Author Archives: Veritable Vegetable

Watermelon Mania

Watermelon

Watermelon is often synonymous with the first inklings of summer. Refreshing, delicious and healthy, this popular fruit has a deep history that goes back thousands of years. The origins of watermelon traces back to the deserts of southern Africa, where it still grows wild today. Its ancestor is a tough, drought-tolerant plant that was used to store water for tribes crossing the Kalahari. The first recorded watermelon harvest occurred in Egypt 5,000 years ago where watermelons were often placed in burial tombs of kings to nourish them in the afterlife.

Flash forward to today and there are over 1,200 varieties grown in 96 countries worldwide.  A watermelon’s stripes indicate variety; there are even some without stripes! Because there are so many varieties, they are often grouped according to characteristics, like fruit shape, rind color, pattern or size. The most common options are seeded, seedless, mini, and yellow or orange.

With so many options, how do you pick a good watermelon? This is a common question but can be easily answered! 1) Look the watermelon over–it should be firm, symmetrical and free from bruises, cuts, or dents. 2) Lift it up—the watermelon should be heavy for its size since 92% of its weight is water. 3) Turn it over—the underside of the watermelon should have a creamy yellow spot from where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun.

*Keep a lookout for our staff picks noted in orange.

 

Fruit

Apple and Pear

Import apples are starting to come in as we wind down on domestic fruit. Domestic Fuji and Gala are still here but moving fast. Great pricing on Fuji from Cuyama Orchards. Argentinian imported Granny Smith and Red Delicious have arrived and look great. Look for import Cripps Pink and Washington-grown Golden Delicious coming in soon!

With spring fruit starting up, there is understandably less movement on pears at this time of year. Although supply is limited—there is still quality fruit available in Autumn Bartlett, Bosc and D’Anjou varieties. Large fruit is more available—a great option for our processing and juice customers.

Avocado

Prices continue to trend up, especially on 60 and 48 count avocado. Supply is strong on 60 and 70 counts–ask your Account Manager about pallet deals. The strong market is expected to remain high until the new crop from Mexico begins in September. #2 quality fruit is in good supply so prices are expected to remain steady. Good news for the latest avolatte trend combining lattes served in hollowed out avocados!

Berry

Strawberry supply is strong as more growers are coming onto the California season. Prices are competitive. Blueberry season is ramping up with steady supply. One of our main growers, Homegrown Organics is looking at a short season in the San Joaquin Valley this year and will be transitioning early to Oregon production. However, California supply will be unaffected with plenty of berries from Riverdance Farms, Hirahara Family Farm, and Sierra Cascade Blueberry Farm coming on. Look for the popular 10 pound bulk packs of blueberries from Sierra Cascade which are of the sweeter high bush variety. Blackberry supply is steady.

Citrus

Meyer lemons are still gapping in supply as growers wait for the fruit to color up. Lemon is in good supply with both California and Mexico grown fruit available. Pricing on choice fruit is going up slightly. Lime supply is steady and pricing has come down. Grapefruit is still going strong! B&J Ranch’s fruit is the best there is on the market. Great flavor and lots of sizes available. Growers are starting to come on with California Valencias with Pauma Valley Citrus leading the way with juicy and delicious fruit. Buck Brand and Cousins should be starting soon. There are limited amounts of Golden Nuggets still so get ‘em while you can! Kumquats are still in good supply from Beck Grove.

Grape

Grape season is ramping up just in time for summer celebrations! Red seedless flame grapes are in good supply and available in convenient 8 count pouches. They are sweet, crisp and perfectly sized for snacking and fruit salads. Prices are coming down as volume starts to pick up. Sugarones and black grapes have started with very high pricing on the green seedless.

Kiwi

Kiwi season is winding down in June. Supply is limited as Wild River finishes up. Get what you can before the season is done!

Melon

Watermelon supply is limited on both seeded and seedless bins. Mini seedless watermelons are also available by the carton. Several rounds of tasting prove the fruit to be juicy, sweet and ready to eaten. We especially love the mini seedless melons from Capay Organic–a staff favorite! Did you know watermelon rind is edible? In many countries, it’s used as a vegetable and can be stir-fried, stewed or pickled. Cantaloupe from Goldie is in good supply with sharp pricing. Honeydew and orange honeydew have just started. Now is the time to build up your melon displays and promotions! Don’t forget to stock up for Memorial Day celebrations.

Stone Fruit

Stone fruit varieties are coming on in quick succession—be sure to try them all! Pearl White peaches have started from Naylor Organic Family Farm, located in California’s Central Valley. Yellow peach supply is tight but we’re seeing beautiful red fleshed Krista peaches and Mexico grown Tropic Beauty. Sauzee Queen donut peaches have started but supply is limited. They are high sugar, even slightly green! Polar Lights are one of the first white nectarines of the season and they are sweet and tasty! Yellow nectarines are in good supply with Zee Fire and May Bright nectarines starting. Tart and flavorful, the Zee Fires live up to its bold name! Wescot apricots offer a complex and perfectly balanced sweet flavor. Plums and pluots are coming soon! The cherry market is going strong with firm pricing. Check out the delicious varieties from Ferrari Farms, a family owned and operated farm in the San Joaquin Valley that have been growing organically for 45 years. Ferrari’s Bing cherries are about a week out—stay tuned! But we already have Bing cherries from Delta Fresh Organic in the house. Yum!

 

Vegetables

Artichoke

Warmer weather does not bode well for artichokes. Supply has become tight and prices are expected to go up. Growers are mostly offering smaller sizes.

Bean

Green beans from Rundle Family Farms have arrived with strong volume and sharp pricing. Bright and fresh, these beans are at the peak of the season and tasting great. We love these raw but they are also versatile enough to prepare almost any way you want!

Broccoli

The broccoli market is still tight and prices are on the higher side. Supply appears to be steady but limited.

Cabbage

Green cabbage is in good supply with attractive pricing. Build up a seasonal display and cross merchandise ingredients for cole slaw—a perfect summer BBQ side dish! Red cabbage prices remain high but supply is steady. Napa cabbage from Coke Farms is coming on but supply is limited due to slow growth and some heads going to seed. Savoy cabbage is still gapping in supply.

Celery

The celery market remains unsteady. Supply is limited with high prices and quality has been inconsistent. With Mexican production winding down, the supply situation will not improve until California production picks up from Oxnard, California in June.

Corn

California bi-color corn is in house, but supply is limited! Load up for summer holiday parties, celebrations and customers looking for the first taste of summer. The kernels are bright and shiny with sweet flavor. Imported yellow corn from Mexico is very limited. Corn loves to be stored at cool temperatures (32˚F– 34˚F). This optimal temperature range helps retain freshness and slow sugar to starch metabolism, which begins immediately after harvest.

Cucumber

Cucumber prices are up slightly and supply is limited. South Coast Farms, located in San Juan Capistrano, California will be coming on with ‘cukes soon.

Garlic, Ginger and Turmeric

California grown garlic is starting to come in very limited amounts. If you see it on our list, act fast! Hawaiian turmeric from Kolo Kai is winding down. Order some now—this is the last we’ll see of it until September!

Greens

Bunched green kale is in good supply. Lacinato, aka dino kale, is a bit more limited. New to the greens offering: green kohlrabi greens from Say Hay Farms and purple kohlrabi greens from Route 1 Farms. Although kohlrabi may seem intimidating, its delicious flavors are both familiar and unique. Part bulb, part bundle of greens, kohlrabi has the texture of a radish and sweetness of jicama and broccoli. The edible leafy greens are reminiscent of mild collards. The taste difference between purple and green kohlrabi is subtle; the purple is slightly sweeter.

Lettuce, Retail Greens and Herbs

The lettuce market is looking pretty steady and prices are starting to come down. Green leaf, red leaf, and red butter are all in good supply with beautiful heads from Blue Heron Farms and Perry Farms. Romaine supply is still a little tight but better than it has been in weeks. Earthbound Farms has discontinued the PowerMeal Bowl product line. Thank you to all the customers who supported this line! Cilantro supply is strong and prices have come way down. Basil supply is still tight.

Onion

Yellow, red and white onions have good volume and quality for this point in the season. Supply is steady with domestic and Mexico product on the market. Rundle Family Farms is not yet starting with onions as they focus on green beans (check them out!) Shallots from Gilroy, California based Christopher Ranch is limited but steady.

Pea

Sugar snap peas are looking really sharp right now but supply is tight. Mexico production is gapping but we’re getting everything we can from California growers. English peas are very limited. Snow peas are gapping in supply. Fun Fact: snap peas get their name from the common test for quality: to be crispy enough to easily “snap” in half.

