop. The hen’s maternal instinct kicks in that the external conditions are not warm enough for the eggs to survive. Miraculously, the hen naturally produces less eggs. We’re bringing in everything we can but during winter, nature takes its course and the chickens get a much-deserved winter “break!”

Don’t forget the maple syrup for customers clamoring for the Master Cleanse! We offer maple syrup in various pack types from organic producer, Maple Valley Co-op. Cross merchandise with lemons and cayenne for more effective sales.

 

 

Merchandising Corner

Planning for Lunar New Year

The Lunar New Year or Chinese New Year falls on February, 16 this year. If you aren’t familiar with this holiday and its importance to produce, now is the time to get up to speed! On the lunar calendar, this is the first day of the year. It is also arguably the most important day of the year—one that involves weeks of cleaning, preparation and, of course, celebration. So what does the Lunar New Year have to do with produce?

Citrus fruits play a big role during this holiday. Oranges, tangerines, kumquats, and pomelos are eaten, displayed in most households and given as gifts. It is believed the round shape and golden color of citrus fruits symbolize fullness and wealth. Eating and displaying tangerines and oranges is said to bring good luck and fortune due to their pronunciation and even the way they are spelled. The Chinese word for orange (and tangerine) is (chéng /chnng/), which sounds the same as the Chinese for ‘success.’  Eating pomelos is thought to bring continued prosperity—the more you eat more wealth it will bring!

Other than citrus there are several other produce items that play a big part in the foods that are eaten to celebrate the new year. Dumplings (jiaozi) are packed full of delicious fresh vegetables like cabbage, carrots, green onions, leeks, ginger and shiitake mushrooms. Although these vegetables are normally mixed with meat such as pork or shrimp, there is a large growing wave of vegetarians. Hodo Soy 5 Spice Tofu Nuggets would make a great meat substitute in these dumplings!

Spring Rolls (Chun Juan) are share many of the same ingredients as dumplings. They may also include mung bean sprouts and cilantro. These are prepared fried in thin hardy dough wrappers instead of boiled like the dumplings. Spring rolls also symbolize wealth and prosperity in the year to come.

Longevity Noodles (Changshou Mian) is a delicious simple dish. Changshou mian literaly means long life noodle. They represent the wish for a long, happy and healthy life. The noodles are often served with oyster sauce and fresh Asian inspired ingredients such as ginger, shiitake mushrooms and bok choy.

Lastly, there is the mustard green. Mustard greens, called “Chang Nian Cai” for the new year. They are commonly known as “jie cai” but the New Year’s name of Chang Nian Cai means perennial vegetables. They are easy to prepare and a symbol for long life. The greens are generally sautéed and sometimes served with tofu skins.

This year the Lunar New Year falls on Friday, February 16th. Customers tend to shop for fresh produce three to four days before cooking. The week before, stock up your department with citrus items like: kumquats, tangerines, mandarins, pomelos, Buddha hand citron and oranges of all varieties.

On Monday the 12th, start stocking up on all the vegetables you need to make sure you have in ample supply: cabbages, bok choys, ginger, green onion, daikon, shiitakes mushrooms, cilantro, carrots, mung bean sprouts and maybe even the Hodo Soy 5 Spice Nuggets.  Make sure to keep abundant fresh displays of greens like mustards, rapini, bok choys and green onions through the 16th.

Inspect product before putting out on display and hydrate if necessary. Cull away any yellowing or damaged leaves. Customers will be looking for the best and most fresh product for their holiday cooking. If you do not have an automatic misting system, make sure to spray the product often to keep it hydrated and attractive.

Other than making sure you have a wide variety of citrus in stock, it is also a good idea to have large bowls, gift boxes or baskets of citrus set around the store and department. This is a good way to promote citrus sales and inspire shoppers to recreate these displays in their homes.