Kale Yeah!

It was only a matter of time before the masses caught on to the nutritional powerhouse known as kale. These days, it’s found on menus of restaurants and cafes, in every store and likely in the veggie drawer of most households. With green superfoods all the rage, it’s no wonder kale is on everyone’s mind. The secret it out, with its abundance of health benefits and culinary versatility, kale really is that amazing.

Kale was enjoyed in ancient Rome and was one of the most common vegetables in Europe until the end of the Middle Ages. It is believed to have been brought to North America by colonists in the 16th century. Even early on, the medicinal properties and health benefits were widely known.  As a member of the cruciferous vegetables family, kale is rich in glucosinolates. It is anti-inflammatory, contains antibacterial properties, naturally detoxifies, supports your heart, healthy vision and can prevent cancer. There’s no doubt about it, kale is the superhero of vegetables.

Kale is often classified by the length of the stem and leaf type. The leaf colors range from light green to green, to dark green and violet-green, to violet-brown. The leaf type includes curly leaf, bumpy leaf (such as lacinato or dino kale), plain leaf, rape kale, and leaf and spear (a cross between a curly leaf and plain leaf.)

Kale can be prepared in any number of ways, cooked or raw. Thrown into smoothies, sautéed with a little garlic, massaged with dressing for a salad and even baked into chips!

 

Keep a lookout for our staff picks noted in orange.

 

Fruit

Apple and Pear

Pink Lady apples from Cuyama Orchards are winding down. Supply is expected to last through March and possibly into early April. Fuji has strong supply on US1 grade fruit. Prices are promotable with deals available for half and full pallets. Galas are going strong. Honeycrisp is finished. We also have great pricing on Granny, Fuji, Gala and Pink Lady bags.

Bartlett pears from Argentina are here and tasting delicious! Look for Red Bartletts, also from Argentina, next week! The last of the Red Anjou, Bosc and D’Anjou Washington pears are in house now. Get them before they disappear!

Avocado

Prices continue to be all over the place for avocados as organic supply has not kept up with demand. While conventional pricing is expected to drop and will impact organic pricing, the impact is relatively small given the autonomous nature of the organic avocado market. The price gap between organic and conventional are projected to increase over the next several months, especially on larger sized fruit.

Berry

Blueberry prices are ticking up. Raspberry supply is expected to tighten by the end of the month. Strawberry supply is unsteady as California’s rainy weather may delay harvest schedules.

Citrus

Meiwa and Nagami kumquats are in good supply with competitive pricing. Meiwas are known as the “sweet” variety. The entire fruit is edible; the rind offers aromatic sweet flavor while the flesh is tart. Eating both the skin and flesh together provides the perfect sweet-tart flavor. Nagamis are less sweet, giving way more to the sour-tart flesh—making it a great option for desserts, jams and chutneys. Slice raw for a zing to bitter green salads!

Blood oranges are expected to last through the end of March. California Valencias from B&J ranch are here now! Cara Cara Navels are steady. Larger size Navels from Buck Brand still have good availability.

The lime market will remain tight and the price may continue to increase until the new crop comes on in May. Meanwhile, lemons are readily available. We’re seeing sharp pricing for larger fruit from Pauma Valley Citrus. Meyer lemons are plentiful.

Pixie tangerines have arrived after a brief delay due to weather. The crop is smaller this year. Murcotts are winding down but still available. Golden Nuggets are in good supply. We love the rich sweet flavor and high juice content of this late season variety. Tangos are another late season citrus that ranks high on our taste test.  The skin is packed with citrus oil—great for muddling or using as an aromatic. We’re seeing beautiful Minneolas from Pauma Valley Citrus. This fruit is packed with flavor and has extremely promotable pricing.

 

Vegetables

Asparagus

California asparagus is relatively steady despite some persistent rain. Grass from Durst Organic Growers in Yolo County is a little more limited as the season is still early and demand is high!

Bok Choy

Bok choy and baby bok choy have limited availability. Growers are reporting heavy aphid pressure and gaps until the end of the month.

Broccoli/Cauliflower

Broccoli and cauliflower have been limited and prices high, but supply appears to be improving in the short term as local production appears ready in the next couple weeks. Romanesco and Cheddar cauliflowers are gapping.

Cabbage

The cabbage market is expected to tighten and prices will likely rise. New fields in local growing regions are not expected to be ready until April or May. Napa cabbage is limited and prices have gone up.

Celery

Desert production of celery is expected to last through March, but the quality is waning. Overall celery supply is steady with plenty of Mexican product available.

Cucumber

Persian cucumber clamshells are gapping but bulk supply is in good supply. Prices on slicer cucumbers continue to creep up due to weather related tightness. European ‘cukes are readily available; prices are sharp.

Eggplant

Globe and specialty eggplant prices are up. Supply is impacted by cold weather in Mexico growing regions.

Greens, Lettuce & Herbs

Wild arugula is very limited as growers face supply and quality issues during the transition back to Salinas Valley growing regions. Desert production is very limited due to cold temperatures.  Spinach and spring mix are in better supply. Bunched kales and collards are going strong with promotable pricing.

The lettuce market has tightened and prices on green leaf, red leaf and romaine are up.

Supply on iced herbs appears to be tightening with prices up across the board. Parsley remains in good supply, however. Makrut lime leaves are gapping for two weeks.

Mushroom

Specialty mushrooms are slightly more limited. Prices are up on black trumpets, hedgehogs and yellow foot mushrooms. Check out cauliflower mushroom, a new cap less mushroom with a unique shape and appearance. It resembles the head of a cauliflower or sea sponge. The texture is firm and crunchy, but brittle to touch. The flavor is mild with notes of fennel and almond.

