Author Archives: Veritable Vegetable

Cool as a Cucumber

The California cucumber season may be over but thanks to our growing partners in Mexico, we will have supply of ‘cukes through the colder months. Cucumber is a fruit from the Cucurbitaceae family. Scientifically known as Cucumis sativus, it belongs to the same family as zucchini, watermelon, pumpkin, and other types of summer squash. The cucumber plant is a creeping vine that typically grows along the ground. Commercial cucumbers are grown on trellises. That is how they can achieve that straight perfect uniform shape and size. The cucumber originated in India but now are commonly grown all over the world.

Persian and English cucumbers are both considered specialty cucumbers. They are both thin-skinned and the skin is tender and totally edible. Both of them are nearly seedless too making them a great choice for people who do not want a cucumber with too much prep involved. English cucumbers are often sold wrapped tightly in plastic and tend to be about a foot long, while Persian cucumbers are considerably smaller around about 5-6 inches.

Slicing or Slicer cucumbers are the most common variety here in the U.S. You will find these offered on sandwiches, at salad bars and as a main ingredient at juice bars. These cucumbers are thicker skinned and generally preferred to be eaten peeled.

When selecting cucumbers, no matter which variety you are choosing, look for firm fruit. Make sure the cucumbers have been displayed in a cool place like a refrigerated case. Heat tends to cause damage and softening of the cucumber. Likewise, when storing cucumbers, keep them refrigerated. This will keep them fresh and prolong shelf life for about a week.

Keep a lookout for our staff picks noted in orange.

 

Fruit

Apple and Pear

Trucking shortages from Washington are impacting apple availability. We expect some challenges in supply but are doing everything we can to keep up with demand. Braeburn are plentiful with attractive pricing. Fuji prices are on the rise. Honeycrisp and Opal are winding down towards the end of the month. Pink Lady from Cuyama Orchards has beautiful color and are tasting delicious.

Asian pears are officially done and pears are winding down, overall. Bosc, D’Anjou and Comice are available now. Red pears are sold out. We won’t see import Bartlett from Argentina until March.

Avocado

The avocado market is still all over the place. California Hass are starting up in more reliable quantities, although priced higher than imports. Mexican Hass supply is still uneven due to the holidays (delayed picking and packing.) Larger sizes are getting tighter while smaller fruit is becoming more abundant. Organic Fair Trade fruit from Calavo is seeming similar availability issues. Prices are in flux. We’re expecting things to start stabilizing soon. Fuerte, Zutano and Bacon are still available and just as delicious as their Hass counterpart. With the Superbowl around the corner, start planning for promotions and displays!

Berry

Rain in Northern California has stopped strawberry supply out of Watsonville. However, production from Ventura and Orange County should be starting soon. California blueberries are relatively steady. Delays and damage from the recent rain are being assessed. Raspberries and blackberries are in good supply.

Citrus

Blood oranges from Buck Brand came and went! We may see a small shot of Sanguinelli in a few weeks, along with Moro bloods from Beck Grove and Cousins. Mexican Valencia availability has also been affected by trucking shortage related issues. Navel oranges are in good supply. Be sure to check out the Cara Cara Navel from Homegrown Organic Farms.

Ruby grapefruit from B&J Ranch is abundant with promotable pricing. We wait all season for this grower’s fruit! Look for some B&J Ranch Rio Red grapefruit next week! MeloGold is a sweeter grapefruit variety, with less of the trademark tartness, which means less vitamin C. These sweeties will turn even the most skeptical grapefruit critic into a fan. Pomelo are in good supply. Pomelos have mild grapefruit flavor, but are much larger with a thick outer skin. The peel can be used to make marmalade, candied, or dipped in chocolate.

Meyer lemon and lemons are readily available. Lemon prices are creeping up and supply will tighten when desert supply runs out.  California limes from Beck Grove will be limited for the next 4-6 weeks.

Clementines are in currently in good supply. However, road closures from mudslides in the Santa Barbara/Montecito area may cause delays in availability. Dancy tangerine and Orlando Tangelo on hand now. Kishu is a staff favorite—this variety is seedless, a nice balance of sweet and tart, and easy to peel. Minneola, nicknamed “The Honeybell” because of its bell shape is a cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine. Sweet, tart juice make this variety a seasonal favorite. Stock up on citrus in the coming weeks. Tangerines, oranges and pomelos are popular during the Lunar New Year because the round shape and golden color which symbolize fullness and wealth.

Mango

Tommy Atkins should be available starting January 23rd with Ataulfo following suit in the beginning of February.

Melon

Mini seedless watermelon is gapping until mid to late January. Mexico grown Galia and Harper melons have strong supply. Galias have and pale green flesh that is uniquely sweet, spicy and aromatic. Harpers have orange skin similar to that of a cantaloupe. The flavor is sweet and rich with notes of honey.

Stonefruit

Sweet red cherries from New Zealand have steady volume and availability. This is the first good crop in 3 years from the Southern Hemisphere!  Get ‘em while you can! Plums from Argentina and New Zealand are expected to arrive in February.

 

 

Nuts

There’s nothing nuttier than customers clamoring for roasted nuts during the winter months. Be prepared and check our inventory of tasty nuts!  Almonds are available every which way: roasted, roasted and salted, or shelled non-pariel. Walnuts and assorted nut mixes round out the selection. Check our list often for more offerings.

 

 

Vegetables

Asparagus

Asparagus supply remains tight but starting to pick up. We seeing limited amounts of green asparagus.

Bean

Green bean is plentiful from Mexico production. Prices are steady.

Broccoli/Cauliflower

Broccoli supply has tightened and prices are on the rise. Crowns have better. Cauliflower supply has improved as local desert production and Southern California production are both up and running. Prices are ticking down.

Brussels Sprout

Brussels sprouts have strong volume. Prices are coming down. Quality is high—the sprouts are clean!

Celery

Celery desert production is ramping up. The variety grown in the desert may be paler in color than what is seen from local regions but taste and quality are strong. Mexico production will likely be in supply later this month.

Cucumber

Persian cucumber availability has improved after weeks of gapping. Prices are high! Slicer cucumbers are readily available with steady prices. European ‘cuke prices are sharp!

Garlic & Ginger

30-pound super colossal garlic is gapping. Other sizes and pack types are steady. Ginger prices are climbing fast. Turmeric is plentiful with attractive pricing. As we brace ourselves for one of the worse cold seasons yet, turmeric is a great item to promote for its many medicinal and anti-inflammatory properties.

Greens, Lettuce & Herbs

The greens market is strong. We’re seeing good volume on collards, rainbow chard, green and lacinato aka dino kale. Desert production is supplemented by supply from local growers. Due to colder weather in local regions, leaf sizes may be smaller than what is seen from the desert. Dandelion greens have been limited and expensive. Josie’s Organics Sriracha Ranch chopped retail salad is gapping. All other flavors are steady.

Romaine, butter and leaf lettuces are in good supply. Little Gems are more limited.

We are aware and closely following the recent E.Coli outbreak associated with romaine lettuce in Canada and the U.S. The Public Health Agency of Canada has issued a public health notice stating that the foodborne illness outbreak in Canada appears to over. Officials with the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have posted updates as well, noting the likely source appears to be leafy greens but officials have not specifically identified a type of leafy greens eaten by people who became ill.

Public health agencies in both the U.S. and Canada are informing consumers that there are no concerns about consuming any particular food, while they continue their investigations into what caused this E. Coli O157:H7 outbreak that began in November. Currently, no common supplier, distributor, or retailer of leafy greens has been identified as a possible source of the outbreak. Based on these statements, both governments have concluded that the food responsible for this foodborne illness outbreak is no longer in the market.

Cilantro and parsley prices are on the rise. Thyme and rosemary are both limited due to quality issues. Basil availability has improved, but bunched and 4-ounce clamshells are still gapping. Marjoram and tarragon are back in good supply.

Leek

Prices are up, but supply remains steady.

Pea

Snap peas are extremely tight; we’re bringing in everything we can. Snow peas are steady.

Pepper

Bell peppers are abundant in all varieties. Prices on orange and yellow bells are coming down quickly. Green and red bells have exceptionally sharp pricing. Chili supply is tightening up a bit but we do not expect any gaps in supply. Mini sweet peppers are still gapping.

Potato

Red and yellow potatoes are in good supply. Check out our offering of delicious specialty potatoes! French fingerling, Ruby Crescent, Russian Banana and Amarosa are just a few of the varieties available. Amarosa potatoes have red flesh that retains its color when cooked! The sweet and creamy flavor is satisfying on all fronts. Huckleberry Golds have deep purple skin and golden flesh on the inside. The luxurious creamy texture makes it the perfect potato for baking, roasting or adding to a creamy soup. Keep an eye out for ‘spuds from Road 20 Twenty Farms, 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. Road Twenty Farms grows in the land that was previously occupied by T&D Willey Farms.

Root

Bunched red radish is limited; prices are up. Burdock root supply remains tight. Turnips are also limited. Red and gold beets are readily available but prices are up slightly. Rutabaga is in good supply.

Squash

Zucchini has become very limited; prices are going up quickly. Butternut squash is plentiful. We have some extra-large Delicata with some cosmetic flaws that are great for processors or food service.

