Nothing is quite as exciting as the start of citrus season, specifically the return of California grown navel oranges. Navels are large, seedless, sweet and easy to peel. The juicy segments separate easily, which make these the perfect citrus snack. Navels gets their name from the “bellybutton” or the under developed fruit protruding at the blossom end of the orange—which resembles a human navel. Although there are several navel varieties out there, the Washington and Cara Cara are the most common. A Cara Cara navel is a red-fleshed navel that is a cross between a Washington navel and the Brazilian Bahia navel. Other navel varieties include Fukumoto, Lane Late, Riverside, Robertson 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 today as the California citrus industry. The navel is one of the more famous stand out products that California has to offer. This exceptional citrus grows all over the state giving us great supply and a long harvest season.
Keep a lookout for our staff picks noted in orange.
Apple and Pear
We’re seeing sharp pricing on Fuji #1 medium bins from local grower, Cuyama Orchards. Local Pink Lady is readily available in 113 count fruit. Local supply of Granny Smith is winding down. We’ll move to Washington supply next. Lots of delicious heirloom varieties are still available such as Arkansas Black and Crimson Gold. Check our list to see our full offering of apples!
Asian pear are winding down fast; we’ll only see Olympic going forward. Locally grown Bartlett are still available.
California Hass is just about done and Mexican Hass should continue for at least 2-3 months. Prices are stabilizing as supply is steadier, now that the Mexican growers strike is over. California-grown greenskin avocados are starting up. We’ll see Bacon, Zutano, Ettinger and other varieties for about a month. Greenskin fruit is generally big.
Strawberry supply is limited and prices are high both California and Mexico grown berries. Supply from Baja, California is expected to improve mid-December. Import blueberries from Chile, Mexico and Peru are in good supply; prices are sharp. Mexico grown raspberries are now in production both Baja, California and the Michoacán regions. Supply looks steady. Mexican supply of blackberries is steady. Cranberries are ending soon.
Recent rain may affect citrus supply. Navel oranges remain steady. Cara Cara Navel are starting this week. Mexican choice grade and juice grade Valencia are here. Rio Red grapefruit is readily available with competitive pricing. We’ll see Ruby grapefruit from beloved grower, B&J Ranch come on mid-December. Meyer lemons have strong volume and quality. California limes are plentiful and ripe for the picking. Our longstanding grower, Beck Grove is offering Biodynamic fruit grown in Southern California. Tangerine season has taken off! Satsumas are in good supply (and tasting great.) Daisy tangerine have come on; supply is limited. Fairchild tangerines are steady. These are great for juicing! Orlando Tangelo have just arrived. We’ll see Page mandarins in the next week or so.
California grown green and gold kiwi are readily available. The gold variety is trademarked by the grower, Wild River Fruit, as Tropikiwi (you may see this name on the box.) The flavor is sweeter, slightly tropical and less tart than green kiwifruit. The gold also has less fuzz on the outer skin than green kiwi.
The last of the Ataulfo mango are here—get ‘em while you can! Tommy Atkins from Ecuador are in good supply with promotable pricing.
Supply out of Mexico is very limited. Mini seedless watermelon and cantaloupe may gap until mid-January while some availability of honeydew continues.
Fuyu and Hachiya are steady. Not sure which persimmon is right for you? Fuyu are non-astringent, which means they can be eaten when firm and crisp. Perfect for a snack or sliced into a seasonal salad! Hachiya are astringent with high levels of tannins that make them unpalatable it eaten before completely ripened. Fully ripe, they are creamy and very sweet—great for baking, purees or ice cream!
Cherimoya has arrived! This tropical fruit is also known as a Custard Apple because of its creamy, sweet and slightly tart flesh. The flavor is a blend of vanilla, pineapple and banana. On the exterior, the skin is green with some scaly depressions. Neither the skin nor black seeds are edible. Mark Twain referred to the Cherimoya as “the most delicious fruit known to men.” Dragon fruit is back in supply with red, pink and white varieties available. Passionfruit and Yuzu are still going.
Green asparagus prices are going up. Purple asparagus is not available at this time.
