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  • Mushrooms are rich in Umami, the Fifth Taste

    May 26, 2016

    Trivia to Impress Your Friends

    assorted mushroomsMushrooms are commercially produced in virtually every state. Pennsylvania, however, still accounts for over 55% of the total U.S. production.

    Mushrooms are rich in umami, the fifth taste, which is described as a savory, meaty taste sensation.

    Edible mushrooms are consumed for their nutritional value, and they are occasionally consumed for their supposed medicinal value.

    One portabella mushroom has more potassium than a banana. White and crimini mushrooms are also good sources of potassium. Potassium helps the human body maintain normal heart rhythm, fluid balance, and muscle/nerve function.
     

    Popular mushroom varieties.
     

    Important Facts

    • Mushrooms should be stored at 32-35°F with a relative humidity of 85-90%.
    • Put mushrooms in cooler immediately upon receiving.
    • Do not rinse or sprinkle with water before storing, make sure to keep them dry. Store mushrooms in a brown paper bag to absorb excess moisture.
    • Before serving mushrooms, wash, rinse, and drain thoroughly or pat to dry.
  • Collard Greens

    May 18, 2016

    Trivia to Impress Your Friends

    collard greensCollard greens are cruciferous vegetables that are cultivated for their thick, slightly bitter, edible leaves. They are available year-round, but are tastier and more nutritious in the cold months, after the first frost.

    Collard greens are a staple vegetable in southern U.S. cuisine and were even designated as the official vegetable of South Carolina in 2011. Collards are the oldest known greens in the cabbage family dating back to ancient times. Ancient Greeks and Romans cultivated collard greens.

    The name "collard" originates from the word "colewort," which is a synonym for the wild cabbage.

    Farmers plant collard greens early in the spring and during the summer. Harvest takes place six to eight weeks after sowing.
     

    Important Facts

    • Collard greens should be stored at 32-34°F.
    • Avoid greens with leaves that are wilted, yellowing or have dark green patches of slime on parts of the leaves.
    • Late winter and early spring provide the sweetest and most tender collard greens.
    • Collard greens are a headless form of cabbage, similar to kale. Their leaves are broad, paddle-shaped, and grey green to deep green in color with contrasting succulent white ribs and veins. 
  • Fresh Ramps (Leeks)

    May 11, 2016

    Trivia to Impress Your Friends

    ramps - wild leeksThe fresh ramp, or wild leek as it is known in the northern US, is a vegetable with a bold, spicy flavor similar to a flavor combination of onions and garlic.  

    The bundle of leaf sheaths formed is sometimes erroneously called a stem or stalk. The entire plant is edible and the leaves, especially when young, are delicious when sauteed. Ramps make a bold flavor statement any way you use them.

    Ramps have a reputation for being powerful healers, and it turns out the claim is well-deserved. They are high in Vitamins C and A, and are full of healthy minerals and have the same cholesterol-reducing compounds found in garlic.

    Ramps appear at the start of the season in late March as far south as Alabama. The season finally ends in mid-June in the far north all the way up to Canada. They can readily be found in most parts of Europe and Northern Asia as well. They are often found in the same sandy, hilly locations where you would find morels.

     
    Important Facts

    • Ramps should be stored at 32-36°F.
    • Good ramps or wild leeks should have two or three whole bright green leaves with the small white bulb attached by a purplish stem.
    • The leaves are generally about six inches long, although ramps tend to be harvested at a somewhat earlier stage than are wild leeks. Depending on where you get them, ramps or wild leeks may be either still muddy from the field or all cleaned and trimmed.
    • Yellowing or withering in the leaves is a sign that they have gone too long.
  • All the Colors of the Rainbow

    May 05, 2016

    Trivia to Impress Your Friends

    rainbow carrotsRainbow carrots appear in a variety of colors including orange, yellow, red, white, purple, black and purple haze (purple/red and white center). Each unique color gives carrots different pigments and health benefits.

    The color of yellow, orange and red carrots is the result of certain carotenoid pigments present in the root. These carotenoids can be divided into hydrocarbon pigments or carotenes and oxygenated pigments or xanthophylls.

    Xanthophylls, similar to beta-carotene, give yellow carrots their golden colors. They are linked to eye health and may reduce the incidence of lung and other cancers.

    Lycopene, found in red carrots, is a type of carotene also found in tomatoes. It is believed to help prevent heart disease and, in conjunction with other phytochemicals, reduce the risk of certain cancers, including prostate cancer.

    Anthocyanins are pigments found in purple carrots. In the human body these pigments act as powerful antioxidants, immobilizing harmful free radicals. More on anthocyanins here.

    The orange carrot is a relative newcomer on the scene. Carrots were originally either purple or white, but selection and hybridization in the 16th century brought us the vitamin-packed orange carrot we know today.