Tomato

Slicer tomato supply seems to be holding steady. Tomato on vine (TOV) prices are up slightly; expect supply to tighten soon. Roma is steady. Sugar plum prices are coming down as volume improves. Heirlooms from Ram’s Farm are coming on strong. This farm is located along Baja California, Mexico where the Pacific breeze and mild climate is ideal for growing produce. The heirlooms are hand selected to prevent bruising and pre-cooled prior to shipment to preserve freshness and integrity.

 

Fresh-cut

If you haven’t looked into our fresh-cut program, now is the time. We offer a full line of fruits and vegetables prepared in a variety of ways—peeled, cubed, julienned, sliced just to name a few! When convenience and health are top of mind in 2018, stay ahead of trends by making sure your store, deli and walk-ins are stocked appropriately to take advantage of increased demand. Talk to your Account Manager to see how we can support your value-added program.

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.

Another great item to stock for the New Year are our red cooked beets from Love Beets that are peeled and chopped. The beets are vacuumed packed and cooked sous-vide to maintain freshness. They are also gluten free, all natural and certified kosher, with no added colors or preservatives. Conveniently packaged in 8.8- ounce packages, this item is extremely versatile and can be enjoyed hot or cold in a variety of dishes, from sandwiches to salads and even desserts, smoothies and juices.

 

 

Grocery

For our food service customers, we offer a variety of juices from Columbia Gorge including grapefruit, lemon, lime and orange. Look for fresh, seasonal tangerine juice coming soon!

Eggs are limited, as expected during this time of year. Like most life cycles, the chicken-egg laying process is affected by nature’s fluctuations. 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!”

Don’t forget the maple syrup for customers clamoring for the Master Cleanse! We offer maple syrup in various pack types from organic producer, Maple Valley Co-op. Cross merchandise with lemons and cayenne for more effective sales.

 

 

Merchandising Corner

Planning for Lunar New Year

The Lunar New Year or Chinese New Year falls on February, 16 this year. If you aren’t familiar with this holiday and its importance to produce, now is the time to get up to speed! On the lunar calendar, this is the first day of the year. It is also arguably the most important day of the year—one that involves weeks of cleaning, preparation and, of course, celebration. So what does the Lunar New Year have to do with produce?

Citrus fruits play a big role during this holiday. Oranges, tangerines, kumquats, and pomelos are eaten, displayed in most households and given as gifts. It is believed the round shape and golden color of citrus fruits symbolize fullness and wealth. Eating and displaying tangerines and oranges is said to bring good luck and fortune due to their pronunciation and even the way they are spelled. The Chinese word for orange (and tangerine) is (chéng /chnng/), which sounds the same as the Chinese for ‘success.’  Eating pomelos is thought to bring continued prosperity—the more you eat more wealth it will bring!

Other than citrus there are several other produce items that play a big part in the foods that are eaten to celebrate the new year. Dumplings (jiaozi) are packed full of delicious fresh vegetables like cabbage, carrots, green onions, leeks, ginger and shiitake mushrooms. Although these vegetables are normally mixed with meat such as pork or shrimp, there is a large growing wave of vegetarians. Hodo Soy 5 Spice Tofu Nuggets would make a great meat substitute in these dumplings!

Spring Rolls (Chun Juan) are share many of the same ingredients as dumplings. They may also include mung bean sprouts and cilantro. These are prepared fried in thin hardy dough wrappers instead of boiled like the dumplings. Spring rolls also symbolize wealth and prosperity in the year to come.

Longevity Noodles (Changshou Mian) is a delicious simple dish. Changshou mian literaly means long life noodle. They represent the wish for a long, happy and healthy life. The noodles are often served with oyster sauce and fresh Asian inspired ingredients such as ginger, shiitake mushrooms and bok choy.

Lastly, there is the mustard green. Mustard greens, called “Chang Nian Cai” for the new year. They are commonly known as “jie cai” but the New Year’s name of Chang Nian Cai means perennial vegetables. They are easy to prepare and a symbol for long life. The greens are generally sautéed and sometimes served with tofu skins.

This year the Lunar New Year falls on Friday, February 16th. Customers tend to shop for fresh produce three to four days before cooking. The week before, stock up your department with citrus items like: kumquats, tangerines, mandarins, pomelos, Buddha hand citron and oranges of all varieties.

On Monday the 12th, start stocking up on all the vegetables you need to make sure you have in ample supply: cabbages, bok choys, ginger, green onion, daikon, shiitakes mushrooms, cilantro, carrots, mung bean sprouts and maybe even the Hodo Soy 5 Spice Nuggets.  Make sure to keep abundant fresh displays of greens like mustards, rapini, bok choys and green onions through the 16th.

Inspect product before putting out on display and hydrate if necessary. Cull away any yellowing or damaged leaves. Customers will be looking for the best and most fresh product for their holiday cooking. If you do not have an automatic misting system, make sure to spray the product often to keep it hydrated and attractive.

Other than making sure you have a wide variety of citrus in stock, it is also a good idea to have large bowls, gift boxes or baskets of citrus set around the store and department. This is a good way to promote citrus sales and inspire shoppers to recreate these displays in their homes.

 

Stocking up for the New Year

Now that we have made it through the two big produce holidays it’s time to prepare for the onslaught of New Year’s ‘get healthy’ resolutions revolving around eating healthier and juice cleansing. Customers will be hitting up the produce, fresh-cut and deli sections looking for fresh produce options. Keep your fresh-cut displays looking fresh and well stocked for convenient shopping. Broccoli and cauliflower florets, trimmed green beans and precut “mirepoix” or veggie soup combinations are fresh-cut all-stars.

Plan ahead and anticipate your customers juicing needs. Popular juicing items include: apples, cucumbers, celery, ginger, garlic, kales, carrots, beets, oranges, lemons and avocados. Be ready to answer questions about items for juicing, the shelf life of fresh juice, favorite combinations for juicing and more. Go one step further and have juice recipes printed ready to hand out to customers new to juicing and looking for ideas.

Lastly, make sure to have ample supply of your staple items, whatever they may be. Health charged customers are ready to fill their baskets with fresh items. Use this opportunity to plan ahead and provide a positive shopping experience for customers, which includes having fully stocked shelves. Kick off the New Year with a healthy bang!

 

Keep a lookout for our staff picks noted in orange.

 

Fruit

Apple and Pear

We’re seeing competitive prices on Braeburn, Fuji and Gala. Delicious Pink Lady are plentiful. Honeycrisp are finishing up. Opals are tasting juicy and crispy. These are great for cheese plates and garnishes thanks to their anti-oxidizing properties. Good supply of Granny on hand. Heirlooms are winding down and priced to move.

We’re seeing the last of 20th Century and New Century Asian pears. Bosc and D’Anjou on hand now. Comice will arrive the first week of January. Red D’Anjou are in high demand. Import Bartlett from Argentina will be here in March.

Avocado

We’re seeing limited flurries of California Hass, but only in big sizes right now. All sizes of California-grown Hass will be starting in late January, but in limited quantities. The winter season means green-skinned avocados reign supreme. Bacon, Fuerte and Zutano are readily available. They are uniquely light but still supply the creamy buttery texture that avo-lovers crave. Think affordable and local green-skin guacamole for your Super Bowl promotions.

Berry

California blueberries are plentiful. Supply should remain steady. Blackberry has good volume but demand appears to be up. Product is moving quickly. California strawberries are weather dependent, but without much rain, winter production marches on.

Citrus

Lots to report on the citrus front. Finger limes are available from several growers. Mandarinquat and kumquat are starting soon. Limequats, a cross between a key lime and kumquat are here now. This hybrid fruit has sweet skin but bitter and sweet pulp. The fruit can be eaten whole or the juice and rind can be used to flavor drinks, and dishes. Lemonade lemons have started. This variety has the appearance of a classic lemon from the outside. Inside, it has sweet aromatic flesh that is easy to segment, like a mandarin. The fruit is less acidic than other citrus. Meyer lemons have strong availability.

Marsh Ruby grapefruit from Coachella Valley grower, B&J Ranch is finally here! Grapefruit from this grower is eagerly anticipated by our staff, customers and citrus lovers as it is sold exclusively through VV. Ruby grapefruit has yellowish peel with areas of pink and green blush, often caused by the cold temperatures the fruit endures in the desert in the Coachella Valley of Southern California. Cut it open and you’ll find segments of deep pinkish-red flesh with sweet juicy flavor and some seeds. Melogold and Oro Blanco grapefruit from beloved citrus label Buck Brand have arrived. Both these varieties are a cross between a pomelo and grapefruit which makes them similar to a sweet grapefruit. Pomelos are in good supply. Look for the African Shaddock variety coming soon. Get ready for Lunar New Year by featuring all kinds of pomelo, a luck bearing fruit!

Navels are readily available. Cara Cara Navel have started up with steady volume. They are juicy, sweet and a current staff favorite. We should see some blood oranges early next week. Fairchild tangerines are ending soon as Dancy tangerines are starting up. Dancy 3-pound bag bins are available for pre-order. Clementine tangerines have good volume, including 5-pound gift boxes. Satsumas are still available but ending soon. Get them while you can! Our darling Kishu mandarins have come on. This delicious bite-sized fruit is seedless and perfect for guilt-free snacking!