Pepper

All varieties of bell peppers are holding pretty steady. California grown red bells are available in the Pasha label but at much higher prices than Mexico grown product. Mexico grown red bells are limited as our main grower, Wholesum Harvest, waits for a new field to be ready for harvest. Chili peppers are in good supply. We’ll start to see more California jalapenos as prices between imported and domestic level out.

Potato

Russet potatoes are just about done. Prices are on the rise until the new crop starts up in June. Supply is steady on red and yellow potatoes. Prices are slowly coming off. Specialty potatoes are starting with beautiful Russian blues, Bintjes and German butterballs from Full Belly Farm and Russian Bananas from Tomorrow’s Organics. Look for more growers coming on soon including Riverdog Farm and Terra Firma.

Roots

Red beets in regular sizes are limited and the overall beet supply is tight. We’re getting in all the golds and jumbos we can. Prices remain high but should come down when more Salinas Valley growers start up and supply improves. Parsnips are done for the season. Rutabagas are finishing up but there is still some supply available. We’re seeing beautiful purple daikon from Coke Farms and a very limited amount of watermelon radish here and there.

Specialty Veg

Did you know we carry fresh aloe vera? Aloe vera is a powerful plant with dozens of topical and oral uses such as treating burns, relieving dry skin, removing makeup and freshening breath. Nopales (cactus) is almost here! A main part of traditional Mexican cuisine, nopales can be eaten fresh, boiled, roasted or grilled. Just be sure to carefully scrape all spines and bristles off with a blunt tool. Rhubarb is still in good supply. The natural tart flavor lends itself to both savory and sweet preparations.

Squash

As we head into the warmer months, we’ll see more and more varieties of summer squash. Comanche Creek Farms’ mixed summer squash is a dazzling mix of squash in all shapes and sizes and shades of yellow and green. Although varieties may differ from box to box, the most common squash may include Romanesco, Zephyr, Sunburst Squash, Magda, Gold Bar, and Cue Ball. Unlike their winter counterparts, these summer varieties have soft, thin skin with flesh that can vary from light to dense. They can be eaten raw or cooked, including the skin!  These summer squash varieties offer a mild flavor that ranges from sweet to nutty. Flavor differences between varieties are subtle but distinct—try them all for a delicious smorgasbord of summer’s bounty! California grown zucchini supply is expected to improve in the coming weeks as the weather warms up and inventory becomes available. Until then, prices are up and supply is limited.

Red Kuri and spaghetti squash are steady. New crop Kabocha and butternut from Mexico are starting—both on the smaller size. Acorn squash from Rico Farms is finishing up but supply will be steady in the near term.  Delicata is winding down but still in decent supply as we head into summer.

Tomato

Mexico grown heirloom tomatoes from Ram’s Farm is winding down; supply is limited. Domestic supply is still tight as the season starts up. Prices on one and two layer tomatoes are up; supply has been steady but limited. Prices on tomatoes-on-vine (TOV) may be coming down following a dip in the conventional market.  Cherry tomatoes are in good supply. Prices are up slightly on sweet grapes.

 

Fresh-Cut

With summer on the horizon, customers will be looking for fresh and healthy items to fill their baskets. Now is the time to inventory your fresh-cut displays and make sure it has the latest and greatest. Don’t have a fresh-cut program? Talk to your Account Manager about getting started today! Our list includes hundreds of items prepared in a variety of ways—peeled, cubed, julienned, sliced and more! We can even do seasonal custom mixes (think guacamole kits, mirepoix, or soup prep).

We’ve been getting great feedback on joyloop fresh-cut retail packs. Their items include zucchini spirals, sweet potato spirals, sweet potato “rice” and cauliflower “rice.” All items are sold as 8×8 ounce packages and have a long shelf life of 10-12 days.

 

Grocery and Dairy

Did you know we sell cheese and other dairy products from Sierra Nevada Cheese Company? The organic jack cheese wedges, available in five varieties: Traditional, Garlic & Herb, Smokehouse, Jalapeno, and Baby Bella Mushroom are favorites! Made with the highest-quality fresh, organic cow’s milk produced from northern California dairies, these ultra-creamy organic jack cheese will leave you swooning. The Garlic & Herb Organic Jack balances the right amount of garlic flavor with a clean herbaceous aroma. The Smokehouse variety is light on the palate yet smoky in flavor. Made with organic peppers, the Jalapeno variety is bold and spicy yet creamy and light. Finally, the Baby Bella Mushroom Organic Jack is an exceptional combination of an earthy aroma and a mild flavor. Check out other delicious Sierra Nevada Cheese products on our list including cream cheese, goat cheese, white cheddar cheese and unsalted butter.

We also offer a variety of maple products from Maple Valley Co-op, milk and yogurts from Straus Family Creamery, biodynamic eggs from Stueve Organic Family Farms, Mi Rancho tortillas, dried beans, quinoa, rice and Hodo Soy tofu. Talk to your Account Manager to learn more about our grocery program.

 

Floral

The time has finally come–both the Full Belly Farm and Thomas Farm spring floral collections are in full bloom! Thomas Farm is now offering Dahlia, Cosmo and Sunflower straight packs. Sunflowers are sold by 16 count bunches with 5-7 stems per bunch. Full Belly is continuing with Sunflower, Bachelor Button, Calendula, and Snap Dragons (limited availability). Mixed bouquets from both growers are also available. New varieties are available weekly so check back often!

 

Merchandising Corner

Merchandising Stone Fruit

Even though it is just now barely spring, it feels like summer and that means it is stone fruit season! Many of us wait all year for this highly anticipated season. There’s nothing like eating a delicious juicy peach but how much do you really know about that peach? Where did it come from? How did it get here? Peaches are originally from China and mentioned in Chinese writings as early as the 10th century. They made their way around the world thanks to Spanish explorers but it wasn’t until the 17th century that an English horticulturist brought them over to the new world, our current day North America.  Native Americans then took the peach and cultivated it across the country.  However, it was not until the 19th century that peach began to be commercially grown here in the states. Now peaches and other stone fruit are grown all over the US.  Peaches are now mainly grown commercially in California and Washington.

Commercially grown peaches and other stone fruit like nectarines, plums, and apricots come packed in a few different ways. There are volume-fill boxes which means that they are packed by weight. These are usually a better price point value than sorted sized fruit but may not be the best option for picky customers looking for perfect product. 1-layer and 2-layer tray packs are the others ways that these fruits are sold. One thing to remember, the larger the number on a 1-layer or 2-layer pack, the smaller the fruit. For instance, 70/72 count peach is going contain smaller but more pieces of fruit than a 48/50 count case.  Large fruit is generally the more popular and sought after size but also more expensive. Everyone likes the idea of a nice big juicy peach but there is a pro to the smaller fruit and that is price point. Two 48 count peaches weigh about a pound whereas customers can get four to five 72 count peaches for less money. Another option that can benefit both your produce department and the customer is to offer various sizes and blend the price. This allows you to keep your price down and make some extra margin dollars by selling the less expensive fruit for a slightly higher price. This can also save you time because you have one peach price per pound so you don’t have to worry about changing your price every time you have to change sizing due to supply.

As much as we all love the peach, they can be a bit tricky to display due to the fact that they can be damaged quite easily. Peaches and other stone fruit can’t be piled up as high as apples and citrus but if you choose the fruit correctly you can make decent sized attractive displays with minimum to no loss. When purchasing and displaying fruit it is key look for under ripe, more firm fruit to start with. Under ripe stone fruit ripens up nicely and with full flavor. It’s good to have a system that allows you to provide various stages of ripeness for your customers. Daily rotation and culling will help you achieve that. Depending on the volume of product you move daily, you may need to stage product so that you can always have ripe fruit to top off your display with. When you have firm unripe fruit, you can stack them 2 layers deep and top with a third more ripe layer. You will have customers that want fruit ready to eat that day and some that they can eat in a few days.  We also suggest keeping a few cases of ready to eat or softer fruit as “toppers” for your display so you can keep the display filled throughout the day when it gets shopped down. This allows you to keep your layers of greener fruit on the bottom and the softer fruit easily accessible on the top of the display for your customers. Stone fruit displays do take a little more work to maintain but we only have the summer super stars for a short time so they do deserve the rock star treatment.

 

 

 

 

Strawberry Fields

Strawberry

It’s the peak of strawberry season and we’re more than a little giddy over the quality of sweet, plump fruit coming in. Dating back to the 18th century, the strawberry, also known as the garden strawberry or fragaria ananassa, originated in Europe as a hybrid of two wild strawberry species from North America and Chile. Today there are 600 varieties of strawberries.

