Friday, August 31, 2012

Produce notes from Allen....150 Local Items!

A very busy week as we built inventory and made orders for Labor Day weekend. This left very little time for writing produce notes. So here are a few quick notes.

On Friday morning alone, we received 1,913 cases of produce at a total value of $48,948.

New this week are: 
new crop organic Gala Apples
organic Orange Honeydew (nearly gone)
minimally treated Red Clapp Pears (nearly gone)
organic local bunch Arugula
organic local Baby Bok Choy
organic local Broccoli Rabe
organic local Cardoons
organic local Dandelion
organic local Elephant Garlic
Brazilian conventional Ginger (Hawaiian will be unavailable for two months. We will try Peruvian organic next week)
organic local Mustards
organic local Broccoli
organic local Japanese Turnips
Washington state Sweet Onions (did Vidalia onions really end this time?)
organic local 5 pound bags of White Potatoes (from Hepworth Farms, $2.55 per bag-what a bargain!)
organic local Rhubarb
organic local Delicata Squash

Coming Monday and Tuesday:
new crop organic Bosc Pears
organic local Mizuna
minimally treated Red Bartlett Pears

We also welcome two new local organic small family farms:
Ribbon Road Farm in Sherman NY
Early Morning Farm in Genoa NY

Allen Zimmerman - Produce Buyer - General Coordinator

Monday, August 27, 2012

Books, Vegetables, Community!

 Check out this great event Co-Sponsored by the Coop at The Community Bookstore on 7th Avenue.

"An evening with chef, author, and co-founder of The People’s Supermarket in London: Arthur Potts Dawson. This is a talk and book signing, and veggies will be served. Eat Your Vegetables, from one of the most eco and sustainability conscious chefs in the world, answers the call to eat more vegetables and eat less meat.  It celebrates vegetables at the center of the meal, both as main course and as accompaniment.  This is not a book about being vegetarian or vegan nor is it a vegetarian cookbook.  It’s about adopting a new way of life with regard to the foods we eat."

Friday, August 24, 2012

Produce notes from Allen....140 Local Items!

New Items This Week
Honeycrisp Apples
Macintosh Apples
Golden Supreme Apples
Florida Avocados
Ground Cherries returned
Carambola (Star Fruit)
Kadota Figs
Asian Pears
Fortune, Ozark, and Red Heart Plums replace the Plums formerly known as red, redder, and reddest
Royal Burgundy Beans
West Indian Gherkins (see Kris's note below)
Organic Orange Peppers came mixed in with the yellow this week, a pretty, pleasant surprise
Bunched Spinach
Sugar Cane
Hurakan Squash-similar to Cousa, or identical if you ask me. I can't tell the difference
Turban Squash - great for eating, great for looking at
Last week I reported the end of the Organic Lemon season, but they are still trickling in.  None of our large produce wholesalers have any "fancy" lemons, but they have some "choice" ones.  We never choose "choice"; it is never good enough.  We have been buying our California citrus directly from a packer for many years, and they have favored us with more of their scant supply than we had hoped for.

I also reported the end of the Vidalia Onion season last week.  I was wrong about that.  They are back at a slightly higher price, but I am happy to report that this season will continue indefinitely.

Our first arrival of new crop Organic Gala Apples will likely happen this Monday.  They will be very limited next week, but not because the Apples are actually scarce.  If you remember, a couple of weeks ago I reported the absence of Jicama and Poblanos due to a hijacked truck.  Today we learned that a truck containing many items we were considering was consumed by flames.  The driver is fine, but the Galas, Bartletts, Plantains, Red Bananas, and "brown and hairy" Coconuts, (yeah, that's what we call them), are goners.

The Gulliver effect. This morning @foodcoop #notwatermelons! on TwitpicMini watermelons?  Same family, different fruit.  The tasty, tart, and crisp little cucumbers you see above (in member Gilly Youner's photo) are called West Indian Gherkins.  Try this little unique addition to your late summer salads while you have the chance.