     
    Important Facts

    • Carrots should be stored at 32-36°F with a relative humidity of 90-98%.
    • Carrots do not produce ethylene gas, but they do need to be kept away from ethylene-producing fruits and ripening rooms.
    • Carrots stay crisp longer when stored in a plastic bag.
  • Did You Know Melons are in the Gourd Family?

    Apr 27, 2016

    Trivia to Impress Your Friends

    honeydew melonMany melons originated in the Middle East and gradually spread in popularity across Europe. Honeydew melon seeds were transported to the United States by Christopher Columbus and eventually cultivated by Spanish explorers in California.  

    • Most people don't know that melons are in the gourd family along with squashes and cucumbers. Gourd refers to a family of vine-grown "fruits". So, what's the difference between melons and squashes?  Melons refer to the sweetest of these fruits. In addition, squashes are considered vegetables, while melons are known as fruits.   
    • Most melons have similar structure to winter squash, with thick flesh and an inner seed-filled midsection. 
    • According to a USDA, an estimated 30% of honeydews are consumed in restaurants.

    Can you name that melon? 25 melon varieties with photos.
     
    Important Facts

    Here's what you need to know: 
    • Honeydews should be stored at 45-50° F. with a relative humidity of 85-90%.     
    • Refrigerate ripe honeydew melon, store firm (unripened) melon at room temperature until softened slightly at the blossom end, and the skin color turns creamy yellow.   
    • Handle honeydew with care, because they bruise easily. 
    • Honeydew is one of the few melons that can continue to ripen once picked.
    • Once cut, honeydew melons absorb odors from other foods. Store covered.
  • Produce Facts: Kohlrabi

    Apr 20, 2016

    Trivia to Impress Your Friends

    KohlrabiKohlrabi is a vegetable which is part of the mustard family. Also called cabbage turnip, kohlrabi is not a root vegetable, but rather a fleshy bulbous stem just above the ground.

    The two varieties of kohlrabi - green and purple - should both have medium-sized firm roots and greens which are crisp and firm.

    They can be eaten raw, included in salads, steamed, stir fried, braised or stuffed.

    Their taste and texture is similar to those of cabbage heart or broccoli stems, but they are milder and sweeter. The younger stems have crispy, pleasant taste, and rich flavor. The cooked leaves have a collard like flavor.

    Kohlrabi is high in fiber, is an excellent source of vitamin C, and a good source of potassium. It contains about 40 calories per cup.

    Kohlrabi is of European origin and is popular in Germany, Russia, Hungary and China.
     

    Important Facts

    Here's what you need to know:

    • Kohlrabi should be kept at 32-34° F.
    • Avoid product with blemishes on the roots, leaves that have dark patches of slime, or leaves that are wilted or yellowing.
    • The coloring should be light for the green variety and deep for the purple variety.
    • Leaves can be eaten raw in salads or steamed, and the bulbs can be cooked like turnips.
  • What's the Hottest Chili Pepper?

    Apr 13, 2016

    Trivia to Impress Your Friends

    chili pepperChili peppers originated in Mexico, where chili seeds dating back 9000 years were found. The first European to “discover” chili peppers was Christopher Columbus, and it was the Portuguese who introduced chilis through their trading activities to Africa, India, and much of Asia.

    It is said that when Columbus found the small hot pods, he named them pimientos, the Spanish word for pepper.

    Capsaicin, the hot substance in chili peppers, is not water soluble but is soluble in fat and alcohol. So if your mouth burns after eating a hot pepper, don’t drink water to cool it - instead drink milk because certain protein compounds in milk literally work like detergent to strip the capsaicin from its receptor binding sites. Beer, ice cream or guacamole will also help put out the fire.

    The seeds are not the hottest part of peppers. The highest concentration of capsaicin is found at the point where the seed is attached to the white membrane inside the pepper.

    The heat produced by spices or foods is measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHU). Jalapenos have an average range of 5,000 to 7,000 (SHU) while Habanero peppers generally average 200,000 to 300,000 (SHU). The world’s hottest pepper, the Carolina Reaper, averages 1,569,300 SHU. The hottest Carolina Reaper came it at 2.2 million SHU!
     

    Important Facts

    Here's what you need to know:
    • Chili peppers should be kept at 40-45° F.
    • Good-quality Jalapeno peppers should be firm, smooth-skinned and have solid green coloring. Dry, brownish lines are not a blemish. They are signs of a mature pepper and indicate hotness and flavor.
    • Chili peppers are good for you. They are high in vitamins, a good source of beta carotene, calcium, and potassium, and may help reduce cholesterol.
  • Amerifresh Names Richter President

    Apr 04, 2016

    SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (Apr. 4, 2016) -- Amerifresh, a leading national produce marketer for foodservice and retail grocery operations, has named Jim Richter as President and CEO. 

    Richter has more than 32 years of experience in the produce and grocery industries. He was most recently CEO of Wilcox Fresh in Idaho.