Date

As healthy eating resolutions take effect at the beginning of the year, make sure your date selection is stocked.  Dates are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Because of their sweetness and texture, dates are often used as an all-natural sweetener; date sugar is the most easily digestible of all sweeteners!  The ever-popular Medjool date has an extraordinary sweetness and a delightful chewy texture. Deglet dates are firmer and less sweet than the Medjool variety. We also carry a handful of delicious date products such as Coco Rolls, Almond Nuggets, Date Paste and Walnut Rolls.

Kiwi

California green kiwi is steady. Fun Fact: Kiwifruit was originally named “Chinese Gooseberry” since the vine that produced the fruit was native to Northern China. It spread to New Zealand where the first commercial vineyards were planted. The fruit was later re-branded as kiwifruit because of its resemblance to the New Zealand kiwi bird.

Mango

Tommy Atkins are abundant with sharp, promotable pricing. Ask your Account Manager about volume deals. Ataulfo should be available starting mid-January.

Melon

Mini seedless watermelon is ending soon. Galia melons are available but with high prices given the tight market. Galias have yellow-orange skin with light netting and pale green flesh that is uniquely sweet, spicy and aromatic. Harper melons should start soon.  All coming from Mexico!

Pineapple

Mexican grown pineapples are readily available. Costa Rican fruit is a bit more limited in supply.

Stonefruit

We are happy to offer sweet red cherries from New Zealand, the first good crop in 3 years from the Southern Hemisphere!  Get ‘em while you can! Plums from Argentina and New Zealand are expected to arrive in February.

 

Nuts

There’s nothing nuttier than customers clamoring for roasted nuts during the winter months. Be prepared and check our inventory of tasty nuts!  Almonds are available every which way: roasted, roasted and salted, or shelled non-pariel. Walnuts and assorted nut mixes round out the selection. Check our list often for more offerings.

 

 

Vegetables

Asparagus

Asparagus is gapping in supply until mid-January.

Bean

Cold weather continues to keep green bean supply very tight.

Broccoli/Cauliflower

Broccoli and cauliflower supply are tightening and prices are up.

Cabbage

Green cabbage supply is strong from multiple labels. Red cabbage is also steady. Savoy and Napa may be a little limited.

Carrot

Bulk carrots are steady; prices have stabilized. Bunched Nantes carrots are readily available.

Celery

Supply is tight and prices are up.

Cucumber

Persian cucumber clamshells continue to gap. Bulk supply is also less available. Slicer cucumbers are tight. Europeans ‘cukes are holding steady.

Eggplant

Globe prices are on the rise. Graffiti is steady.

Greens, Lettuce & Herbs

Pie Ranch will be closed for winter break so we won’t be seeing greens from this grower until the first week of January. However, there should be no change in supply with plenty of product from other growers. Kales and chards are steady. Escarole is readily available with strong quality. We’re loving the bitter winter veggies like Castelfranco radicchio. This Italian winter green has beautiful butter yellow leaves with red-violet spots and veins. The flavor is bitter with sweet undertones. Try it raw in a salad or cooked with some lemon juice or balsamic vinegar. Treviso radicchio is more easily recognized with its characteristic red and white leaves. The crunchy texture and unique bitter taste lends itself to any number of dishes.

Salinas Valley and coastal growers are done with lettuce with for the season. Desert supply has picked up steadily. Cilantro and parsley prices have increased, due to frigid desert conditions which have caused supply to tighten up. Chives, tarragon and marjoram are gapping due to quality issues. Oregano and basil are not consistently available. Herb plants are tender!

Mushroom

Crimini is in good supply through the New Year. Oyster mushrooms are limited due to cold weather and lower production. On the specialty front, Lion’s Mane are limited but Maitake, Chanterelle and Trumpet Royale are readily available. We’re offering a special price on the Trumpets for the next two weeks, so act now!

Pea

Mexican English peas have come on. Snap peas and snow peas are readily available.

Pepper

Orange and yellow bell peppers are back in steady supply. Red bell pepper price has started to come down from previous levels as supply improves. Chilies have good volume. Sweet peppers are limited.

Root

Parsnip, rutabaga and turnips are in good supply. Jicama may be more limited. When the low-carb trend picks up steam this New Year, roots are a delicious substitute for potatoes and other carbohydrates. Just replace potatoes with roots in any recipe. Mashed roots and root vegetable gratin are easy ways to eat more nutritious roots!

Squash

Zucchini supply is very tight. Product is hard to come by and expensive. Yellow and specialty squash have not been available. Hard squash, on the other hand is readily available with lots of variety including: Acorn, Butternut, Carnival, Delicata, Kabocha, Red Kuri, Spaghetti, Sweet Dumpling and Sugar Pie Pumpkin. Mexican-grown squash has started. Overall prices are expected to drop.

Tomato

The tomato market is tight. Prices remain high on one and two-layer tomatoes, but volume should improve soon. Romas and tomatoes on vine, also known as “TOV,” are very limited. Cherry tomatoes are seeing better availability after a short gap. In happier news, Mexican heirlooms have arrived! As production gets underway, we should see steady supply.

 

Dried Fruit

Dried persimmon slices from Biodynamic producer Beck Grove are a naturally sweet and delicious snack! We have plenty of dried raisins available in every variety: red, green and black. Sundried tomatoes have sweet, concentrated tomato flavor that makes it the perfect addition to any savory dish.

 

 

Fresh-cut

If you haven’t looked into our fresh-cut program, now is the time. We offer a full line of fruits and vegetables prepared in a variety of ways—peeled, cubed, julienned, sliced just to name a few! When convenience and health are top of mind in 2018, stay ahead of trends by making sure your store, deli and walk-ins are stocked appropriately to take advantage of increased demand. Talk to your Account Manager to see how we can support your value-added program.

Looking for retail fresh-cut items? Josie’s Organics has a new 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.

Another great item to stock for the New Year are our red cooked beets from Love Beets that are peeled and chopped. The beets are vacuumed packed and cooked sous-vide to maintain freshness. They are also gluten free, all natural and certified kosher, with no added colors or preservatives. Conveniently packaged in 8.8 ounce packages, this item is extremely versatile and can be enjoyed hot or cold in a variety of dishes, from sandwiches to salads and even desserts, smoothies and juices.

 

 

Grocery

Love Beets offers delicious beet and beet and ginger juices in 6-pack bases of 14 ounce bottles. Beet juice is full of powerful antioxidants and nitrates, boosting stamina and endurance. All juices are 100% natural and gluten free, with no added sugars, artificial colors or preservatives. Love Beet’s unique filtration system allows for a desirably smooth taste.

Not a beet fan? We also carry grapefruit, lemon, lime and orange juice from Columbia Gorge.

Don’t forget the maple syrup for customers clamoring for the Master Cleanse! We offer maple syrup in various pack types from organic producer, Maple Valley Co-op. Cross merchandise with lemons and cayenne for more effective sales.

 

 

Merchandising Corner

Winter Wonders

Summer is known for its bounty of stone fruit and ample supply of berries but what comes to mind when you think of winter? Greens and root vegetables? While that is true they are surely not the only shining stars of the winter months. Citrus loves cold weather and there are many fantastic varieties to be enjoyed. But what else does California have to offer us at this time?

Let’s take a look at some of the great produce winter has to offer.

California actually has some wonderful winter blueberries. Homegrown Organic Farms provides us with a small window of availability around the beginning of the year.

Kiwi are a winter favorite that we are lucky to be able to grow locally here in California. Kiwi were only released to us by New Zealand in the 1990’s. Until then, all kiwi was imported to the US from New Zealand. There is a California Kiwi Commission that enforces strict standards on growers to keep the kiwi’s reputation integrity intact. It’s super serious business! Kiwi are often over looked when thinking about vitamin C but did you know that the unassuming fuzzy brown fruit has 5 times the vitamin C as an orange? It’s true and the skin is also completely edible.

Escarole, Frisee, Castlefranco and Treviso radicchio are other winter gems. These members of the chicory family are delicious succulent bitters that are great additions to any salad. They pair well with citrus, nuts and cheeses.

Bulk beets are in abundant supply at this time of year too. Bunched are sometimes hard to find due to weather conditions damaging their greens but you’ll always be able to find topped loose beets. At the beginning of the New Year, many people start juicing and beets are usually at the top of the juice list. Of course, beets are great for more than just juicing like baked or roasted and added to salads or sandwiches or pureed and added to soups.

Turmeric comes around again this time of year. One of the great things about turmeric is that it can be frozen and keeps quite well this way. That is a helpful suggestion to pass along to customers that panic when turmeric is in between seasons. Not only does turmeric have great medicinal qualities but it is a necessity for many recipes. If you are a fan of fresh turmeric over dried turmeric powder, stock up and keep a stash of frozen puree on hand in the freezer. That way you’ll always have some on hand for juicing, teas and cooking.

When planning your winter produce sets, don’t just focus on the obvious seasonal citrus. Save some space for these other notable items and help create new customer favorites by sharing some of this information with them.

 

Satsumas, Mandarins, Tangerines, Oh My!

