In the midst of citrus season, there are many varieties of small, orange fruits available. With over 167 different hybrids and varietals recognized by the Citrus Variety Collection of the University of California, it’s no surprise people often confuse mandarins, satsumas, clementines and tangerines. In the U.S, mandarins and tangerines are commonly used interchangeably even though they are not the same thing. All tangerines are a type of mandarin but not all mandarins are tangerines.
Here’s a breakdown of the differences between these popular citrus fruits.
Mandarins are a type of orange although generally smaller and sweeter than oranges. They are flatter in shape with thinner, loose skin that is easier to peel.
Tangerines are a type of mandarin with bright orange slightly tougher skins. The flavor is tarter and less sweet.
Clementines are the smallest type of mandarin. They are super sweet, seedless and have orangey-red skin that is smooth and shiny. They are easier to peel than tangerines but not as easy as satsumas.
Satsumas are a specific type of mandarin originating in Japan more than 700 years ago. They are usually lighter in color, sweet, juicy and seedless. This is the easiest variety to peel.
Keep a lookout for our staff picks noted in orange.
Apple and Pear
Heirloom apples are winding down. Prices are competitive. Lots of variety on the market to build up your apple display. Pink Lady apples are tasting delicious with beautiful color. Orins have a juicy fruity flavor with hints of pineapple and pear. Opals have distinctively crunchy texture, flora aroma and a sweet tangy flavor. Incredibly, Opals naturally do not brown after cutting! Fuji has strong supply. Great deals on Gala. The list goes on! Talk to your Account Manager about which apples are right for you.
We’re seeing strong supply on Comice well into next year, but overall pears are winding down. Good volume on Red D’Anjou but demand is high! These won’t last. Bosc and D’Anjou on hand now. Starkrimson are done for the season. We won’t see import Bartletts from Argentina until March. In what can only be called as a pear miracle, we were able to source one last shot of 20th Century and New Century Asian pears. Supply is limited—act fast!
Hass prices are jumping up again. Growers are expecting that there will be little or no fruit coming into the states from Mexico after December 22 until after the first of the year due to holiday closures. Green-skinned Bacon avocados have sharp pricing on 36 count and larger sizes. Volume deals available for those interested in taking pallets. For California growers, the Santa Ana winds have wreaked havoc all over the state. The winds are blowing what little fruit there is of next year’s crop off the trees, most of which is not mature enough to sell. Other growers are located dangerously close to the wild fire zone. Expect some volatility in price, supply and quality as we head into 2018. Sneak preview, due to the Ventura Fire on the Central Coast of California, some growers want to get in and size-pick some of the new crop of domestic Hass, so stand by for further developments. California Fuerte are just around the corner, so be prepared for sharp prices on domestic green-skin fruit over the next month.
Domestic blueberry supply has good volume. The winter blueberry production out of Santa Maria, if yields are similar to last year, will run through April. Import blueberry supply will increase in December with product from Mexico adding to the increased volume out of Chile which tends to peak in late January and February. Import blackberries and raspberries are steady in supply. California strawberries are still going thanks to warmer weather in coastal areas. They should last until a frost hits, which is expected at this time of year. Mexico imported strawberries should be starting up soon. There are still plenty of cranberries available for the upcoming holiday rush, both in 8 ounce bags and 20 pound bulk.
Early Valencia from Mexico are here now with sharp pricing. Supply is limited so prices are not expected to last. Blood oranges should be available in late December. Our main grower is anticipating better sizing than last year. Navels are readily available. Supply is strong. Cara Cara Navels have arrived. Quality is great. We love the sweet juicy flavor! Meyer lemons are plentiful as most growers have come on for the season. If you’ve never tried Meyer lemons, now is the time! Much less acidic than regular lemons, the sweet flavor is perfect for enjoying raw on salads or desserts. The rind has an interesting spicy bergamot fragrance that tastes and smells like a spice. Clementines are finishing soon but Algerian Clementines have come on. This variety is known for having a thin skin that comes off easily. Fairchild tangerines are winding down. Dancy tangerines will be starting shortly after that. Orlando Tangelos, a hybrid of the Duncan grapefruit and Dancy tangerine, are available now. The flavor is mildly sweet and very juicy. Satsuma supply is steady. Don’t forget to check out the 5-lb Satsuma gift boxes!
Looking for a date this holiday season? We’ve got you covered. Medjool dates have extraordinary sweetness and chewy texture. Deglet dates are firmer and less sweet than the Medjool variety. Both can be eaten fresh or used in a variety of dishes (bacon wrapped dates anyone?) Because of their sweetness and texture, dates are often used as an all-natural sweetener. We also carry a handful of delicious date products. Coco Rolls are ground dates rolled in dried coconut threads. Pecan Nuggets are rolled in chopped pecans and Almond Nuggets are rolled in chopped almonds.
Green seedless are just about done for the season. Red seedless are limited. Peru-imported red globe grapes should be coming on in late January.