No matter the variety, strawberries have been and still are wildly popular. Their characteristic sweet aroma, bright red color and juicy flavor make it easy to eat in large quantities. Although strawberries are often consumed fresh, its sweet flavor lends itself to jams, jellies, desserts and many non-culinary applications.

In addition to winning taste points, strawberries are considered one of the world’s healthiest foods. They rank among the top 10 fruits and vegetables for antioxidant content. An excellent source of nutrients and Vitamin C, strawberries may have benefits for heart health, brain function, immune system and blood sugar control.

 

*Keep a lookout for our staff picks noted in orange.

 

Fruit

Apple and Pear

As domestic apples are winding down, prices are continuing to increase. We’ll have a steady but limited supply on Fuji, Gala and Pink Lady over the next couple weeks. Check in with your Account Manager for your apple needs. Granny Smith imports from Argentina and Chile have arrived. Braeburn and Red Delicious imports are expected here soon. Don’t forget we also have plenty of bagged Fuji, Gala and Pink Lady!

We’re seeing sharp pricing on Abate Fetel (pronounced ah-BAH-tay fa-TEL) pears. This is a great opportunity to build up a promotion for a special and delicious pear. Bred by Italian monks several hundred years ago, this slim and long pear is usually eaten when just barely soft. Taste wise, the Abate Fetel has rich sweetness with aromatic notes of honey. Import Bosc and D’Anjou are steady with excellent pricing.

Avocado

Not surprisingly, avocado prices are going up $2-$4 every few days. Supply of 70 count from Las Palmalitas Ranch is strong right now, so act fact! Supply on #2 quality is more limited than it has been in the past few weeks. Sunburn and scarring issues seen in some earlier fruit were in an orchard that has been picked through.

Berry

Strawberry production from the Watsonville area is strong with large sweet berries available in clamshell packs from Tomatero Farm and Coke Farm and open pints from Jacobs Farm. California blueberry season is well under way with steady supply from Homegrown Organic Farms. Dry pints and 18 ounce clamshells will be available soon. Hirahara blueberries are just starting up. Raspberry demand is still out pacing supply but seems to be improving. Prices are slowly coming down. The blackberry market is steady with competitive pricing! Take advantage of great pricing and availability of berries right now with a spring berry ad!

Citrus

Lemon prices continue to rise as supply remains limited. Patagonia limes are expected to gap for a few weeks as they size up. Meyer lemons are also expected to gap for a month as they color up. Grapefruit supply is steady and our exclusive grower, B&J Ranch, is peaking on 36, 40 and 48 count fruit.  Nagami kumquats are flowing in from Beck Grove. Supply is strong, making for a great promotion item. A limited amount of Meiwa kumquat from Rancho del Sol is also available. We’re seeing the last of Buck Brand navel oranges. Get ‘em before they’re gone! California Valencias are starting with several vendors coming on soon. Prices are high at this point in the season and may continue to go up. Mexican Valencias will last 2-3 more weeks; prices are also expected to increase. Gold Nugget tangerines are steady and tasting delicious! We’re seeing limited amounts of Murcott tangerines from Wild River. These are in-house now so order up! Ojai Pixies are most likely done for the season.

Fig

The first figs of the season have arrived! Gless Ranch’s Brown Turkey figs are plump, sweet and delicious! This all-purpose fig tastes great fresh on its own but we also love it on toast with Sierra Nevada Cheese goat cheese and a drizzle of honey!

Grape

California grown grapes are all coming on mid-May with great pricing right out of the gate. We’ll be seeing red flame, green sugarone and black grapes all within days of each other. Cold weather south of the border has caused delays in production from Mexico. Mexico grown grapes will be coming on later to allow the fruit to size up.

Melon

Melon season is in full swing with many growers coming onto the market. We have large seedless watermelon bins with California grown fruit. If that’s too much melon for you, Nature’s Nectar has mini seedless watermelons with Capay Organics coming on soon. Rundle Family Farms experienced harvest delays this season due to heavy rain this year and is expected to come on with mini seedless watermelon in early June. Whether big or small, a ripe watermelon should feel heavy for its size. Look for the tell-tale creamy yellow spot where the fruit rests on the ground. This indicates ripeness! Lastly, thump the underbelly and listen for a deep hollow sound. Orange flesh honeydew and honeydew have started with strong supply from Mexican growers. California honeydew from Capay Organics will be starting soon with Goldie coming on in the next couple weeks. Cantaloupe is in good supply with both Mexico and California grown fruit on the market. As for specialty melons, we should be seeing juicy Galia and Crenshaw melons soon and newcomer Hami, starting at the end of the month.

Stonefruit

As we head into stonefruit season, we’ll start to see more and more varieties each week. Sweet cherries and coral champagnes have arrived with good quality and flavor. The fruit is showing a variety of beautiful colors, ranging from light blush to dark burgundy. Stay tuned for Bing cherries from Ferrari Farms arriving in a week or so! Apriums are just starting but so far we’re seeing good sizing and firm fruit with nice blush coloring on the Kylese variety from Blossom Hill. The fruit is eating sweet with just a touch of tartness. Tasty Rich apriums are also trickling in. The small harvest was due to wind damage but they certainly live up to their name. Look for Leah Cot apriums coming soon! Poppy apricots have started but also expected to be light in volume. Yellow peaches are just starting to trickle in. Supply will be limited for another week or two with mostly smaller fruit. White peaches are still a couple weeks away. Nectarines are on their way but will be a light harvest at the beginning of the season. Reports from our plum and pluot grower Wild River indicate that some recent hail damage will impact this season’s crop volume and quality. While some parts of the orchard received less hail than others, the fruit will most likely be utility grade rather than #1 quality. Early Dapples are expected to arrive mid-June. Flavor Grenade, Flavor Queen, and Crimson Royale will have good volume but significant hail damage. There will be no Dapple Fires.

 

Vegetables

Artichoke

Artichoke supply is strong with very competitive pricing. All sizes are available. Time to get these on promotion and build up those artichoke displays! Talk to your Account Manager for hot volume deals!

Asparagus

Prices are finally coming down on green asparagus. C Brand is done for the season. Prices on purple asparagus are also down slightly. Supply is limited to large sizes right now. Fun Fact: asparagus is often called “grass” in the produce industry.

Bean

Green bean supply is plentiful with excellent pricing. Quality from Desert West Organics has been very high. The beans are bright, crisp, sweet and juicy! Rundle Family Farms is coming on for a short 5 weeks with green beans. Fava beans are still around and available for special preorder in 10 or 25 pound cases from Coke Farm.

Broccoli

The broccoli market remains volatile. Supply is very limited on crowns. Prices are expected to increase.

Bok Choy

Baby bok choy is somewhat steady from Coke Farm and Lakeside Organic Gardens. Bok choy is more limited and prices are on the high side.

Brussels Sprout

Brussels sprouts prices are going up. Our main growers Mexus and 4 Earth are in good supply. Have you seen Veg-Land 8×1 ounce ‘sprout pouches on our list? Pouches are a great convenience item for retail customers.

Cabbage

Frazier Lake is winding down on green cabbage. Red cabbage supply is tight and prices remain high. Napa cabbage from Lakeside Organic Gardens should be available soon.

Cauliflower

Cauliflower is currently faring better than broccoli. Supply is steady with competitive pricing on 9, 12 and 16 count heads from Earthbound Farms.

Celery

Celery supply is tight and prices are high. Most growers are finishing up their Mexican program and California harvests are not expected to be ready until June. We do not expect to have any gaps in supply but prices will likely rise.

Corn

This early in the season, corn is still limited with supply here and there. We don’t expect supply to be steady until mid-June when most growers have come on. Stayed tuned for a batch of bi-color corn starting soon from an early harvest.

Cucumber

Persians are steady with sharp pricing. Slicers continue to be in good supply and pricing has come way down. JND Farms, a new small grower from the Central Valley is expected to have supply of California grown ‘cukes until July. We love the sweet juicy flavor and thick skin on this farm’s cucumbers!

Eggplant

Globe eggplants are in good supply with California grown product from Pasha and Mexico grown product from Rico Family Farms and Aztlan. Specialty eggplant should be starting soon!

Garlic, Ginger and Turmeric

White Argentine garlic is winding down. Colossal and super colossal garlic supply from Christopher Ranch is tight. Purple garlic is steady and looking gorgeous! California garlic is about 40 days out.

