The Heart of Spring: Artichokes

Artichokes are one of the oldest foods known to humans, even mentioned in the Old Testament. According to Greek mythology, Zeus was enraged when a deity, Cynara, snuck back to Earth to visit her human mother. As punishment, Zeus turned her into an artichoke and tossed her to the ground!  The scientific name for artichoke—Cynara cardunculus—derives from this myth. The Thistle is also a symbol of chivalry and is the national flower of Scotland. 

Artichokes are native to the Mediterranean region and commonly cultivated in Italy, France, Belgium, and California. The first artichoke seeds were brought to America by Italian immigrants to California—where today, 99% of all artichokes in the USA are grown! 

The artichoke is actually the edible bud of a thistle flower; the plant is related to a sunflower. Artichokes grow on stalks, with a large bud on top and smaller ones below. The leaves (“bracts”) cover a fuzzy center (the “choke”), which sits on top of a delicious meaty core, (the “heart”). 

California-grown artichokes are typically harvested from March through November, with the peak season running from March through May. The most common variety of artichoke grown in California is the Green Globe, which is known for its large size and meaty, flavorful heart. 

Whether steamed, grilled, baked, or fried, artichokes are a versatile and delicious vegetable that can be enjoyed in a wide variety of dishes.


Merchandising Corner 

Artichokes are generally in season year-round but we tend to think of them as “peaking” in spring. They make a great addition to any display and are versatile as they can be displayed in a refrigerated case or at room temperature on a dry table. Here are some tips to optimize your artichoke displays this season! 

  • When selecting artichokes for display, look for firm ones that give only slightly when lightly squeezed. A little give is acceptable, but completely soft chokes should be moved out quickly. 
  • Check the globes for freshness daily; trim any dark ends and withered stems to keep the product looking its best.  
  • Place artichokes next to lemons for both color blocking and encouraging an impulse purchase. Lemons are commonly used in preparing fresh artichokes.  Olive oil and fresh bunched herbs are perfect additions to round out the display. 
  • Merchandise fresh artichokes near dipping ingredients such as mayo, balsamic vinegar and ready-to-eat sauces to encourage customers to buy not only the artichoke, but a complementary item as well. 
  • As the weather warms up, creating a grilling display with artichokes, asparagus, onions, pineapple and mushrooms is a great way to get customers excited for the start of the upcoming grilling season.  

Weather Watch  

Cold nights in California are delaying the harvest of our highly anticipated stonefruit; apricots, cherries and early varieties of plums and peaches are late! The cooler temperatures are also stalling the melon ripening process. Hang in there, we expect warmer temperatures soon.  

In the meantime, citrus season is running long, so keep those babies moving to help our growers finish up, they count on your support until no fruit is left on the tree! 

As expected, many vegetables and leafy crops are also “slim pickings” due to torrential ‘atmospheric rivers’ we saw during late winter and early spring. Hopefully we are on the upswing now. Inflated prices are coming down accordingly.  


Take our Produce Notes Survey 

We strive to share current and relevant produce knowledge and market updates, as your produce supply partner.  The goal of our biweekly Produce Notes is to share information in an organized and useful manner, to make it easier for you to manage and plan for your produce department.  

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Produce Resources

Asparagus Size Guide & Merchandising Tips 

Produce Department Manual 

Save time and boost sales with our ready-made shelf talkers. Shelf talkers help educate employees and shoppers alike, with flavor notes, nutrition, and eating tips. 

Bay Area Herbs Compostable Clamshell Shelf Talker – Laminated signs available upon request 

Citrus Shelf Talkers 

Jayleaf Retail Greens Shelf Talkers 


New & Exciting! 

Lettuce: locally grown red and green leaf lettuces are starting up. Supply should be steady. Beautiful red and green Little Gems are back in stock!

Retail Herbs Compostable Clamshell (right): Brand new retail clamshell packs from Bay Area Herbs are made 100% out of compostable packaging. Check out these high-quality herbs that are better for the planet! We have laminated shelf talkers available—ask your Account Manager if interested in receiving some! 

Spring Onion: Sweeter and mellower than regular onions, the greens are more intense in flavor than scallions. Available in red and white, the bulb can be used the same way as regular bulb onions. They taste fantastic grilled or roasted whole! 

Stone fruit: Coming soon! The season is slowly starting up and farmers are beginning to harvest, they want to get going as much as we want the fruit!. We will be starting off with Kyliese and Tastyrich apriums from Blossom Hill and Homegrown Organic, Apache apricots from Frog Hollow Farm and Patterson apricots from Fruit World. Apriums are a hybrid of apricot and plums (roughly 75%/25%.) Early cherry crop will be the Hazel and Tioga varieties from Delta Organics and Fruit World, followed by Ferrari Farms. Blenheim apricots are expected to come on late May/early June. Peaches are slated for end of May followed by nectarines and pluots in June, then plums. 

