Officially known as citrus reticulata blanco, “mandarin” and “tangerine” are two names for the same variety of fruit. They are native to Southeast Asia and came to the US through North Africa. The name “mandarin” gained popularity because the fruit was thought to be native to China; while the name “tangerine” gained traction because it was thought to have come from Tangiers.
There are a million varieties of mandarins out there and we are kicking off the season with the satsuma, a loose-skinned seedless, early maturing variety which originated in Japan. We suggest never hesitating to go big on your satsuma display or end cap this season! For colorful and seasonal contrast add pomegranates, persimmons and in-shell walnuts and watch your sales soar.
Rather than simply answering dozens of taste questions, consider the power of using flavor descriptors to create tasteful images so your customers can understand exactly how something tastes. A satsuma could be described as “Tender, seedless, juicy with a classic rich sweet-tart (sub-acid) flavor that gets sweeter as the season progresses.” Have fun and become an expert at describing the fruits and vegetables you sell. Your customers will look to you for expertise and recommendations through the season.
The Hass avocado market is crazy short and expensive but we see the light at the end of the tunnel. Reports are that Mexico will start shipping soon in substantial quantities and prices will fall. But no one is sure how long that will take. In the meantime, we have very limited quantities of Mexican and California grown Hass, so ask your Account Manager for details. California “greenskin” Bacon are coming by early November. Still we don’t think there will be much guacamole for the World Series baseball gatherings.
Apple and Pear
Apple season is in full swing! We have Arkansas Black from Heirloom Orchards in Mount Hood, Oregon. This aromatic apple is a lively red color, which deepens to a purplish black when ripe. Another unique and tasty heirloom apple on our roster is the Calville Blanc. This gourmet French culinary apple is simply perfect for tarts. Did you know that the Calville Blanc has more vitamin C than an orange? C’est magnifique! We also have the tiny, yet incredibly satisfying Crimson Gold from Cuyama Orchards. This little apple has a big following and won’t last long. Expect to see Pink Lady apples from Washington in the next week or two.
Pears are still in good supply. We have some great deals on Starkrimson Pears grown in Oregon. Other varieties currently available are Bartlett, D’Anjou, and Bosc. Comice pears just arrived this week. A pear lover’s pear, Comice are sweet, creamy, juicy and often known as the holiday pear!
Our bananas continue to come in with superb quality and perfect coloring. Give us a call if you are looking for a reliable and consistent supply!
Even after the recent rains, strawberry supply is steady both out of Watsonville and Santa Maria. Blackberry supply out of Santa Maria is also looking steady. Import blueberry season is kicking off, and we’ll have Chilean air-freighted blueberries starting this weekend (October 22). Also this weekend, look forward to US-grown, biodynamic certified cranberries! Import raspberry season is gearing up and is just around the corner.
On the citrus front, the first California Satsuma mandarins are here from Capay Organic along with California Navel oranges! As Navels become abundant, the Valencia supply will wind down. Expect the California Valencia season to end for most growers in early to mid-November.
On a different note, California lemon prices have been drop, drop, dropping! Mexico-grown lemons are still a great deal and continue to be priced competitively. California limes are in good supply. Grapefruit will remain tight until the first or second week of November as growers have reported a late start to the season. Expect prices to hold until the market becomes more saturated.
Black Mission figs from Maywood Farms are quickly winding down. We are sad to see it end, but what a wonderful season! Fortunately, we are going to see Brown turkey figs roll into the warehouse soon, keeping fig supply steady for the season.
A few of our smaller grape growers have decided to end their season due to the heavy rains we experienced over a week ago. However, there are still plenty of sweet grapes to be had. Some growers are forecasting product available through December!
California kiwi availability is strong while New Zealand kiwi is also in steady supply. Be sure to put some on your next order!
California Keitt mango season is officially done but mangos grown in Ecuador are readily available. We have lovely Tommy Atkins mangos and delicious Ataulfo mangoes grown in Ecuador. The flavor is awesome and supply strong. Prices should start to fall as more supply becomes available.
The fall import melon season is here! We’ll start with mini seedless watermelons followed by honeydew and cantaloupe, all grown in Mexico.
We are deep into pomegranate season, which means steady supply of the Wonderful variety. Order now while prices are super competitive. The arils are red, sweet and juicy.