We have a fantastic deal this week!  Hepworth Farms is offering #2 Heirloom Tomatoes in a 5 pound box for only $6.32 per box.  They have a minor defect that is commonly found in any cross sample of Heirlooms.  The crown (stem end) contains dry cracks in most of these fruits.  I use the term fruits, not only because Tomatoes are fruits (so are Cucumbers, Eggplants, Peppers, etc.), but also that I may repeat something about Tomatoes that I'd recently heard.
What is the difference between knowledge, wisdom, and genius?
Knowledge is knowing that Tomatoes are a fruit.  Wisdom is not putting them in a fruit salad.  
Genius is knowing how to put them in a fruit salad.

This morning, Amy Hepworth called me out of concern for her driver, who had arrived at about 6AM with 919 cases, but without a pallet jack.  She asked us to provide all of the assistance that we could for him.  I told her that we have a powered pallet jack, skilled receiving coordinators and mighty receivers, not to worry.  We found, however, that our pallet jack was not serviceable this morning. The driver of the truck bearing produce and other goods from Lancaster Family Farm Fresh Cooperative provided his willing time, labor and functioning pallet jack, along with his cooperative spirit, to help unload the Hepworth truck.  We are energized and uplifted whenever we experience how contagious cooperation can be.

Allen Zimmerman - Produce Buyer - General Coordinator
French 60% Brie.
'Nuff said.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Worried about Cantaloupes at the coop? Don't be. Here is why.

First, and foremost, the coop is only carrying Organic Cantaloupes from New York State and Pennsylvania.  

We do not carry, nor have we carried, any Non-Organic Cantaloupes from Indiana or from North Carolina.  

So you can breathe easy, and know the health concerns, in regard to recalls, do not affect us.

Below is an excerpt from a newsletter put out by Albert's Organics (one of our largest produce suppliers) that might prove informative to those concerned about the widely publicized issues with Cantaloupes.   

In addition, you will find some helpful notes on both how to pick a good Melon and some tips on food handling. 

It’s been a tough road for Cantaloupes this season. There was the Listeria outbreak that was linked to melons from a North Carolina farm. Then, the Indiana outbreak that was likely caused by Salmonella found on cantaloupes from a farm in Indiana.

Despite these setbacks, cantaloupes remain a very popular summer fruit with California alone shipping over 10 million pounds of Cantaloupes each day. 

Here are some key points that are important to understand and important to share with your customers about Cantaloupes:

- One of the reasons that food safety challenges are greater with Cantaloupes is due to the netting on the rind – where pathogens can lodge (as opposed to the smooth surface on Honeydews) and the fact that they’re grown on the ground makes them more susceptible to contamination from bacteria from the soil, water or animals.

- Both retailers and consumers should examine their Cantaloupes carefully. Look for Melons that are free of blemishes, cuts, sunken areas or mold growth. There is typically an area on a Cantaloupe that is a lighter color than the rest of the melon. This is because that’s the area of the Cantaloupe that was resting on the ground. Check that particular area very carefully for cuts or blemishes.

- Pay particularly close attention to the blossom end of the fruit. This area can be a pathway into the Melon for pathogens that can actually get into the fruit of the Melon. It’s also a key area where mold can develop.

- Once the Melon arrives at a shopper’s home, where it lands is very important. If it was placed on a counter, it’s important to wipe that counter clean in case there are bacteria on the surface of the melon. If it goes into the refrigerator, it’s best to keep the melon from touching other foods.

- We typically don’t think about washing Cantaloupes, but it’s actually a very good idea. Use a sturdy vegetable brush with warm water and some pretty vigorous scrubbing. The scrubbing is important because the spaces within the netted rind on the Melon protect the bacteria and make it harder to remove any that might be there. Make sure the Melon is dry before you begin cutting into the fruit.

- These days, it’s a good idea to do slices without the rind attached. If you do want to keep the rind attached, make sure the rind does not make contact with any of the actual interior fruit.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Produce notes from Allen......136 Local Items!

You don't have to wait until next Friday to ask, 
"What happened to organic Lemons?"  

