Author Archives: Alvina Kwong

Mushrooms Gone Wild

 

Mushrooms are typically lumped into the vegetable category, but they are actually a fungus. In general, mushrooms are either cultivated or wild. Cultivated mushrooms such as white button, crimini, and shiitake are grown indoors under controlled conditions.

Wild mushrooms, such as Black Trumpet, Chanterelle, and Morel, grow outdoors in the wild. Leave the wild mushroom foraging to the experts, as many non-edible varieties look similar to edible varieties! When wild mushroom varieties are grown in a controlled environment, they are referred to as ‘cultivated wild’ mushrooms.

Mushrooms, like many fresh items, are best used within a couple of days. To maximize shelf life, store them in a paper bag in a refrigerated area to allow them to breathe.  Cultivated mushrooms can be cleaned using a soft bristled brush or damp towel. Some wild mushrooms may require a brief rinse in cold water to get rid of soil and debris.

With all the recent rain, wild mushrooms are thriving! These delicious varieties can be prepared similarly to more familiar ‘shrooms and make a mean meat substitute. Try ‘em sautéed, grilled, or lightly fried for a heavenly treat. Check out our wild mushroom offerings today!\

 

Fruit

Avocado

Domestic Hass supply is continuing to strengthen. Nevertheless, picking and packing are erratic and small sizes are more limited than 40s & larger. Mexican Hass prices are steady, but supply is also unpredictable and 60s are in very short supply due to high demand for bagged fruit by major supermarket chains.

Berries

Strawberry supply is somewhat steady, but may be impacted due to bad weather in Baja California. California-grown and import blueberry from Chile and Mexico are in good supply. Prices are coming down.

Citrus

California’s rainy season continues to impact citrus supply and availability. Growers are unable to harvest as frequently, but we’re getting everything we can.

Honey tangerines are just about done. Royal mandarins have steady supply. Murcott tangerines are expected to go for another week or two. Cocktail grapefruit are readily available. This variety is sweet and juicy with low acidity—perfect for juicing or eating fresh!

Mango

Peruvian Kent mango are done for the season. Ataulfo mango are in steady supply.

Melon

Melons are coming back into availability soon! We should see mini seedless watermelon from Sonora, Mexico starting in mid- March, followed by cantaloupe in mid- April.

Specialty Fruit

We have excellent supply of passionfruit right now. For a tropical blast, come get your Lilikoi on! Lilikoi is the Hawaiian name for passionfruit.

 

Vegetables

Asparagus

Supply of California-grown asparagus will be picking up as more growers come on in the next few weeks.

Broccoli/Cauliflower

Broccoli and cauliflower supply is limited due to the wet and cold conditions this season. Prices remain high.

Cabbage

Green and red cabbage are readily available. Savoy and Napa are steady. Make sure you stock up on these leafy brassicas for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations on March 17th!

Carrot

Bunched Nantes carrot are plentiful with promotional pricing. The Nantes variety has the characteristic rounded at both ends. and is known for its sweet and tender flavor.

Celery

Celery supply continues to be very limited. Prices are expected to rise even higher.

Cucumber

Persian cucumber are in steady supply. English Hothouse cucumber has strong volume and sharp pricing. Slicer cucumber prices remain high.

Greens, Herbs & Lettuce

Due to the effects of cold and rainy days this season, supply across lettuce varieties is expected to be spotty. Prices are expected to be up. Red and green butter lettuces and red and green leaf lettuces all have limited availability.

The weather has also impacted bunched, boxed, and retail greens. Bunched local supply is limited as growers allow the greens to size up and use dry days to prepare for the coming spring season. Arugula is very limited.

Tarragon and Makrut lime leaf are gapping in supply. Basil has come back on with limited availability.

Ginger

Peruvian yellow ginger is available in limited supply. Availability is impacted by delays in shipment.

Mushrooms

With all the recent rains, wild mushroom availability is plentiful! We are seeing Black Trumpet, Chanterelle, Hedgehog, Morel, imported Porcini from Bulgaria and other parts of Europe, and Yellow Foot. Black Trumpets have a rich smoky and buttery flavor. Some even claim the dried versions taste like black truffles! Chanterelle mushrooms typically have a more elegant flavor than most other varieties. They are gently earthy and wonderfully nutty. Have an abundance of Chanterelles? Try pickling them! Hedgehog mushrooms are also called Sweet Tooth mushrooms due to their slightly sweet edge, try them sautéed to fully bring out their flavor.

In cultivated mushrooms, white button and crimini are being affect by weather and in tight supply. Shiitake and oyster remain in good supply.

Onion

As is typical of this time of year as spring approaches, we may see more quality issues with onions and shallots due to warmer and wetter weather. Domestically grown onion supply will be tightening up and prices may increase. Yellow onion is in steady supply until the end of March. California-grown white onion supply is winding down, with a possible short gap until Mexican product comes on. California-grown Red and sweet onion are ending soon, in late March.

Pepper

Green bell peppers are readily available. Orange and red bells are very limited; prices are going up. Yellow bells have better availability, but are still limited. Red jalapeño and serrano are available now.

