While the arrival of autumn is exciting in itself, we’re most excited that it’s officially winter squash season! There are many varieties to choose from, including one of our favorites: the elegant and oh-so-delicious Kabocha.
Kabocha originated in the Americas (like all squash), but evolved over time in Japan to create the current Kabocha variety that we know and love. Squash was introduced to Japan by Portuguese traders in the mid-16th century, and the word Kabocha is thought to have originated from the Portuguese word for gourd, cabaça. Kabocha is immensely popular all over Asia, but is most highly valued in Japan, often appearing in ramen, tempura, and many other traditional dishes.
Kabocha is squat, almost square, with velvety orange-yellow flesh; the skin can vary from light grey to dark green to red/orange. The flavor is sweet and nutty, and tastes like a cross between a pumpkin and a sweet potato. The most outstanding characteristic however is Kabocha’s texture, very dense and drier than most other hard squash. It’s perfect for roasting, steaming, frying, soups or used as a substitute for pumpkin in pies. The rind is 100% edible when cooked.
Keep an out for Kabocha squash this fall, as well as staples like Butternut and Acorn, and the brand-new variety, Pita Pie Pumpkin!
Festive Fall Displays
Pumpkins are an obvious choice for setting autumn decor, but don’t forget about pomegranates, kiwis, and persimmons! Take advantage of the vibrant color and the unique shape and texture of these items to make your displays pop.
Read on for some tips to build and maintain stellar fall displays.
- Jack-O-Lantern and Decorative Gourd Bins: Put a layer of milk crates on the bottom of the bin to lift the pumpkins up, making the bin look fuller and the produce more accessible. Side stack pomegranates, mini pumpkins, and gourds to make the bin of Jacks stand out.
- Kiwi: These should arrive firm and will ripen over a few days to a week. As the kiwi ripen, they become soft and sweet, but may wrinkle a bit. Look for overly-wrinkled fruit and cull those from your displays, or use for sampling.
- Pomegranate: Larger fruit tends to sell faster, but smaller fruit is often available at a better price point. Watch out for fruit with hardening skin, as this is a sign of severe dehydration, and needs to be pulled. Softer pomegranates are still good, and often taste sweeter.
- Fuyu and Hachiya Persimmons: Educate customers on how to tell the difference between Fuyu and Hachiya, when to eat, and how to gauge ripeness on a Hachiya. Consider placing signage to help illustrate. Hint: ripe Hachiya starts to feel like a water balloon! Placing in the freezer overnight and allowing to thaw is a quick way to ripen Hachiyas.
We hope you enjoy creating some fantastic displays with these ‘wonder-fall’ favorites! Reach out to your Account Manager if you’re interested in setting up time with Kerri Williams, our Merchandiser, to revamp your fall displays.
- In California, erratic, extreme heat followed by rain, has compounded quality issues. As a result, Iceberg, Romaine, and Greenleaf lettuces are all limited, with prices expected to rise. Until production transitions into the desert growing regions, this may continue.
- The sustained heat wave in September severely stressed table grapes, ending the season early.
- Hurricane Ian’s devastation in Florida created havoc for tomato, citrus, and row crops, putting a higher demand on other growing regions including California, Arizona, and Texas, unfortunately causing produce prices to remain high nationally.
- Hurricane Julia churned over Central America, causing severe damage to many crops, particularly rambutan, papaya, and ginger. The remnants of Julia are pounding Southern Mexico, which may affect banana and avocado supply.
- Jacobs Del Cabo has reported drastic tomato production issues due to weeks of intense heat in the 100s followed immediately by heavy rains. The extreme weather stressed the plants and caused blooms to drop. This was in addition to flooding and crop damage from Julia. Del Cabo crops are field grown and unprotected from the elements. Expect higher prices and limited supply through at least into the beginning of November.
- One of our passionfruit growers in the coastal area of Central California, Edulis Gardens, says extremely foggy conditions from the Marine layer has greatly delayed the fruit from ripening. No one has complained about fog before.
New and Exciting
* Apple (right):
– Granny Smith: Strong tart flavor with acidic tang, the quintessential pie apple is here now! Check out the fruit coming from Robin’s Nest Farm, a small local family farm in Watsonville, California.
– Ambrosia: Sweet and refreshing with floral notes; low acid. Naturally slow to oxidize (brown) when cut, this apple is perfect for snacking, salads, or cheese plates!
– Smitten: This modern variety is a blend between Royal Gala, Braeburn,
Falstaff, and Fiesta apples. Beautiful red, striped skin. Juicy, sweet and full-flavored!
– Sugar Bee: Coming soon! The apple is crisp, crunchy, and sweet with a hint of caramel-like taste. We love the cheerful bright red skin with yellow base.
– Opal: Coming soon! These apples are bright yellow with sweet and slightly floral flavor. Crisp and juicy with a distinctive crunch.
Chestnut: Available in multiple sizes: medium, large, jumbo, colossal, and if you’re feeling extra nutty—Super Colossal! Pro Tip: when roasting, cut an X shape across each chestnut to relieve steam and make it easier to peel.
Cranberry: Retail packs of deliciously tart and Biodynamic certified berries from Wisconsin-based grower, Green Belle. More pack options and labels coming soon.
Fuyu Persimmon: Sweet, bright flavor with low acid. Unlike the Hachiya variety, Fuyus can be eaten when firm and crunchy.
* Pita Pie Pumpkin (left): This new sweet pumpkin variety is small (ranges in size from 1.5-4 pounds) and delicious. The flesh is dense, the seeds have no hull, and they can be eaten without shelling – a pumpkin roaster’s dream!
White Ginger: This all-purpose ginger is sweeter, mellower and juicer than yellow ginger. Perfect for pickling, using in a stir-fry, some hot tea, or even a smoothie.
Celery: Fantastic prices and strong availability on this healthy, high fiber kitchen staple.
VV Top Tip: Keep celery fresh and crisp by storing it in water.
Cucumber: Abundant supply of Mexican grown slicer cucumbers.
Fuji Apple: Good volume and sharp pricing on this popular variety.
Grape: Black seedless grapes are promotable and are still in great supply.
Green Curly Kale: In good supply. Curly leafed with a bright, peppery flavor, this kale holds up well to sautéing and other methods of cooking.
* Hard Squash (right): Butternut and Acorn are readily available; prices are promotable. Stock up for fall as shoppers look for more seasonal items to cook with!
Lime: Check out the great pricing on California grown limes from Beck Grove, an exclusive VV grower. Enjoy the “lime” light while supply is good!
* Pomegranate (left): Strong volume on this delicious superfood. Ask your Account Manager about our 90-pound pomegranate bins.
Starkrimson Pear: Mild and sweet, with a subtle floral aroma, this pear has striking red skin and the price will make it taste even better!
Yellow Onion: Make sure you’ve got stock of this fall must-have. Competitive pricing on jumbo yellow onions!
Berry: Blackberry, Raspberry, Strawberry are limited until the Mexican season starts up in the next few weeks
Broccoli: Broccoli and baby broccoli are limited; prices are up.
Eggs: Alexandre Kid eggs will be gapping for a couple months. Production will be impacted due to a required quarantine for the birds, a pre-caution due to the Avian flu. All Alexandre eggs that are currently in distribution are safe and were laid by healthy birds.
Fig: Limited. Production has slowed again, and prices may be increasing weekly.
Maple Candy: Gapping due to production delays
Done for the Season
Avocado: MacArthur, Mexicola, & Mexicali are done.
California Melon: California’s season is ending, but we expect to begin getting mini watermelons and cantaloupe out of Mexico by late October.
Valencia Orange: Winding down
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