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  • Green Peas

    Mar 17, 2016
    Snow peasPeas appear to have been cultivated for nearly 7,000 years. The earliest archaeological finds of peas come from Neolithic Syria, Turkey and Jordan. Peas have been used in the dry form since ancient times, and archaeologists found them in Egyptian tombs.It was not until the 16th century that more tender varieties of this vegetable were developed and eaten fresh. Today only about 5% of all peas grown are sold fresh while the rest are canned or frozen.

    • Pea plants require cool weather and can withstand freezing temperatures for short periods.
    • Snap peas, otherwise known as sugar snap peas are pod fruits and do not have a membrane and do not open when ripe. Sugar snap peas need to have the strings removed before eaten. The string runs around both sides of the pod. It is easiest to start from the bottom tip and pull the string up the front, and then snap the stem off and pull the string down.
    • Snow peas supply less protein and are lower in B vitamins than green shelled peas because they are eaten when their seeds are still immature. However, they provide almost twice the calcium.

     
    Important Facts 

    • Store between 32-36°F and 90-98% humidity.
    • Look for pods that are firm and have glossy pods with a slightly velvety feel.
    • Pods should not be dull, yellowed, or heavily speckled.
    • Smaller pods are the sweetest and the most tender.
    • Sugar snap peas should be bright green, plump, and firm.
  • Cherry Trees Blooming Early

    Mar 09, 2016
    cherries Cherry season is months away, but they're being talked about now because recent warm weather will cause the cherry trees to bloom earlier than normal this year.

    Cherries belong to the stone fruit family along with apricots, peaches, nectarines, plums and loquats.

    Cultivation for many centuries and the origin of our various varieties is often impossible to trace.

    The word cherry comes from the Turkish town of Cerasus.

    Cherry trees have beautiful small white or pink flowers that bloom in the spring. White flowers generally occur on commercial cherry trees while pink flowers bear no fruit and are used as ornamental trees in gardens.

    Cherry trees will begin producing marketable crops after 6 to 8 years and continue producing edible fruit for up to 100 years. Cherries don’t ripen after harvest.

    Cherries are antioxidant-rich and research shows they can reduce pain and inflammation.

    Bakers tip: To really bring out the flavor of cherry, use ¼ teaspoon of pure almond extract.

     
    Important Facts 

    • Store between 32°F and 90-95% humidity.
    • Avoid soft, dull or bruised fruit. Small hard cherries lack flavor and juice.
    • Refrigerate cherries unwashed and stems attached, in a paper bag, loosely-covered container, or a loosely closed plastic bag until you're ready to use them.
    • Select those with plump, glossy skins and green stems. Color depends on the variety. 
  • Kumquats

    Mar 02, 2016
    kumquat

    Kumquats grow in grape-like clusters on very small trees. These tiny golden yellow, round or oval fruits are the smallest of the citrus fruits - ranging in size from about  1-2 inches in diameter.

    The kumquat’s thin skin is sweet and edible, but the somewhat dry flesh is sour, with small edible seeds. The flavor is similar to an orange with a hint of tangerine. Their appeal stems from the contrast between the tart flesh and sweet rind, so they are normally eaten whole.

    There are also hybrids produced with limes, oranges and other citrus fruit, known by names such as limequat, orangequat, citrangequat, etc.

    The earliest historical reference to kumquats appears in Chinese literature from the 12th century. Today they are cultivated in China and Japan and throughout the subtropical citrus belt, including California, where kumquats arrived in the late 1800s. The nation's top production area is in Northern San Diego County.

    The local season for kumquats starts in October at the earliest and runs through June at the latest. Their flavor is best during spring.

     
    Important Facts 

    • Store between 45°-50°F and 85-95% humidity.
    • Kumquats are susceptible to chill injury if stored at low temperatures. To prevent chill injury, do not store below 41°F.
    • Kumquats should be firm and well-colored.
    • Avoid fruit that is soft or shriveled.
  • Microgreens Pack a Nutritional Punch

    Feb 26, 2016
    Microgreens

    Microgreens are a tiny form of young edible greens produced from vegetable, herb or other seedlings. They range in size from 1″ to 1 ½” long, including the stem and leaves and are ready to eat within two weeks of planting.