Mexico grown green beans has steady supply. Prices have come down slightly.
Production out of California’s Imperial Valley and Arizona’s Yuma regions are off to a slow start and prices remain high. Cauliflower supply is limited.
Green, red and Savoy remain steady.
Persian cucumber pricing is coming down; supply is steady. Slicer cucumbers are plentiful. English Hothouse supply is a bit limited.
Peruvian yellow ginger supply is very tight. Prices are going up. Yellow ginger from Hawaiian grower, Kolo Kai is expected to come on in January. Turmeric and galangal are steady.
Greens & Lettuce
While larger growers are transitioning to their winter growing regions in the California desert, several of our local small and mid-sized growers are continuing steadily with dino aka lacinato kale, curly kale and collards.
As of November 26th, the romaine warning issued by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) was narrowed to include only romaine harvested In the Central Coast growing regions of central and northern California. Additionally, the CDC recommended growers utilize a new labeling system designed to provide consumers with information on the region where romaine is grown and harvested. Our larger growers who ship from multiple regions have started shipping out of California’s Imperial Valley and Yuma, Arizona and have adopted the voluntary labeling agreement on romaine and romaine hearts. Our smaller growers such as Tomatero Farm, Givens, Full Belly Farm and Perry Farms, who do not ship from multiple regions, are adding harvest date sticker to boxes. Growing regions are indicated on the box itself. The warning has heavily impacted the lettuce market overall. Prices continue to fluctuate and are not yet stable. Because of the limited romaine on the market, demand for other lettuces has increased dramatically. Green leaf, red leaf, butter, and iceberg are limited; prices are high. Boxed greens are also feeling the effects of the impacted market; prices are up.
Recent rainy weather means we’ll see increased availability for wild mushrooms. Maitake Frondosa and Trumpet Royale are a just a couple specialty ‘shrooms available. Check back often as availability changes daily. Rain spurs the growth of wild mushrooms, but at the same time, the moisture causes growth of unfavorable bacteria that compromises the compost used in cultivated mushrooms. Button mushroom supply may start to tighten. Oyster and shiitake remain in good supply.
California sugar snap peas are continuing steadily. English peas have limited supply.
Green bell peppers are limited but we should not see any gaps in supply. Orange bells are extremely limited. Yellow bells are steady. Red bells are also limited; prices are going up. Anaheim and Poblano chilies from Mexico have started up. Jalapeno prices are coming down.
New crop red and golden potatoes from Road 20 Farm are expected to come on the first week of January. These spuds are a seasonal favorite; they look beautiful and taste amazing. The potatoes are hand dug to ensure sizing, consistency and yield. Available for wholesale exclusively through Veritable Vegetable!
Parsnip and rutabaga are readily available. Radish supply has tightened and prices are up. Turnips are steady—white, purple-top, gold—we got ‘em all! Baby white turnips are gapping.
Zucchini supply has tightened; prices are up. Gold zucchini is steadier. California hard squash is winding down on most varieties. Butternut is still going strong. Delicata and Acorn have good supply. Green, red Kabocha and Red Kuri are limited. Gray Kabocha is done.
We’re seeing strong supply on all sweet potatoes: Garnet, Jewel, Hannah, Japanese and Purple Stokes.
Tomatoes-on-vine (TOV) are steady on availability and price. Roma and cherry prices are very high. One and two-layer slicers are prices bit volatile but supply should be steady. Heirlooms are coming on any day now! This early in the season, expect less variety in mix medley packs.
Chestnuts are available in jumbo and colossal sizes for just a bit longer! Gorgeous and delicious, don’t miss out on Heath Ranch’s finest chestnut crop yet. Fresh chestnuts are versatile and can be enjoyed in any number of ways—roasted, steamed, boiled, deep fried and even microwaved! Don’t forget to score the skin of a fresh chestnut before cooking to allow steam to escape and prevent exploding chestnuts. Fresh chestnuts can be frozen whole of shelled in a freezer-safe bag for up to three months.
