It doesn’t get any better than when fresh cherries are in season. The sweet and juicy fruit is a bright reminder than summer is just around the corner. A cherry is the fruit of the plants of the genus Prunus. It is considered a drupe or stone fruit since it contains a pit. It is believed that the Romans discovered cherries in Asia around 70 B.C. They were then introduced to Britain in the first century AD and later brought to North America in New York around 1639.
There are many species of cherries but the two most commonly eaten are the sweet cherry and sour cherry. The U.S. is the second leading producer of cherries in the world after Turkey. Sweet cherries are primarily grown in California, Washington, and Oregon. Organic sour cherries are mainly grown in Michigan and Utah while some conventional sour cherries are also grown in Washington.
Cherries are chock-full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Many health benefits are attributed to them, including stabilizing blood sugar, easing joint pain, protecting against cancers and heart disease, and even acting as a natural sleep aid thanks to the high levels of melatonin.
Cherries have a very short season and require ideal cold temperatures at night to set properly. Coral Champagne and Royal Lynn are the first varieties of the California season to come on. Look for more varieties to come, but don’t wait to enjoy this precious fruit!
Keep a lookout for our staff picks noted in orange.
Apple and Pear
Pink Lady is ending soon. Supply is becoming more limited and prices are up. Fuji prices are also increasing as Washington supply tightens. California grown Fuji are still available from Cuyama Orchards, but supply is winding down. Gala are still available but will finish soon. Washington Granny Smith are winding down but import fruit is on its way. We do not anticipate any gaps in supply.
The last of Red Bartlett and Durondeau are here now. Autumn Bartletts are steady. Abate Fetel are readily available. Look for Red Anjou in the next week!
Raspberry supply is very limited. Blackberry supply from Mexico has bounced back while local California grown blackberries are slowly starting. Production is expected to be limited at first, but availability should improve throughout the month. Blueberry production from California’s Central Valley should be picking up. Growers have also begun to offer pint packs. Cool weather has kept local strawberry supply from surging but production remains steady and plentiful.
The Valencia market is steady as we continue with fruit from California and Mexico. Navels from Buck Brand are ending this week. Be sure to get some before they are gone. Ruby grapefruit from B&J Ranch is winding down. Prices are up as supply tightens. Large size lemons are peaking and we’re seeing promotable prices on larger fruit. Limes are seeing the opposite trend. Larger size fruit is limited while pricing on smaller fruit is readily available. Look for sharper pricing on 230 count fruit. Golden Nuggets are still going but quite a few growers have ended. Look for more Golden Nuggets from Shore Packing next week!
Figs are expected to come on mid-June. The first shot will be small with availability lasting a few weeks before a gap until August.
Red seedless Flame grapes from California’s Coachella Valley are expected to arrive on May 22nd. Supply will be light for the first week but should pick up soon after as more growers come on.
We’re seeing strong volume on mini seedless watermelon and seedless watermelon. Let your Account Manager know if you’re interested in bins of the full-size fruit! Prices are coming down on Harper melons as more growers come on. We love the complex, sweet floral flavor on this specialty melon. Cantaloupe is steady and some of the best tasting out there. The Honeydew market is steady after experiencing high prices at the start of the season. Orange Honeydew, a cross between a Cantaloupe and Honeydew is readily available. This hybrid variety has smooth yellow skin and orange flesh with all the sweetness and creaminess of regular Honeydew but with more complex flavor and amazing aroma.
Cherry season has started! We should see some early varieties like Coral Champagne and Royal Lynn and then a possible gap for a week. After the predicted gap, prices will most likely come down but the California crop is expected to be very short this year. Many growers were impacted by a freeze or late rain. Prices may remain strong until Washington starts their harvest at the end of June.
Apriums (a cross between apricot and plum) have started from California! Apricots are a week or so out as early production reports show green shoulders, indicating the fruit needs more time to ripen. Yellow nectarines should be close behind. Yellow peaches are starting soon with the May Princess variety.
Artichokes have strong volume. All sizes are available with sharp pricing.
Mexico grown green beans are becoming steadier. California green beans from the Coachella region has come on. Product is expected to be very tight at the start of the season.
Cooler weather in Watsonville and Salinas has slowed broccoli and cauliflower production. Low harvest numbers have caused local supply to tighten.
Red cabbage remains very limited and prices remain high. Green cabbage supply has been steady with no gaps but prices have been inching up since the end of April. Napa cabbage has been in good supply. Savoy it a bit more limited.
Celery supply remains tight and prices are high on Mexico grown product. No domestic celery is available at this time. California production is not expected to start in a meaningful way until late May at the earliest.
Mexico grown yellow corn has started! California bi-color corn will also be coming on soon.
Slicer cucumber is readily available with sharp prices. European cucumber prices are a up a bit but plentiful in supply. Persians are also in good supply.
California globe eggplant is starting from the Coachella Valley. Mexico grown globes are steady; prices are high.
Greens, Lettuce & Herbs
Boxed greens appear to be steady in supply and quality. Green kale is readily available. Leaf lettuces, romaine and red romaine are in good supply. Cilantro supply is increasing. Other herbs have strong quality and supply. Thai basil and lavender are available.
