Aubergine Essentials

Eggplants or aubergines are a species of nightshade. They contain seeds, which technically makes them a fruit. Most people are familiar with the plump egg-shaped purple variety, but there are many types available—some not even purple at all. While the flavor is more or less the same, the texture, shape, and skin color can vary greatly. Small globe-shaped eggplants tend to be more dense; the larger or more elongated they are, the more delicate they are. Long, slender eggplants tend to turn especially creamy with long cooking.

Asian varieties are long and skinny. They’re mild, tender, and low in seeds. Chinese eggplants are usually lighter and can be white, light purple, or even lavender-streaked. Japanese eggplant have darker purple skin and are firm and sweet.

Green eggplants are generally sweeter and less bitter than other colors. They come in all shapes and sizes.

White-skinned eggplants tend to have thicker skins and are often peeled for more tender texture. They tend to hold their shape when cooked more than the big purple varieties.

Small red and orange eggplants look a lot like tomatoes. They are generally seedy and can be bitter (but not always).

When choosing eggplant, look for smooth, taut, and shiny skins. The calyx (the green cap at the top) should be firmly intact. If you see brown spots, keep clear: the flesh around them will likely be bitter.

Keep a lookout for our staff picks noted in orange.

Fruit

Apple and Pear

It’s that time of year again. California Galas from Viva Tierra will be available at the end of next week!  Ferrari Farms expects to come on in two weeks followed by Cuyama Orchards at the end of August. We still have great supply on a variety of apples from New Zealand. Be sure to check out the Fujis and Cripps Pink. New Zealand apples have the highest quality and highest color as the growing region is similar to Wenatchee, Washington.  We’re seeing sharp pricing on small-size Granny Smith and bags.

California Barlett pears are starting up next week!

Avocado

Prices are going up every few days. We should see Hass supply last through September.

Berry

Prices are up on strawberries out of Watsonville, but supply is steady. Blueberry production from the Northwest is expected to remain strong this week. Blackberry supply is steady. We may see raspberries from Coke Farm coming soon.

Citrus

California-grown Valencia oranges are winding down. Prices are ticking up and expected to stay there. As the California lemon season ends, the market remains tight and expensive.  Look for more Mexican lemons next week. Supply should improve when Coachella Valley lemons come on in September. Limes will be limited for the next few weeks. Meyer lemon availability is spotty as supply tightens up. Peruvian imported Satsumas are here in steady supply. Both pouches and flats are available!

Grape

The grape market is flush with supply, particularly on red Flames. Prices are already falling on red, black and green seedless varieties. Champagne grapes have arrived with Muscats close behind. We won’t see Concord or Bronx grapes until mid-August.

Mango

Tommy Atkins are plentiful. Kents have come on with steady supply. Kents have sweet and rich flavor with juicy, tender flesh and limited fibers. This variety is ideal for juicing and drying. We have fair trade Kents available for about four weeks. We are excited to announce that one of our growers from Mexico, Jorge Perez, has just received his Fair Trade USA certification! Jorge’s Kent and Keitt mangoes are grown in Northern Sinaloa, which is in the “no fly” zone. Unlike most other imported mangoes, these fair trade mangoes do not require chemical or hot water treatment—a requirement that disrupts the ripening and compromises the integrity (and taste) of the fruit.

Melon

Rundle Family Farms seeded and seedless watermelon bins are done for the season—and what a delicious season it was! Mini seedless cartons are still available and we’ll have more seeded and seedless bins from other growers. Cantaloupe and honeydew are in good supply. If you’re looking for specialty melons, we have Charentais, Piel de Sapo, Canary, Galia, and Orange Honeydew on hand.

Specialty Fruit

Passion fruit is starting! Dragon fruit is coming soon.

Stone fruit

California apricots are done for the season. White Lightning apricots from Washington are just about done. There are several other white apricots, the Tieton White (named after the town where Hamony Farms is located), as well as La Crème, and coming soon, Moonshine! Regular apricots are in good supply right now, but overall crop is light, with firm pricing. Bing cherries are done and Rainiers are finishing up. Darksweets will continue for several more weeks. White nectarines are readily available. Yellow nectarines are mostly tight,as are yellow peaches. White peaches are in good supply—check out the delicious Babcock at sharp pricing. Black and red plums are steady. Pluots are starting to become abundant—lots of varieties available! Pluots will last until the late fall.

 

Vegetables

Bean

Green bean supply has tightened a bit and prices are up. Plenty of specialty beans are available, including purple, Romano, and cranberry beans. More bean than cranberry, this variety is also known as borlotti or shell bean. They get their name from the deep red or cranberry colored marks on the shell. We love the rich velvety texture and delicious flavor!

Broccoli/Cauliflower

Broccoli prices are down and supply is abundant. Strong production is expected to continue. Cauliflower availability is steady; supply is expected to increase. Prices have started to come down. Cheddar and graffiti also have good volume. As is normal in the summer, there may be slight purpling on the heads (which does not affect taste.) Aphid pressure is also heightened in the warmer months.

Cabbage

Red cabbage remains in tight supply with prices high. Green cabbage supply is strong and likely to continue. Napa cabbage is also limited.

