Saturday, May 26, 2012

Produce notes from Allen.....80 local items!

I had a request from a member that I would like to share with you.  She asked me to please stop members from doing horrible thing to the fruits and vegetables.  I agree with her sentiment and hereby ask you (and to ask you to ask everyone else) to stop doing these horrible things:
  • Dumping Apples out of boxes instead of hand placing them. 
  • Removing fruits from the protective trays in which they are delivered 
  • Making mounds of Bananas
  • Peeling Corn and leaving the now worthless Corn behind. 
  • Leaving Carrot greens or Fennel fronds on the shelf.
  • Mixing Sugar Snap Peas with Peas in the Pod
  • Breaking off Portobello stems (don't kid yourself-this is stealing) 
  • Breaking off Asparagus "butts" (don't kid yourself-this is stealing) 
  • Tearing off Leek greens (don't kid yourself-this is stealing) 

It is very difficult for workers in the produce aisle, with little or no experience or supervision, to make the right decisions concerning produce handing or even where to place the approximately 250 different items we carry.  We have a tool which very few workers are aware of, one which will help guide you with necessary fundamentals of produce handling.  There is a green flyer in a rack to the right of the Mushrooms, entitled "An Introduction to Working in the Produce Aisle".   Please take a few minutes to read this before you start your work.  

Here are a few interesting numbers for the two week period that ended 5/20:
  • 8,324 pound cups of organic Strawberries (By the way, the first few local Strawberries arrived 5/22 and 5/25. We only received 384 pints this week and look forward to higher numbers next week) 
  • 7,172 pounds of organic Mineola Tangelos (whose season may be ending) 
  • 7,498 pounds of Avocados 
  • 22,325 pounds of Bananas 
  • 4,333 pounds of Mangos 
  • 1,152 Pineapples 
  • 5,592 bunches of various Kale 
  • 9,742 pounds of Carrots 
We averaged over 6,000 cases in each of the last 2 weeks, maintaining our average rate of produce sales of one case per minute.  In the next couple of weeks we will see some big shifts in product. Most Apples and Pears will disappear. Last year's Potatoes will give way to new crops.  Greens which had shifted from Mexico to California or Florida are now coming mostly from local farms. Fruits coming soon are Cherries, Apricots, Nectarines, Donut Peaches, and Green Grapes. Vegetables coming soon include Spring Onions, freshly dug Garlic, Garlic Scapes, local Sugar Snap Peas and Peas in the Pod.

Today we have 80 local items.

 Allen Zimmerman - Produce Buyer - General Coordinator

Friday, May 11, 2012

Hottest fudge on the shelf!

We are now carrying Emack & Bolio's delicious Hot Fudge!  

Before Ben & Jerry ever scooped a cone, Boston based Emack & Bolio's was serving up the most exciting flavors in a town known for it's ice cream.  The company is family owned and run with the same commitment to social responsibility and creativity that it was founded on.  It's made in Charlestown, Massachusetts and packaged in Maine. 

Produce Notes from Allen....74 local items!!

Keep your questions coming!  Here are some of the questions asked this week.

"I found Rhubarb on a list of vegetables that have the least amount of pesticides used on them.  Why do we only have organic?  The organic are more expensive and sometimes there are none."

You will find Strawberries on the list of fruits that have the most pesticides used on them.  We try to buy only organic Strawberries for that reason.  It doesn't make sense to me to have one item organic, and one not, when they are so often used in combination.  Many members are familiar with lists of what to only buy organic, or what may be relatively safe to not buy organic.  Many members do not, or will never buy produce unless it is organic.  We hope that this decision serves most members well.  At this point in the season, the supplies are increasing, and now that most of our Rhubarb is local, we are starting to see lower prices as well.

"I cut open a Melon and it was green inside. I was upset that it wasn't orange, because I wanted vitamin A. What happened to my Melon?"

This member bought a Galia Melon, which slightly resembles a Cantaloupe.  It is green on the inside, a color which wouldn't surprise a Honeydew eater.  (Although we occasionally carry orange flesh Honeydews.)  She wanted me to warn people what color fruits are on the inside, and I replied that I could not do that, although we do identify all Watermelon by color.  If you are concerned about the color of each fruit, google them before you shop.  You can find our daily produce selection updated Monday through Friday at: click here
As far as the vitamins go, I leave that up to you.  I am the produce buyer, not the vitamin buyer.  I think that you can't go very wrong when you eat any fruit in place of another.  By the way, galias are very high in Vitamin A.  She did say that it was delicious, and you can find out for yourself when they return to our shelves next Friday.

