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  • 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.
  • Six Tips to Reduce Calories on Your Restaurant Menu

    Dec 12, 2014
    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently rolled out two rules requiring that calorie information be listed on menus and menu boards in chain restaurants, similar retail food establishments and vending machines with 20 or more locations. These new requirements have food service operators scrambling, because the truth may hard to swallow- many menu items at restaurants are very calorie dense.

    One strategy for coping is to reduce the amount of high calorie meat or starch in recipes, and replace that volume with low calorie, nutrient packed produce! Though it's a big change, not to worry, according to Technomic, 67% of Americans now say they feel a vegetarian meal can be just as satisfying as a non-veggie version.

    With the shifting attitude towards vegetables, we've compiled a list of ideas to help you reinvent your menu and keep your health conscious customers happy:

    1. Stack your sides. Cut down portion sizes of meat, then place the vegetables on top of the entree rather than keeping them in the corners of the plate, this adds volume visually without piling on calories.
    2. Put the entree inside the vegetable. Stuffing protein inside items like peppers and mushrooms helps keep the the portions manageable and calories down.
    3. Grind veggies into the entree. For example, grinding mushrooms in with beef for a hamburger patty helps keep the volume up and calories down, while simultaneously packing extra flavor.
    4. Reexamine the ingredients. There are all sorts of low calorie vegetable alternatives to starches these days. Use zucchini ribbons or spaghetti squash instead of pasta, or grated cauliflower for rice.
    5. Build the dish around the vegetables. Rethink how you create new entrees, start by considering the fresh produce you want to use, and build the flavors around them.
    6. Use produce to add visual interest. Fresh produce is beautiful to behold, so flaunt it.
    Do you have any additional tips on how you've successfully used produce to improve the nutrition of your menu items? Let us know!
  • Special Holiday Report: Potatoes

    Nov 13, 2014
    Mashed PotatoesWith the holidays around the corner, it's important that you plan ahead to get your ducks in a row. With the flurry of activity, changes in weather, and resources being allocated differently- it's easy for problems to arise. And, as one of the commonly featured items in a Thanksgiving spread, you may have some extra interest in potatoes.

    In the past week, Washington potatoes saw a slight increase in demand that carried over into pre-bookings for the upcoming week. Transportation has been available, but is taking a bit of extra time with higher rates. We expect to see the rates climbing higher, with trucks harder to secure towards the end of next week as Christmas trees begin to ship out.

    Another potential cause for concern would be a change in weather. Starting on Monday night, temperatures are expected to dip below freezing, with highs under 50 degrees. This could cause problems for white potatoes, and certain sizes of red. Yellow and purple potatoes should remain unaffected.

    If you have any further questions regarding colored potatoes, make sure to contact our Mt. Vernon branch!
  • California Drought Update

    Oct 06, 2014
    Last week on the West coast in California, groans could be heard statewide as temperatures reached unseasonably warm temperatures, which are expected to last until the end of this week.

    We've written about the drought and record temperatures previously this season, but there doesn't appear to be any relief in sight. The water issues continue to create problems for growers, and their ability to provide high quality produce. Heat damage is sure to begin showing up in leaf items, broccoli, celery, and cauliflower. Crews are going to be working extra early, with short harvest hours.

    Strawberries will be hit especially hard. Most berries are already showing 20% bruising upon arrival at the cooler. The heat will make things much worse. The vines are tired, volume peaked almost two months ago, and most shippers are waiting eagerly for the beginning of the rainy season so that they can begin pulling the plants out.

    Wells are running dry, the earth is cracking, and some communities have even had to begin trucking in drinking water. So while produce growers are resilient, innovative, and even scrappy if they need to be- it would be a great idea to talk to your customers and educate them about this industry wide situation.

    Our advice? Order only what you need, try not to overbuy, as supplies are scarce and shelf lives are short. 
  • The State of the Strawberry Industry

    Jul 31, 2014

    StrawberriesWhile Central Coast dwellers might be rejoicing at the warm nights in the Bay area, the recent weather there has the strawberry industry in a tizzy.