Corn

Corn has strong and steady supply.

Eggplant

Globe supply has improved and should be steady. Specialty eggplant have come on in full force. Rosa Bianca is a gorgeous Italian variety that is round in shape. Its rosy-lavender skin is shaded with white. We love the delicate, mild flavor with no bitterness and creamy consistency. Listada de Gandia is a popular heirloom variety with lovely bright purple stripes. Let’s not overlook the oh-so-versatile thin-skinned Japanese eggplant. Supply is steady on this classic eggplant. Can’t decide? There’s also a mixed variety specialty pack!

Greens, Lettuce & Herbs

Green kale is in great supply. We’re also seeing steady numbers on red kale. Dino (a.k.a. lacinato) kale still has good availability, but supply is tightening up a bit. Leaf lettuces are plentiful. Butter and Romaine are steady. Basil and cilantro have good volume.

Onion

We’re seeing stable supply on yellow, red, and white onions with plenty of local availability. Shallots are continuing in limited supply. Volume should improve mid-August when more growers start up.

Pea

Peas are starting to come back into availability, but it is not yet steady for any variety.

Pepper

Green bell peppers are in good supply. Red bells are starting to have good volume. Yellow and orange bells are available, but more limited. Chili peppers are heating up the market! We have lots of varieties on hand: Anaheim, Fresno, Fresno Red, Hungarian Yellow, Serrano and plenty of Jalapeño. Poblanos are still limited. In the market for something with a little less spice? Gypsy yellow and Gypsy orange peppers are terrific for frying or slicing up fresh for salads.  We also love the sweet and mildly pungent flavor of Italian sweet frying peppers.

Squash

Zucchini and crookneck are in good supply. We have a smattering of specialty squash including Ronde de Nice, Zephyr, Costata Romanesco, and mixed medley—check back often to see what’s available! Kabocha and Delicata are very limited. However, Butternut, Acorn, and Spaghetti are all readily available. Check out Carnival and Celebration! The squash skin has spotted and striped colors of white, orange, yellow, and green which adds a vibrant pop to your squash displays.

Tomato

It’s a good time to be a tomato! California-grown Romas are readily available. One- and two-layer are in good supply with competitive prices. Tomatoes-on-vine are a little more limited but steady. Local supply is not available. It’s a cherry tomato bonanza right now! Supply is strong with plenty of variety. From Sungold to Mini Charm to Sweet 100; we have you covered! California heirlooms are in full swing. We’re seeing gorgeous straight packs of Purple Cherokee, Lemon Boy, Marvel Stripe, Pineapple, and more! The mixed heirloom pack is always a crowd pleaser. Early girl tomatoes are steady. We’re offering both dry-farmed and non dry-farmed. Look for these under the “Saladette” tomatoes on our list.

 

Floral

Dahlia and Sunflower straight packs from Thomas Farm are now available! These are the perfect vibrant summer addition to your floral offering. We also offer seasonal mixed bouquets from both Thomas Farm and Full Belly Farm in various sizes. Preorder now with your Account Manager!

 

Merchandising Corner

Keeping Your Potatoes Fresh

Greening and sprouting potatoes is a common problem for many produce departments. For larger produce departments, throwing out a handful of potatoes is insignificant compared to the hundreds of pounds of potatoes they move in a day. But for smaller departments, that are moving just a few pounds a day, the loss due to greening and sprouting can start to add up quickly. As soon as potatoes come out of their box and hit the light, they start to turn green. The light triggers a reaction for the potato to produce chlorophyll. The green itself isn’t a problem, but the same conditions that cause a potato to produce chlorophyll also cause it to produce solanine, a natural toxin that can cause intestinal upsets. A whole display can turn green overnight. That process can happen fast! Both the lights in the store and sunlight can trigger the reaction.

Most departments practice covering their potatoes at night but again, for departments that have slower movement this may not be enough. Some departments go above and beyond to protect the integrity of their potatoes and have put a stop to greening and sprouting completely. Mariposa Market in Willits, California keeps their specialty potatoes in their cold case in specially designed little potato boxes with sliding lids. This is a great idea! It completely blocks out the light and keeps the potatoes cold which inhibits sprouting. This allows the store to provide a variety of selection to the customers and minimize shrink.

Los Alamos Co-op in Los Alamos, New Mexico tends to their potatoes with a little extra TLC. They had little blankets made with a potato print fabric just for their potatoes. The print helps to identify what product is under the blanket. Keeping the potatoes covered at all times cuts down the potatoes exposure to light. Taking a little extra care with the potatoes can make all the difference!

An even simpler solution than custom boxes or specialty blankets is good old burlap. Most produce departments have burlap laying around. You can create curtains for your display or just keep them covered.

As with any produce department endeavor, educating store staff and customers is key part of success. Train your staff to understand why potatoes turn green and why they are covered. Engage with customers and explain the natural process and what your department is doing to keep the potatoes as fresh as possible. Signage near your potato display is also helpful—have fun with these! Clever messaging can be very impactful.

Whatever your resources are, make it work for you. The goal is to keep your potatoes away from the light and to keep shrink to a minimum. Try one or all of these potato saving solutions and watch your potato shrink shrink way down!