Greens

Greens are finally through most of the harvest transition. Boxed greens supply is strong with minimal quality issues. Boxed spinach from Jayleaf has been limited and sporadic but expects volume to level out. Dino, aka lacinato kale is in better supply than recent weeks and prices have dropped slightly. Green kale supply remains steady. We’re seeing beautiful leafy green spinach from Lakeside Organic Gardens at competitive prices.

Lettuce, Retail Greens and Herbs

Romaine supply is still limited. We’re bringing in everything we can get our hands on from Pinnacle, Coke Farms and Route 1 Farms. Romaine hearts are slightly in better supply. One of our favorite growers, Say Hay Farms, from Esparto, California in the Capay Valley, has started with Little Gem lettuce and whole heads of red and green Salanova crispy lettuces. Spread over 50 acres in Yolo County, Say Hay Farms specializes in raising organic vegetables and pastured eggs in an integrated system.

Cilantro is in good supply from multiple growers. Basil from Tomatero Farm is not quite at steady production yet but volume has been gradually increasing. Route 1 Farms is steady with spearmint, rosemary and oregano. They will be coming on with lavender soon and basil at the end of the month.

Onion

Yellow medium onions are steady with California grown supply from Peri & Sons and other growers. Fresno based Rundle Family Farms has pushed back their yellow onion start date to allow more curing time. Reds are a little behind yellows with most supply from Mexico and some California product from Heger Farms. Peri & Sons and Rundle Family Farms are a little ways out. Cal-Organic has just started with white onions. Supply will be steady with Mexico onions until other California growers come on with their whites. Shallots are pretty limited; there may be gaps in supply.

Pea

Pea prices are still trending down as more growers come on and supply improves. California grown English peas are limited. Commanche Creek Farms will be starting with sugar snap peas. Commanche Creek is located just south of Chico, California and nestled against the Commanche Creek which allows the produce to be grown in the mineral rich soil of the Butte Creek alluvion fan.

Pepper

Orange and yellow bell peppers are limited with only Mexico grown product available. Red bells are steady with both Mexico and California product available but the market is tight overall. Prices are expected to rise. Green bells are in good supply. The chili pepper market has finally improved after weeks of tightness. Jalapenos and anaheims are both steady. Padrons are still gapping in supply. Sweet peppers are back on.

Potato

The market is booming with new crop potatoes. Prices on red and yellows are falling fast. These are great items for an ad promotion as the weather warms up for BBQ and picnic season. Specialty potatoes are in good supply with plenty of French fingerling, Russian banana and beautiful new ruby crescents.

Roots

Roots are winding down but there is still plenty to satisfy your root needs! Parsnips, rutabaga, turnips and jicama are available, although supply is dwindling. Grab some veggies before they’re done for the season!

Specialty Veg

Nopales (cactus) is almost here! A main part of traditional Mexican cuisine, nopales can be eaten fresh, boiled, roasted or grilled. Just be sure to carefully scrape all spines and bristles off with a blunt tool. Rhubarb is still in good supply. The natural tart flavor lends itself to both savory and sweet preparations—perfect for spring dishes! Fiddlehead ferns are available for preorder from Oregon. The curled fronds brighten up any dish with their fun shape and delicious flavors. Did you know we carry fresh aloe vera? Aloe vera is a powerful plant with dozens of topical and oral uses such as treating burns, relieving dry skin, removing makeup and freshening breath.

Sprouts

Sunflower sprouts supply has been tight due to production issues from a major grower. Cloudy weather the past few weeks have impacted steady production. Upcoming sunny forecasts should help stabilize production of these tasty microgreens.

Squash

Zucchini supply is strong with several California growers on the market in addition to Mexico grown product from Del Cabo. Sunburst and straightneck squash should be coming on soon along with mixed squash from Commanche Creek, a customer favorite! Hummingbird is winding down on butternut squash for the season. Lots of large sizes are available—let your Account Manager know if interested! Delicata is very limited as the new crop is just starting. Supply and quality should improve as the season gets underway. Acorn and Kabocha are steady along with new crop Mexican spaghetti squash.

Tomato

One and two-layer tomatoes are in regular supply with sharp pricing. Tomatoes-on-vine are steady. Recent low prices are not expected to last. Sweet grape tomatoes are coming into good supply. Heirloom tomatoes are very tight and prices are on the rise.

 

Fresh-cut

With summer on the horizon, customers will be looking for fresh and healthy items to fill their baskets. Now is the time to inventory your fresh-cut displays and make sure it has the latest and greatest. Don’t have a fresh-cut program? Talk to your Account Manager about getting started today! Our list includes hundreds of items prepared in a variety of ways—peeled, cubed, julienned, sliced and more! We can even do seasonal custom mixes (think guacamole kits, mirepoix, or soup prep).

We’ve been getting great feedback on joyloop fresh-cut retail packs. Their items include zucchini spirals, sweet potato spirals, sweet potato “rice” and cauliflower “rice.” All items are sold as 8×8 ounce packages and have a long shelf life of 10-12 days.

 

Grocery and Dairy

In addition to the freshest organic produce, we offer select grocery items from organic producers. Our organic biodynamic eggs are from Stueve Organic, located in California’s Central Valley. Stueve’s chickens wander on pesticide free native ground, cohabitating with organic cows. Both the cows and chickens are moved to fresh pasture every two days—which gives all parties new fresh grass, clover, grubs and other insects. The chickens live, eat and lay eggs in a mobile chicken coop, which offers them a safe place to shelter and sleep at night. Their diet is supplemented with organic, methionine free feed from a local grain milling facility. Biodynamic pasture raised eggs are cleaner, loaded with Omega 3, fresher and incredibly tasty!

We offer milks in various pack types and yogurts from Straus Family Creamery, located in Marshall, California. The sweet, well-rounded flavor of organic Straus milk is a result of a combination of things: sweet pasture grasses, climate, soil, and terrain–all unique to the mild, coastal climate of Marin and Sonoma counties. The farm’s 275 dairy cows (Holstein and Jersey-Holstein cross breeds), 35 dry cows, 170 heifers, 82 calves and 3 bulls have 500 acres of pasture on which they roam during the day; and at night they sleep on cow mats with natural bedding in an open barn.

We also offer a variety of maple products from Maple Valley Co-op, Sierra Nevada cheeses, Mi Rancho tortillas, dried beans, quinoa and Hodo Soy tofu. Talk to your Account Manager to learn more about our grocery program.

 

Floral

Mother’s Day is coming up this Sunday, May 14th. If you would still like to order, talk to your Account Manager. Orders may be unconfirmed due to availability, but we will do all we can to help you fill those floral shelves! The Full Belly Farm spring floral collection is back in good supply. Agrostemma, Bachelor Button, CalendulaSnap Dragon, and mixed bouquets of various sizes are available and ready for pre-order.

 

Merchandising Corner

Why Organic?

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.

 

Bridges Produce Grower Partner Rico Farms Introduces New Program to Improve Farm Workers’ Lives

Reposted from AndNowUKnow.com, originally published on April 27, 2017

HERMOSILLA, MX – Employees at Rico Farms are enjoying the fruits of their labor, as the company announced the completion of construction of an amphitheatre and recreation area for its 600 employees, thanks to Fair Trade Premiums from the Fair Trade USA program.

 “We want to contribute to a better planet not only environmentally but also the quality of life for the people. Our true life purpose is not only about our own wellbeing, it is also about others and changing their lives for the better,” said Francisco Tapia, member of the Tapia family who own Rico Farms, when talking about the motivation behind the program, according to a press release.

Rico Farms, an organic and Fair Trade USA certified farm based in Hermosillo, Mexico produces organic summer and winter squash, cucumbers, melons, green beans, eggplant, and chilies. Partnering with Bridges Produce for marketing and distribution, Rico Farms has begun an innovative program focused on creating positive changes in its farmworkers’ lives. The principle goal for the Tapia Family, the owners of Rico Farms, is to educate and empower all of their employees.

The new space will serve as the central meeting area for this program. In a partnership with Hermosillo-based Sociedad Activa, Rico Farms will use movies, live theater, coaching, and direct feedback to focus on the themes of personal development, drug prevention, family, sports, culture, education, health, and personal finances.

Many of the workers have never been to the movies or to the theater, and will enjoy a rich line-up of films in the amphitheatre. In addition, Rico Farms is also implementing a fast track program which will teach reading and writing. Employees who were not able to complete their education are working in classes and with tutors, to graduate from elementary and junior high school. There are currently 125 participants in this fast track program and the Tapia family is hoping to see at least 200 people enrolled next season.

When asked about his previous education one worker shared, “I don’t know how to read or write. I only learned my signature.” Some Rico Farms’ staff have been certified as tutors and are now providing two hours of tutoring per week per person. Francisco said the workers have been grateful for the opportunity and stated: “Even though it is difficult for them, to work all day and then to study, they are trying very hard to graduate before leaving and they are motivating others to register for the program.”