In the midst of citrus season, there are many varieties of small, orange fruits available. With over 167 different hybrids and varietals recognized by the Citrus Variety Collection of the University of California, it’s no surprise people often confuse mandarins, satsumas, clementines and tangerines. In the U.S, mandarins and tangerines are commonly used interchangeably even though they are not the same thing. All tangerines are a type of mandarin but not all mandarins are tangerines.

Here’s a breakdown of the differences between these popular citrus fruits.

Mandarins are a type of orange although generally smaller and sweeter than oranges. They are flatter in shape with thinner, loose skin that is easier to peel.

Tangerines are a type of mandarin with bright orange slightly tougher skins. The flavor is tarter and less sweet.

Clementines are the smallest type of mandarin. They are super sweet, seedless and have orangey-red skin that is smooth and shiny. They are easier to peel than tangerines but not as easy as satsumas.

Satsumas are a specific type of mandarin originating in Japan more than 700 years ago. They are usually lighter in color, sweet, juicy and seedless. This is the easiest variety to peel.

 

Keep a lookout for our staff picks noted in orange.

 

Fruit

Apple and Pear

Heirloom apples are winding down. Prices are competitive. Lots of variety on the market to build up your apple display. Pink Lady apples are tasting delicious with beautiful color. Orins have a juicy fruity flavor with hints of pineapple and pear. Opals have distinctively crunchy texture, flora aroma and a sweet tangy flavor. Incredibly, Opals naturally do not brown after cutting! Fuji has strong supply. Great deals on Gala. The list goes on! Talk to your Account Manager about which apples are right for you.

We’re seeing strong supply on Comice well into next year, but overall pears are winding down. Good volume on Red D’Anjou but demand is high! These won’t last. Bosc and D’Anjou on hand now. Starkrimson are done for the season. We won’t see import Bartletts from Argentina until March. In what can only be called as a pear miracle, we were able to source one last shot of 20th Century and New Century Asian pears. Supply is limited—act fast!

Avocado

Hass prices are jumping up again. Growers are expecting that there will be little or no fruit coming into the states from Mexico after December 22 until after the first of the year due to holiday closures. Green-skinned Bacon avocados have sharp pricing on 36 count and larger sizes. Volume deals available for those interested in taking pallets. For California growers, the Santa Ana winds have wreaked havoc all over the state. The winds are blowing what little fruit there is of next year’s crop off the trees, most of which is not mature enough to sell. Other growers are located dangerously close to the wild fire zone. Expect some volatility in price, supply and quality as we head into 2018. Sneak preview, due to the Ventura Fire on the Central Coast of California, some growers want to get in and size-pick some of the new crop of domestic Hass, so stand by for further developments. California Fuerte are just around the corner, so be prepared for sharp prices on domestic green-skin fruit over the next month.

Berry

Domestic blueberry supply has good volume. The winter blueberry production out of Santa Maria, if yields are similar to last year, will run through April. Import blueberry supply will increase in December with product from Mexico adding to the increased volume out of Chile which tends to peak in late January and February. Import blackberries and raspberries are steady in supply. California strawberries are still going thanks to warmer weather in coastal areas. They should last until a frost hits, which is expected at this time of year.  Mexico imported strawberries should be starting up soon. There are still plenty of cranberries available for the upcoming holiday rush, both in 8 ounce bags and 20 pound bulk.

Citrus

Early Valencia from Mexico are here now with sharp pricing. Supply is limited so prices are not expected to last. Blood oranges should be available in late December. Our main grower is anticipating better sizing than last year. Navels are readily available. Supply is strong. Cara Cara Navels have arrived. Quality is great. We love the sweet juicy flavor! Meyer lemons are plentiful as most growers have come on for the season. If you’ve never tried Meyer lemons, now is the time! Much less acidic than regular lemons, the sweet flavor is perfect for enjoying raw on salads or desserts. The rind has an interesting spicy bergamot fragrance that tastes and smells like a spice. Clementines are finishing soon but Algerian Clementines have come on. This variety is known for having a thin skin that comes off easily. Fairchild tangerines are winding down. Dancy tangerines will be starting shortly after that. Orlando Tangelos, a hybrid of the Duncan grapefruit and Dancy tangerine, are available now. The flavor is mildly sweet and very juicy. Satsuma supply is steady. Don’t forget to check out the 5-lb Satsuma gift boxes!

Date

Looking for a date this holiday season? We’ve got you covered. Medjool dates have extraordinary sweetness and chewy texture. Deglet dates are firmer and less sweet than the Medjool variety. Both can be eaten fresh or used in a variety of dishes (bacon wrapped dates anyone?) Because of their sweetness and texture, dates are often used as an all-natural sweetener. We also carry a handful of delicious date products. Coco Rolls are ground dates rolled in dried coconut threads. Pecan Nuggets are rolled in chopped pecans and Almond Nuggets are rolled in chopped almonds.

Grape

Green seedless are just about done for the season. Red seedless are limited. Peru-imported red globe grapes should be coming on in late January.

Mango

Small sizes of Tommy Atkins are limited. Larger sizes available. We do not expect to see Ataulfos until January.

Melon

Mini seedless watermelon is winding down. Orange honeydew, Cantaloupe and Piel de Sapo are done for the season. Honeydew is also ending soon. Harper and Galia melons will start the 3rd week of December.

Persimmon

Fuyu persimmons have strong volume. Hachiyas are done for the season.

Pomegranate

Pomegranates are just about done for the season. Available fruit is eco grade with some minor scarring on the exterior but good quality arils inside.

Specialty Fruit

Passion fruit is limited and trickling in here and there. Jujubes are done for the season as are dragon fruit. Cherimoya is gapping in supply but should be available again soon. Young Thai coconut and Mexico imported coconut are readily available.

Stonefruit

Sweet Red Cherry season from the Southern Hemisphere has begun with Argentina beating out New Zealand to start up. Look for the first good import crop to come from the ‘other side of the world’ in several years! (They have had unpredictable and bad weather just like the Northern Hemisphere.)

 

Nuts

There’s nothing nuttier than customers clamoring for roasted nuts during the winter months. Be prepared and check our inventory of tasty nuts!  Almonds are available every which way: roasted, roasted and salted, or shelled non-pariel. Walnuts and assorted nut mixes round out the selection. Check our list often more new offerings.

 

Vegetables

Asparagus

Green asparagus is limited and prices are going up. Purple is also limited.

Broccoli/Cauliflower

Broccoli prices are on the rise as many large growers have now transitioned fully to their desert growing regions. Cauliflower supply may tighten towards the second half of the month and prices should creep up accordingly.

Carrot

Jumbo carrots are in back in supply after a short gap. Juice carrots are now readily available. Prices are coming down. Bunched carrots are steady.

Celery

Local California producers are ticking along as the weather has been favorable with no sign of a freeze yet. However, recent production reports are showing that current supply is not sizing up. Overall supply and price should remain steady as other growers come on.

Cucumber

Bulk Persian cucumbers are steady but clamshell supply is very tight. European ‘cukes are abundant; prices are promotable.

Eggplant

Globe prices are dropping quickly. Graffiti has good volume. Have you tried white eggplant before? This variety is oval and egg-shaped with white skin and cream flesh. The raw flavor is fruity and mild. When cooked, it takes on a mellow flavor with creamy texture.

Garlic and Ginger

Garlic has steady supply. Good news for those looking for natural remedies to ward off winter colds. Yellow Peruvian ginger prices are up. Turmeric has good volume this season. Like garlic, turmeric is known for its beneficial anti-inflammatory properties. Keep this item handy this season. Supply is expected to last through January.

Greens, Lettuce & Herbs

The seasonal transition from coastal and Salinas Valley growing regions to the desert regions of California and Arizona is wrapping up. Because crops are more delicate at the beginning of the desert season, there can be more instances of mechanical damage at this time of the season. Local bunched lacinato (aka dino kale) supply is limited with frosty nights now the norm.  Bunches grown north of the desert tend to be shorter as the leaves don’t grow as productively during the short days and colder temperatures. Bunched green kale is in better supply from local producers but will also be affected by frost in the weeks to come. Desert production for bunched greens in in full swing so supply should be steady overall.

The popular Trina/Perry label from Fremont, California Perry Organic Farms is done with lettuces for the season. Other Salinas Valley and coastal growers are ending soon as well. Fortunately, our diverse mix of suppliers allows us to rely on desert producers in California and Arizona as well as some farms in Santa Barbara during this season.

Pea

Snap peas and snow peas are readily available. Supply is steady as Mexico production slowly picks up. Still waiting on Mexican English peas to come on.

Pepper

California green bell peppers are just about done. Supply will be supported with Mexico product. Orange bell peppers are limited until more Mexico growers come on. Red bell peppers supply is very tight but starting to improve as Mexican growers transition into new growing regions. Yellow bell pepper has better volume than its counterparts. Supply is getting steadier. Domestic chilies are done for the season. Mexico prices are very strong. Sweet peppers are not readily available.

Potato

Russet potatoes are in short supply. Growers are reporting that the crop is not sizing up. Due to trucking issues, potatoes sourced from one of our main suppliers, Nature’s Pride in the Northwest are undergoing a price increase.