Small sizes of Tommy Atkins are limited. Larger sizes available. We do not expect to see Ataulfos until January.
Mini seedless watermelon is winding down. Orange honeydew, Cantaloupe and Piel de Sapo are done for the season. Honeydew is also ending soon. Harper and Galia melons will start the 3rd week of December.
Fuyu persimmons have strong volume. Hachiyas are done for the season.
Pomegranates are just about done for the season. Available fruit is eco grade with some minor scarring on the exterior but good quality arils inside.
Passion fruit is limited and trickling in here and there. Jujubes are done for the season as are dragon fruit. Cherimoya is gapping in supply but should be available again soon. Young Thai coconut and Mexico imported coconut are readily available.
Sweet Red Cherry season from the Southern Hemisphere has begun with Argentina beating out New Zealand to start up. Look for the first good import crop to come from the ‘other side of the world’ in several years! (They have had unpredictable and bad weather just like the Northern Hemisphere.)
There’s nothing nuttier than customers clamoring for roasted nuts during the winter months. Be prepared and check our inventory of tasty nuts! Almonds are available every which way: roasted, roasted and salted, or shelled non-pariel. Walnuts and assorted nut mixes round out the selection. Check our list often more new offerings.
Green asparagus is limited and prices are going up. Purple is also limited.
Broccoli prices are on the rise as many large growers have now transitioned fully to their desert growing regions. Cauliflower supply may tighten towards the second half of the month and prices should creep up accordingly.
Jumbo carrots are in back in supply after a short gap. Juice carrots are now readily available. Prices are coming down. Bunched carrots are steady.
Local California producers are ticking along as the weather has been favorable with no sign of a freeze yet. However, recent production reports are showing that current supply is not sizing up. Overall supply and price should remain steady as other growers come on.
Bulk Persian cucumbers are steady but clamshell supply is very tight. European ‘cukes are abundant; prices are promotable.
Globe prices are dropping quickly. Graffiti has good volume. Have you tried white eggplant before? This variety is oval and egg-shaped with white skin and cream flesh. The raw flavor is fruity and mild. When cooked, it takes on a mellow flavor with creamy texture.
Garlic and Ginger
Garlic has steady supply. Good news for those looking for natural remedies to ward off winter colds. Yellow Peruvian ginger prices are up. Turmeric has good volume this season. Like garlic, turmeric is known for its beneficial anti-inflammatory properties. Keep this item handy this season. Supply is expected to last through January.
Greens, Lettuce & Herbs
The seasonal transition from coastal and Salinas Valley growing regions to the desert regions of California and Arizona is wrapping up. Because crops are more delicate at the beginning of the desert season, there can be more instances of mechanical damage at this time of the season. Local bunched lacinato (aka dino kale) supply is limited with frosty nights now the norm. Bunches grown north of the desert tend to be shorter as the leaves don’t grow as productively during the short days and colder temperatures. Bunched green kale is in better supply from local producers but will also be affected by frost in the weeks to come. Desert production for bunched greens in in full swing so supply should be steady overall.
The popular Trina/Perry label from Fremont, California Perry Organic Farms is done with lettuces for the season. Other Salinas Valley and coastal growers are ending soon as well. Fortunately, our diverse mix of suppliers allows us to rely on desert producers in California and Arizona as well as some farms in Santa Barbara during this season.
Snap peas and snow peas are readily available. Supply is steady as Mexico production slowly picks up. Still waiting on Mexican English peas to come on.
California green bell peppers are just about done. Supply will be supported with Mexico product. Orange bell peppers are limited until more Mexico growers come on. Red bell peppers supply is very tight but starting to improve as Mexican growers transition into new growing regions. Yellow bell pepper has better volume than its counterparts. Supply is getting steadier. Domestic chilies are done for the season. Mexico prices are very strong. Sweet peppers are not readily available.
Russet potatoes are in short supply. Growers are reporting that the crop is not sizing up. Due to trucking issues, potatoes sourced from one of our main suppliers, Nature’s Pride in the Northwest are undergoing a price increase.
Hard squash supply is steady with plenty of variety to keep your shelves colorful this season. Look for Acorn, Butternut, and Spaghetti squash from Hollister based Bob Swanson Ranch, packed under the Bunkhouse label. This family farm’s specialty is hard squash. Also on hand in abundant supply: Carnival, Kabocha, Red Kuri, Sweet Dumpling and Sugar Pie Pumpkin.
Prices on one and two-layer tomatoes are way up. Lower temperatures in Mexico has impacted supply. #2 quality beefsteak tomatoes from Wholesum Harvest are now available. The quality is strong and great for processors, delis and restaurants. Romas are tight and expensive. Sweet grapes are plentiful. Mexican heirlooms are two weeks out!
Dried persimmon slices from Biodynamic producer Beck Grove are a naturally sweet and delicious snack! We have plenty of dried raisins available in every variety: red, green and black. Sundried tomatoes have sweet, concentrated tomato flavor that makes it the perfect addition to any savory dish.