The program is already having a positive impact on participants, with some stating: “It helps us with self-esteem to keep pushing forward, there are better things ahead to keep succeeding for ourselves and for our families that are waiting for us back at home”

Francisco and everyone at Rico Farms and Bridges Produce, would like to thank all the people who made this program possible including the artists, the government, the private initiative, the society Hermosillense and the workers of Rico Farms. He is also grateful to the produce buyers and consumers who choose Rico Farms produce, together they are all supporting this program and allowing it to continue to grow and creating a better world.

The Color Purple

Purple Garlic

The arrival of spring brings us beautiful and colorful produce such as the unique and aptly named purple garlic. Garlic has been cultivated for thousands of years for both its medicinal and culinary attributes. There are over 600 varieties and within the garlic family, garlic is classified as either hardneck garlic or softneck garlic. Even with the multitude in variety, we can’t help but focus our attention on one group in particular.

Purple garlic is part of the hardneck family. It has even-sized cloves surrounded with a thick and stiff “neck” with vertical purple stripes on the bulb wrappers. In some varieties, the stripes appear as blotches. The purple coloration comes from anthocyanidin, an organic pigment and can vary depending on growing conditions, weather and other factors. The purple color also means this garlic is rich in antioxidants that offer anti-inflammatory and other health benefits.

Purple garlic stores well for up to 6-8 months. It tends to be richer in flavor and renders a sweetness when added to food. Because of this, purple garlic is sometimes used in desserts!

*Keep a lookout for our staff picks noted in orange.

Fruit

Apple and Pear

The domestic apple market is winding down and prices are on their way up. Galas from Washington are the exception with steady supply and volume. Add to your promotion calendar to take advantage of low pricing! Pink Lady is winding down fast and pretty limited. We’ll be seeing import Braeburns, Fujis, and Red Delicious in the next couple of weeks.

While apple pricing is skyrocketing, the import pear market has leveled out and we’re seeing sharp pricing on Abate Fetel and red Anjou pears. Supply is steady on Bartlett and Bosc to round out our pear collection.

Avocado

Avocado prices are still going up steadily as supply dwindles overall. Preconditioned Hass from Allied in 70 count is available right now. This fruit arrives to you ‘breaking’ and ready to go—perfect for customers looking to make guacamole for upcoming Cinco de Mayo celebrations. Supply is good on #2s which are just as delicious but may have some blemishes on the outside. Prices are expected to go up again in this tight market.

Berry

California blueberry season is fast approaching. Homegrown Organic Farms is starting up with their blueberry production out of San Joaquin Valley. The region’s sunny and dry climate grows delicious king-size blueberries of the southern highbush variety with incredible flavor. Strawberry production from the Watsonville area is up and running with good volume from Tomatero Farm, Coke Farm and Taste Me Do Good. Jacobs Farm berry production is also ramping up and we should be seeing regular supply of open pints. Mexican raspberry and blackberry supply continues to be spotty. Production information is unreliable.

Citrus

With the arrival of spring, citrus season is beginning to wind down. However, there is still plenty of quality fruit to be eaten! Starting May 3rd, Nagami kumquats will be steady and coming in from Beck Grove. We can’t get enough of the addictive sweet and sour citrus flavor! Also on the addictive list is ruby grapefruit from B&J Ranch. Supply is strong with plenty of sizes available. The beautiful jewel colored fruit is a perfect complement to fresh spring salads. Buck Brand is winding down fast on navel oranges and pretty much done with other fruit for the season. Cousins still has navels and expected to last until June. California Valencias are moving along with several growers coming on. Pricing is on the high side. Mexican Valencias are available with more competitive pricing. Lemon pricing is going up as desert and Central Valley supply wind down. Growers are peaking on larger sizes so plenty of larger fruit available with attractive pricing. Limes are in good supply from Peru. Don’t forget to stock up for Cinco de Mayo celebrations!

Kiwi

The kiwi market may start to get tight with less availability of select fruit sizes. Prices have gone up. We do not expect any gaps in supply.

Melon

Mini seedless watermelon is steady with some limited smaller sizes. Rundle Family Farms will be starting with their melons soon! The first honeydew of the season is starting from Divine Flavor with cantaloupe close behind. Rico Farms will be joining the melon party with orange flesh honeydew. With all the new varieties on the market, don’t forget about delicious Harper melons, available at sharp pricing! Harper melons arrive in 5 count, a great size for our processing customers.

Stonefruit

It’s a bit early for stonefruit but we’re certainly enjoying the early season. California yellow flesh Amber Crest peaches are sweet and tart with perfect sugar/acid balance. Alta Kirsty peaches grown in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico are also available and eating fantastically. Other California peaches and nectarines are still a few weeks out so get your stonefruit fix with these delicious early varieties. Rumors are that early California cherries may be available almost any day now, depending on the weather. The first varieties to be harvested are in short supply, but overall the crop is much stronger than the past two years.

 

Vegetables

Artichoke

The tides have turned and artichoke supply is strong and plentiful. Prices are slowly coming down. Talk to your Account Manager if interested in volume deals.

Asparagus

California asparagus season is in full swing. Many growers have come on and green asparagus is in good supply. Pricing may come down slightly. Purple asparagus is still limited and we’re bringing in as much as we can find.

Bean

Green bean supply is expanding with many growers on the market. Prices have dropped and quality is strong. This is a great seasonal item to promote on ad or specials! Keep an eye out for Rundle Family Farm expected to come on in May. Fava beans, a spring time favorite are all also in good supply. This early in the season, favas may have some russeting on the outer pods, however the beans inside are protected and still delicious! In the U.S., the beans are removed from the pod before preparing. In most other parts of the world, the beans’ skin is not removed.

Broccoli

Following the Easter holiday, broccoli prices have been down and continuing to drop from the highs we were seeing in the past few weeks. Production reports indicate there is still unharvested broccoli in the fields so supply should remain steady.

Cabbage

Supply of cabbage remains limited and prices are high. Frazier Lake is experiencing labor shortages to harvest product; prices are expected to rise sharply to be more in line with the current market. Napa cabbage is gapping in supply. Early reports indicate we may not see any until June.

Carrot

Nantes carrots are steady from Givens Farms and Sunrise Organic Farm.  Bulk table carrots have been limited but we have some supply of 25 pound bags also from Sunrise Organic Farm. The carrots are slightly irregular shaped from overwintering but still taste great—sweet and crisp. All other bulk carrots are in good supply.

Cauliflower

Cauliflower prices have tumbled sharply, even more noticeably than the broccoli drop. We’re seeing beautiful clean cello wrapped heads from Watsonville grower Tomatero Farm. Bulk cauliflower is gapping in supply.

Celery

The celery market is still tight and prices are climbing. California product is not yet available but Earthbound Farms is offering quality heads with good color from Mexico.

Corn

Corn has started up with Mexican white corn from Divine Flavor. The ears are clean and trimmed. Early taste tests yield sweet milky kernels. It’s time to start thinking of corn promotions and menu changes!

Cucumber

The cucumber market is finally leveling out. Persians are of good quality and supply. Availability should continue to improve going forward. Slicers pricing has dropped rapidly with steady supply and great quality. Check out the fresh cukes from JND Farms, a new small grower from the Central Valley. English hothouse supply is steady.

Eggplant

Pasha is starting with globe eggplants from the Coachella Valley in Southern California. Quality is high and considered some of the nicest on the market. Supply remains steady with product from Wholesum Harvest and Aztlan also available.

Garlic, Ginger and Turmeric

Just in—beautiful purple garlic grown in Mexico! Purple garlic is similar to white garlic but has a richer full-bodied taste that renders sweetness when added to a dish. The presence of an organic pigment “anthocyanidin” is responsible for the purple coloration. Purple garlic has even-sized cloves with a thick and stiff neck with purple stripes—that can sometimes appear in blotches. Yellow ginger is in good supply with attractive pricing from Hawaiian grower, Kolo Kai. The turmeric market is starting to get tight so be sure to stock up before prices increase.

Greens

We seem to be through most of the seasonal transition for the greens market. Supply is steady from Jayleaf Specialities and our new greens producer, Josie’s Organics. Josie’s has been growing out of the Salinas Valley since the 1920s by the Braga family and has maintained the same high standards for quality, integrity, and sustainability. Baby spinach, spring mix and wild arugula are in good supply.

Collard greens supply is tight with limited availability from some of our main growers. Dino, aka lacinato kale has been steady but it’s unclear if the volume will continue. However, green kale supply remains strong with excellent pricing.

