Melon Mania

What is summer without sweet, fragrant melons on a hot day? At the peak of their season, melons are available in all shapes, sizes, and colors! Aside from the familiar watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew, there are delicious specialty varieties available. Look for Ambrosia, Canary, Galia, Goddess, Piel de Sapo, Sensation, Sharlyn, and more!

The melon (Cucumis melo) can refer to either the plant or fruit from the gourd family (Cucurbitaceae). Yes, melons are related to cucumbers, gourds, squashes, and pumpkins! The melon plant is native to central Asia, but its many cultivated varieties are grown in warm regions around the world.

Then comes the age-old question: how do you choose a good melon? In general, melons will not change significantly once they’re harvested from the vine. They are considered non-climacteric fruits. This means knocking on them really doesn’t help much! Rather, visual clues on the melon itself will tell you a good from a bad one. Soft rinds, brownish colors, or excessive spotting or scarring can all indicate bad fruit. A good watermelon will have a firm and shiny rind and feel heavy for its size. It will also have large deep gold or yellow spot on the outside rind, where the melon rested on the ground. During the growing process, these spots start out white and gradually change color as the sugar content increases. For cantaloupes, look for a green indentation towards the top or bottom of the melon—the stem end where it fell off the vine. Other clues? The best cantaloupe and honeydew will have a nice aroma you can smell without cutting it open.

Keep a lookout for our staff picks noted in orange.

 

Fruit

Apple and Pear

Braeburn supply is winding down. Cripps Pink are still available. Fuji are more limited than before. California Gala has come on. However, the recent heat has delayed early starts from some growers. We’re seeing sharp pricing on smaller size Granny Smith fruit and bags. Typically, the California Gravenstein season would have started by now but this year is proving to be unusual. Our local grower, Solana Gold is starting up this weekend. Early reports indicate the apples are smaller this year. Hopefully we will see some larges sizes soon. California Gravenstein are expected to last between 3-4 weeks.

California Bartlett has started. They are from the Sacramento Delta growing region. In mid-August, they will transition into the Lake County area. Asian Hosui pear will arrive soon.. We love the crisp, juicy flavor of this early-season variety.

Avocado

Hass prices are going up again as California fruit runs out, and Mexico is getting tight on supply as well. Supply should continue until October.

Berry

Northwest blueberry production has been affected by a heat wave last week. Supply will return next week but prices are up on blueberries. Blackberry availability is back with good numbers. Local raspberry supply is limited. Strawberry supply is steady but prices have increased. At this time in the season, strawberry crops often ripen faster, which may result in smaller berries at harvest. The flavor is still just as sweet and delicious, though!

Citrus

Lime supply is tightening up slightly. Prices are ticking up. Meyer lemon is done for now; we may see some occasional small shots of fruit. Mexican lemons should be available again next week. It’s unclear how long this supply will last; prices remain high. Valencia orange prices continue to creep up with tightening supply. We should  see Valencia fruit through September, possibly longer. Peruvian Satsuma has good availability and is competitively priced. Get your tangerine fix now: California citrus season is still months away!

Grape

The market is flush with supply. Growers are starting to have other varieties of red and green seedless such as Krissy, Red Rosa and Magenta red and Timcot green. Flame is still readily available, and very competitively priced. Green Thompson and Ivory have arrived. Muscat and Champagne have started with limited supply. Summer Royal and Black Emerald black seedless varieties are going strong and  full of juicy sweet flavor. Bronx and Concord are still three weeks off. Thomcord and Valley Pearl, two other specialty varieties are coming soon. Prices are expected to be high on the Bronx this year

Mango

Kent mango is available in steady supply. We love the sweet and rich flavor with juicy, tender flesh and limited fibers. After a brief delay, fair trade Kent are now available. We should start to see some untreated Mexican mango in about a week. Unlike most other imported mangoes, these 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

Mini seedless watermelon is in good supply. Lots of bins available! Cantaloupe has strong volume. Honeydew and Galia are both steady. Piel de Sapo is back in supply. Ambrosia, Canary, Orange Honeydew, Muskmelon, Sensation, and Sharlyn are readily available.