    Microgreens have been produced in the US since the mid 1990s beginning in Southern California. Initially, there were very few varieties offered. The basic varieties are Arugula, Basil, Beets, Kale, Cilantro and a mixture called Rainbow Mix.

    The seeds used to grow microgreens are the same seeds that are used for full sized herbs, vegetables and greens. They are simply seedlings that are harvested before they develop into larger plants.

    Microgreens are not the same as sprouts. Seeds for microgreens are planted and grown in soil or a soil substitute such as peat moss or other fibrous materials. Sprouts are germinated in water.

    Microgreens have higher concentrations of nutrients than the full-grown versions of the plants. 
     
    Important Facts 

    • Store between 40°-36°F and 90-98% humidity.
    • Keep microgreens away from drafts.
    • Store away from ethylene-producing fruits.
  • Produce Facts: Grapefruit

    Feb 18, 2016
    grapefruitThe grapefruit is a subtropical citrus fruit, believed to have originated in the West Indies, and it is a cross between the pomelo and the sweet orange.

    It's thought that grapefruit got their name because they grow in clusters and look like a big bunch of yellow grapes.

    Grapefruit are usually sold by color and variety. Pigmented varieties with a red blush are becoming increasingly popular because they are often sweeter than the yellow varieties (Marsh, Ruby and Thompson.)

    Grapefruit are high in Vitamin C and contain pectin, which can reduce levels of LDL or "bad" cholesterol.

    Pink grapefruit are one of the few good sources of lycopene (tomatoes and watermelon are the other major sources). Lycopene is part of the carotenoid family and it's being investigated for some health benefits in adults.

    Important Facts

    • Grapefruit should be stored at 50-55°F and 85-90% humidity.
    • Grapefruit can suffer chill damage if stored below 40°F.
    • Select fruit that is glossy and has golden skin.
    • Grapefruit should feel heavy for their size.
  • Produce Facts: Oranges

    Feb 11, 2016
    orangesOranges are probably the best known citrus fruits and are related to mandarins, lemons, grapefruit, limes and citrons. They are a hybrid between pomelo and mandarin.

    Oranges are classified into two general categories; sweet and bitter. Popular sweet varieties include Valencia, Navel, Persian, and blood orange.

    Valencias are best for juicing. Their skin is orange but may stay green in warmer climates. This does not affect taste.

    Navels have a navel-like structure at one end of the fruit. Their thin skin is easily peeled and the fruit segments are easy to break apart. Navels are seedless and very juicy.
     
    All oranges are an excellent source of vitamin C but also contain vitamin A and B-complex vitamins.

    Arizona, where Amerifresh headquarters is located, is one of only four citrus-producing states in the nation. Texas, Florida, and southern California are the others. 


    Important Facts

    • Store from 45-50° F.
    • Select oranges that are firm, well-colored and feel heavy for their size.
    • Avoid any overtly soft fruits with spots and mold as they tend to perish early.
    • Watch for russeting, the browning of the peel.
  • Produce Facts: Leeks

    Feb 05, 2016
    leeks fresh produceThe leek is a vegetable with a mild onion flavor, and the edible part of the plant is the stalk.

    Leeks grow deeper in the soil than onions, and their roots are more active and matted at the time of harvest than the onion. Leeks are harvested 5-6 months after planting by pulling them whole from the ground.

    Like their cousins the onions, leeks have some sulphur compounds that scientists believe reduce your risk of some health problems.

    When sliced or chopped, the antioxidants in leeks begin converting to allicin. Allicin provides anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal activities, and reduces cholesterol by impeding harmful enzymes in liver cells. Leeks are also high in vitamins A and K.

    Leeks are the national emblem of Wales, worn along with the daffodil. The Welsh love them so much that they wear them as a badge on St. David’s Day. (David is the patron saint of Wales.)

    The Roman Emperor Nero used to eat leeks to improve his singing voice.