Leek

Many growers have finished with leeks for the season but fortunately local Watsonville grower, Tomatero Farm is back in supply. Quality is consistent with firm stems and clean leaves.

Lettuce, Retail Greens and Herbs

The lettuce market is faring better than it has in weeks. Green and red leaf lettuce supply is steady with several growers on the market. Romaine and red romaine are still limited. Little gems are steady and coming in from Route One Farms and Givens Farm.  While tiny in size the crisp, crunchy texture and sweet flavor pack a big punch!

New to our retail offerings are fresh baby leaf and salad blends from Josie’s Organics. Baby arugula, baby spinach, baby kale, half & half, power greens, and spring mix are available in 5 ounce clamshells. Baby spinach and spring mix also come in 16 ounce clamshells.

Cilantro remains tight in supply with high prices. New to our list is basil from Tomatero Farm. Supply is limited but quality is great. Keep an eye out for when availability approves this season.

Mushroom

California maitakes from Gourmet Mushrooms are back in supply. Spring wild-crafted mushrooms from Far West Fungi are available for preorder including wood ears, lion’s mane, summer black truffles and morels. Despite reports of low production, shiitake supply is steady from Top Hat Mushrooms. Top Hat is a family owned farm on located on the western foothills of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon and has been operating since the early 1970s. This grower is committed to sustainable agriculture and demonstrates this by using solar power on the farm and utilizing mushroom by-product to build the soil.

Onion

The spring transition is in full swing for onions. California yellow onions are of the short-day variety which means they are sweeter than the long-day onions but have less storing power since they do not develop a thicker skin. Prices should be coming down as more California growers come on. We will continue to have some supply of Mexican yellows until the California season is well underway. Red onions are experiencing similar harvest trends as yellow onions. White onions will be mostly from Mexico since there is limited California onions available–typical at this time of the season. Shallot prices are going up as supply tightens. Wild ramps are available by pre-order, ask your account manager for details.

Pea

Pea prices are finally coming down as the season starts up and supply improves. A&A Organic is offering some of the nicest snap peas we’ve seen so far. Durst Organic Growers will be coming on soon with their snap peas grown in the Capay Valley. English and snow peas are steady.

Pepper

After weeks of tight supply, the pepper market seems to be improving slightly. Pasha Marketing, a grower and producer located in the Coachella Valley, will be coming on with green bell peppers and red bells in a week or two. Supply of red bells has been limited from Mexico. Orange and yellow bells continue to limited from Aztlan and Divine Flavor. Chile peppers are still tight but jalapenos are in better supply from Pasha.

Potato

California new crop red and yellow potatoes are coming on full force with excellent pricing. Top Brass reds are absolutely gorgeous and a staff favorite here! New crop Russian bananas, crescents and other specialty potatoes should be starting any day. New crop russets are not expected until late June.

Roots

Parsnips from Willow Creek are still happening in good supply with sharp pricing. Rutabaga is winding down, but supply is still mostly steady. Turnip supply is dwindling and prices are going up. Jicama is coming in steady with good quality. Bulk beet prices are going up as supply tightens. Lots of Chioggia available but red and gold are limited. Beet lovers take a look at bunched baby beets which are in better supply.

Specialty Veg

Rhubarb, the hallmark of spring is here and in good supply. The natural tart flavor is great for desserts and savory dishes. With strawberry season well under way, we can’t think of a better combination! Fiddlehead ferns are available for preorder from Oregon. Fiddleheads are fun to say and eat because of their unique shape! They are curled inwards and resemble the end of a scroll. Left on the plant, each fiddlehead would unroll into a new frond. Keep an eye out for nopales (cactus) coming in just in time for Cinco de Mayo!

Squash

Zucchini is in good supply and prices are dropping. Quality has been high with little scarring on the squash. Straightneck and yellow squash are steady. Sunburst and patty pan are more limited; we bring in everything we can. The hard squash market is pretty steady with butternut still coming from Hummingbird in California and imported product coming from Rico Farms in Mexico. Del Cabo is coming on with their Mexican hard squash in a couple weeks which includes acorn, butternut, delicata, kabocha and red kuri. The harvest for new crop California-grown hard squash is still several months away.

Tomato

One and two-layer tomatoes are in regular supply and prices should be dropping soon. Heirloom tomatoes have been tightening up but should hopefully improve as the season starts up and more product comes on the market.

 

Fresh-cut

Fresh and convenient are the name of the game and our fresh-cut program has everything you need to stay on top. Our list includes hundreds of items prepared in a variety of ways—peeled, cubed, julienned, sliced and more! We can even do seasonal custom mixes (think guacamole kits, mirepoix, or soup prep).

Check out joyloop retail packs of popular fresh-cut vegetables. Their items include zucchini spirals, sweet potato spirals, sweet potato “rice” and cauliflower “rice.” All items are sold as 8×8 ounce packages and have a long shelf life of 10-12 days. Talk to your Account Manager to see how we can support your fresh-cut program.

 

Grocery and Dairy

In addition to the freshest organic produce, we offer select grocery items from organic producers. A growers’ co-op, Maple Valley Co-op produces delicious high quality maple syrup and maple products using sustainable methods. Maple syrup is available in a variety of pack types—from 12 ounce squeeze bottles (no mess!) to 5 gallon pails. Yes, maple syrup is GMO-free, gluten-free and vegan!

Along with your maple syrup, check out organic biodynamic eggs from Stueve Organic, located in California’s Central Valley. Stueve’s chickens wander on pesticide free native ground, cohabitating with organic cows. Both the cows and chickens are moved to fresh pasture every two days—which gives all parties new fresh grass, clover, grubs and other insects. The chickens live, eat and lay eggs in a mobile chicken coop, which offers them a safe place to shelter and sleep at night. Their diet is supplemented with organic, methionine free feed from a local grain milling facility. Biodynamic pasture raised eggs are cleaner, loaded with Omega 3, fresher and incredibly tasty!

We also offer a variety of cheeses, yogurts and milk from local creameries, Mi Rancho tortillas, dried beans, quinoa and Hodo Soy tofu. Talk to your Account Manager to learn more about our grocery program.

 

Floral

Full Belly Farm is gapping on all straight pack floral bouquets. Cool weather the past few weeks has slowed floral production down for both Thomas Farm and Full Belly Farm. As we head into spring, warmer weather should turn things around for a rocking May! With Mother’s Day around the corner on May 14th, don’t forget to plan ahead for your floral department on what will likely be busy flower weekend.  Thomas Farm will fulfill orders on a ‘first come, first serve’ basis, so the sooner you pre-order for the holiday, the better your chances are of having your order completed.

 

Merchandising Corner

Extending Shelf Life

As a very perishable item, produce needs to be received and stored in the right temperature zone as quickly as possible to reduce loss of product quality. Oliver Wyman, an international retail consulting firm, published a 2014 report titled “A Retailer’s Recipe, Fresher Food and Far Less Shrink” in which they noted, “Customers who are satisfied with freshness will spend 33% more in the produce department of their primary store compared to those who are not satisfied. At the same time, customers will spend 8% more of their total grocery spend exclusively with the retailers whose produce they are please with than the shoppers who are not happy with that store’s produce.”

Receiving

  • When an order arrives at your store, sign the invoice or packing list; keep one copy for the store and return one to the driver.
  • Review the order for accuracy and damaged product including:
    • Quantity and sizes ordered match product received.
    • Quality meets store standards (note if any issues exist and if credits/returns are needed).
    • Keep any notes with the invoice and communicate with the vendor in a timely manner to resolve issues.
  • Make sure received product is logged for accounting purposes.

Storage

  • Organize and clean coolers and dry storage areas in preparation of a delivery.
  • Never place product directly on the floor to avoid exposure to contaminants.
  • Use a standard dating system for each box as it enters the store; when storing, ensure the date faces out so older produce is pulled first. Educate everyone in the department to understand the dating system.
  • Understand the proper storage area for each item of produce.

Temperature and humidity also play an important role in shelf life and are directly related to each other. For example, if a cold room temperature increases by only 2˚F, the relative humidity drops approximately 7%, which reduces produce shelf life by 50%. Leafy greens last 4 times longer when stored in a room with 95% relative humidity than in a room with 80% relative humidity.

According to a publication from the University of California, produce respiration increases 200-400% for each increase of 18˚F, up to temperatures of about 77˚F to 86˚F. Additionally, it is important to note that a byproduct of respiration is heat. This means a storage area with an ambient temperature of 32˚F may have produce registering 2-4˚F higher. Therefore monitoring, the ambient temperature may not be sufficient. Optimal storage and transport of fruits and vegetables varies by product with optimal temperatures ranging anywhere between 32˚F with 90-95% relative humidity for strawberries as one example, to 55˚F-59˚F with 85-90% relative humidity for grapefruit.

