There’s nothing quite like a perfectly ripe fig. Now that we’re rolling into the season, they are readily available and tasting exquisite!
Figs are possibly the earliest known cultivated fruit with evidence of their food production found in the Jordan River Valley in modern Palestine. Fig remains have been discovered dating back to 9,400 BCE—a whopping 11,400 years ago! In the ancient world, they appear across cultures and are mentioned in the Bible, the Quran, the Torah, the story of Buddha, as well as Hinduism and Jainism religions.
Fast forward to today, California grows 98% of the fresh figs in the USA; world-wide, 70% are produced in the Mediterranean region. While there are thousands of fig varieties, California production for the fresh market is focused on Black Mission, Brown Turkey, and Kadota. The Black Mission is the most popular fig variety in North America, loved for its quintessential sweet figgy flavor and ability to thrive in the hot California climate.
We’ll be carrying all available varieties this season, including specialty types, such as the gorgeous green and gold-streaked Candy Stripe, and the fig-lovers favorite, the Adriatic, with deep red strawberry-jam colored flesh. Get ‘em while you can!
Fun Fact: figs are not technically fruit, but the stem of an inverted flower called an inflorescence, which is a cluster of many flowers and seeds contained inside a bulb.
Merchandising Heirloom Tomatoes
‘Tis a great time to be an heirloom tomato! Field merchandiser, Kerri Williams, catches up with some growers to talk all things tomatoes. Here are some in-store display tips as well as what tomatoes the growers are excited to see this season.
- Cull through your tomato displays daily, looking for the less than perfect fruit. This will not only keep your product looking fresh, but will also help reduce tomato-loving fruit flies.
- Change the display every few weeks to keep it from looking stagnant, and display recipe cards in-store, as well as on social media. This will keep up customer excitement.
- Work complementary products into tomato displays, like garlic, olive oil, basil, and cilantro.
- Raise or stack heirlooms a few layers high on a good-sized table. Spread out all the colors evenly and really draw attention to just how striking these tomatoes can look.
- The heirloom mix by Veliz Organic Family Farm is the most popular item from the farm, and contains full-flavored tomatoes that people are always clamoring for, like the Purple Cherokee and Brandy Wine.
- San Marzano Romas are a fan-favorite. They are considered “the king of canning and cooking.” Their meaty texture and lack of moisture makes them perfect for pico di gallo or salsa fresca, and excellent for roasting.
- Early Girl Saladettes are perfect all-around tomatoes because of their versatility, size, and amazing flavor.
- Triple digit heat waves in California’s Central Valley have affected plants and people. Plants, vines and trees go dormant, at best. Harvest crews are unable to work safely, except in the very early morning, when temperatures are in the low 70s.
- The Three Sister’s Champagne grape season ended weeks early, burned on the vine.
- All kinds of peas are heat-adverse; prices are soaring, while availability shrinks.
- Even in cooler coastal areas, insect pressure increases during warm weather. Many crops are struggling, from aphids on butter lettuce to worm damage on corn.
Please be patient with the quality or gaps in supply, while our growers hope for some relief from the brutal heat.
New and Exciting
* Apple (right): Heirloom Gravensteins are here! Known for being juicy, with a rich fragrance, and a nice balance of sweet and tart flavors. They have strong yellow undertones with beautiful red and orange striping, and are especially popular for cooking. The season is short so don’t miss out on this wonderful “all-around” variety.
Bosc Pear: We’re excited for the arrival of Bosc pears! Early season fruit tends to be green hued, with brown mottling. This is expected and normal, and has no impact on its sweet, juicy flavor!
Cherry Tomato: With a sweet taste, and a slightly lower acidity than most tomatoes, the beautiful Black Plum cherry tomatoes are sure to go fast!
Dragon Fruit: Domestic dragon fruit is coming soon!
* Fig (left): A variety of figs are coming in now, including Candy Stripe, Brown Turkey, Kadota, and the ever-popular Black Mission. Black Mission figs have deep purple skin and pink flesh inside. They are rich and sweet with a hint of berry.
* Grape (right): Exciting seedless specialty grapes are here from our new grower, Murray Family Farms, located in Bakersfield, CA. They have lots of varieties, and here are two of our favorites:
– IFG-38: Don’t be put off by the number. The breeder, IFG, has not selected a name yet. A Muscat-Concord cross (no GMOs), this grape has green skin with crunchy snap & powerful flavor profile. IFG is the fruit breeder that developed the now famous Cotton Candy grape.
– Sweet Mayabelle: Floral aroma with Muscat flavor. Red round berry that looks like a Red Flame. Breeder’s favorite!
We are excited about other specialty grapes like the Thomcord and Heirloom Muscat, both from Fruitworld, and the Hamburg Muscat from Marian Farms.
Mango: California-grown Keitts will begin mid-August. Don’t miss out on the only California-grown organic mangoes available this season!
Pepper: The weather may be hot, but things are about to get hotter with our pepper program. Jalapeno, Anaheim, and Mixed Habanero are here to spice up your shelves. Can’t handle the heat? Poblano, Shishito, Padron, and other mild peppers are yours for the taking.
Specialty Melon: Melon season is well under way! Specialty varieties such as Goddess, Charentais, Piel de Sapo, Ambrosia, and Canary are all available. Keep an eye out for the elusive Snow Leopard melon, which is coming soon!
Blackberry: Great availability from a number of growers.
Mixed Cherry Tomato: Plump, flavorful and downright gorgeous! The mixed medley cherry tomatoes from Veliz Organic Family Farm includes Red Cherry, Sun Gold, Sweet 100, and Black Cherry. Comes in sustainable open pints to showcase the fruit’s beautiful colors.
* Mixed Heirloom Tomato (left): Veliz Organic Family Farm, an exclusive VV grower, is coming on strong with their mixed heirloom tomatoes. Their mix includes Purple Cherokee, Marvel Stripe, Brandy Wine, and Persimmon tomatoes.
Nectarine: Steady supply of both white and yellow nectarines.
Pineapple: Break up your stone fruit and melon displays with delicious pineapple. We’re seeing sharp pricing and strong supply.
Pluot: Pluots are readily available and make a great stand-in for plums, which may be limited for a couple weeks. Check out our pluot blog for a breakdown of the difference between pluots, apriums, and plumcots.
Red Bell Pepper: Locally grown colored peppers from Rundle Family Farm, a VV exclusive grower, are coming on strong.
Red Flame Grape: We are featuring this gorgeous grape in paper tote bags which are perfect for the environmentally-conscious consumer. Enjoy the famously sweet flavor and crisp, refreshing texture.
Yellow Peach: Excellent quantities, with a few varieties available — all tasting amazing!
* Watermelon (right): Mini seedless melons available from Rundle Family Farm in Fresno, CA. Known for sweet, juicy flavor and crisp, superb quality. Formally known as “ice-box melons” because they fit in your refrigerator!
Cabbage: Supply is tight
Corn: Intense worm pressure, coupled with fewer farmers growing corn, means there is less supply on the market this season. We expect Northwest production to start up in a couple weeks, which may improve availability.
Lime: California limes are starting up slowly, and Mexican prices are expected to rise this week.
Pea: Weather is too hot for consistent pea supply
Plum: Both black and red plums will see a week or two of limited supply
Reed avocado: Should be in good supply again soon; harvest will last for a month.
Done for the Season