Squash

Hard squash supply is steady with plenty of variety to keep your shelves colorful this season. Look for Acorn, Butternut, and Spaghetti squash from Hollister based Bob Swanson Ranch, packed under the Bunkhouse label. This family farm’s specialty is hard squash. Also on hand in abundant supply: Carnival, Kabocha, Red Kuri, Sweet Dumpling and Sugar Pie Pumpkin.

Tomato

Prices on one and two-layer tomatoes are way up. Lower temperatures in Mexico has impacted supply. #2 quality beefsteak tomatoes from Wholesum Harvest are now available. The quality is strong and great for processors, delis and restaurants. Romas are tight and expensive. Sweet grapes are plentiful. Mexican heirlooms are two weeks out!

 

Dried Fruit

Dried persimmon slices from Biodynamic producer Beck Grove are a naturally sweet and delicious snack! We have plenty of dried raisins available in every variety: red, green and black. Sundried tomatoes have sweet, concentrated tomato flavor that makes it the perfect addition to any savory dish.

 

Grocery and Dairy

Straus Family Creamery eggnog is ending soon. Get your orders in before it’s gone for the season. Their old-fashioned organic eggnog is made with simple, organic ingredients and finished with a touch of organic nutmeg. No emulsifiers or thickeners are used in this rich, blend of organic milk, organic cream, organic sugar and organic and pasteurized egg yolks. It’s sure to become a holiday favorite!

In juice news, Columbia Gorge orange juice will now only be available in gallon jugs. Other varieties including lime, lemon, and grapefruit are still available in half gallon jugs.

This is the time of year when maple syrup products should be enticing! 6oz candy makes a great ‘stocking stuffer’ or easily-plated party desert; a jar of maple cream makes a rich, decadent thank-you gift for a co-worker, colleague, or family member. Turn on to something that is heavenly, and produced by a grower co-op!

 

Floral

Due to wet winter conditions, Thomas Farm is done with all fresh flowers until fields are drier. Full Belly Farm has finished with dried bouquets and wreaths. Stay tuned for floral updates in the new year!

 

Merchandising Corner

Add Value to Your Produce Department

Customers can almost always find a cheaper place to shop. Trying to compete based on price along puts you in a “race to the bottom,” making it extremely difficult to succeed. Offering a diverse product line appealing to your target customer, creating enticing displays, utilizing easy to read signage and maintaining a clean department are all ways to appeal to your customer base. In addition, your Produce Department must offer excellent customer service to demonstrate you truly care about customer satisfaction.

Satisfying customers should be the highest priority of every member of the Produce Department. A satisfied customer purchases more on each visit and visits more often. Creating a satisfying experience begins by following the guidelines already discussed and by following a few additional rules of thumb.

  • Treat every customer with respect and courtesy.
  • Use the 10-4 rule when a customer approaches you:
    • Within 10’—acknowledge the customer’s presence; a smile, friendly nod or wave is all that is needed.
    • Within 4’—verbally engage by greeting in a friendly, professional manner; a “Good morning/afternoon/evening, how are you?” or “Is there something I can help you find?” or “Are you finding everything you need?” are all effective options. The idea is to offer assistance without striking up a long conversation as neither of you have time to chat.
  • Never say “I don’t know” without following it with “but let me find out for you.” Follow through on getting whatever is requested. If follow-up is required after the shopper leaves the store, make sure you have contact information. If the question is about another department’s product, connect the shopper with the appropriate person to help.
  • Be familiar with the day’s specials, particularly tasty items, so you can suggest items if a customer seems receptive to ideas or asks specifically.
  • Suggest an alternative product if a customer is looking for an unavailable item.
  • Become familiar with the farm labels the store carries, to share the grower information with customers. Online grower profiles are available as a resource at veritablevegetable.com
  • Field Guide to Produce: How to Identify, Select, and Prepare Virtually Every Fruit and Vegetable at the Market, by Aliza Green is a handy reference for answering questions about nutritional value, cooking methods, etc. Refer to it as needed to provide exceptional service.
  • Provide customers a chart outlining how to properly store fruits and vegetables to maintain the best taste and quality.

As part of offering excellent customer service, ensure everyone in the Produce Department can confidently answer the commonly asked question: “Why buy organic produce?” The following list provided by the Organic Trade Association, shares the top reasons why buying organic produce is “better for the earth, better for people and animals, and better for eaters.”

  • Organic products meet stringent standards.Organic certification is the public’s assurance that products have been grown and handled according to strict procedures without persistent toxic chemical inputs.
  • Organic food tastes great! It’s common sense—well-balanced soils produce strong, healthy plants that become nourishing food for people and animals.
  • Organic production reduces health risks. Many EPA-approved pesticides were registered long before extensive research linked these chemicals to cancer and other diseases. Organic agriculture is one way to prevent any more of these chemicals from getting into the air, earth, and water that sustain us.
  • Organic farms respect our water resources. The elimination of polluting chemicals and nitrogen leaching, done in combination with soil building, protects and conserves water resources.
  • Organic farmers build healthy soil.Soil is the foundation of the food chain. The primary focus of organic farming is to use practices that build healthy soils.
  • Organic farmers work in harmony with nature. Organic agriculture respects the balance demanded of a healthy ecosystem: wildlife is encouraged by including forage crops in rotation and by retaining fence rows, wetlands, and other natural areas.
  • Organic producers are leaders in innovative research.Organic farmers have led the way with innovative on-farm research aimed at reducing pesticide use and minimizing agriculture’s impact on the environment.
  • Organic producers strive to preserve diversity.The loss of a large variety of species (biodiversity) is one of the most pressing environmental concerns. The good news is that many organic farmers and gardeners have been collecting and preserving seeds, and growing unusual varieties for decades.
  • Organic farming helps keep rural communities healthy. Organic agriculture can be a lifeline for small farms because it offers an alternative market where sellers can command fair prices for crops.

 

 

Return of the Navel

It’s citrus season, which means many of our favorite fruits are back! Domestic Washington variety navels make their first appearance in mid to late October and are available in good supply through winter. The navel is a large seedless orange that is sweet and easy to peel. The juicy segments generally separate effortlessly which make these the perfect easy to eat snack citrus. Although there are several navel varieties out there the Washington and Fukumoto are the most common. Other varieties you may see are the Lane, Riverside and Skaggs Bonanza.

The navel originated from a single tree that was planted in Brazil in 1820. This tree had a mutation, causing two oranges to be produced within one single piece of fruit. The navel first made its break onto the California scene in the late 1800’s and helped create what we know as the California citrus industry today. The navel is one of the more famous standout products that California has to offer. This exceptional citrus grows all over the state giving us great supply and a long harvest season. So how can you tell the difference between a navel and other oranges? By its bellybutton of course! The navel gets its name from an underdeveloped immature fruit at the blossom end of the orange. There are many ways to enjoy these big juicy oranges so pick some up and add a piece of California history to your diet!

Keep a lookout for our staff picks noted in orange.

 

Fruit

Apple and Pear

Heirloom prices are coming down—time to stock up on your favorites! Spitzenburgs have rich, fruity aromatic flavor and crisp flesh. They make a great dessert apple and are often a favorite at Christmas time. Golden Russets were introduced in 1845 in New York state. They are usually considered the best flavored of the American russet apples thanks to its sweet honeyed taste. Ashmead’s Kernel, a traditional English russet apple, is popular for its distinctive pear-like flavor. Opals are juicy, crispy and delicious—everything you want in an apple! Kanzi is a cross between a sweet tangy Braeburn and juicy Gala with beautiful red and yellow coloring. Orins have a tropical aroma and sweet, crisp juicy flavor. This apple is low on acid and big on sweetness. Envy apples are succinctly named for its envy-inducing perfect blend of crunch, aroma and taste. With so many varieties out there, let’s not forget about the classics. Sharp pricing on Red Delicious, Honeycrisp and Fuji.

Pears are winding down. We still have Bosc, D’Anjou and Red D’Anjou in relatively good supply. Local Bartlett pears from Lake County, California are ending soon. Get them before they are gone!

Avocado

Hass avocado from Mexico are in good supply, with large sizes less plentiful than mid-sizes. We have Fair Trade certified fruit. Ask your Account Manager if you want other sizes in Fair Trade Hass. Currently we are focused on 60 count 2-layer. California-grown Zutano and Bacon have started harvest and should be available for the next month, although somewhat limited in supply. California Hass won’t be available until February or March, at the earliest.

Berry

Strawberry supply from Northern California regions is very limited. Recent rain will likely bring the season to an end.  Chilean blueberries are steady. Raspberry supply is expected to increase in December. Mexican blackberry supply is increasing; prices are coming down. Cranberry is readily available in cello bags, and bulk packs.

Citrus

Early Valencia from Mexico have started. Expect lighter color and less juice than end of season Valencias from California. Navels continue to improve in volume as more growers come on. We should see some of the Lou Lou variety from Deer Creek Heights Ranch (sold under the popular Buck Brand label) in a week or so. Lisle, the owner of the ranch named this navel variety after his wife, Mary Lou!  Cara Cara Navels are delayed until the first week of December. Grapefruit is readily available with sharp pricing. Pomelos have arrived! This unique citrus is much larger than grapefruit but the flavor is similar–sweet and mild and without the bitterness. The thick rind is sometimes made into marmalade, candied and even dipped in chocolate. More and more growers on coming with Meyer lemons. It’s the season for tangerine gift boxes! We’re offering 5-pound straight pack gift boxes of Satsuma tangerines. These boxes are festive and beautifully decorated for store displays.