    Important Facts

    • Store from 32-36° F.
    • Select leeks with clean, crisp, white bottoms and fresh-looking tops. Small to medium-size leeks are the most tender and have a mild, delicate flavor.
    • Keep moist and cold; using water and ice are okay. 
    • Keep away from ethylene-producing items.
    • To prepare, cut the white part of the leek at one end and the dark green ends at the other. 
  • Produce Facts: Spinach

    Jan 29, 2016
    Spinach is filled with nutrients such as iron, calcium and vitamin K. Spinach is best eaten fresh, because it loses nutritional properties with each passing day. Although refrigeration slows the deterioration, half of the major nutrients are lost about a week after harvest.

    Spinach contains a chemical called oxalic acid, which binds with iron and calcium and reduces the absorption of these minerals. To improve absorption, it should be eaten with vitamin C-rich foods.

    In the 1930’s, U.S. spinach growers credited Popeye with a 33% increase in domestic spinach consumption –  a welcome boost to an industry during the depression era. In 1937 growers erected a statue in honor of Popeye the comic strip sailor.

    Birds Eye was the first company to advertise frozen spinach. It did so in Life magazine in 1949. It was the first frozen vegetable to be sold.

    Spinach grows best in cool (not freezing) moist conditions, such as spring and autumn, and grows well in sandy soils.

    Important Facts

    • Fresh spinach should be loosely packed in sealed plastic and refrigerated.
    • Good-quality spinach will have broad, thick, and crisp dark green leaves. The stems will be unblemished and free of mud.
    • Avoid product with thin, limp leaves that are pale-green or yellow.    
  • Produce Facts: Turnips

    Jan 21, 2016
    TurnipsTurnips are root vegetables best grown in cool climates. They are a biennial plant, taking two years from germination to reproduction.

    Spring varieties do not keep, but winter varieties will keep for up to two months.

    It is believed that the turnip was domesticated before the 15th century BC when it was cultivated in India for its oil-bearing seeds.

    Turnip lanterns are an old tradition in Ireland and Scotland. They carve the large turnips and use them as candle lanterns and place them in windows to ward off harmful spirits.

    Turnip roots are high in Vitamin C.

    Important Facts

    • Store from 32-34° F.
    • Good-quality turnips will be very firm and smooth-skinned. The coloring will be light-purple on the top fading to bright-white at the bottom. The larger the turnip, the more woody tasting it will be.
    • Avoid product that is soft, spongy, blemished with brown spots, cut or lightweight for its size.
       
  • Produce Facts: Brussels Sprouts

    Jan 14, 2016
    Brussels sprouts are a member of the cabbage family. Their color ranges from light green to red or purple. The red-purple sprouts tend to be sweeter.

    They were first grown in quantity around Brussels, Belgium, hence the name. They may have been there as early as the 12th century! Today Brussels sprouts are grown throughout Europe and the United States. In the U.S., almost all Brussels sprouts are grown in California.

    Brussels sprouts are very popular in Great Britain, and for a few days around Christmas 2010, UK Burger King restaurants offered a Sprout Surprise Whopper.

    Among the health benefits of Brussels sprouts, are their use to detoxify the body, reduce inflammation and provide anti-oxidants that are cancer-fighting. Brussels sprouts are rich in many vitamins and minerals including manganese and vitamins C and K.

    It is important not to overcook Brussels sprouts. Not only do they lose their nutritional value and taste but they will begin to emit an unpleasant sulfur smell. Steam Brussels sprouts for optimum cholesterol-lowering benefits.

    Important Facts

    • Store from 32-34° F.
    • Quality Brussels sprouts will be dark green and firm. They should be free of yellowed or wilted leaves and should not be puffy or soft in texture.
    • Avoid those that have perforations in their leaves as this may indicate that they have aphids residing within.
  • Produce Facts: Cabbage

    Jan 08, 2016
    Cabbage is one of the oldest vegetables in existence, dating back to the 1600s. This leafy vegetable is available in many varieties including the popular red or purple, green and savoy.

    Cabbage is nutritious but very low in fat and calories. The vegetable contains powerful antioxidants, dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, potassium, manganese, vitamin A, thiamin, vitamin B6, calcium, iron and magnesium.
    • Cabbage is best prepared as close to raw as possible to preserve its many nutrients. 
    • The largest cabbage dish ever made was on December 19, 2008 in the Macedonian city of Prilep, with 80,191 sarmas (cabbage rolls) weighing 544 kg (1,221 lbs). 
    • A thick-witted person may be called a cabbagehead. In Hebrew, the term "rosh kruv" (cabbagehead) implies stupidity.
    • Drinking juiced cabbage is known to assist in curing stomach and intestinal ulcers.