What is Rhubarb Anyway?

Rhubarb is often considered the darling of the spring season. While it’s technically a vegetable, it’s often prepared as a fruit in culinary practices. Rhubarb is sold by the stalk, similar to celery. It is well known for its beautiful crimson stalk color but can often be found in varying shades of light pink and pale green. Color is not an indication of ripeness or flavor. Only the stalks on a rhubarb plant are edible; the large leaves are extremely high in oxalic acid which can cause severe illness.

Rhubarb is naturally very tart and crisp in its raw form. Commonly, it is cooked or baked into desserts with some sweetener to balance the tartness. However, it can be used in savory dishes, pickled or made into a refreshing fruit wine. Rhubarb has a short season that only lasts April through June so get your fill of this uniquely flavored veggie before it’s gone!

 

*Keep a lookout for our staff picks noted in orange.

 

Fruit

Apple and Pear

Many of the early apple varieties are finishing up. The last of Ambrosia and Cameo are in house and Red Delicious is winding down. Granny Smith is very limited with not much available besides 88 count US Extra Fancy. Fuji, Gala and Pink Lady are in better supply. Fuji prices are on the rise.

But as apple choices become more limited, the wonderful world of pear offerings is expanding. New to the pear gang are Durondeau pears. These pears have rosy flushed, golden skin with juicy white flesh that offers sweet floral flavors and simply melts in your mouth. Delicious fresh, their texture is similar to the Bosc, and also works wonderfully in dessert recipes, cheese plates or salads. Argentinian imported D’Anjou pears have arrived and we’re still seeing great pricing on red Anjous from Daisy Girl. Bosc and Bartlett are also available. Lots to choose from on the pear market right now! Try offering customers a few different varieties on the sampling table and talking up newer varieties to create buzz around the program.

Avocado

More of the same on the avocado front. The market is tight overall and prices are going up again. Mexico production is limited due to the labor shortages in observance of Easter. California growers are experiencing a down year, reporting as much as 30% less crop than prior seasons.

Berry

Supply of raspberries remains a little tight but is forecasted to improve this month. Supply and price on blackberries has been steady although berry production out of Mexico has slowed. Strawberry season is in full swing! The sporadic rain in Northern California will impact some Watsonville production, but with berries coming in from both Southern California and local growers, supply should be strong. The blueberry market is steady. Homegrown Organic Farms is expecting to start San Joaquin blueberry production in the second half of April.

Citrus

Build up your citrus display with the last of the season’s bounty. We’re loving the juicy navel oranges from Buck Brand and gorgeous blood oranges from Beck Grove. Buck Brand is winding down fast on their fruit so get them while you can. B&J Ranch Valencias are done but supply will be steady with fruit from other California growers who are just starting along with Mexican Valencias .Some oranges may have a tinge of green which is caused by chlorophyll to help protect the oranges from sunburn. Green tinged oranges are ripe and still taste sweet!

Ojai Pixie tangerines from Shore Packing are winding down but there should smaller sized fruit available to keep the supply steady for a bit. Check out murcott tangerines from Wild River and Schellenberg Farms. Murcotts are juicy and sweet and perfect for juicing due to its high seed content.

Sporadic rain followed by periods of heat this year has caused lemon trees to produce large fruit. There are lots of large size lemons on the market; pricing is attractive for now. Overall, lemon prices are expected to go up. When nature gives you large lemons, you make a lot of lemonade!  Preferably with Maple Valley Co-op maple syrup, a great spring cleanse!

Grape

Exciting news from our grape growers. Early reports are indicating that we may see some red grapes as soon as the second week of May! Check back soon for updates.

Mango

Tommy Atkins supply is steady. Prices are holding for now, although trending higher than past seasons. Ataulfo mangoes are in good supply with sharp pricing on the 20 counts. Quality on both varieties is high. April is a good time to promote mangos, when citrus is winding down and stonefruit is not fully up and running. Get in on mango madness before prices creep up!

Melon

At long last, melon supply is starting to stabilize. Harper and watermelons should be coming in regularly over the next few weeks. Del Cabo will be coming into orange-flesh honeydew, Crenshaw and Piel de Sapo in a week or two. Now is the time to start planning for seasonal menus and retail displays changes. As the weather warms up, we’re dreaming of frozen melon balls and watermelon slushies!

Peach

The first trickle of stonefruit has us feeling peachy! California stonefruit season is starting a bit early this year with yellow flesh Amber Crest peaches. Quality is good and they are tasting sweet and tart, called ‘sugar/acid balance’ in the produce trade. Mexican Alta Kirsty peaches have started, too, with more aggressive pricing than California fruit.

Pineapple

The pineapple market is finally steady and imported Costa Rican pineapples are in good supply. Time to stock up on this delicious and popular tropical fruit! Did you know pineapples also offer a myriad of health benefits such as their ability to boost eye health, improve digestion, cure coughs and colds and increase circulation? A word to the wise, the bromelain in pineapples, primarily a meat-tenderizing enzyme can cause tenderness on your lips, gums and tongue if you eat too much of the fruit!

 

Vegetables

Artichoke

The artichoke market is very unsteady and demand is high. Production is picking up slowly; we’re getting all the ‘chokes we can get our hands on!

Asparagus

Recent rain in Northern California may put a damper on the asparagus market. Green asparagus is limited but steady. The uncertainty around supply combined with increased demand for the Easter holiday may cause prices to go up. We’re starting to see California purple asparagus come in but prices are still high. Imported purple asparagus from Mexico is steady.

Bean

Green beans are in good supply with new crop coming in from Rico Farms and Good Life Organics, both coming from Mexico. We should see some California grown green beans from Rundle Family Farm in May. Supply is expected to remain steady going forward. The arrival of spring means we get to enjoy everyone’s favorite springtime treat—fava beans! Prices are down on favas. Add these to your favorite dishes for a bright pop of color and a healthy dose of nutrients.

Bok Choy

Bok choy supply remains tight and prices have crept up on baby bok (mei qing) and bok choy. Unpredictable wet weather followed by periods of heat have made the transition from desert growing regions to local regions much more difficult than prior seasons.

Broccoli

Broccoli is on everyone’s most wanted list this spring season. Supply continues to be limited and prices are high. Quality is fair as we’re seeing some minor knuckling or uneven formation of florets on product available in the current market. With many growers’ harvest delayed two weeks to a month, we do not anticipate much improvement in supply at least through April.

Cabbage

The cabbage market is still tight during this transitional period of the season. Bad weather and delays in production have aggravated normal fluctuations. Prices on red and green cabbage have gone up and are changing often.

Carrot

Givens Farms and Sunrise Organic Farm are back in supply with Nantes carrots.  Coke Farm is offering a psychedelic purple carrot called Purple Haze. The carrot has dark purple skin and bright orange interior. It has excellent flavor, raw or cooked. Cooking will cause the color to fade.

Cauliflower

Growers are beginning to harvest new fields of cauliflower. Some growers are waiting for proper sizing on their heads so supply is steady but still a bit limited. Demand will likely outpace supply and prices are expected to remain high.

Celery

California celery is delayed due to the rainy January and February. Supply of Mexican celery has been steady but prices have risen. Quality is strong with clean green stalks and crisp flavor. Fun Fact: you can grow more celery by planting the base that is cut off from the bunch.

Cucumber

It’s not easy being a cucumber right now. Persians are still limited. Slicers are becoming in even more limited and prices are inching up. English hothouses production is down as our main grower transitions between greenhouses.

Eggplant

Graffiti eggplant is very limited and may experience a gap in supply. Globe eggplants are holding steady with excellent quality globes—firm and plump!

Garlic, Ginger and Turmeric

Spring marks the arrival of green garlic! Green garlic is harvested while still immature, usually before the bulb fully has a chance to develop so it’s not uncommon to see it at various stages of growth. It has a mild garlic flavor that’s bright and fresh tasting. It’s quite sharp raw, but mellows greatly when cooked. You can use both the white and the tender green parts of the stalk. Yellow ginger and galangal are in good supply. Hawaiian turmeric is winding down so grab some of this powerful health promoting herb before it’s gone!

Greens

Many varieties of bunched greens are still tight in supply as growers make their seasonal transition to local growing regions. Green kale, dino (aka lacinato) kale, and red chard are faring better than most with plentiful supply.