    “Jim has proven success in all of the areas we know are important to help drive Amerifresh’s business forward, we are excited to have him join the SGA Family of Companies” said Slade Stewart, Services Group of America Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer. “His ability to provide exceptional customer service, build teams and coach Associates is a great fit with our culture.”

    Stewart said the breadth of Richter’s experience in both broadline foodservice and retail grocery support Amerifresh’s model for consistently providing the highest quality produce to these demanding industries.

    Richter has previous experience with large grocery and retail chains as well as building business with some of the largest broadline foodservice companies in the nation.

    Amerifresh is known for marketing the famous Snoboy® brand and working with growers in the top producing regions of North America, Mexico, Chile and New Zealand to provide a reliable supply of produce regardless of the season. It is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Services Group of America.

  • Purple Potatoes Bring Blast of Antioxidant

    Apr 04, 2016
    purple potatoes Purple potato is the name given to dozens of heirloom and heritage varieties of purple potatoes. Common names of these varieties include Purple Peruvian (fingerling variety), All Blue, Congo, Lion's Paw, Vitilette, Purple Viking and Purple Majesty.

    Unlike white-fleshed potatoes, purple potatoes are rich in the antioxidant, anthocyanin. This flavonoid is most often found in blue, red, and purple produce such as berries and pomegranates.

    Purple potatoes can be roasted, mashed, braised, boiled, baked, fried for chips, and even confited. Their taste is similar to that of white-fleshed potatoes and they pair well with savory herbs, garlic and salad greens.

    Purple potatoes are a staple in a South American kitchen and many recipes reflect this; purple potatoes have been used in dishes for thousands of years.

     
    Important Facts 

    • Store between 40-50°F
    • Store potatoes in a cool, dry, well ventilated, and dark place to inhibit sprouting.
    • Avoid storing potatoes in the refrigerator as it will affect texture and taste.
    • Avoid potatoes that are soft, wrinkled, have cuts in the skin or are green-tinted.
    • Purple potatoes are cultivated in potato growing regions of South America, North America, and Europe.
       
  • Fiddleheads

    Mar 30, 2016
    fiddlehead fern Fiddlehead ferns appear at a stage in the growth of all ferns - they are the tightly coiled young shoot. If the shoot were left on the plant, it would unfurl into a fern frond.

    Fiddleheads are harvested and eaten as vegetables. Eat fiddleheads right away, freeze them or pickle them. The quicker they are eaten, the more delicate their flavor.

    Cook fiddleheads thoroughly before eating them to prevent food-borne illness. Illness outbreaks have occurred when the ferns were eaten raw or lightly cooked. Boil them for at least 10 minutes.

    Fiddleheads resemble the head of a violin, hence the name. There are several varieties of fiddleheads, but two common ones are the Eastern fiddelhead and the Western fiddlehead.

    The Eastern fiddlehead is the immature form of the Ostrich fern. They are tightly coiled, bright green and sweet flavored. The taste is similar to asparagus, artichokes, and green beans.

    The Western fiddlehead is the immature Wood fern and is more bitter with a dull green color and gelatinous texture.  

     
    Important Facts 

    • Store between 38-45°F and 90-98% humidity.
    • Wrapped tightly, fiddlehead ferns can last for two weeks in refrigerated storage.
    • Look for tightly coiled, bright green, and displaying no brown coloring or yellowing. They should have an elastic tone. 
  • Did New Zealanders Name the Kiwifruit?

    Mar 23, 2016
    New Zealanders are known as Kiwis, so you may think kiwifruit originated there, but it didn't; kiwifruit was originally grown in the Chang Kiang Valley of China, where it was considered a delicacy by the court of the great Khans.

    For many years, the kiwifruit was known as the Chinese Gooseberry. Kiwi was first noticed by western civilization in 1847. Then, in 1906, the vine was introduced to New Zealand, where it flourished in the fertile soil.

    Hayward kiwi (predominant variety) has brown fuzzy skin. Its flesh is emerald green with tiny black seeds and has a mild and sweet flavor. Gold kiwi is smooth skinned. It is golden yellow with black seeds and its flavor is more tropical, milder and sweeter than green kiwi.

    Hardy kiwi, also known as baby kiwi or kiwi berries, is much smaller than Gold kiwifruit. Its size is similar to that of a large grape, with smooth, edible skin.

    All varieties are eaten raw.

     
    Important Facts 

    • Store between 32-36°F and 90-98% humidity.
    • Good-quality kiwifruit will be fairly large, smooth skinned and slightly soft to the touch when ripe.
    • Very firm kiwifruit can be kept in the refrigerator for weeks. When kept at room temperature, it will ripen. Kiwifruit won't keep for nearly as long in the refrigerator after it begins to ripen.
    • Speed ripening by placing kiwi in a sealed plastic bag with a ripe banana at room temperature.
  • 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.
       
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