Grocery and Dairy
Straus Family Creamery eggnog is ending soon. Get your orders in before it’s gone for the season. Their old-fashioned organic eggnog is made with simple, organic ingredients and finished with a touch of organic nutmeg. No emulsifiers or thickeners are used in this rich, blend of organic milk, organic cream, organic sugar and organic and pasteurized egg yolks. It’s sure to become a holiday favorite!
In juice news, Columbia Gorge orange juice will now only be available in gallon jugs. Other varieties including lime, lemon, and grapefruit are still available in half gallon jugs.
This is the time of year when maple syrup products should be enticing! 6oz candy makes a great ‘stocking stuffer’ or easily-plated party desert; a jar of maple cream makes a rich, decadent thank-you gift for a co-worker, colleague, or family member. Turn on to something that is heavenly, and produced by a grower co-op!
Due to wet winter conditions, Thomas Farm is done with all fresh flowers until fields are drier. Full Belly Farm has finished with dried bouquets and wreaths. Stay tuned for floral updates in the new year!
Add Value to Your Produce Department
Customers can almost always find a cheaper place to shop. Trying to compete based on price along puts you in a “race to the bottom,” making it extremely difficult to succeed. Offering a diverse product line appealing to your target customer, creating enticing displays, utilizing easy to read signage and maintaining a clean department are all ways to appeal to your customer base. In addition, your Produce Department must offer excellent customer service to demonstrate you truly care about customer satisfaction.
Satisfying customers should be the highest priority of every member of the Produce Department. A satisfied customer purchases more on each visit and visits more often. Creating a satisfying experience begins by following the guidelines already discussed and by following a few additional rules of thumb.
- Treat every customer with respect and courtesy.
- Use the 10-4 rule when a customer approaches you:
- Within 10’—acknowledge the customer’s presence; a smile, friendly nod or wave is all that is needed.
- Within 4’—verbally engage by greeting in a friendly, professional manner; a “Good morning/afternoon/evening, how are you?” or “Is there something I can help you find?” or “Are you finding everything you need?” are all effective options. The idea is to offer assistance without striking up a long conversation as neither of you have time to chat.
- Never say “I don’t know” without following it with “but let me find out for you.” Follow through on getting whatever is requested. If follow-up is required after the shopper leaves the store, make sure you have contact information. If the question is about another department’s product, connect the shopper with the appropriate person to help.
- Be familiar with the day’s specials, particularly tasty items, so you can suggest items if a customer seems receptive to ideas or asks specifically.
- Suggest an alternative product if a customer is looking for an unavailable item.
- Become familiar with the farm labels the store carries, to share the grower information with customers. Online grower profiles are available as a resource at veritablevegetable.com
- Field Guide to Produce: How to Identify, Select, and Prepare Virtually Every Fruit and Vegetable at the Market, by Aliza Green is a handy reference for answering questions about nutritional value, cooking methods, etc. Refer to it as needed to provide exceptional service.
- Provide customers a chart outlining how to properly store fruits and vegetables to maintain the best taste and quality.
As part of offering excellent customer service, ensure everyone in the Produce Department can confidently answer the commonly asked question: “Why buy organic produce?” The following list provided by the Organic Trade Association, shares the top reasons why buying organic produce is “better for the earth, better for people and animals, and better for eaters.”
- Organic products meet stringent standards.Organic certification is the public’s assurance that products have been grown and handled according to strict procedures without persistent toxic chemical inputs.
- Organic food tastes great! It’s common sense—well-balanced soils produce strong, healthy plants that become nourishing food for people and animals.
- Organic production reduces health risks. Many EPA-approved pesticides were registered long before extensive research linked these chemicals to cancer and other diseases. Organic agriculture is one way to prevent any more of these chemicals from getting into the air, earth, and water that sustain us.
- Organic farms respect our water resources. The elimination of polluting chemicals and nitrogen leaching, done in combination with soil building, protects and conserves water resources.
- Organic farmers build healthy soil.Soil is the foundation of the food chain. The primary focus of organic farming is to use practices that build healthy soils.
- Organic farmers work in harmony with nature. Organic agriculture respects the balance demanded of a healthy ecosystem: wildlife is encouraged by including forage crops in rotation and by retaining fence rows, wetlands, and other natural areas.
- Organic producers are leaders in innovative research.Organic farmers have led the way with innovative on-farm research aimed at reducing pesticide use and minimizing agriculture’s impact on the environment.
- Organic producers strive to preserve diversity.The loss of a large variety of species (biodiversity) is one of the most pressing environmental concerns. The good news is that many organic farmers and gardeners have been collecting and preserving seeds, and growing unusual varieties for decades.
- Organic farming helps keep rural communities healthy. Organic agriculture can be a lifeline for small farms because it offers an alternative market where sellers can command fair prices for crops.