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