Sunflowers are done for the season. Come January, look for Dutch Iris, Tulips and other winter varieties like Anemone, Sweet William, Calendula, Snap Dragon, and Protea from Thomas Farm. In observance of the holidays, Thomas Farm will not be shipping from December 23rd to January 3rd of the New Year. Orders for Thursday, January 5th must be in by Wednesday, January 2nd at 7AM. Dried floral bouquets and dried wreaths from Full Belly Farm are available for a limited time only. The farm will be on holiday from December 8th through January 8th. The first shipment in 2019 will be January 9th.
For your floral needs, check out our new grower, Wild Ridge Organics and their beautiful mixed Protea bouquets. Husband and wife team, Rick McCain and Michelle Noble McCain have been growing unique and drought tolerant flowers since 1997. They specialize in South African and Australian cut flowers grown in Aromas, California.
It’s that time of year—eggnog season! Alexandre Family Farm Homegrown Eggnog mixes A2 organic milk with Alexandre Kids organic, pasture-raised eggs and a dash of nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, allspice, and turmeric powder. The eggnog is made with whole eggs to get the whole benefit of balanced fats and proteins! Straus Family Creamery Organic Eggnog is so good, you won’t miss the rum! 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. Both eggnogs are seasonal and only available through the end of December by preorder only.
The winter season is a great time to showcase maple flavor in holiday cooking. We offer a full line of organic maple products including maple syrup in glass containers and bulk sizes from Maple Valley Co-Op, a growers co-op. Maple sugar candy and whipped maple cream are perfect for stocking stuffers and gifts! All Maple Valley products are certified organic and free of additives, preservatives, and formaldehyde as well as being kosher certified and vegan.
Year End Merchandising Tips
The end of the year is busy time for produce as the holidays come one right after another. With Thanksgiving down, we have just a few more to go. Hanukkah (December 2-10th), Christmas (December 25th) and New Year’s Eve (December 31st) are filled with cultural and ethnic traditions that will affect your customers’ food and shopping habits. Get to know your customers well and customize your merchandising and displays to their needs.
Christmas Ingredients: Many of the same products popular for Thanksgiving will also be in demand for Christmas celebrations. Provide full displays of potatoes, herbs, celery, sweet potatoes, winter squash, green beans, Brussels sprouts, nuts and chestnuts, and cranberries.
Traditional Hanukkah Ingredients: Many Hanukkah foods are deep fried in oil symbolizing the oil from the menorah used in the Temple. This may include latkes or potato pancakes (with apple sauce topping) and jelly donuts. Stock up on potatoes, apples, onions, sweet potatoes, citrus fruit, honey, and walnuts. Chocolate gelt, a candy is also popular.
Celebrate Citrus: Tangerines are in full swing and very popular as stocking stuffers, gifts and all around daily snacking. Satsumas, Fairchilds, Orlandos and Clementines are all in great supply and never fail to impress with their amazing flavor. Grapefruit and navel oranges are also popular items at this time of year. Highlight your new seasonal fresh citrus items by building big citrus endcaps or placing bins of satsumas or bagged grapefruit in the entryway of your store.
Dried Fruit & Nuts: Holiday season is the time for these categories to shine. Build up a display to include shelled nuts, nuts-in shell and various dried fruits such as raisins, prunes, persimmon, dates and jujube. Provide a delicious fruit cake recipe for easy reference.
Convenience Items: Holiday season also means holiday party season. Make it easy for both guests and hosts to shop with a well-stocked fresh cut display and plenty of options for grab-and-go meals. Precut veggies, mirepoix mix, veggie spirals, riced veggies, cooked beets, and bagged salad mixes are all popular items. Don’t forget to order up on seasonal floral bouquets for the perfect hostess gift.
Party Platters: If your deli department has the resources to offer party platters, get on this trend! Veggie platters, fruit trays, cheese plates, wraps and sandwiches are great items to offer during the holiday season.
Follow these tips for a successful holiday season. Reach out to your Account Manager for additional merchandising and planning assistance. It’s not too early to think about New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day planning. Check back for merchandising and display tips in our next Produce Notes.