Planning for Lunar New Year

The Lunar New Year or Chinese New Year falls on February, 16 this year. If you aren’t familiar with this holiday and its importance to produce, now is the time to get up to speed! On the lunar calendar, this is the first day of the year. It is also arguably the most important day of the year—one that involves weeks of cleaning, preparation and, of course, celebration. So what does the Lunar New Year have to do with produce?

Citrus fruits play a big role during this holiday. Oranges, tangerines, kumquats, and pomelos are eaten, displayed in most households and given as gifts. It is believed the round shape and golden color of citrus fruits symbolize fullness and wealth. Eating and displaying tangerines and oranges is said to bring good luck and fortune due to their pronunciation and even the way they are spelled. The Chinese word for orange (and tangerine) is (chéng /chnng/), which sounds the same as the Chinese for ‘success.’  Eating pomelos is thought to bring continued prosperity—the more you eat more wealth it will bring!

Other than citrus there are several other produce items that play a big part in the foods that are eaten to celebrate the new year. Dumplings (jiaozi) are packed full of delicious fresh vegetables like cabbage, carrots, green onions, leeks, ginger and shiitake mushrooms. Although these vegetables are normally mixed with meat such as pork or shrimp, there is a large growing wave of vegetarians. Hodo Soy 5 Spice Tofu Nuggets would make a great meat substitute in these dumplings!

Spring Rolls (Chun Juan) are share many of the same ingredients as dumplings. They may also include mung bean sprouts and cilantro. These are prepared fried in thin hardy dough wrappers instead of boiled like the dumplings. Spring rolls also symbolize wealth and prosperity in the year to come.

Longevity Noodles (Changshou Mian) is a delicious simple dish. Changshou mian literaly means long life noodle. They represent the wish for a long, happy and healthy life. The noodles are often served with oyster sauce and fresh Asian inspired ingredients such as ginger, shiitake mushrooms and bok choy.

Lastly, there is the mustard green. Mustard greens, called “Chang Nian Cai” for the new year. They are commonly known as “jie cai” but the New Year’s name of Chang Nian Cai means perennial vegetables. They are easy to prepare and a symbol for long life. The greens are generally sautéed and sometimes served with tofu skins.

This year the Lunar New Year falls on Friday, February 16th. Customers tend to shop for fresh produce three to four days before cooking. The week before, stock up your department with citrus items like: kumquats, tangerines, mandarins, pomelos, Buddha hand citron and oranges of all varieties.

On Monday the 12th, start stocking up on all the vegetables you need to make sure you have in ample supply: cabbages, bok choys, ginger, green onion, daikon, shiitakes mushrooms, cilantro, carrots, mung bean sprouts and maybe even the Hodo Soy 5 Spice Nuggets.  Make sure to keep abundant fresh displays of greens like mustards, rapini, bok choys and green onions through the 16th.

Inspect product before putting out on display and hydrate if necessary. Cull away any yellowing or damaged leaves. Customers will be looking for the best and most fresh product for their holiday cooking. If you do not have an automatic misting system, make sure to spray the product often to keep it hydrated and attractive.

Other than making sure you have a wide variety of citrus in stock, it is also a good idea to have large bowls, gift boxes or baskets of citrus set around the store and department. This is a good way to promote citrus sales and inspire shoppers to recreate these displays in their homes.