The History of Halloween Pumpkins

With Halloween just a couple weeks away, the pumpkin mania is at its peak. Every grocery store, coffee shop and bakery has pumpkin displays, drinks, and baked goods prominently promoted. But did you know that the association of pumpkins with Halloween is a relatively recent phenomenon?

Halloween comes from the Irish festival Samhain, (pronounced sow-win) a celebration that marked the transition from the summer harvest season to winter. It was believed that spirits of the ancestors lurked in the shadows during the festival. To distract the spirits, people would carve faces into large turnips and set candles inside. They would place the turnip lanterns on roadways and next to gates to light the way for travelers.

The celebration of Halloween in America is traced back to the mid-1800s when Irish immigrants began arriving. The first mention of pumpkin carving was in 1866 in a children’s magazine. This tradition grew more and more popular and by 1920, Halloween was embraced everywhere in the country. As pumpkin carving grew into a lucrative industry, American farmers bred new lines of squash specifically for carving. Massachusetts farmer John Howden developed the Howden pumpkin in the 1960s, and it is still the most popular carving pumpkin in America.

 

Keep a lookout for our staff picks noted in orange.

 

Fruit

Apple and Pear

There’s no shortage of heirloom apples right now. We’re seeing some not-to-be-missed varieties! King David is a lesser known variety with sweet and tart flavor with spicy nuances of wine.  Northern Spy offers a bit of tartness with sweet, pear-like flavor. Check out our full list of heirlooms! Smitten is winding down. Rosalynn, Jazz, Kanzi and Mutsu (aka Crispin) have arrived. In Japan, the Mutsu is known as the “Million Dollar Apple” and is revered for its delightfully sweet, crunchy and spicy flavor. Fuji, Gala and Honeycrisp are in good supply.

Pears are plentiful with many delicious varieties on the scene from local and Washington growers. Bartlett, Bosc, Orca, Red Comice, Red D’Anjou, Red Hailey, Seckel, and Starkrimson are all available now. New Century, 20th Century, and Kosui Asian pears are steady.

Avocado

California grown Hass should continue for three more weeks. The oh-so-creamy, nutty flavored MacArthur is limited. Get ‘em while supply lasts!

Berry

Strawberry production from local growers is winding down this month. We’ll  start to see more fruit from the Santa Maria region before Mexico grown berries come on in November. California supply of blueberries will be spotty until December when production improves. However, South American blueberry season has started and should keep supply steady. Mexican grown raspberries and blackberries should start this month. Cranberry will be steady from now through December.

Citrus

California lemons are tight due to rain in the desert growing regions. Overall supply should be steady with plenty of fruit from Mexico to supplement. Meyer lemons are back in supply and should remain steady for the next few weeks. We’re seeing strong volume of California limes have beloved biodynamic grower, Beck Grove. This small, family-owned farm in San Diego County grows some of the best citrus in the state! Valencia are almost done and will gap until the winter season starts up. Grapefruit is limited.

Fig

Brown Turkey is winding down. Black Mission are steady. Supply has tightened; fig prices are up.

Grape

Grapes are continuing until the rains come.  We have seedless red, green and black from various growers in paper totes, pouches and with different berry sizes depending on variety. Ask your Account Manager for guidance. The big-flavored seeded Concord and seedless Thomcord will keep going for several more weeks.

Kiwi

California grown green kiwi is expected to start any day now. We should see California gold kiwi in a few weeks.

Mango

Narango mango is available for a bit longer. Ataulfo from Ecuador should come on mid-month. We’ll see Tommy Atkins towards the end of the month.

Melon

Overall, the California melon season is winding down. Cantaloupe is steady from Rundle Family Farm. Canary melon will continue for another week or so. Honeydew is limited; we’re getting all we can. Mini seedless watermelon is done for the season. Mexico grown melons are expected to come on in November.

Pomegranate

Pomegranate is continuing with steady supply. Many sizes are available, including bins!

Specialty Fruit

Fresh jujube is ending soon. Quince is in good supply. Although inedible raw, when cooked, quince is transformed into a sweet and delicate treat. Quince is high in pectin which makes it perfect for baked goods when paired with other fruits. It also releases a wonderful vanilla-apple fragrance when ripening. White dragon fruit and passion fruit are limited. Magenta fleshed dragon fruit are in steady supply, for now. Rambutan from Honduras is coming soon, a rare treat. Native to Indonesia and similar to a lychee, Rambutan have delicate, perfumed white flesh with a soft shell. While lychee have a smooth shell, Rambutan have crazy looking red-spiked shells and are sweeter than lychee.

 

Vegetables

Artichoke

Artichoke supply is plentiful. Prices are expected to go down.

Bok Choy

Baby bok choy (mei qing) and bok choy are back in steady supply.

Broccoli/Cauliflower

Broccoli is readily available; prices are up slightly. We may see some tightness in cauliflower supply in the next week or so.

Brussels Sprout

California grown Brussels sprouts have strong volume. Quality is high.

Cabbage

Green and red cabbage are steady; prices have increased. Price remains up on Savoy. Napa should be steady through October.

Celery

Celery is in good supply but prices have been ticking up.

Cucumber

Domestic cucumbers are just about done, locally. Product from Mexico is limited; prices are up as the impact of Hurricane Sergio remains unknown. The market is tight!

Eggplant

California grown Globe and Japanese eggplant are steady. Mexican grown eggplant is about a week out.

Greens & Lettuce

Boxed savoy spinach and bunched spinach are readily available. Green kale has good volume. Dino aka lacinato kale is limited. Collards are steady. Rainbow chard remains limited. Red and green chard are in better supply.

Demand is outpacing supply on romaine, green leaf and red leaf. Supply will continue to be limited, but improving slightly. Iceberg has better availability. Romaine hearts continue to be tight.