Specialty Fruit

Magenta fleshed Dragon fruit has started! Select fruit is smaller than premium fruit and does not differ in quality, grade, or appearance other than size. Full of antioxidants, dragon fruit is a superfood! The amazing Gold Line white peach from Naylor Organics has a thin gold line running vertically through each piece of fruit. They will be available for a few more weeks. As well as being a great conversation starter, they are juicy and delicate like most white peach. Sadly the Spice Zee nectoplum from Ferrari Farms is done for the season.

Stone fruit

A big heat wave in Washington and Oregon has accelerated the peach season in the Pacific Northwest. This sudden increase in availability may impact the local California market. Our star peach growers Masamoto and Naylor are almost wrapping it up for the season, but still have fruit on the tree, but not for long. Rival apricot will be wrapping up soon, but look for other varieties of regular orange apricots coming soon such as the Gold Rich. One of our staff favorites, the white apricot from Harmony Orchards in Washington are done harvesting for this year.  White nectarine is readily available, although consistently high temperatures have slowed harvesting down. Red Head yellow nectarine are finally in the house—also delayed due to heat. Grown by Ferarri Farms, this sweet, meaty nectarine has heavy streaking of red in the flesh.  Plenty of white peach varieties are coming down the pipeline. Yellow peach production is still limited (mostly due to the heat wave in California) and prices are somewhat lower than previously; the Northwest prices don’t seem to have clobbered the market. Black and red plum have strong volume. Prices are promotable—lots of varieties available. Pluot is starting to pick up—look for Dapple Dandy, Flavor Grenade, Flavor Punch, Crimson Red, Flavor Queen and other delicious varieties coming on.

 

Vegetables

Broccoli/Cauliflower

Broccoli supply tightened at the end of this week and prices are trending up for the coming week. Cauliflower is in better supply. Cheddar and graffiti are steady.

Cabbage

Green and red cabbage are in steady supply. Savoy and Napa cabbage remain limited.

Corn

We’re hearing reports from several growers that a heat wave has been impacting the harvest. Extreme hot weather can lead to dehydration of the silks and tassels, leading to poor pollination and kernel set. High temperatures in July have significantly decreased crop volume. We expect supply to improve over in a week or so as Northwest corn crops begin to trickle down to California.

Cucumber

Slicer cucumbers are abundant. All other thin-skin cucumbers are very limited. Mediterranean cucumber is gapping for about three weeks. English Hothouse and Persian cukes will be very limited for the next three weeks; but supply should be steady after that.

Eggplant

Globe eggplant has steady availability but prices are a bit sporadic. Now is the time to build up your eggplant displays with beautiful varieties of specialty eggplant. What’s hot right now? The Neon eggplant is teardrop-shaped and has pink-purple neon skin. The flesh is smooth and creamy. Rosa Bianca is round in shape with rosy-lavender skin shaded with white. The delicate, mild flavor with no bitterness is delicious in all preparations. Listada de Gandia is a popular heirloom variety with lovely bright purple stripes. Chinese eggplant is long and thin—perfect for a quick stir fry! We love how the flesh becomes creamy and luxurious.

Greens, Lettuce & Herbs

High temperatures in the Salinas Valley region recently have caused ideal conditions for mildew development and dehydration for the delicate baby greens, particularly baby spinach. Once temperatures begin to come down, we can expect to see improvements in the condition of many boxed green items. Dino aka lacinato kale has been limited and prices are up. Romaine is limited. Red leaf is in good supply from our local producers. Local basil is readily available. Oregano is gapping due to quality issues.

Onion

Red and yellow onions have good supply on mediumsand jumbos sizes.  White onions are slightly limited on larger sizes. Shallots are steady. More growers are expected to come on with shallots in mid to late August, which means the return of peeled shallots!

Pea

Snap pea availability is improving, but English and snow pea are still unavailable.

Pepper

Green bell pepper availability has become more steady. Red and yellow bells are in better supply. Orange bells are more limited. The heat is on and we’re not talking about the weather! It is the peak of chili pepper season. Check out our hot lineup of flavorful scorchers! If you’re looking for a kick, check out the Habanero at 100,000-350,000 Scoville—this variety is legitimately HOT. Serrano is the next hottest at what we would call medium hot (10,000-23,000 Scoville.) Fresno, Cherry Bomb, and Jalapeño are more on the mild-medium heat range at 2,500-10,000 Scoville. Anaheim, Poblano, and Padron provide all the flavor with just a little heat at 500-2,500 Scoville. Let’s not overlook the seasonal non-spicy peppers. Shishito is flavorful and is delicious grilled with a pint of salt and citrus. Gypsy yellow and Gypsy orange peppers are terrific for frying or slicing up fresh for salads. Pimento pepper is sweet and very mild. The most popular use of pimentos is in pimento cheese aka “the caviar of the South.”