    Strawberry production is heavily dependent on night time temperatures, when the plants are respirating. Slightly cool night temperatures are essential, as it reduces respiration and allows berries to achieve optimal size, firmness, and resilience to endure cross country shipping. The sweet spot for berry growth occurs when it is 41-51 F at night. Anything lower than that slows down growth and production. Warmer weather increases berry respiration and causes even more troubling problems.

    The current heat wave in the Central Coast is due to the hot ocean water in Monterey Bay. There has been a lack of Northern Alaska wind, which has resulted in an absence of rip tide to stir up cool water from the deep. One surfer in the area even said "it's starting to look like SoCal around here" noting the obvious lack of wet suits! This hot water has been causing some of the most prolonged, warmest nights in recorded history for the strawberry growing districts. The temperatures are barely dipping into the upper 50's. Also, the consequential humidity is making weekly mildew control applications necessary for the growers. 

    By our estimations, this will continue until about August 16th. Until then make sure to communicate the following to your customers:

    • Expect bruising to be as high as 20%
    • Expect smaller sizes, up to 32 count
    • Don't overbuy and hold too long, this product is not very strong!
    If you have any further questions on the state of the strawberry industry, make sure to contact our Salinas office!

  • The California Drought and Implications for Fresh Produce

    May 30, 2014
    California DroughtYou may have heard about the water crisis in California. According to the US drought monitor, 100% of California is covered in the top three worst classifications of drought. When most people imagine drought, they attribute it to a lack of rain. While that may be one contributor, it certainly isn't all of it.

    Parts of California, such as the San Joaquin Valley, depend largely on run off water from the snow melt in the mountains to fill the lakes and reservoirs that in turn are used for crops. From there, farmers get allocations to use the water. This year, the lakes high water mark is at 50% of its normal amount, and farmers are getting anywhere from 5-30% of the normal allocations for their fields. There is a huge lack of water for both the permanent and seasonal crops. 

    As a result of the limited supply, farmers are dropping fruit from their trees to help preserve water the tree uses, without actually harvesting. Yields are expected to be down 30-40% this year. And, furthermore, if the trees aren't taken care of this year, there won’t be a crop for next year. The implications here are huge for tree fruit in both the short and long term.

    The Salinas deal, on the other hand, hasn't been affected quite as much. They depend on well water rather than run off or rain, and are a bit more secure. Although, if there is another bad winter, next year will be rough. So while the growers in Salinas may be groaning about the drought, but it’s due more to the higher cost of water as opposed to the shortage. At this point, no one is rationing, and the situation doesn't feel as critical. 
  • Snoboy Produce: The Recipe for Success

    May 16, 2014

    For those who aren’t aware, Amerifresh is the proud owner of the nearly 90 year old Snoboy brand of fresh produce. Snoboy is one of the oldest continually packed produce brands in existence. Since it’s conception in 1925, it has been notorious for consistency, availability, and premium quality.

    You may wonder how a produce brand can offer all of those advantages- often times quality will diminish when availability is poor, or any other combination. Today, we’re letting you in on our recipe for the brands' success.

    We still maintain strict standards for each of the 85 foodservice items we pack (alongside our growing retail category) in Snoboy. We have developed and continue to maintain quality specifications for each item. These standards are written to ensure that only the best product makes it into the Snoboy box.

    Our grower partners keep these specifications on file and know them quite well. They know that at Amerifresh we expect the quality in the field to meet or exceed our standard before it can go in a Snoboy box. We employ a team of quality assurance Associates to check the fields prior to the harvest crew’s arrival. It is their daily duty to independently qualify and select the acreage that we’ll be packing in Snoboy. If it does not meet the standard, we move on to acreage that does.

    We do all of this for a number of reasons:

    1. We are striving to protect the reputation of the Snoboy brand.
    2. We have made an obligation and commitment to our customers to provide this level of quality.
    3. We believe the only way to verify quality is to have our people, resources, and talent at the field level.

    As a result, we truly become our customer’s representative in the field.

    So, next time you see or receive Snoboy product, rest assured that it has undergone this rigorous inspection and selection process. And, if you’ve never experienced the Snoboy difference, we highly recommend you give it a try to see what a distinction our representation in the field can make!

  • Snoboy TV: Iceberg Lettuce Harvest

    May 09, 2014
    Our next installment of Snoboy TV is here! If you've ever wondered what the process for iceberg lettuce harvest looks like, then this is the episode for you.

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