Pea

Sugar snap pea is in better supply; but not yet consistent. We should see English peas soon as well. Snow peas are still not available.

Pepper

Red and green bell peppers are plentiful. Prices are sharp. Orange bells are very limited. Yellow bells are in better supply than orange. Domestic Jalapeno are winding down. Red Jalalpeno are readily available from local growers. We’ll start to see Mexican grown chilies available soon.

Root

More and more growers are coming on with roots. Colored turnips are still not steady. Purple daikon is back! Red, gold, Chioggia, and Forono beets are all in good supply.

Squash

Red Kuri is limited. Butternut, Delicata, Acorn, Sugar Pie, Kabocha and Spaghetti are in good supply from local growers. Straight pack and mixed squash bins are also available for pre-order. Don’t forget to order your Jack O’ Lantern pumpkin bins for Halloween! Local zucchini and gold zucchini are still going strong.

Tomato

One- and two-layer slicer supply remains very tight. In efforts to keep up with demand, growers are harvesting early. Tomatoes picked early may be light in color, but will develop color as it ripens. Tomatoes-on-vine (TOV) are readily available. California grown Roma availability seems to be picking up; supply is steady. Sungold and Mini Charm are extremely limited. Prices are up. Hurricane Sergio is expected to hit Baja California before turning into a tropical storm. This will likely affect some of the tomato growers in the Ensenada area. Prices have increased on cherry and sugar plum tomatoes as supply tightens. Local heirlooms still have good volume for a couple more weeks.

 

Nuts

Chestnuts are in steady supply in both jumbo and large sizes. Fresh chestnuts can be prepared in any number of ways—roasted, steamed, boiled, deep fried and even microwaved! Don’t forget to score the skin of a fresh chestnut before cooking to allow steam to escape and prevent exploding chestnuts. Check out this creamy chestnut soup with crispy prosciutto. Fresh chestnuts are tough to crack, but this soup is worth it!

 

Floral

Dried floral bouquets and dried wreaths from Full Belly Farm are starting! We wait all year for these unique handmade arrangements—no two are alike! Thomas Farm is continuing with Sunflowers and Dahlias for a bit longer. The last day to get your Thanksgiving floral orders in for Thomas Farm is Monday, November 12th. Only bouquets will be offered for orders during the week of Thanksgiving.

 

Grocery

Eggnog is coming! Eggnog is coming! Preorders start October 17th. Save the date! You don’t want to miss out on this rich and creamy seasonal treat.

We are now carrying organic dairy products from Alexandre Family Farm. This family-owned and -operated farm is located in Crescent City in California’s Del Norte County. The farm operates four grass-based organic dairies with crossbred cows that produce milk that contains A2/A2 beta-casein protein. This protein is present in human milk and is easier for most people to digest. The farm uses old-fashioned methods and simple ingredients combined with a holistic approach to farming to produce some of the most delicious dairy products we’ve ever tasted. Check out their 6% butterfat whole milk (yes, 6%!), flavored milks (vanilla, chocolate, ginger turmeric), cream-top yogurt, and pastured eggs

With the arrival of fall, we can officially say it’s maple season again! We offer a full line of organic maple products including maple syrup in various size packs, maple sugar candy, and whipped maple cream from Maple Valley Co-Op. All Maple Valley products are certified organic and free of additives, preservatives, and formaldehyde as well as being kosher certified and vegan.

 

Merchandising Corner

Pumpkins, Squash and Roots

With the drop in temperature, all thoughts turn to fall and fall produce such as pumpkins and hard squash. Now is the time to bring in those bins of Jack O’ Lanterns and other festive squash like Turban, Carnival, Hubbard and get into the swing of the Halloween/Fall season. Although most people wait until right before Halloween to carve their pumpkin, most want to pick out their perfect specimens now to take home to show off and admire for weeks before the carving date. Don’t wait too long or you’ll miss out on the perfect window time to maximize your Jack O’ Lantern and other decorative squash sales.

Besides looking to decorate for fall, shoppers are looking to switch up their eating habits to fit with the changing seasons. Make sure you are offering abundant supply of the favorites like yellow onions, sweet potatoes, specialty hard squash, Brussels sprouts, root vegetables and hearty greens. Soups and roasting tend to be at the forefront of shoppers’ minds. Hard squash and root vegetables are key ingredients when customers are shopping for soup and roasting meals. Squash such as Butternut, Red Kuri, Delicata, Kabocha and even the little Sugar Pie pumpkin are very popular squash for soups. Butternut will always out sell the others but it’s a good idea to provide some if not all of the fancier culinary hard squash. Providing a nice selection for soup making will help promote sales in other product category areas. Shoppers will generally be looking for garlic, bunched herbs, onions, ginger, greens, peppers and mushrooms to combine with or to complement soups.  Displaying printed recipe cards that have multiple produce ingredients is a sure way to boost your hard squash sales. Try this creamy roasted pumpkin soup recipe and see how this strategy helps sell not only the pumpkins but other items in your department as well.

While beets and carrots are always in great supply, at this time in the fall season, we are seeing more root vegetables such as parsnips, celery root, rutabaga and turnips. Keeping their appearance fresh is key to their success in the department. Check your set daily for soft or shriveling roots. Remove undesirable roots from the set and try rehydrating in lukewarm water to see if they can be brought back to life If not, discard and replace with new fresh product. Keep the roots well hydrated throughout the day while on the rack to maintain freshness. Nothing will slow down your root sales more than rubbery roots. Customers are looking for firm crisp product. Daily rotation and hydration will help keep your roots fresh and moving. Don’t forget recipe cards for your roots! We love this simple roasted root vegetable dish that lets the flavors of the veggies shine. Try these seasonal tips and get ready to take on the beginning of the fall eating season.