Date

As we roll into the holidays, dates are the perfect treat to satisfy a sweet tooth without feeling too indulgent. Dates are the edible fruit of the date palm tree. We have a wide selection of dates and date products.  Medjool dates are prized for their large size, extraordinary sweetness and chewy texture. Deglet dates are firmer and less sweet than the Medjool variety. Coco Rolls are ground dates rolled in dried coconut threads (yum!) Looking for a little crunch? Pecan Nuggets are rolled in chopped pecans and Almond Nuggets are rolled in chopped almonds. Did you know we also offer date paste? This is a great item for food processors and bakeries.

Fig

Unusual warmer weather at this time of year has extended fig season (lucky for us!) We’re seeing small amounts of Brown Turkey figs available. Grab these before they’re gone for good!

Grape

Red seedless grapes are very limited and prices are up. Green seedless are extremely limited. Black seedless are done for the season.

Persimmon

Fuyu persimmons are plentiful. Volume-fill packs are available at sharp pricing. This variety is great for eating when fresh and firm (including the skin.) Hachiyas are steady. To be eaten fresh, Hachiya must be soft and plump—otherwise they will be unbearably astringent. However, it is this quality that makes this variety perfect for hoshigaki. Hoshigaki are persimmons that are peeled and dried whole over several weeks through a combination of hanging and delicate hand-massaging until the sugars of the fruit form a delicate surface with a dusting that looks like frost. Hoshigaki are tender and moist with concentrated persimmon flavor. The labor intensive and unique method is traditional to Japan.

Pomegranate

Pomegranates are readily available. 30 count and 36 count are steady. 40 and 42 count fruit are gapping in supply. Larger fruit is available but more expensive.

Specialty Fruit

Aloe vera prices are up slightly due to increased labor costs. Cherimoya is gapping in supply but should be available in a week or two. And not a moment too soon—we can’t get enough of the creamy tropical fruit with that tastes of banana, pineapple, papaya and peach. Smatterings of Dragon fruit and passionfruit are continuing to be available, dependent on weather.

 

 

Nuts

There’s nothing nuttier than customers clamoring for roasted nuts during the winter months. Be prepared and check our inventory of tasty nuts! Jumbo chestnuts from Heath Ranch are available in 5-pound mesh bags.  Almonds are available every which way: roasted, roasted and salted, or shelled non-pariel. Walnuts and assorted nut mixes round out the selection. Check our list often more new offerings.

 

Vegetables

Artichoke

Artichokes are plentiful in most sizes and tasting delicious. The colder winter weather brings out flavorful “frost kissed” artichokes. Frost causes the outer layer of artichokes to blister, eventually turning it brown. Beneath the layer, the artichoke is the same familiar green color but with a concentrated and intense nutty flavor.

Asparagus

Asparagus prices are going up as supply tightens. Green tips and purple tips are limited.

Broccoli/Cauliflower

Broccoli supply is abundant as growers work on transitioning from Salinas to desert growing regions. Prices are sharp and should remain steady until all product moves to the desert. White cauliflower has strong volume and prices are attractive on all pack types. Graffiti (purple) is also readily available. Cheddar (orange) is available but not as plentiful.

Cabbage

Green, red, Napa and Savoy cabbage are all steady in supply. We love the mild taste of Napa cabbage. It is versatile enough for any number of winter dishes. Enjoy raw as a wrap or throw in stir fries, soups, slaws or try your hand at preserving by making kimchi.

Carrot

Juice carrot supply remains tight. Jumbo carrots are still gapping. Rainbow bulk and bunched carrots are in good supply and steady.

Celery

Celery has strong volume and sharp pricing. This is a great item to keep stocked and on promotion through the winter season when soups and stews are on popular on menus. Everyone has a need for celery! Talk to your Account Manager about pallet deals.

Cucumber

The market for Persian cucumbers has improved and bulk supply is now readily available. Slicer cukes’ are steady. English Hothouse prices remain low.

Garlic and Ginger

Garlic is a frequent item on winter shopping lists. Expect steady shopper demand as we head towards the holiday season. Fortunately, garlic has strong availability and should have no problem keeping up with demand. Garlic contains allicin, a powerful antibacterial only present after garlic is crushed and before it is heated. Adding fresh garlic to food, tea or consuming raw may help fight off those pesky winter colds.  Ginger prices are low and steady but don’t expect this to last. Hawaiian grown turmeric is flying off the shelves. Turmeric is known for its beneficial anti-inflammatory properties. As health continues to be a trend among consumers this year and into next, make sure your turmeric is always stocked! Supply should continue through January.

Greens, Lettuce & Herbs

Growers are still in the process of transitioning their fields from the coastal and Salinas Valley regions to the desert regions of California and Arizona. Although the transition period can bring challenges in availability and quality, we expect to be in good supply through our diverse mix of suppliers. Spring mix and baby kales have excellent low pricing. Bunched kale and chards are steady and available. Romaine lettuce has good volume. Red Butter supply is spotty. Little Gems should be available until the first frost.

Although Thanksgiving is over, holiday dinners and parties will continue well through the end of the year. Make sure you’re stocked on holiday mix herbs in bunches and clamshells! The holiday herb mix is a warm, woodsy combination of rosemary, sage, savory, and thyme. These are the go-to herbs traditionally used during the winter holidays for roasted meats, dressing & stuffing, mushrooms, and side dishes. Oregano is gapping due to poor quality.

Mushroom

Mushrooms are the new meat! Include chopped mushrooms in burgers, sauces, soups or anything that needs to be beefed up with earthy flavor. Supply is steady on most classic ‘shrooms: Crimini, Portabella, White, Shiitake, Beech and Oyster.  Specialty wild varieties like Maitake and Trumpet Royale are more limited so talk to your Account Manager early! Trumpets are a staff favorite for their delicate flavor and meaty texture.

Pea

There is some supply of California snap peas available but at high prices. Mexico snaps are becoming more regular in supply. Mexico snow peas have come on and English peas are very close to starting up.

Pepper

Green and red bell peppers are plentiful. Orange bells are still limited and hard to come by. Both California and Mexico chilies are available and priced accordingly. Mini sweet peppers supply has improved and is steady.

Squash

Zucchini supply and prices are holding steady with mostly Mexico product. California growers are winding down for the season. Plenty of hard squash on hand. We have an impressive list with something for everyone. Our favorites Green Kabocha and Blue Kabocha offer sweet, nutty flavor with the smooth texture of sweet potato or pumpkin. Butternut is readily available in multiple sizes. Goldetti is an orange spaghetti squash with beautiful color and sharp pricing. Promotable pricing on #2 quality Spaghetti—a great option for food service or processing. Check with your Account Manager about great deals on Jester squash, a variety similar to Delicata.

Sweet Potato

With sweet potatoes on every holiday table, take this opportunity to introduce customers to varieties that they may not be familiar with. Purple Stokes have vibrant skin and flesh that adds a pop of color to standard potato dishes. Japanese Sweets offer sweet flavor and flesh that turns golden when cooked. Hannah Sweets are less sweet with a dry texture that is great for mashing. Prices are competitive and supply is ample. Time to up your sweet potato game!

Tomato

With Mexico’s growing season underway, the tomato market has improved overall. One and two-layer are readily available. Tomatoes on the vine has strong volume and promotable pricing. Romas are in better supply than previous weeks but not yet normalized. Cherry tomatoes supply has improved on all varieties and prices are down. Sweet grape tomatoes sold in compostable fiber baskets are gapping. #2 quality beefsteak tomatoes from Wholesum Harvest are now available. The quality is strong and great for processors, delis and restaurants.

 

Dried Fruit

Don’t be the fruitcake without organic dried fruit on your shelves this holiday season. Check our delicious selection of dried jujube, dried persimmon from Biodynamic producer Beck Grove, and dried pitted prunes. Sweet, delicious Biodynamic Thompson raisins from Marian Farms are a staff favorite. The raisins are lightly sprayed with certified organic safflower oil to prevent clumping and makes for easy pouring and scooping. Sundried tomatoes have sweet, concentrated tomato flavor that easily makes it a stand -alone snack or addition to salads, pastas and more!

 

Grocery and Dairy

Did you know that Straus Family Creamery offers eggnog through the holiday season? If you haven’t tried their old fashion eggnog you’re missing out. This delicious beverage is only available for the holiday season. It never disappoints, as a matter of fact, their eggnog is rather addictive!

In juice news, Columbia Gorge orange juice will now only be available in gallon jugs. Other varieties including lime, lemon, and grapefruit are still available in half gallon jugs.

 

Floral

Due to wet winter conditions, Thomas Farm is done with all fresh flowers until tulips come on in December. Dried bouquets and dried wreaths from Full Belly Farm are still readily available. Dried wreaths are sold individually—each one is unique and different! Dried bouquets are sold in 6 counts. Dried floral arrangements are great centerpieces and gifts for the holidays.

 

Merchandising Corner

Don’t Forget the Mushrooms!