    Important Facts

    • Store from 32-34° F and above 89% humidity.
    • Cover cabbage tightly in plastic wrap to store.
    • Cabbage should be solid, and well-trimmed with good green color.
    • It should be free from disease, insect or mechanical damage.
  • Produce Facts: Parsley

    Dec 31, 2015
    parsleyParsley is a popular culinary and medicinal herb native to the Mediterranean and has bright green, fern-like leaves that grow from a centrally positioned green stem.

    When used in cuisine, it adds flavor to a wide range of dishes such as salads, soups, stews, tomato sauces, meat and fish.

    Italian parsley has strong flavor and flat leaves. Curly parsley is bitter and it has wrinkled or creased leaves. Hamburg parsley develops large roots six times bigger than the plant. Its root can be eaten but is less popular than its leaves.

    Gardeners like to companion plant parsley near roses to keep them healthier and to intensify their smell, and near tomatoes because parsley attracts bees, the main pollinators of tomatoes. 
     
    When used for medicinal purposes, its benefits are many:
    • Parsley is rich source of vitamins K, C, A and vitamins in the B group. It also contains dietary fibers and minerals such as potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron.
    • Parsley was used in the ancient Rome as ingredient of salads, to eliminate effects of hangover and as ornament in the form of garlands for the head.
    • Chew parsley to eliminate bad breath, especially after eating garlic.
    • Parsley has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties too. Leaves can be used in treatment of superficial wounds, while juice squeezed from a root reduces swelling. (Caution: those pregnant should avoid parsley because it may induce contractions of the uterus and may result in miscarriage.)
    • Tea made of parsley improves blood circulation.
    • Parsley is included in soaps and body lotions because it’s good for dry skin.

    Important Facts

    • Store from 32-34° F and above 95% humidity.
       
    • Parsley should have good green color and be free from seed stems and yellow or discolored wilting leaves.
  • Produce Facts: Habeneros

    Dec 30, 2015

    Trivia to Impress Your Friends

    HabenerosThe Habanero pepper is considered to be the hottest edible chile in the world. There are at least 18 varieties of Habanero Peppers and new types are being grown.

    The heat of the Habanero usually ranges between 100,000-350,000 Scoville units but some have been rated as high as 600,000. Heat will vary from pepper to pepper.

    You can reduce the heat of the Habanero in cooking by removing the seeds and insides of the chile. Eating or drinking dairy products can help ease the heat pain caused by a hot Habanero. 

    Habeneros can be many colors depending on the variety, including orange, red, brown, white and pink. The hottest is the Red Savina pepper.

    The largest producer of the Habanero Chile is Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.
     

    Important Facts

    Here's what you need to know:
    • Store from 45-50° F and 85-95% humidity.
    • Keep chili peppers away from ethylene-producing fruits and strong drafts.
    • Peppers should be smooth, shiny, well colored, and firm. Avoid peppers that appear shriveled or decayed.  
    • Dry lines or striations across the skin indicate a hotter pepper. These lines are not an indication of poor quality.
  • Produce Facts: Bok Choy

    Dec 23, 2015

    Trivia to Impress Your Friends

    Bok choy is the most popular vegetable in China, where it's been cultivated for more than 5,000 years.

    Bok choy is sometimes called a "soup spoon" because of the shape of its leaves.

    This member of the cruciferous vegetable family is a type of cabbage that has a mild flavor, making it useful for stir fries, soups, side dishes, or even eating raw.

    Bok choy is also referred to as Chinese white cabbage. 

    Important Facts

    • Store bok choy between 32-36°F with 90-98% humidity.     
    • Good quality bok choy should exhibit crisp stalks, avoid wilted or yellowing discoloration.     
    • For optimal freshness, don't wash bok choy until you're ready to use it. Unused portions can stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 6 days.
  • Produce Facts: Artichokes

    Dec 18, 2015

    Trivia to Impress Your Friends

    artichokesArtichokes are hand harvested in California nearly year-round. If allowed to flower, the buds develop into magnificent purple-blue blooms about 7 inches wide.

