The Grass is Always Greener

Asparagus is a Eurasian member of the lily family and a long-lived perennial. There is evidence that it one of the first known culinary plants thanks to ancient Minoan and Egyptian depictions of cultivation.  In produce, it is referred to simply as “grass.” Cultivating asparagus is a significant time investment for growers, as new plants generally require 3-4 years to establish root systems before producing harvestable shoots. Once mature, the plants will send up succulent stalks each spring for a couple decades.

Asparagus was first planted in California in the 1850s in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta region. Due to tough competition from imports, California acreage has been on the steady decline. In 2015 there were 11,500 acres of asparagus, down from 40,000 in 2000.

The first California asparagus harvested out of Imperial Valley is now on the market. The season should run for four months or longer, transitioning to the San Joaquin Valley, Central Coast and Sacramento-Delta region.

As the season progresses, so does the flavor profile of asparagus. It will go from green and grassy to peak-season sweet and succulent. Let’s keep promoting the seasonal excitement of these tender spears. Support your local grass grower!

Keep a lookout for our staff picks noted in orange.

Fruit

Apple and Pear

Cold weather in Washington last week led to significant road closures and truck delays. Apple supply and availability may be impacted for some varieties. Pink Lady and Gala are in good supply with promotable pricing.

Bosc, D’Anjou, and Red D’Anjou from Washington are readily available. We should see strong volume on these into March. The local season for pears are done, but Bartletts from Argentina are starting! These pears are fresh and have never been in storage.

Avocado

Zutano and Fuerte greenskin avocadoes are done for the season. California Hass supply is tight. #2-grade fruit is a bit erratic.

Berries

Import strawberry, blackberry, and raspberry supply from Mexico is steady. California-grown blueberry is limited. However, import fruit continues to be available so there should be no gaps in supply.

Citrus

Blood orange, Cara Cara Navel, and Valencia are readily available. Ruby and Rio Red grapefruit from B&J Ranch are going strong. Eureka lemon prices have come down. Meyer lemons are in good supply. Nagami kumquats are back in availability.

Orlando Tangelos are done but we have plenty of delicious citrus to keep your shelves full. Honey tangerines, Royal mandarins, and Tango tangerines are here in steady supply. Murcott tangerines, a cross between a tangerine and a sweet orange, are abundant and tasting great. They are easy to peel, so perfect for snacking. TDE tangerines remain limited but in good supply. Pixie tangerines from Ojai’s Shore Packing are coming on in about three weeks. Our staff wait all season for these!

Kiwi

California-grown green kiwifruit should be steady through May.

Mango

Ataulfo mango continue to have strong volume. Mexico-grown Kent mango are expected to come on in March.

Melon

Honeydew and mini seedless watermelon are expected to gap until March.

Pomegranate

Domestic arils are done for the season. Peruvian-grown arils are arriving in a couple weeks.

Vegetables

Artichoke

Artichoke supply is steady; prices remain high. California-grown ‘chokes often get “frost-kissed” during the winter, causing some outer layers to turn brown. Although the brownish color is less pretty, “frost-kissed” artichokes have a nuttier and more intense flavor than the ones not affected by frost. Enjoy this seasonal treat while they last!

Asparagus

California-grown asparagus is limited; prices are high. More growers are expected to come on in March, which should improve supply. Mexico-grown asparagus is in good supply with sharp pricing.

Broccoli/Cauliflower

Broccoli supply appears to be steady. Crowns are more limited and will have a short gap in availability. White cauliflower supply is limited and prices are expected to rise. Orange and purple cauliflower supply is gapping.

Celery

Celery supply is very limited; prices are ticking up.

Cucumber

English Hothouse cucumber supply is steady. Slicer cucumber prices are a bit erratic and are increasing.

Ginger

Peruvian yellow ginger is limited but we do not expect to have any gaps in supply. Turmeric, galangal, and Hawaiian yellow ginger are all steady.

Greens, Herbs & Lettuce

Green kale prices remain high. Prices have come down on chards, collards, and dino a.k.a. lacinato kale. Red butter lettuce supply remains spotty and limited. Red leaf and romaine are steady. Little Gem have limited availability; prices are high. Look for a new herb mix from Jacob’s Farm: Hearty Herb. This pack contains Thyme, Bay Leaf, and Parsley.