We’re in the final stretch of the transition back to the Salinas Valley for many varieties of boxed greens. Supply has been increasing and should be back at normal levels soon. Quality is strong with no major issues to report. We’re happy to announce that we’ll be offering boxed baby spinach, spring mix and wild arugula from Josie’s Organics starting April 18th. Josie’s has been growing out of the Salinas Valley since the 1920s by the Braga family and maintained the same high standards for quality, integrity, and sustainability.

Leek

Local California leek supply is tightening up with Terra Firma Farm located in Winters, California hanging on as the main supplier. Prices are increasing but with Arizona product coming on to supplement supply, the market should hopefully level out soon.

Lettuce, Retail Greens and Herbs

The lettuce market is slowly beginning to stabilize. We’re seeing regular supply of green and red leaf lettuce from Foster Ranches in San Juan Bautista, California, in the Pinnacle label.  Givens Farm is coming through with red butter, romaine and leaf lettuces.

Retail romaine hearts are still tight, which is not abnormal for this point in the season. Retail hearts are usually behind the rest of the romaine market in terms of catching up on volume after a shortage. New to our retail offerings are fresh baby leaf and salad blends from Josie’s Organics. Baby arugula, baby spinach, baby kale, half & half, power greens, and spring mix are available in 5 ounce clamshells. Baby spinach and spring mix also come in 16 ounce clamshells.

Prices on iced bunched herbs remain high but as more growers start up, the prices should come down. Italian parsley continues to be tight in supply. All other bunched and clamshell herbs are steady with good supply.

Onion

Spring is a transitional time for onions. Storage onions are done and we transition to short-day onions, first imported then domestic as they are ready.  The first onions of the season are short-day varieties, which unlike onion varieties harvested later in the season, have thin, fragile outer layers and do not store well long-term. Yellow onions are in good supply with Mexican onions coming on to supplement until new crop California onions are ready at the end of the month. California red onions are gapping due to an abrupt end to the season. We’ll be bringing in Mexican red mediums, which will be the first harvest of the season. Expect some minor cosmetic flaws, but taste and quality are solid. White onions are steady with imported supply Mexico. California shallots are winding down so grab some while you can!

Pea

California peas are starting up with snap peas, snow peas and English peas coming eagerly onto the veggie scene. Supply is still a bit limited this early in the season but with beautiful peas coming in from Mexico to ease supply, there should be plenty of peas to go around! Peas are a staff favorite around here, especially the versatile snap peas which are sweet, crunchy and oh-so-addicting!

Pepper

Other than green bells, which are in good supply with strong quality, all peppers are still in short supply as growers wrap up production in their fields for the season. Both yellow and orange bells are limited with prices on the rise. Choice and Large/Extra Large red bells continue to be limited and prices are up. Most chili peppers are limited, especially jalapenos. Serranos and anaheims are more stable. Sweet peppers are experiencing a gap in supply with no indication yet on when they will be back.

Potato

As with every spring, storage potatoes, in their search for sunlight, start developing a few sprouts. This is a normal process and can be hindered by storing potatoes in a cold and dark environment. It’s how nature spreads the joy of potatoes. Spring is also the time when we begin welcoming new crop potatoes. New crop California yellow “A”s are starting with reds following close behind. Russets are a little ways out, but fortunately there are plenty of quality storage spuds available at attractive prices.  Specialty potatoes are very limited; we’re bringing ‘em in as we find them.

Roots

Foster Ranches is done with parsnips in the Pinnacle label due to carrot blight damaging their last planting. Willow Creek will be closing down their production season when their parsnip crop is done. Bunched red radish is in good supply. Jicama is coming in strong with excellent quality. The samples we cut open were crisp and juicy. We love eating them raw with some salt, chili pepper and lime! Bunched red and gold beets are in good supply. Baby beets are back! These little guys are more tender than full-sized beets and just as delicious! Full sized bagged red and gold beets are holding steady but the jumbos are winding down. Chioggias from Duncan Family Farm are also winding down.

Specialty Veg

Rhubarb—the darling of spring is here! It is well known for its beautiful crimson stalk color but can often be found in varying shades of light pink and pale green. Color is not an indication of ripeness or flavor. Rhubarb has a natural tart flavor in its raw state. It is most often prepared for desserts with sugar to balance the tartness. Keep an eye out for nopales, expected to come in towards the end of April.

Squash

Many growers are coming on with zucchini. Supply is strong and prices will likely drop quickly. Take advantage of the flushed market and promote zucchini on ad or specials. Don’t forget about the ever-so popular zucchini noodle (“zoodle”) trend! In the world of hard squash, butternut and kabocha are both steady with good supply. Delicata, however, is limited.

Tomato

Heirloom tomato supply is tightening up as our growers are hitting some lulls in production. Del Cabo’s heirlooms are Fair Trade certified. Their availability is limited but we’re seeing beautiful color and variety. One and two-layer tomatoes are in good supply; the color has been spot on. Tomatoes-on-vine (TOV) supply is steady and prices seem to be holding. Sweet grapes are in regular supply and flying out of here faster than we can bring them in! Romas are limited but there are many other delicious tomatoes to fill your tomato needs!

 

Fresh-cut

Fresh and convenient are the name of the game and our fresh-cut program has everything you need to stay on top. Our list includes hundreds of items prepared in a variety of ways—peeled, cubed, julienned, sliced and more! We can even do seasonal custom mixes (think guacamole kits, mirepoix, or soup prep).

Check out joyloop retail packs of popular fresh-cut vegetables. Their items include zucchini spirals, sweet potato spirals, sweet potato “rice” and cauliflower “rice.” All items are sold as 8×8 ounce packages and have a long shelf life of 10-12 days. Talk to your Account Manager to see how we can support your fresh-cut program.

 

Grocery and Dairy

In addition to the freshest organic produce, we offer select grocery items from organic producers. A growers’ co-op, Maple Valley Co-op produces delicious high quality maple syrup and maple products using sustainable methods. Maple syrup is available in a variety of pack types—from 12 ounce squeeze bottles (no mess!) to 5 gallon pails. Yes, maple syrup is GMO-free, gluten-free and vegan!

Along with your maple syrup, check out organic biodynamic eggs from Stueve Organic, located in California’s Central Valley. Stueve’s chickens wander on pesticide free native ground, cohabitating with organic cows. Both the cows and chickens are moved to fresh pasture every two days—which gives all parties new fresh grass, clover, grubs and other insects. The chickens live, eat and lay eggs in a mobile chicken coop, which offers them a safe place to shelter and sleep at night. Their diet is supplemented with organic, methionine free feed from a local grain milling facility. Biodynamic pasture raised eggs are cleaner, loaded with Omega 3, fresher and incredibly tasty!

We also offer a variety of cheeses, yogurts and milk from local creameries, Mi Rancho tortillas, dried beans, quinoa and Hodo Soy tofu. Talk to your Account Manager to learn more about our grocery program.

Floral

Spring flowers have arrived! Full Belly Farm’s spring collection features straight packs of Agrostemma, Bachelor Button, Calendula, Ranunculus, Snap Dragon and mixed large bouquets. We love the whimsical name and showy blooms of the colorful snap dragons. These fragrant blooms are beautiful as a bouquet on their own or as part of a springtime arrangement. Sweet pea bouquets are still eluding us but should be coming soon. Thomas Farm is offering Dutch Iris and Watsonia in addition to cutie and seasonal mix bouquets.

 

Merchandising Corner

Spring Cleaning

Shoppers respond to a clean, well-stocked department and reflect that appreciation by having fuller shopping carts. A clean department (sales floor and backroom) also protects the quality of the produce by preventing bacteria growth on storage/display racks and cases. Reducing bacteria reduces product loss/shrink.

Simple steps to take include:

  • Set up a cleaning schedule and use a log to verify the schedule is maintained. A sample Cleaning Schedule is available electronically at veritablevegetable.com in the Customer Toolbox.
  • Carry a rag at all times and clean as you work in the department.
  • Clean mirrors on the wet rack with a mild vinegar solution (1 part water to 1 part vinegar) to prevent lime buildup without the use of caustic chemicals.
  • Sweep and mop floors once or twice each day.
    • Be alert to water on the floor from ice in the wet rack, ricochet from the sprayer hose and spills.
    • Utilize “Caution: Wet Floor” signs to warn shoppers of a potential hazard.
  • Keep a close eye on sample displays as they create waste. Frequently wipe display domes to eliminate fingerprints.
  • Don’t let produce boxes accumulate. Break down all but one or two boxes, which can be used for culling and rotating product. Carry boxes to dumpster or recycle bin safely and easily by placing all flattened boxes inside one of the saved boxes.