Author Archives: Nicole Mason

Blood Orange Season

 

Blood oranges are not only delicious but one of the most beautiful fruits available this time of year. They are believed to have originated in either China or the southern Mediterranean, where they have been grown since the 18th century. They are now mainly grown in Italy, Spain, Texas and California. Sicily is world famous for their fruit.

The dark flesh color is attributed to anthocyanins, a family of antioxidant pigments common to many flowers and fruit, but uncommon in citrus fruit. The pigmentation develops on the flesh when the fruit develops with low temperatures during the night. Dark coloring sometimes shows up on the rind as well. The three most common types of blood oranges are Moro, Tarocco and Sanguinello.

Moro is the most colorful of the blood oranges with a deep red flesh and bright red blush on the rind. The flavor is distinct, sweet with a hint of raspberry. This variety is a “deep blood-orange” meaning the flesh can range from orange-veined with ruby coloration to crimson to nearly black.

Tarocco is considered the sweetest and most flavorful of the three types. The skin is thin, orange with some red blush. It is referred to as a “half-blood orange” because the flesh does not have as much red pigmentation as the other varieties.

Sanguinello is close in characteristics to the Moro and considered a “full-blood orange.” The flesh is orange with several blood colored streaks while the skin is reddish. The flavor is sweet and tender.

Keep a lookout for our staff picks noted in orange.

Fruit

Apple and Pear

Citrus may be getting a lot of attention but apples are still holding their own. Pink Lady has strong volume. The fruit from Cuyama Orchards in Ventura County, California has beautiful color and delicious flavor. Prices are sharp. Honeycrisp is winding down. Granny Smith prices are on the rise as supply tightens but there are great deals on smaller sizes. Cameo, Gala and Braeburn all have good supply.

Pears are winding down. We have Bosc, Comice, D’Anjou and Red D’Anjou in house now. Import Bartlett are expected to come on towards the end of February.

Avocado

We have transitioned from Mexican import Hass to new crop domestic supply, although picking and packing is still somewhat erratic for California growers, it is starting to even out. Mexican fruit is still readily available, so ask your account manager if you prefer it. Reports are that prices are stabilizing and won’t go down, even after the Super Bowl.

California Greenskin avocados are still being harvested, with good volume available on Bacon, Fuerte, Zutano, with Gwen and Ettinger still to come. Prices are sharper than on Hass, but not all sizes are unlimited in quantity.

Berry

Domestic blueberry supply is strong and prices are promotable. Strawberry supply, however, is a bit more limited. Look for Ventura County, California grown strawberries from new label Wholesum Berries, a partnership between Wholesum Harvest and Nature Ripe.

Citrus

Lemon prices are starting to climb as supply tightens. Meyer lemons have strong volume. Finger limes are available via pre-order. The flesh of finger limes consists of small juice vesicles earning it the name “lime caviar.”

Rio Red and Ruby grapefruit are steady with strong volume. African Shaddock pomelo is in good supply. We love that it is not only a fruit but also an air freshener as it has a pleasant subtle fragrance when stored at room temperature. The flavor is sweet but complex! We also have Thai Sweet and Chandler pomelo on hand. The Valentine pomelo is coming on soon. This variety is a cross between the Siamese Sweet Pomelo and a hybrid of a mandarin and a blood orange. It received the named Valentine because it matures around Valentine’s Day and loosely resembles a heart when cut lengthwise and turned upside down (must try!). It features yellow skin and orange-deep red flesh. Be sure to stock up on popular citrus for the Lunar New Year (February 16th.) In Chinese folk culture people decorate pomelos with ribbons, colored paper and good luck charms and give as gifts to friends and family.

Meiwa kumquats are limited in supply and may be ending soon; however, Nagami kumquats are still readily available. Cara Cara Navels are readily available. Arizona sweet Valencia oranges have started. Prices are on the higher side to start. Blood oranges are steady but demand is high so don’t wait to grab some! The flavor is simply amazing! Clementines are sweet and tasty and a great addition to any citrus display. The last of the Kishus are in house now—get ‘em while you can! TDE tangerines are a cross between a Temple Tangor, Dancy and Encore Mandarin. They have deep orange rind color, very sweet rich flavor, and virtually no seeds. TDEs are perfect for promotion or ads–supply is strong and prices sharp!