Mushrooms

Button, shiitake, and oyster remain steady. Talk to your Account Manager about preordering one of the delicious specialty mushrooms available right now. We’re seeing Black Trumpet, Winter Black Truffle, Morel, Porcini, and Yellowfoot, just to name a few! Availability changes often, so let us know if you’re looking for a specific variety. 

Pepper

Green bell peppers are readily available. Orange and yellow bells are limited. Red bells are steady; prices are down. Poblanos are back in steady supply, as are sweet peppers.

Potato

New-crop golden potatoes from Road Twenty Farm are plentiful in all sizes. Talk to your Account Manager about pallet deals. New-crop red potato supply is improving but continues to be limited.

Squash

Zucchini prices are climbing back up. Yellow squash is steady. California-grown butternut continues to be in good supply. Kabocha and Spaghetti are limited from Mexico; prices are high. Overall, squash supply should improve at the beginning of March when more growers start up their Mexican squash programs.

Tomato

Prices are coming down on one-layer slicer tomatoes. Tomatoes-on-vine (TOV) and Roma are steady. Cherry tomatoes have good volume and sharp prices. Heirlooms are expected to come back into supply towards the end of February. 

Floral

Tulips and seasonal mix bouquets are available from Thomas Farm. Normal ordering deadlines have resumed now that Valentine’s Day has come and gone! After a brief break to allow the Proteas to grow, Wild Ridge Organics is resuming normal ordering and deliveries. Full Belly Farm has come on with beautiful spring flowers, including Anemones and Tulips. Availability is limited and changes often so check with your Account Manager for the latest blooms!

Grocery

Eggs are limited, as expected during this time of year. Like most life cycles, the chicken’s egg-laying process is affected by nature’s fluctuations. During the winter, daylight decreases, which signals to the hen that the temperature is going to drop. The hen’s maternal instinct kicks in that the external conditions are not warm enough for the eggs to survive. Miraculously, the hen naturally produces fewer eggs. We’re bringing in everything we can, but during winter, nature takes its course and the chickens get a much-deserved winter “break!” It will likely be another month or two before supply starts to pick up again.

For the whole month of February, Alexandre Family Farm is offering 20% off their organic A2/A2 single-serve milks. Flavors include original, chocolate, vanilla, caramel, and ginger turmeric. These milks are ultra-creamy (they contain 6% milk fat!) and deliciously addictive. For retail customers, these are the ultimate grab-and-go treat!

We are now carrying Three Trees Organic Pistachio Nutmilk and Organic Black Sesame Nut & Seedmilk—two new varieties from this beloved dairy-alternative producer. Original and Vanilla Almondmilk will still be available. All products will be available in the brand’s sleek new packaging which features a 28-fluid-ounce uniquely shaped bottle. Three Threes is offering a 15% off promotion for all products during the launch.

Merchandising Corner

Social Media Tips

A lot has changed in the grocery industry in the last ten years, including how we interact with customers and share information. Social media has had a huge impact on how consumers receive information, look for information, and even the way they shop. This makes it a very useful outlet for reaching your customer base. So how are you effectively using social media to interact with your customer base? If you don’t already have a presence on any social media platforms, here are some helpful tips to get you started.

  • Don’t do too many. Choose one or two social media outlets and do them well. Unless you have a lot of resources to dedicate to social media, it’s best to focus on no more than two so that they can stay well-maintained.
  • Set goals. What information are you trying to share with your customers? Perhaps the goal is to find new customers and inform current customers of interesting information. Set these intentions before you start posting.
  • Plan your content for the week. This will help keep you on track and consistent with your updates. 
  • Post regularly and often. Once you’ve planned out your content, plan out your posting schedule. Regular posts will your followers engaged and informed.
  • Photos, photos, photos. Remind them of why they shop at your store by taking photos of the exceptional quality you provide. Customers want the full experience of freshness and knowledge about where the product is coming from. All this information will make for a great caption on a vibrant produce photo.
  • Free advertising. This is also a great way to promote hot deals that you have going on. Encourage you customers to come in and not miss out.
  • Differentiate yourself. What makes you stand out? Find something that makes you special and different from all the other stores in your area and always point that out. Is it specialty product? Direct farm relationships? Maybe you have an exclusive relationship with a grower and your customers can only purchase the product from you.