We are happy the dragonfruit scene has opened up, with several spectacular colors and selections to choose from. Fuscia, red, white and pink fleshed dragons should be in good supply for the next several weeks. Another superfood, check them out now! We are waiting impatiently for more passionfruit to come as the second bloom is not quite ready yet. But guava and sapote continue to trickle in. We have yuzu, quince, jujube too; what fun for adventurous eaters! And don’t miss the exciting section on cactus below for info on our cactus fruit!
An autumn favorite, in-shell Hartley walnuts from Ferrari Farms are here! Add them to your display to highlight the bounty of the season. We have the most beautiful jumbo sized chestnuts we have ever seen, measuring at two inches in diameter! We also have more standard sizes if you can’t go top shelf.
This is a great time for artichokes; they’re beautiful with tight leaves. Availability is steady, although pricing have been fluctuating. As production increases, prices will stabilize.
Asparagus is in full swing. We have steady supply of product from Mexico and limited product from Argentina. All sizes are available, including asparagus tips. Don’t miss out on unique and tasty purple asparagus; supply is limited so don’t wait to order. Prices are competitive.
Green beans love this milder weather and as a result we’ve got a very strong supply from some great local growers! Prices are down as availability is up, so it’s a great time to build some big, beautiful green bean stands in your produce department! Specialty beans such as Romano, cranberry, and fresh garbanzo are more limited, but they are out there! If you’re interested be sure to let your Account Manager know so they can snap them up for you when we do see a few roll in.
Rainbow bunched beets are back in action! These are a blend of gold, red and Chioggia beets which make for a beautiful display or menu item. Baby beets have also returned so be sure to order some soon!
The broccoli price has been extremely low for this time of year, but also very volatile! Cheap pricing is available, but on the whole we have seen the broccoli crown price inch up regardless of the 14ct price. If you are looking for consistent pricing in the broccoli category, go for the beautiful Romanesco!
Winter Brussel sprout season is here and for the start of the season, they’re gorgeous! They are coming in clean with no aphids or mealy bugs! Supply is limited as the season has just begun.
Cactus pads (nopales) are excellent quality now that the most extreme heat of the summer has subsided. Not only are the plants pushing out beautiful pads, but also the fruit, sometimes called prickly pear, tuna (the Spanish word for the fruit), or India figs. The flesh of the fruit comes in various neon shades of orange, pink and purple, and has a refreshing, sweet flavor that can be compared to a slightly tropical-tasting watermelon or slightly earthy-tasting guava. With its short season, difficult harvest and fragile flesh (our prickly pear has the big, sharp spines removed but may still have some of the tiny glochids attached), this item is available by pre-order only so ask your Account Manager for more info.
Strong supply on cauliflower, both white and cheddar, is expected until the end of October! We have all sizes and even may have some graffiti and purple cauliflower. Check with your Account Manager to see what we have in stock.
Yes, corn is still around! Supply is limited, but you can still get your hands on sweet white corn grown in Colinga, California or bi-color corn grown in Washington.
Northern California’s cucumber crops are drying up quickly, but the good news is Mexico’s cukes are starting to roll in from the south in decent numbers! Prices are down as supply is heavy.
T&D Willey Farms is still harvesting their eggplant every day and is showing a very strong supply of their second grade “Sursum Corda” label in particular. The Willey’s have some of the best looking ‘choice’ product we’ve seen, so if you’re an open-minded buyer who can handle a little scratch here and there you should give them a try! We will have a special, discounted price on them for the coming weeks. This would be a great way to keep the last bit of summer on your display or menu! Help this family farm end their season on a good note, and reduce the ‘less than cosmetically perfect’ food waste!
Globe eggplant is also starting to roll in from the California Coachella Valley with higher prices as the season begins.
Garlic and Onion
We have gorgeous specialty red hard neck garlic as well as purple stripes garlic coming soon! These varietals are grown down in the Gilroy, California area.
Enjoy a wide selection of flavor, color and size when it comes to onions this time of year!
Bok choy availability is steady. We have both full size bok choy and baby bok choy.
Leek prices are going up but quality is strong. Leeks love cold weather which results in stunning product!
Lettuce, Retail Greens and Herb
Lettuce is going strong, especially Red Leaf, which we currently have on our Weekly Specials! In addition, we have every lettuce variety you could possibly need.