Mango

Ataulfo mango from Mexico is in good supply. This variety has yellow-gold skin and buttery non-fibrous flesh full of rich and sweet flavor. The skin turns a deep golden color and small wrinkles appear when fully ripe. Kent mango from Peru is readily available. The skin is dark green with dark red blush. It is sweet, juicy and tender with limited fibers. Kents have yellow undertones that cover more of the mango as it ripens. Fair Trade Kent mangoes will also be available soon.

Melon

Mini seedless watermelon has good supply. Galia melon has limited availability and is expected to gap until for a couple weeks. Harper melon is a little steadier but also has limited availability.

Pomegranate

California arils are coming to an end but Peruvian-grown arils will follow shortly. The arils are processed in California, to extend the shelf life.

Specialty Fruit

Cherimoya are at the peak of the season. This unique tropical fruit is also known as a custard apple. If you have not yet tasted one, you’re missing out! Its taste can only be described as a delicious blend of banana, pineapple, papaya, peach and strawberry. We like chilling it and eating with a spoon!

Organic Thai young coconuts are in a short gap due to huge demand in Thailand for the Lunar New Year. We expect supply to kick back in within a few weeks.

Passionfruit supply continues to trickle, we are getting all we can.

Stone Fruit

Fortune plums hailing from New Zealand are coming in with beautiful color and great taste. The season is short so don’t wait!

Import cherry season is officially over for the year.

 

 

Vegetables

Asparagus

Green asparagus supply is improving as more product comes onto the market. Prices are falling fast. Purple asparagus is still unavailable.

Bok Choy

Mei qing choy supply is limited and prices are slightly up. Growers are dealing with aphids and waiting for the plants to size up. Bok choy is more readily available.

Broccoli/Cauliflower

Both broccoli and cauliflower supply are plentiful and prices are down.

Brussels Sprout

Prices are competitive as supply is abundant. Volume deals available for both California and Mexico product.

Cabbage

Supply of green cabbage continues to be good. Red cabbage supply and prices are steady. Savoy and Red Savoy are readily available. Napa is a little more limited.

Cucumber

Bulk Persian cucumber is gapping. Clamshells are very limited. Slicer ‘cukes are back in more steady supply. European cucumber prices are up slightly, but availability remains steady.

Herbs

Basil availability has improved and should continue to be in good supply. Spearmint and thyme are both readily available.

Potato

Have you seen the new crop red and yellow potatoes from Road Twenty Farm? Available exclusively through VV, these spuds have steady supply and premium quality. The first potatoes have been hand dug to ensure sizing, consistency and yield. Fresh potatoes (never stored) are harvested, cleaned, cooled and shipped out in short order. It is recommended that are eaten right away! Road Twenty Farm is a project of Food Commons Fresno, an initiative for growing a community food system that fosters health, stewardship, equity, and economic development in Fresno and the surrounding San Joaquin Valley. Fun Fact: Road Twenty Farms grows in the land that was previously occupied by T&D Willey Farms. The Willeys, potato experts, consulted on the Road Twenty Farm potato harvest.

Root

Bunched red radishes are limited and expensive. Parsnip is steady. Turnip is less available but has pretty good supply. Bagged beets are abundant except for jumbo size, which are still limited. Volume deals available. Jicama is expected to come on in late February.

Squash

Zucchini prices have come down significantly from previous highs. California’s season for hard squash supply is beginning to wind down. Acorn supply should be good for a few more weeks. Butternut and Delicata squash are steady. Kabocha has about a week or so. California grown Spaghetti squash is ending soon but supply should continue with the Mexican crop.

Tomato

Roma prices have come down quickly. One and two-layer slicer tomato supply is steady. Heirlooms from Ram’s Farm have strong volume and sharp pricing. The taste is fresh and delicious! Ram’s Farm is located along Baja California, Mexico where the Pacific breeze and mild climate is ideal for growing produce. These heirlooms are hand selected to prevent bruising and pre-cooled prior to shipment to preserve freshness and integrity.

Fresh-cut

Looking for retail fresh-cut items? Josie’s Organics has a line of fresh cut organic vegetables that are delicious and convenient. The line includes Broccoli & Carrots, Broccoli Florets, Broccoli Slaw, Cauliflower Florets, Green Beans, Power Mix and Vegetable Medley. All ingredients are washed, cut and ready to be eaten or cooked. Bags are 9-12 ounces depending on the ingredients and sold 6 bags per case.