"How can hydroponic produce also be organic?  I know that stuff is added to the water.  How can you add stuff to the water and still claim that the produce is organic?"
It is not the coop that makes the claim that something is organic.  A farmer or producer may make that claim after they have been inspected and certified by an independent party (such as CCOF or NOFA).  All produce sold as organic at the coop has been certified by an independent party.  Many nutrients, fertilizers and various chemicals may be added to the water for hydroponically grown organic produce.  Many nutrients, fertilizers and various chemicals may be added to the soil for field grown or hot house grown soil based organic produce.  The National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances may be seen at: click here  Organic doesn't mean "free of chemicals".  Anything added to the soil or water must be considered benign, safe for consumption, and will be described in the USDA National Organic Program.

"How can I know which produce items are locally grown?"
 We only identify items as locally grown when 100% of that item is sourced locally.  For the last few weeks, a great deal of the Lettuces and Kales were locally grown, but we were not able to supply all of our needs for the item locally.  Now that we are starting to have access to more and more local produce, there are three easy ways to identify the source of each item.  
Go to our daily menu (click here) and click on the column "Origin".  The origin of each item is also on the shelf price sign of each item.  If you would like to see all of the local items at a glance, see the green highlighted lists, updated Monday through Friday, at the front and rear of the produce aisle.

Allen Zimmerman - Produce Buyer - General Coordinator

New Cheese Department Facebook page

Check us out and like us for fun informative updates!

Friday, May 04, 2012

Produce notes from Allen.....71 Local Items!!

We have a few more questions from our members,  Today's theme is "What happened to...?"

"What happened to the Fiddlehead Ferns?" 

We started the season late, as we waited for our regular supplier to get their first delivery.  We're still waiting for that supplier, but we're not waiting for Fiddleheads.  We had to pay a higher price than ever, but they are the finest quality we have ever seen.  We've been enjoying daily deliveries, but experienced a few gaps in supply.  One problem was that the rainy, cold weather in the northeast limited the supply, and another was that we can eat all the Fiddleheads faster than our supplier can provide them.  By the way, they taste kind of, sort of like asparagus, and can be cooked as you would asparagus.  It is recommended that they be cooked thoroughly, to avoid the risk of microbial infection.  When eating wild harvest produce, one can not be certain of the water source, so cooking Fiddleheads must be seen as a necessary precaution.  We think our supply next week will be strong.

"What happened to the Avocados?  They were so consistently ripe and ready, and now they are mostly green?" 

Those ripe ones were the end of the Mexican season, and the green ones are the first of the California season. We try to find a bit of ripeness in the Avocados we buy, but the transition was abrupt this year, and we couldn't find any fruit that was ripe on time.

"What happened to the organic Ginger?" 

Low-cost Chinese Ginger has dominated the global market for years, and it has become harder for us to find sufficient supply from Hawaii.  The produce department is committed to avoiding Chinese produce.  Leaving all political values aside, we think there is reason enough to steer clear.  There have been too many reports of contaminated product, and we are aware that the integrity of the organic certification has been challenged at times.  As far as the quality of the root itself, the Chinese varieties seem to have a greater" heat to flavor" ratio than the Hawaiian, which simply packs more essence of Ginger in the flavor.  When Hawaiian Ginger is in short supply, we have often been able to source Peruvian or Brazilian, but have been unable to do so for the last few weeks.  We have a bit of conventionally grown Hawaiian this week, and the organic appears to be returning in better supply on Monday 5/7.  Along with the return of the Hawaiian Ginger, we will also enjoy the return of tuRmeRic from Hawaii. Please note the two r's in tuRmeRic.  I would appreciate it if you single r "tumeRic" fans stop messing with my OCD.

"What happened to to local Asparagus this year?  We see it in the farmer's markets, but not at the coop.

Supplies of conventional "Jersey Grass" have been scant at the Hunt's Point Market.  Just as we begin to think that the supply might improve, some rain gets in the way.  It's annoying when rain interferes with a harvest, even as it does so little to provide relief from a severe local drought.  Most of the local Asparagus that we carry from year to year comes from a bit further north than the farms we enjoy at our local markets.  As recently as a couple of weeks ago, our farms were still experiencing some snowfall (do you remember snow?), and night time lows occasionally in the 20's.  I think that climate change has produced a slightly earlier harvest near us.  We will probably begin to get supplies from our long-time growers in a couple of weeks, which would be the typical starting time for those farms.

Allen Zimmerman - Produce Buyer - General Coordinator