Sweet Potato

New crop Garnet and Jewel sweet potato have started. Prices are up at the start of the season. New crop Japanese, Hannah, and Purple Stoke are not yet available.

Squash

The California hard squash season is just starting up. Delicata is very limited but availability should pick up soon. Butternut is plentiful.  Kabocha and Spaghetti have come on. Look for more varieties this month. In soft squash land, zucchini is readily available. Sunburst is limited; we’re getting all we can. Check out other delicious varieties such as Gold Zucchini, Crookneck, and the Mixed Medley, which we fondly refer to as the summer fun pack!

Tomato

Tomatoes for everyone! California-grown Roma is plentiful. One- and two-layer tomatoes are a little bit limited but as more growers come on, supply should ease up. Cherry tomatoes have strong volume. Build up your display with beautiful Sungold, Mini Charm, and Juliette! We love the sweet flavor on these varieties—great for eating fresh! Mixed heirloom is in good supply. Straight pack heirlooms also readily available. Check out the Purple Cherokee, Brandywine and Marvel Stripe. Dry-farmed and non-dry-farmed Early girl tomatoes are steady. Look for these under the “Saladette” tomatoes on our list.

 

Merchandising Corner

How to Keep Produce Fresh & Cool

Summer provides us with many of our seasonal favorites. These amazing products also tend to be a little more on the delicate side and need extra TLC when handling and displaying.

Chilis and all other pepper varieties are coming on strong at this time. Shriveling is a common problem you might experience with peppers. If you are displaying your peppers in a cold case, air flow is the most likely cause of shrivel. Finding a way to display your peppers and protect them from the harsh cold air flow is easy. Create barriers from the air flow by using deep baskets, wooden crates or even using plexi bins with lids. Another option is displaying the product on a non-refrigerated table. This will work for your store whether you move a high or small volume amounts of product. As long as the product does not sit for more than a day and turns over quickly, this is a great solution. Protection from air flow exposure will prolong your pepper shelf life and prevent issues.

Zucchini and other summer squash are also prone to the same issue, and the same solutions apply to them as well. However, yellow squash varieties are susceptible to other issues like browning/bruising. Yellow summer squash does not like to be handled much or to be stacked on top of each other. If you are finding that you have a significant amount of browning, sometimes just putting out a smaller amount will solve this issue. Whatever you can do to limit handling and added friction from other product will help lessen the scarring and bruising.

Bunched herbs need some extra love to protect them from the ambient heat and air flow at this time of year. Herbs like basil and cilantro actually do very well displayed in containers of water. Some varieties of basil are very sensitive to any kind of cold and wilt very quickly once pulled out of the box. Basil and cilantro both hold up well unrefrigerated and do quite well cross-merchandised in displays with avocados, tomatoes, and garlic. Other herbs like rosemary, thyme, and sage also hold up well in containers of water. Not only is this a great way to store them, but it is also a way to add a little fresh décor to your department!

Flower bouquets are probably the most fragile and heat-sensitive of all the products you will carry. Most stores have their flower displays located in the front of the store to be the first thing seen when customers enter the store.  This is not the ideal location for many reasons. The hot air that enters the store every time the door opens is damaging to the bouquets. Most flowers come with some kind of protective wrapping, but this does not completely protect bouquets from hot gusts of air every time the doors open. Since flowers are highly perishable, every precaution should be taken to preserve their integrity. If flowers are displayed up front, you also risk the chance of customers dripping water throughout the store while shopping, creating potential slip-and-fall accidents. Lastly, if customers are carrying flowers around while shopping there is the chance of the bouquet getting damaged while in a basket or cart with other product. The ideal location for flowers is close to the register as an impulse buy. They are generally protected in this area of the store from outside heat and there is less opportunity to have water dripped throughout the store.