Grocery

Egg supply is limited as is expected during this season. During the winter, daylight decreases which signals to the hen that the temperature is going to drop. The hen’s maternal instinct kicks in that the external conditions are not warm enough for the eggs to survive. Miraculously, the hen naturally produces less eggs. We’re bringing in everything we can but during winter, nature takes its course and the chickens get a much-deserved winter “break!”

Maple products continue to be among top food trends. We are currently offering a full line of delicious maple products including maple syrup in various size packs, maple sugar candy, and even whipped maple cream (great on toast, pancakes, yogurt and more!) All products are certified organic and great to have through the winter months. The products are sourced from Maple Valley Co-op, a producer co-op modeled after famed Organic Valley. If you need a healthy sweet treat, maple is the way to go. Ask your Account Manager for the details.

As plant-based products continue to gain popularity, we can’t overlook good ‘ol tofu. We source tofu from Hodo Soy, which is made from organic, non-GMO, U.S. grown whole soybeans. This Oakland, California based company has a mission to craft the highest quality tofu and create innovative and delicious tofu-based artisan foods that will change how you think of tofu. The difference is in the ingredients and how the tofu is made. Hodo Soy starts with select, organic soybeans that are ground to a puree with optimum thickness using a very fine stone grinder. The puree is then simmered and pressed to extract the “bean juice.” This juice or soymilk is the base ingredient in all Hodo Soy products. To make tofu, calcium sulfate, a naturally occurring mineral is used to coagulate the soymilk. The coagulated soymilk is broken into curds to release whey and the curds are deposited into cheesecloth-lined molds which are then hand-wrapped and pressed. Hodo Soy tofu has on average 50% more protein than other tofu on the market.

 

 

Floral

Thomas Farm is offering beautiful red and pink tulip bouquets. In the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Thomas Farm grows these tulips outside rather than in a greenhouse, which means they are especially resilient and will stay vibrant longer in a vase.Place these tulips at the front of your store and in a cool area away from the sun so as to ensure the blossoms remain closed and fresh. These delightful Thomas Farm tulips come in bunches of 10 and are sold 16 bunches to a case.

 

 

Merchandising Corner

Planning for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day happens at an interesting time of year, the tail end of winter and just on the verge of spring. Although strawberries are a trendy item for the holiday, they are really not in great availability. Lucky for us we have an abundance of other unique seasonal fruits and vegetables to feature. Blood oranges are an obvious promotional choice when planning Valentine displays. This orange with the luscious raspberry red flesh is an attractive fruit to build displays with. You can cut a few open on your display to demonstrate the red interior of the fruit. This is a nice visual aid to help draw customers attention to and differentiate the blood orange from other citrus varieties. Kiwi, grapefruit, Valencias, Cara Cara Navels and cherimoyas are other seasonal fruits that are in good supply around this holiday. The kiwi and cherimoya give nice color and texture breaks between all the orange and yellow of the citrus that tend to dominate the dry tables at this time of year. Customers will be looking for special items for Valentine’s Day breakfast, brunch and dinner so also stock up on some specialty items like kumquats, Royal mandarins, TDE tangerines, Gold Nugget tangerines, Lemonade lemons and Oro Blanco grapefruits.

If you’re looking for greens or other vegetables there is no shortage of show stopping product. Beautiful bunched blood red beets are in abundant supply and perfect for roasting and juicing. Brussels sprouts are still in good supply and are a highly sought after vegetable for special occasion dinners. Make sure to have plenty on hand a couple of days before the big day. Red or green Little Gem lettuces are also readily available and make perfect additions to a salad or can stand alone as a grilled appetizer. If you do not carry these regularly, consider bringing them in for the week leading up to Valentine’s Day. They really are nice as the whole gem is edible. No waste! Chards are another festive colorful green that would be perfect in any Valentine themed meal. The bright colors of the rainbow chard and the deep crimson of the red chard are beautiful and will stand out on any plate. When stocking the chards (or any bunched green) out on the floor be sure to butt them and give them a quick dip in the sink to rehydrate and freshen them up and extend their shelf life. Artichokes are another nice treat that are impressive and look great on any plate. When displaying artichokes remember to discard any soft chokes. Artichokes should be firm to the grip and not have much give to them.

As you can see there many items to highlight and promote in your produce department. Build big, beautiful displays and be ready to makes suggestions and offer pairing ideas. This is definitely a great opportunity to let your customer service skills shine.

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