Sunchoke: AKA Jerusalum artichoke. This tuber vegetable is not actually an artichoke but the root of a species of sunflower, thus the alternate name “sunchoke.”  They are mild, sweet, and crunchy, with a nutty taste similar to water chestnuts, hazelnuts, and jicama. Very nutritious!

TomatilloTomatillo (left):  AKA Mexican husk tomato. Bright distinctive vegetal flavor, slightly more acidic and less sweet than tomatoes. Can be eaten raw and are often made into soup, salsa or chutney. 

Walnut: Red Halves from Ferrari Farms are available in 8oz pouches. The walnut pieces are covered in beautiful rich burgundy colored skin. The flavor is nutty and creamy with less bitter aftertaste than regular walnuts. 

We’re offering new walnut snacks from Old Dog Ranch Family Farm! This fifth-generation family farm grows Chandler variety walnuts in California’s San Joaquin Valley. The Combo Pack includes four types of seasoned walnuts: Candied, Golden Herb, Mexican Hot Chocolate, and Smoked Paprika with Garlic. All in 6oz pouches. For a classic flavor, check out their Toasted Walnut (right)! 



Hass Avocado: Supply is steady. Ask your Account Manager about breaking and pre-conditioned avos. Contrary to expectations, it seems prices are coming down slightly, as nobody sold as much for Cinco de Mayo as they had hoped.

Berry: Steady volume and sharp pricing on blueberries and blackberries.  

Fava Bean: Good supply; prices have come down. 

Lime: The market is sliding down, volume deals available for this versatile citrus! 

Peas: Supply is strong on California-grown spring peas. Prices are falling fast. Purple Snow, Green Sugar Snap, and Purple Sugar Snap (left) are all readily available. Check out Honey Snaps, which have beautiful golden yellow pods! California-grown Green Snow are slower to get going, but we have plenty of Mexican-grown to keep supply steady. 

Pink Lady Apple: 88 count fruit is still promotable! 

Pixie Tangerine: This late season tangerine is expected to be available through May. Mixture of sizes ranging from Pixie to Jumbo, 

Ruby Grapefruit: Great deals for the best-tasting grapefruit! All sizes available; supply expected to go until July. Delicious for eating fresh, fancy fruit salads or juicing in a spring mocktail!

Tomato: As the weather warms up, we welcome salad season with open arms! Don’t miss out on our specials for TOVs, Heirloom Cherry (right) in open pints and Mixed Heirlooms from Ram’s Farm. 

Yellow Squash: Promotable price; plenty to be had! 



Celery: The market continues to be tight; prices high 

Honeycrisp Apple: Very limited; expect prices to be high through summer. 

Globe Eggplant: Limited; prices are going up fast 

Rainbow Carrot: Very limited 

Strawberry: Limited due to recent rains 

Zucchini: Prices are going up; mediums are limited. 


Done for the Season 

California-Grown Green Kiwi from Wild River 


Food Movers & Shakers 

Let’s celebrate the changemakers in our food system who have contributed to the areas of food justice, organic farming, transportation, culinary arts, and sustainable agriculture. Thanks to these individuals and organizations, our food system is becoming more transparent and changing for the better. 

Wild Farm Alliance  

wild farm alliance

One of our favorite non-profits in the agricultural world is The Wild Farm Alliance (WFA). WFA’s mission is to protect and restore wild nature and enable all farmers to increase biodiversity. Of course, veteran organic and regenerative farmers have always embraced this concept, but growers of all types need support on the ground to make it happen. WFA also shows non-organic farmers how to encourage healthy ecosystems with no fear of the natural world, while still maintaining the integrity and viability of farm and ranch lands. Founded in 2000, the organization is based in Watsonville, California, and has a national and international reach. Their success is due to leadership showing a science-based, creative and collaborative approach to farm challenges. 

WFA’s work encourages farmers to attract biodiversity and adopt ecologically sustainable methods on farmlands. Such practices include maintaining flyways for birds, planting wildways such as hedgerows, conserving and restoring waterways, and connecting with wild neighbors. In one success story, Dru Rivers of Full Belly Farm installed hedgerows within their 400-acre farm, allowing beneficial birds and insects to provide natural pest control services. Barn owls nesting in farm buildings keep rodents at bay. By providing habitat for native species, farmers can enhance pollination, pest control, and carbon sequestration while creating corridors for wildlife migration. 

WFA also works to promote sustainable farming practices through education and outreach. They produce publications, toolboxes, webinars, videos, workshops and host farm visits providing farmers with knowledge and tools to protect and work with wild nature on their farms.  

We have partnered with WFA throughout the years and are very thankful and supportive of their important work to bring nature back to farms. Check out this 1.5 minute video to learn more!  

WFA has an upcoming interactive farm tour at Paicines Ranch on June 1st. Register now!  



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