We are closely following the E.coli outbreak associated with romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona growing region. Our romaine lettuce is sourced from local California growers and not from Yuma, Arizona. We can confirm this for whole heads of romaine, chopped romaine and romaine salad mixes.
Mexico grown yellow onions are winding down. California yellow and sweets should be coming on mid-May with reds not far behind. These onions will be new crop and the short-day variety which has less cure and more delicate skins. Intermediate varieties will come on in June from the Central Valley followed by long day varieties in August, out of Nevada. California white onions are still a couple weeks out. Shallots are gapping until June or July.
California snap peas have come on full force and are readily available. California English peas are starting but is expected to be limited. Mexico product will continue to be available to supplement supply. Snow peas are experiencing a gap in supply.
Prices are coming down on orange and yellow bell peppers. Red bell prices are steady. Green bells from California are available but prices remain high. Jalapenos and hot peppers are still limited and should be in better supply in June.
Russet potatoes are expected to continue through the end of the month. Russian Banana fingerlings are done for the season. All other varieties on fingerlings are expected to be available for another two weeks. Check out Purple Majesty potatoes for a healthy dose of antioxidants. We love the beautiful satiny purple skin and flesh. These make stunning chips or fries! Be sure to add a dash of vinegar to ensure the color stays rich and deep.
Parsnip is steady. Rutabaga and purple top turnips are still going. We may see burdock in a few weeks.
The zucchini market has been very tight but should hopefully improve as more California product comes on. California Crookneck squash is readily available and looking great. California Straight neck squash has also started. Acorn and Spaghetti squash are plentiful. Butternut is a bit more limited due to a smaller than expected initial harvest. Delicata is also limited. Kabocha is steady.
California heirlooms are limited and straight packs are not currently available. Mexican mixed pack heirlooms are steady. One and two-layer slicer tomatoes, tomatoes-on-vine and Romas are steady.
Full Belly Farm’s large mixed bouquets offer a little of everything that is being harvested right now. Expect to find about 12 to 15 stems per bunch of seasonal varieties including Spanish Iris, Calendula, Godetia (red and pink), Agrostemma, Snapdragon, Delphinium, and Bachelor Button.
Dutch Iris and Sunflower straight pack bouquets are now available from Thomas Family Farm. Fun Fact: Dutch Iris are actually a cross of Mediterranean Iris varieties. This seasonal beauty is a popular spring favorite for its dramatic orchid-like appearance and longevity. In the Thomas Farm mixed bouquets, you will see many if not all of the following varieties: Sunflower, Iris, Godetia, Protea, Saponaria, Snap Dragon and Sweet William. These bouquets come in varying sizes: Cutie, Seasonal, and Large Holiday.
Summer Merchandising Tips
As the seasons change, your produce displays should also change to highlight seasonal fruits and maximize your produce sales. Berries and stone fruit are customer favorites that are ideal for building larger displays. Although the concern of losing product to a display is warranted, with careful planning, you can have a successful display with minimal product loss. By having a large variety to choose, customers are encouraged customers to shop and make larger purchases.
As much as we all love stone fruit it can be a bit tricky to display due to the fact that it is easily damaged. When purchasing and displaying stone fruit remember these tips:
- Look for under ripe fruit. In a few days the under ripe fruit ripens up nicely and with full flavor.
- Daily rotation and culling. Have a system that allows you to provide various stages of ripeness for your customers.
- Stage your fruit. Depending on the volume of product you move daily, consider staging product so there is always ripe fruit to top off your display. Firm unripe fruit can be stacked two layers deep and topped with a third more ripe layer. This allows customers to choose ready to eat fruit or less ripe fruit to be eaten in a few days.
- Wider rather than taller. Since the fruit is more fragile and cannot be stacked as high, consider building wider or floor stacking empty boxes to showcase more product since the fruit it too fragile to be piled high.
- Keep toppers on hand. Keep a few cases of ready to eat or softer fruit as “toppers” for your display so you can keep the display filled throughout the day when it gets shopped down. This allows you to keep your layers of greener fruit on the bottom and the softer fruit easily assessable on the top of the display for your customers.
Whether you choose open pint berries or clamshells, building bigger displays of berries is actually easy to achieve and maintain. Here are some strategies to boost your berry sales this summer:
- Location is important. Build your berry display front and center of your produce department. This way you can capture the people who tend to see first and buy first. Studies also show the visual appeal of berries helps put shoppers in a pleasant state of mind and they are more likely buy additional fresh items.
- Build it and they will come. When customers see more product, they are more likely to shop and buy more. Aim for tall stacks that gets the berries closer to eye and nose level.
- Take the wobble out. An unstable stack can lead to spills and product lost. Avoid this by building a stable display. Stack the flats on top of each other. This will allow you to make attractive large displays without damaging open pint berries or having wobbling unstable stacks of clamshells. Flats can also be stacked on table tops to build your endcap displays.
- Cross-merchandise. Berries can be cross promoted with many different meals, holidays and occasions. Remind shoppers just how versatile berries are by displaying other products near or better yet, on your berry display. Consider whipped cream, baked items, chocolate, wine, salad toppings, plastic containers and more!
Once you draw attention to quick moving seasonal stars like berries and stone fruit, they will practically sell themselves. With a little display planning savvy and the willingness to maintain your displays, your produce department will be optimizing sales in no time.