With the cooler weather upon us and the abundance of the crops it brings, our attention often turns to warm hearty foods. It’s time for roasting vegetables and making soups. You will find no shortage of winter squash, leeks, potatoes, root vegetables and greens right now but don’t forget the mushrooms! There are a wide variety of cultivated and wild mushrooms out there will complement any dish you have in mind. They are packed with vitamins and minerals and also naturally contain vitamin D. To store, refrigerate in a paper bag with the top folded over; do not wrap in plastic wrap or store in an airtight container. Washing mushrooms is usually not necessary. If you must rinse them, do it lightly, then dry them immediately—and gently—with paper towels. Never soak fresh mushrooms in water, which will cause them to become soggy. This method works for all mushrooms except morels

Crimini and Portabella: Botanically there is no difference. Crimini is smaller and considered more desirable due to the tight closed caps. These can be prepared whole chopped or sliced. Portabellas need a little prep before cooking. Portabella are the more mature stage of the agaricus bisporus mushroom. The cap is completely open and the gills are exposed. Remove the stem the gills before cooking. The gills will leak black liquid if not scraped off. You can do that easily with a spoon. Now your caps are ready to be sliced or stuffed. Crimini and Portabella also are mild in flavor but offer a meatier texture. These varieties are great for just about any use but are especially good blended in to cream sauces are added to soup stocks

Oyster Mushrooms: Oyster are naturally a tree dwelling mushroom but are now also widely cultivated and sold almost everywhere. When cooking with oysters, remove the lower half of the stem from the cap, or scallop at it is called on the oyster mushroom. If you are cooking with wild oysters be sure to flush the gills of the mushroom gently to make sure they are insect free. Oyster mushrooms have a soft delicate flavor and texture. Sauté with a little butter and garlic and they will go well with everything! Not only are oysters a fantastic gourmet mushroom, they are also used medicinally because of their high level of statins. Oysters mushrooms are also currently the focus of a study in environmental clean-up. They show much promise in their ability to absorb toxins like mercury from the ground. This mushroom sounds like some sort of super hero! It eats. It treats. It restores.

Shiitake: This vitamin B packed mushroom is chewy and intense compared to most other common varieties. Shiitakes are most commonly used in Asian cooking but they are also very versatile and pair well with just about any dish. To prepare the shiitake before cooking, wipe down or rinse then remove the whole stem at the cap. Shiitake stems tend to be too tough and fibrous to consume. Shiitakes are all around amazing. They’re delicious and are loaded with beneficial nutrients. They also contain all 8 essential amino acids so these are definitely mushrooms that you should be eating more often. Shiitake mushrooms are great for roasting and pair well with potatoes, greens and meats. Just remember to remove their tough stems.

I Yam What I Yam

For most of us, yams and sweet potatoes (shown above) are confusing. Are they the same? Are they different? We’re here to set the record straight: sweet potatoes are not a type of yam, and yams are not a type of sweet potato. They are both tuberous root vegetables that come from a flowering plant, but they are not related.

A yam is a starchy root of the Dioscorea genus that is native to Africa and Asia. They are cylindrical in shape and have rough brownish bark-like skin. The flesh is white, purple or reddish. Compared to sweet potatoes, yams are lower in beta carotene, starchier and drier.

The sweet potato is part of the morning glory family. There are several varieties and the flesh and skin ranges in color from white to yellow to orange to purple. They have an elongated shape with tapered ends. The varieties can be grouped together into two major types; (1) firm, which have golden skin and paler flesh or (2) soft, which have copper skin and orange flesh. The firm variety was the first to be produced in the U.S., so when “soft” sweet potatoes began to be produced commercially, there was a need to differentiate it from its firm counterpart. Since the “soft” sweet potatoes slightly resemble true yams, the name was picked up and became what you see commonly labeled as “yams” in grocery stores.

In summary, know what kind of sweet potato you want for your recipe, and be alert to the yam/sweet potato labeling concept. More importantly, don’t be afraid to examine the vegetables, look at the color of the skin and the flesh and ask questions!

 

Keep a lookout for our staff picks noted in orange.

 

Fruit

Apple and Pear

It’s a great time to be an apple-lover—lots of varieties available including some of our favorite heirlooms! Spitzenburgs have rich, fruity aromatic flavor and crisp flesh. This heirloom was discovered in upstate New York in the early 1700s. It is rumored to be Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apple as it was found growing in his orchards at Monticello. Spitzenburg is a great dessert apple and often a favorite at Christmas time. Arkansas Black have started, but supply is very limited and prices high. This heirloom variety dates back to the 1870s. It has a lively red color that deepens to purplish-black when ripe. Prices are coming down on Ashmead Kernel’s, Golden Grimes and King David. We’re expecting to see Winesap come on soon in limited amounts! Now is the time to try the heirloom varieties before they’re gone!  The Kanzi is a staff favorite. It is a cross between a tangy sweet Braeburn and a juicy Gala with attractive red and yellow coloring. Opals are here in all their juicy, crispy, delicious glory. The bright yellow skin adds a pop to any apple display. Did we mention it resists oxidation so is less likely to brown after slicing? Great pallet deals on the Gala 113 count and large Fuji apple bins! We’re your premiere apple resource this season. Check in with your Account Manager to discuss and plan for your apple needs.

We’re seeing large volume and promotable pricing on Barlett pears. Bosc is readily available—inquire about pallet deals! Comice have come on; quality is spot on. The fruit is clean with a slight blush. Pocket size Seckels are here. The small size makes these ideal for lunch boxes, garnishes, canning whole and more!

Avocado

Hass prices from Mexico continue to slide down on small fruit. 40s and larger fruit are very limited and much more expensive than 48s. Expect California grown green-skin Zutano any day now. They will run large sizes, since they will be size-picked as fruit matures on the tree.

Berry

Rain in Northern California has shutdown most strawberry supply in the region. Expect prices to be high. Chilean blueberry prices remain high but supply has been steady. Mexican blueberry season should start in December. Mexican blackberry season has started but supply is limited. We’re offering cranberry in clamshells, cello bags, and bulk packs.

Citrus

Valencia demand is strong and prices expected to remain firm. Hurricane Irma affected Florida’s citrus supply earlier this fall, impacting Mexican and California supply now. There is some California fruit available but early Mexican fruit is not expected to come on until around Thanksgiving. It’s still early in the Navel season and we can expect supply to improve. Cara Cara Navels should be here towards the end of the month. Grapefruit prices have come down. Pomelos have come on early and are available. Satsuma tangerines are very tight in supply. More growers should come on mid-month and fruit will be more readily available. Clementine and Fairchild tangerines are starting up right after Thanksgiving. Look for the highly coveted 5-pound Clementine gift boxes! We will probably not see any Minneola until mid-December.

Date

We have a wide selection of dates but our favorite has the be the Medjool date. Often considered “nature’s power fruit,” Medjool dates are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They have even been proven to decrease cholesterol and boost bone health. Dates are the edible fruit of the date palm tree. Their sweet taste makes them the perfect natural sweeteners and sugar alternative. Other dates options on our list include Almond Nugget, Coco Roll, Pecan Nugget, Walnut Roll and the popular date paste.

Grape

We’re approaching the end of the season for grapes, supply has tightened and prices are up. Black seedless has the steadiest volume but price has still increased. Green grapes are more limited and prices are quite firm. Red grapes are very limited as growers wait for the grapes to color up.

Mango

Tommy Atkins and Ataulfo mango have strong supply. The two varieties could not be more different in shape and size but both offer sweet tropical reprieve during the winter months. We like freezing cut up chunks to conveniently add to smoothies!

Melon

The Mexican melon season is ramping up. Mini seedless watermelon is steady. Plenty of specialty melons available including Cantaloupe, Crenshaw, Piel de Sapo and Orange Honeydew. Honeydew should be coming on soon to join the ranks.

Persimmon

Fuyu persimmons have good volume. Volume-fill packs are available at sharp pricing. This variety tastes great when fresh and firm. Hachiyas are steady but a bit more limited. Let this variety ripen until it’s soft and plump before enjoying! Hachiya is great for baking. Try a persimmon pie this Thanksgiving for a unique and tasty dessert.

Pomegranate

Pomegranate supply is strong and steady. 36 count size fruit is gapping in supply. Check out the pom bins for a great volume deal.

Specialty Fruit

Mark Twain once called the cherimoya “the most delicious fruit known to men.” This tropical fruit is also known as a custard apple. On the outside, it is green, scaly and sometimes heart or conical shaped. On the inside, however, the creamy white flesh tastes like a blend of banana, pineapple, papaya and peach. Some prefer to chill the fruit and eat it with a spoon, earning it the nickname, the ice cream fruit. Jujube (also known as the Chinese date) are here in limited quantities. The fruit is green when immature but ripens to brown to purplish black coloring when mature. Quince, the quirky fruit, is readily available. Completely inedible raw, quince is best for cooked dishes, and provides natural pectin for firming up home-made pie, jelly, and chutney. We love the delicate fragrance of vanilla, citrus and apple it releases when left out at room temperature. Replace your candles with a handful of quince fruit this holiday season! Currently we have good supply of white-flesh dragon fruit, at a really sharp price.

 

Nuts

Chestnuts from Heath Ranch are available in 5-pound mesh bags. They are jumbo size and gorgeous! We also have a variety of nuts, ideal for any festive occasion: several types of almond, cashew, walnut and a nut mix. Check our availability list for more information.