Onion

Yellow and white storage onions are finally winding down after an extended season. The new crop onions should come mid-April; we’re not anticipating any gaps in supply. Domestic red onions are finishing up while Mexican crop is a week or two out.

Pea

English peas were hit hard by the cold so we’ll not likely see more supply from Mexico. Snow and snap peas are gapping.

Pepper

Green bell peppers are in good supply with great pricing. Red, yellow and orange bells are not readily available; prices are up. Chiles are steady with plenty of jalapenos, serrano, Anaheim and poblano on hand.

Root

Parsnips are starting to wind down. Turnips are less available as well. Jicama arrival has been pushed back another week towards the end of March. Rutabaga is still in decent supply. Bagged red jumbo beets are limited. All other varieties and sizes are in good supply.

Specialty

Fiddlehead ferns have arrived! These uniquely named veggies are actually the furled fronds of a young fern. If left on the plant, each fiddlehead would unroll into a new frond. Fiddleheads contain healthy antioxidants and are a good source of omega fatty acids. They are available by the pound on pre-order with 2-3 day lead time.

Squash

Zucchini has gotten even tighter than it has been for the past few weeks; supply is very limited and prices are high. We’re bringing in everything we can. Straightneck squash is available again but prices are high. Delicata squash is done for the season. Kabocha and Spaghetti are limited. Large and regular sized Butternut is steady.

Tomato

Heirlooms are not as readily available.  Two-layer slicing tomatoes from Wilgenburg Greenhouses are starting to come in with volume. These are grown in greenhouses out of Dinuba, California and hand-picked, hand-packed resulting in high quality fruit with delicious flavor.

 

Fresh-cut

Have you tried Organic Riced Veggie retail packs from Earthbound Farm? Riced veggies are precut vegetables that are “riced” into small rice-size pieces with a base of cauliflower. This new product satisfies consumers demand for healthy and convenient items that are also the perfect carb replacement. The packs are available in three mixes: Cauliflower Medley, Cauliflower & Broccoli and Cauliflower. Sold in 14-ounce bags (6 units per case), these packs will be available for preorder only.

 

Grocery

We’re excited to introduce Voila Juices to our family of producers. Voila was established in Berkeley, California during the summer of 1978 and began its life in the form of small and colorful juice cart in front of the Downtown BART station. Partners Gary Boland and Dale Allen had a following from appreciative customers who lined up to buy one of their fresh squeezed juices and smoothie blends. The business grew from a cart to a converted tool shed behind the house they were renting and eventually into a much larger facility. Gary Boland, one of the original partners, still runs his business with the same mission he had from the beginning, that is to offer his customers quality and fresh products that not only taste delicious but healthy too. Voila offers a wide variety of juices including classics such as apple, orange, lime, and lemon as well as more creative blends including: raspberry lemonade, apple raspberry, pineapple coconut and more.

Check out organic, soy free, pasture raised eggs from Rockside Ranch, based out of California’s Scott Valley. This 100-acre farm works with a variety of heritage breed hens to produce organic pasture-raised and soy free eggs. The hens live outside with easy access to shelter. They are moved multiple times each week throughout their pasture during spring, summer and fall. Rockside offers farm programs for at-risk youths and rehabilitated individuals to work on the farm and learn the trade.

 

Floral

Tulips from Thomas Farm are done for the season. Mixed bouquets from this farm are still looking beautiful as they continue to add more color to their bunches! Thomas Farm offers three different sizes for mixed bouquets: Cuties, Seasonal and Holiday. Cuties are great grab-and-go options. Seasonal mixes work wonderfully for display as a centerpiece and Holiday bouquets pull out the best colors of the season!  Due to the rain and chilly temperatures, Full Belly Farm will not have any flowers until warmer, dryer weather. We’re looking forward to the return of Anemones with Ranunculus and Calendula to come soon after! If you’re looking to order Easter bouquets, be sure to check our Floral Availability list or talk to your Account Manager about holiday deadlines!

 

Merchandising Corner

Easter Merchandising

With daylight savings behind us, Spring is nearly here and Easter is fast approaching! It’s time to start thinking about produce items that your shoppers may be looking for to prepare their holiday meals. Items like asparagus, carrots, collards, Brussels sprouts, spinach, potatoes and mushrooms are in good supply and will be in demand for the Easter holiday. Customers are looking for fresh vegetables to pair as side dishes to festive Easter roasts (think lamb, beef and pork.) Carrots of all types tend to be very popular especially rainbow bunched and rainbow bunched baby carrots. Berries are also on the top of shoppers’ list for appetizers, decorations and deserts. Be sure to add some to your Easter displays. Try cross merchandising some canned whipped cream into the display as well to boost your berry sales. Attractive displays with the freshest seasonal product are key to boosting sales on this food heavy holiday.

Aside from produce, eggs are a big seller for Easter thanks to the lovely tradition of dyeing and decorating hard boiled eggs for Easter egg hunts. Keep your egg displays as well stocked as possible in the days leading up to Easter.

As always, providing recipes to hand out will help boost department sales. Some of our favorite produce focused Easter recipes include:  berries and cream sponge cake,  roasted asparagus wrapped in prosciutto,, carrot cake, candied carrots, scalloped potatoes and brussels sprouts gratin.

Now that we have the food part covered, let’s not forget the flowers. Valentine’s Day, Easter and Mother’s Day are big flower gifting holidays. If you would like to have Thomas Farm bouquets for Easter, reach out to your account manager ASAP to arrange a pre order. Don’t be caught without beautiful organic bouquets for this Easter holiday.