    Globe artichokes are the large, unopened flower bud of a plant belonging to the thistle family. The many leaf-like parts making up the bud are called scales.

    Peak season is in April and May.

    Castroville, California is known as the Artichoke Capital of the World. (It is where Norma Jean (Marilyn Monroe) was crowned Artichoke Queen in 1947.

    Important Facts

    • Store artichokes between 32-36°F with 90-98% humidity.
    • Artichokes should be heavy for their size, compact, and firm with soft green color. 
    • In winter and early spring, bronze-tipped artichokes show the effects of cold temperatures, which experts say indicates tender leaves inside and a rich, nutty flavor. 
    • Some varieties of artichoke display purple coloration
  • Produce Facts: Radishes

    Nov 19, 2015

    Trivia to Impress Your Friends

    A member of the cabbage family, radishes are easy to grow and tolerate frost.

    Some varieties can grow 3 feet in length and weight over 100 lbs.

    Radishes are a natural cleansing agent that can help break down toxins in the digestive track.

    Night of the Radishes in Oaxaca, Mexico, is held annually on December 23 featuring carvings from radishes. 
     

    Important Facts

    Here's what you need to know:
    • Radishes can tolerate a light frost and should be kept at 32-38° F.
    • Winter radishes can last 2-4 months. 
    • Summer radishes can last 14-21 days.  
  • Ten Tips for Retail Produce Merchandising

    Mar 06, 2015
    ProduceDisplayWhether your customers realize it or not, the visual merchandising in your store is one of the biggest contributors to their purchasing decisions. As a retail owner, understanding how to use the psychology of merchandising to your advantage is one of the best ways to influence your success.

    Of all the departments that you merchandise, fresh produce is a beast of it's own. Since the product has a short shelf life and each item comes with it's own unique storage and handling rules, it can be difficult to properly display in a way that moves the product quickly enough to generate profit. That's why we've created a list of tips to assist as you plan out your produce department:

    1. Fresh is king. Though this probably doesn't need to be stated, the most important thing to do when you receive your load of produce is to review for quality, since the rest of the tips on this list won't be effective if you have marginal product! If your load is questionable, contact your wholesaler and make them aware of the issue immediately. This is why brands such as Snoboy, which are picked to order, can be a key differential in your retail fresh produce program.
    2. Understand how to store and handle each item. If you've got some beautiful, crisp lettuce to display but place it uncooled next to bananas so it wilts, your effort is all for naught. Make sure you understand the ideal display conditions for each item and know what items you cannot display next to each other, due to varying ethylene production. Map out your display and make sure all the items are friendly neighbors.
    3. Start with clean, attractive bins and tables. Using dumpy displays makes the product look unappealing. Use props like wire and wicker baskets, or stack appealing boxes. You want to set the stage so the produce can shine.
    4. First in, first out. Since produce has shorter shelf life, it starts a countdown once it arrives in store. Take time to date each box of produce as you receive it with a black marker, and stack the boxes with the date visible. This may take longer, but will make it easier to keep track of age. This comes in handy to help you order, makes it easier to monitor how quickly your inventory is moving, and when you last received. Make sure that the oldest produce, with the least time left, is the most accessible to customers on your displays so it gets out the door quicker. Make sure that product is getting rotated regularly.
    5. Keep the display stocked. Dwindling supplies deter your shoppers. When people see a fresh display with only a few items left in it, they view the remaining pieces as rejects and the product loses appeal.
    6. Try different stocking strategies. Try synchronized precision stacking, where all the items are carefully piled with important features such as stems all facing the same direction. Keep these displays to 2 or 3 layers deep, to avoid smothering the produce at the bottom. This conveys that careful attention is being paid to the produce, and that customer satisfaction is important. You may also try small quantities stacked high in baskets (as long as the display is restocked often). Make sure you hide PLU stickers, so the customer can concentrate on the color and quality of the items.
    7. Try cross-merchandising. Approach each new display project with plenty of thought, and use your creativity to identify other items that can be tied in to maximize your sales. Keep in mind your limitations in terms of size and colume, and the type of product you are trying to move. The rule is to keep it simple, and not overload the display. If you attempt to pile on too many items, the customer loses focuses on the product you are trying to move, and results in less impact. You want to display these items as both a great deal, and an amazing culinary opportunity to your customers!
    8. Use specialty items to draw people in. While it's important to make sure your produce department is stocked with the staples, you can use specialty items to pique curiosity that brings people into the department.
    9. Boost sales with point of purchase marketing. Using colorful posters, offering recipe cards, nutritional ingredients, or product information can help engage the customer beyond the produce.
    10. Offer cut samples. Research your local regulations on sampling. Make sure to keep your samples fresh and rotated, where they can be highyl visible to consumers. Sampling can lead to increased sales, but if not carefully executed, can become a liability. Sampling is effective because it offers the full sensory experience, allowing the customer to enjoy the item and appreciate the flavor.
  • Special Report: West Coast Port Shutdown