This time of year, no news from the land of boxed and retail greens is always good news. October marks the beginning of the transition from the Salinas Valley growing region to the Imperial Valley and Yuma, Arizona growing regions. Depending on weather patterns in all of these regions, one early or late weather event can throw a major wrench in the gears, leading to availability and quality problems at any given moment. So far, we’ve experienced a calm transition period with no problems.
All bunched herbs look strong with sharp pricing and no end in sight. Consistent labels and quality make this a must-have for every order!
Green bell peppers are starting to flow in from the Coachella Valley and reds won’t be too far behind! The little bit of rain we got in California does not seem to have harmed our local growers’ bell pepper crops of all colors, so there’s no supply shortage in sight. Bells from Mexico with good volume at attractive prices are still a ways off, so celebrate this local flush while you can!
Fingerlings galore! This is a great item for promotion and with all the different varieties it makes for a fun display. If you haven’t tried Russian bananas or French fingerlings, please do! Also check out the amazing Austrian crescents.
New crop Purple stokes are back! Although the prices are a little higher than other sweet potato varieties they are well worth it! Fall is a great time to promote sweet potatoes.
Burdock root is starting up from Coke Farms, in California, and the Winter Green Farms crop is just on the horizon from Oregon. Throw in some California sunchokes and we’ve got a full house in the root category.
Our supply for bunched carrots has expanded and we are now offering purple, rainbow and orange with very stable pricing across the board. Be sure to take advantage of all the choices on our list!
Our first round of Hawaiian ginger has arrived! Both young white ginger and Thai (aka galangal) are available in 5 and 30 pound packs. The flavor and aroma are amazing. Look for Hawaiian young yellow ginger in mid-November.
California-grown young turmeric is also available with Hawaiian turmeric coming at the end of November.
Despite our recent rain in California, our local supply of summer squash is still flowing heavily! Growers in Mexico have started shipping zucchini and yellow squash earlier than usual this year, so prices have fallen fast. Our local California growers will continue to have squash available until the first frost sets, so expect California zucchini to be available into November.
We have great selection and prices on California winter squash and pumpkins. We’re thrilled to offer a cornucopia of beautiful and delicious squash from some of the most veritable growers in the state including butternut from Terra Firma, delicata from Full Belly Farm, acorn and spaghetti squash from Hummingbird, Kabocha squash from Pinnacle, and sugar pie pumpkins from Durst Farm.
Don’t forget, Halloween is just a week away! If you haven’t already or just need more, order your bin of carving pumpkins.
California’s late crops of tomatoes are fruiting nicely in general, and we’ve got a strong supply from a few lucky growers in particular! Pinnacle/Foster is rolling steadily along with their slicer tomatoes, and Coke Farm still has a strong supply of heirloom tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes are becoming harder to find, but we’re still seeing late ones trickle in from a few different local growers. Luckily, it seems a steady supply of tomatoes from Mexico isn’t far off, so we should have a nice, smooth transition this year.
Retail Samples as Amuse-Bouche
Amuse-bouche is a beautiful pre-meal bite or delightful surprise from the chef. In French, amuser translates to amuse and bouche means mouth. It’s an opportunity for the chef to show off their flair or introduce a new flavor concept. The amuse-bouche can be one of the most memorable moments of the meal.
Similarly, sampling in the produce department can be a delightful surprise for your shoppers; a tasting of the highest recommendation by the passionate produce crew. It’s an opportunity to show off unique varietals, your best fare, staff favorites and ad promotions. The key is demonstrating your passion. If you are excited about the produce, your customers will be too and that translates into increased average basket transactions and customer loyalty.
From simple passive samples to recipe driven demos, customers love samples. Sampling offers shoppers a chance to expand their palates with a taste of a new item. This opportunity often turns a skeptic into a happy believer and the finicky shopper into an aficionado.
It may seem like more work at first taking the time to put out daily samples but it’s work that quickly pays off. It’s also a strategy that offers a proven return. Studies have shown that sampling can triple the daily sales of an item. Shoppers are also more likely to frequent stores they know provide samples.
Bringing your own culinary inspiration into the produce aisle not only has the potential to transform shoppers’ habits and increase sales, it offers the opportunity to turn an ordinary shopping experience into a memorable one.