 

Vegetables

Artichoke

Artichokes are steady but larger size ‘chokes have tightened up a bit. Rodoni Farms artichokes have been loving the colder weather coming through California’s Santa Cruz area—it’s brings out the nutty flavor!

Bean

Green beans are readily available with strong quality. Rundle Family Farm’s crop was damaged by early frost and will likely be very limited this season. However, we’ll have steady supply from Orange County Organics so do not anticipate any gaps or shortages.

Broccoli/Cauliflower

Broccoli prices are coming down fast as desert and Mexican production has started up.  Northern California producers are trying to close down their coolers and move entirely to desert production. There is plenty of broccoli available at sharp prices as we head into Thanksgiving. The cauliflower market is also sliding. Prices have dropped and supply is strong.

Brussels Sprout

We’ve got your Brussels needs covered this season. Supply is plentiful and quality high—we’re seeing bright, clean sprouts with no aphids. Keep this popular veggie stocked through Thanksgiving and Christmas! Consider adding to your promotions between holidays to keep sales steady.

Carrot

Juice carrot supply remains tight. Rainbow bulk carrots are steady. Bunched carrots are in good supply. Jumbo carrots are gapping.

Celery

Although it was looking like a tight celery market going into Thanksgiving, conditions have fully come around. With so much celery out there, we are confident that we have some of the best quality and one of the best prices available in the Bay Area.

Cucumber

Persian cucumbers are limited. We’re seeing small amounts of Persian clamshells available. Slicer cucumbers have better availability from Fair Trade certified producer, Rico Farms in Mexico. English Hothouse prices are coming down.

Garlic and Ginger

Few holiday dishes don’t benefit from a little garlic. Expect shopper demand to increase in the coming weeks. Fortunately, garlic has good volume and should be steady. Turmeric from our Hawaiian grower, Kolo Kai has arrived! Supply should be steady through January. Turmeric has high anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. As health continues to be a trend among consumers this year and into next, make sure your turmeric is always stocked!

Greens, Lettuce & Herbs

Our greens suppliers are currently transitioning their fields from the coastal and Salinas Valley regions to the desert regions of California and Arizona. Historically, the transition period has brought some challenges in availability and quality. However, our diverse mix of suppliers should keep us in good supply through the transition. Bunched kale and chards are readily available; quality is high. Lots of collards out there. Romaine lettuce is in tight supply and prices are up. Several of our local California growers are waiting for their lettuce to size up. Just in—holiday mix herbs in bunches and clamshells! The holiday herb mix is a warm, woodsy combination of rosemary, sage, savory, and thyme. These are the go-to herbs traditionally used during the winter holidays for roasted meats, dressing & stuffing, and side dishes.

Mushroom

‘Tis the season for mushrooms! Our list includes your classic ‘shrooms: Crimini, Portabella, White, Shiitake, Beech and Oyster as well as specialty wild varieties like Maitake, Matsutake, Porcini,Trumpet and Black Trumpet. These varieties are limited so talk to your Account Manager early! We also have Chanterelles and Lion’s Mane which are preorder only. Be sure to get your order in at least 2 days before need the items. It’s no surprise if you have not heard of Lion’s Mane. They are not your classic looking cap and stem variety. These globular shaped mushrooms have cascading teeth-like spines. From these spines, white spores emerge. They resemble the white pom-pom used by cheerleaders. The mushroom is 20% protein and can sometimes taste like lobster or shrimp! Many wait all year for it (we certainly do!)—truffles are in season. White, Winter Black and Burgundy truffles are available by the ounce.

Onions

With the holidays upon us, it goes without saying that onions are on everyone’s shopping list. From white to yellow to red, sweet to sweeter, we have you covered. Volume is strong—talk to your Account Manager about prebuilt pallet deals—mix and match onion varieties! Plenty of shallot on hand. Red and yellow Cipollini are readily available. Pearl onions are likely going to be unavailable this season, however gold boilers make a great substitute for those looking onions in a small size.

Pea

Snap peas are extremely tight right now. California growers are gapping in supply due to quality issues and Mexico growers is just starting up.

Pepper

Red and green bell peppers are readily available. Orange and yellow bell peppers are very limited as Mexico supply is not quite ready yet. Jalapenos are becoming more available—expect prices to come down. Poblano, Serrano and Anaheim peppers all have some limited availability. Sweet peppers are still hard to come by.

Potato

In potato-land, conditions are favorable. We have lots of variety, supply is strong and prices are low. Russet potatoes are steady and have dropped in price. Pallet deals are available on yellow potatoes. If you haven’t shopped our specialty potatoes selection yet, now is the time! We have fingerlings in every color—perfect for roasting! Creamy Huckleberry Gold, vibrant purple potatoes round out the collection.

Squash

Zucchini prices trended down as a result of more Mexican product coming on the market. Specialty soft squash from California growers is winding down for the season. We have lots of hard squash on hand for your holiday needs! Butternut is readily available in multiple sizes. Carnival squash is winding down. New to the squash family is the Goldetti, an orange spaghetti with beautiful color and sharp pricing! Did you know we sell mixed and straight bins of hard squash? Mix bins may contain Acorn, Butternut, Delicata, Kabocha, Spaghetti, or Sugar Pie Pumpkin. Custom mixes are available upon request. All bins are preorder only so don’t wait!

Sweet Potato

Everyone needs sweet potatoes for the holidays. This is a great time to introduce customers to varieties that they may not be familiar with. We are offering Garnets, Hannah Sweet, Japanese Sweet, Jewel and Purple Stokes at competitive prices and large volume. Cut some up on your tasting table to show each varieties’ colorful flesh. Samples and recipes are also helpful. Did you know we offer prebuilt pallets of any combination of these five varieties? Talk to your Account Manager for holiday planning and volume deals.

Tomato

Heirlooms are done for the season. Roma tomatoes are a little tight. Cherry tomatoes have limited availability. It’s the time in the season when California growers are finishing up and Mexico comes on some blips in supply are expected. One and two-layer slicer are in good supply.

 

Dried Fruit

No holiday is complete with dried fruit! We have delicious dried jujube, dried persimmon from Biodynamic producer Beck Grove, and dried pitted prunes. Let’s not forget about the sweet, delicious Biodynamic Thompson raisins from Marian Farms. The raisins are lightly sprayed with certified organic safflower oil to prevent clumping and makes for easy pouring and scooping.

 

Grocery and Dairy

Did you know that Straus Family Creamery offers eggnog through the holiday season? If you haven’t tried their old fashion eggnog you’re missing out. This delicious beverage is only available for the holiday season. It never disappoints, as a matter of fact, their eggnog is rather addictive!

 

Floral

All fresh flowers from Full Belly Farm and straight packs from Thomas Farm are officially done for the season. Thomas Farm will continue to offer seasonal mixed bouquets. However, with the change of the seasons, we’re excited to reintroduce dried bouquets and dried wreaths from Full Belly Farm. Dried wreaths are sold individually—each one is unique and different! Dried bouquets are sold in 6 counts. Dried floral arrangements are great centerpieces and gifts for the holidays.

 

Merchandising Corner

Thanksgiving Displays

Now that the holidays are fast approaching, it is time to start thinking about your holiday displays. Items like Garnet sweet potatoes, yellow onions, Russet potatoes and Butternut squash are all items that you can start stocking up on now and increasing their display size. Not only will this encourage more sales by providing the larger displays but you can also start to claim your holiday space and begin to plan for the week before the Thanksgiving shopping surge. The five days right before the big holiday is the time you really want to expand your displays on all heavily in demand Thanksgiving items. During this small window of time your department will sell anywhere from 10 to 50 times the normal amount on items like: celery, parsley, brussels sprouts, thyme, rosemary, cranberries, chestnuts, Pink Lady and Granny Smith apples, Garnet sweet potatoes, Russets, Yukons, carrots, yellow onions, Butternut and other winter hard squash. A department that does around $40,000 a week might want to consider bringing in a half pallet of Garnets and building a big impressive display to promote sales and do the same with yellow onions. If your weekly department sales are more around $60,000, you could easily move a full pallet of those two products.

Since the few days before Thanksgiving is such a hectic time, think about some short cuts you can make that will save you and your staff time. For instance, don’t spend time prepping your celery. Products like this will be moving so fast that you will be not only saving time but you’ll be able to keep the product stocked out on the floor more consistently. You might consider the same thing with your parsley and any bunched greens you may be stocking during those few days. Any time you can save yourself in the backroom is more time you and your staff can spend out on the floor providing customer service and making sure the department looks good. Keeping the department full and having staff to help customers will make a huge difference in your sales volume.

If you are lucky enough to work in a store with a deli, chances are they will be running a holiday menu. It is a good idea to get some of the recipes for popular side dishes and desserts printed out and placed around the produce department.  Customers are always looking for great new ways to prepare their favorite produce items. If you don’t have a deli to partner with you can always look up some recipes on line yourself like roasted brussels sprouts with bacon, stuffed acorn squash, wild rice with cranberries and chestnuts or even the traditional standard sweet potatoes with marshmallows. There are always people who appreciate recipes and will gladly use them. Now get out there and take on the holiday!

 

 

 

 

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