    Feb 13, 2015
    As of February 12th, commerce has been at a halt in the West Coast shipping ports. The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) released a statement that 29 U.S. West Coast ports in Long Beach and Los Angeles would stop loading and unloading until Monday the 16th. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the PMA have been in frosty negotiations for the past nine months, causing cargo delays and slowed productivity resulting in pain for shippers, retailers, agriculture, and manufacturers across the company. Ships have had to reroute to alternate coasts, and valuable days of shelf life on perishable items are being lost. The groups who depend on timely trans-Pacific trade, such as farmers, are growing deeply concerned about the serious consequences of these interruptions. Due to the gridlock, the National Retail Federation is calling on the White House to help push for a settlement and prevent any further damage to American businesses. Our suggestion? Buy domestic as much as you can until an agreement has been made between the PMA and ILWU.
  • 2015 Desert Freeze Update

    Jan 09, 2015
    There is no denying that last week's cold snap in the desert regions wreaked havoc on the markets. This week has relinquished more seasonable weather, however the damage has already been done. 

    All of the items originating from the Arizona and California deserts were hit with several below freezing nights combined with below average daytime temperatures. The product is showing a lot of epidermal peel, blister, and feathering. There is mildew present in iceberg, leaf lettuce, and romaine. Quite a bit of product cannot be harvested due to the excessive damage, and what is left over is rough at best. 

    Leaf items are a major concern though other items such as broccoli, cauliflower, and celery also took a blow. We are already seeing tight supply and shortages in these items. Due to the cold there will be gaps in broccoli, cauliflower, and related items like broccolini. 

    The markets have reacted sharply upwards as the quality and supply have fallen off. Many shippers are dangerously close to having triggers activated on their processed items such as salad blends, shredded lettuce, chopped romaine, and florets. 

    All growers and shippers have been affected by this event. The damage is extensive; be sure to educate and warn your customers about the consequences of freezing temperatures on produce. Let them know there will be some degree of damage to all desert items. The weather has mostly stabilized back to normal, but it is not enough to reverse what has been done. 
     
  • Special Report: 2015 Kicks off with a Freeze

    Jan 02, 2015
    In Arizona and California, 2015 is kicking off with extremely cold weather and overnight freezes. There has been a major Arctic cold front moving in from the North and stalling over the major growing regions for the past six days, with a forecast extending out for another three. It should thaw out a bit this weekend, although it will most likely remain a bit cooler than normal. Next week it will return to slightly below average temperatures.

    Due to this cold snap, supplies on almost all of the western commodities have tightened up dramatically, with quickly escalating markets. Going into this spell, planting was running slightly ahead of schedule due to warmer than normal temperatures. This resulted in crops being ahead, and combined with the current cold, will results in supplies falling off for a brief gap. 

    Expect to see blister, peel, and lighter weights on most leaf items due to the frost. We have had quite a bit of visible damage thus far, and even with the return of normal weather next week, expect to be shipping mediocre product and lighter supplies for a few weeks. Expect to see the markets up and very strong for the next 10-15 days. Due to our strong network of grower partnerships, Amerifresh is able to provide you the best service during times like these. Make sure to contact the Salinas or Fresno branches for more information.
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