Potato

Road Twenty Farm new-crop yellow and red potatoes are winding down. ‘B’ size yellow are done for the season. There is still availability on ‘C’ size red and yellow for a bit longer. Don’t miss out on these delicious potatoes from one of our favorite growers! Once the winter season ends, we won’t be seeing their spuds until June. Mixed fingerling and Russian Banana are ending soon. Amarosa should continue through March and hopefully into the beginning of April.

Squash

Zucchini prices are climbing back up. Yellow squash is now limited and expensive. California-grown Butternut is still available. California-grown Kabocha is no longer available. Mexican hard squash season is starting. We are seeing Acorn in the first harvest. Mexico-grown Spaghetti, Butternut, and Kabocha should be coming on soon.

Tomato

One- and two-layer slicer tomatoes are in great supply. Promotional pricing and volume deals are available; make sure to speak to your Account Manager! Tomatoes-on-vine (TOV) are in good supply. Cherry tomatoes have good volume. Roma and Heirloom tomatoes are limited.

 

Floral

Thomas Farm Tulips are now back in limited availability.  Seasonal mix, cutie, and large seasonal bouquets are available. Wild Ridge Organics is back with mixed Protea bouquets. Full Belly Farm has come back in limited availability with Anemone, Calendula, and Tulip straight packs. Availability is limited and changes often so check with your Account Manager for the latest blooms!

 

Grocery

St. Benoît Creamery yogurts feature delicious full-fat pasture-raised milk from Jersey cows. Jersey cows are famous for rich, creamy milk, higher butterfat, and protein content that is predominantly A2 protein, which is known to be easier to digest.  St. Benoît yogurts are minimally processed without fillers, excessive sweeteners, stabilizers, or additives. The result? A mild, creamy, better-for-you dairy option that you can feel good about. These delicious yogurts are available in Plain, French Vanilla, Meyer Lemon, and Strawberry flavors in 4.75-ounce and 32-ounce reusable glass jars. For the month of March, all orders of St. Benoît Creamery yogurts are 15% off.

As we approach the start of spring, pasture-raised eggs will be coming back in limited availability in mid-March. Supply should continue to improve through the beginning of April.

 

Merchandising Corner

Unique Experiences

How do you attract customers to your store? Here are some interactive opportunities to increase customer foot traffic and loyalty. There are many ways to modify these options to suit the needs of your specific location.

In-Store Demos Invite growers or artisanal producers to the store to sample their products. Demos are a great way to talk up product and increase sales. Call on the relationships you have with suppliers and encourage engagement with your customers. Opportunities for close connections to their food and people who grow it will keep customers coming back.

Sampling Programs Customers enjoy trying new items, seeing new recipes, and learning how to prepare new products. Here are some easy ways to improve your sampling program:

  • Provide freshly cut fruit, cheese, or other food items on a self-serve sampling table. Don’t forget to keep the samples on ice to keep them fresh!
  • Sample in the moment when out on the sales floor. If you are out stocking apples and there are customers around, cut one of the apples and start offering samples.
  • Make it a rule of thumb to offer a sample anytime a customer asks you about a product. Trying the product together gives you a chance to engage with the customer to talk about flavor profile and any other information you may have to offer about the product.

Personal interactions like this create a positive experience for the shopper. A pleasant shopping environment will always bring back repeat customers.

Cooking Classes Teaching people how to cook is a great way to create excitement around food. Most stores have an on-site area to offer cooking classes to their customers. Some stores rent out nearby facilities to host their classes. Teaching your community how to prepare food is a great way to keep them actively shopping and connected to sourcing in-season.

Meet the Farmer Dinners Create a memorable experience by hosting a dinner featuring a farm your store works with. Some stores with adequate space will host the dinner on-site. The dinner usually features product from the farm, some farm history, a little Q&A., and most importantly, a shared meal. Another way this can be done is partnering with a restaurant in town to host the event. Many restaurants like to support local growers in their area. A restaurant and a farm work together to host a farm-centric themed night. Tickets are generally sold in advance with a set menu. It takes some coordinating, but the wonderful experience it offers is well worth it.

Farm Tours Create opportunities for customers to visit the farms that your store supports. This lets customers know you support local food and work with farmers in your community. This can be done on a small or large scale. Some stores go as far sponsoring a party on the farm. These big events can be coordinated with other local vendors and restaurants for a whole day excursion with music, food, drinks and tours of the farm. Other tours are small groups of people meeting out at the farm for a tour, talk, and lunch or dinner in the field.

Shopping and Delivery Services To compete with the convenience of online shopping, some stores are now teaming up with companies like Instacart to offer shopping and delivery services. You can modify the service by having your own employees doing the in-store shopping and pulling the orders together instead of outside contractors. This adds a little personal touch to an online transaction. Knowing your food is hand-selected by an employee of the store lets the customer know that their order received special attention to detail.

We hope these suggestions have sparked some creative ideas. The key to retaining and attracting new customers is offering unique experiences or services they can’t get anywhere else. Also, don’t overlook the customer service aspect. Treating a person with respect, kindness, and exceptional service will keep your customers coming back.