The harvest is over for now.  There is some fruit that is out there in southern California, slowly ripening.  It is green right now and we can't predict when they will ripen.  It is disconcerting when something that we take for granted becomes unavailable.  All we can offer is non-organic Lemons or organic Limes.  Let this be an opportunity to try something different.

"What ever happened to?"

- Organic Russet Potatoes
The quality of the new crop so far is so poor that when I ask suppliers if there have been improvements in quality, I get responses that include: "not for pickies", (I am very picky), "no returns", "no credits", "even our restaurant clients won't buy them", and "not good enough for Park Slope Food Coop".  We'll keep asking 

- Vidalia onions
The season ended early this year.  Enjoy the local organic sweet onions.  When they are exhausted, we'll then get Peruvian.

- Nappa Cabbage
This crop does not fare well in heat waves.  We expect to see some very limited, but very beautiful nappa this Monday.  Very limited plus very beautiful equals very expensive.

- Baby Bok Choy
Heat in California adversely affected the crop.  We took a one week time out, and found a local source for the coming week. 

-Spring Onions
Well, it is summer and we did enjoy a nice long run.

- Champagne Grapes
These tiny grapes have a tiny marketing season, which has now ended

- Artichokes
Too scarce and too crappy and too expensive to carry until weather cools a bit.

- Pink Lady Apples
We tried Chilean pink ladies during the late season apple vacuum.  We received Argentine fruit, which we thought was good enough to fill a vacuum, but after several tastings we decided to wait for new crop apples instead

- Longans
They came and blew out so fast that most members did not even see them.  They return on Tuesday, again limited

- Organic Cherries
The last batch we tried was sour and had small amounts of mold.  So, we rejected them and said farewell to the cherry season.

- Organic Blueberries -  
Strictly speaking, the crop is not quite exhausted, but the quality and value season is over.  I might have tried to stretch out another week or two, but more often than not that leads to problems.  

I teach other produce buyers, that as far as seasons go, "Don't get in too early and don't get out too late".  Of course I don't always get it right, and for that our soup kitchens are grateful.

Many produce suppliers, as well as produce stores, sell two types of Plums, red or black.  They don't differentiate between varieties, and shoppers never get to learn which Plums they like best, never developing their favorites.  (I remember when there were two kinds of Apple, red and yellow, until the USA discovered Granny Smith, and suddenly there were three!)  We care about varieties of Plums at the coop and we annoy the ____ out of our suppliers urging them to provide us with the best varieties.  They would be happier carrying red or black.  Our members look forward to the first Santa Rosa, wonder where are the Larodas, wait for the Friars, and savor the Mariposas.  It's been a tough Plum season so far, with very few varieties making their way east, and prices have been very high. Pluots (crosses between Plums and Apricots) have also been expensive and many of the varieties have so far been unavailable.  We have enjoyed several varieties of Amy Hepworth's Plums this year but it has been increasingly difficult to distinguish the many varieties, which have too often arrived , mislabeled or unlabeled. Today we surrendered and gave up our attempt to identify each Hepworth Plum. Here is our current list

Red plum
Redder plum
Reddest plum
Reddish plum

I hope you read this, Amy Hepworth, and recognize what you've done to my OCD.

Allen Zimmerman - Produce Buyer - General Coordinator

New Crop Apples and Pears!

We now have two varieties of new crop Apples, Ginger Gold & Paula Red;  along with our first Clapp Pears of the season from Hepworth Farms.
Our own Receiving Coordinator Carline!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Produce notes from Allen....129 local items!

A few odds and ends to mention this week.

The lychee season came and went and we had almost none at all. The reason for this is that China has almost completely taken over this market and as a result there were very few Mexican or Taiwanese imports this year. We avoid buying fresh produce from China, and until we have confidence that Chinese produce is safe, we will continue to avoid it. Coop members love lychees and I will be sorry if we have little hope for any during its peak season, which has just ended. We look forward to the Israeli season and are now offering one slight consolation to lychee fans. This week (and we hope) for the next few weeks, we will offer the organic Florida longan, a cousin of the lychee. Similar in flavor, with a hint of a spice, maybe cinnamon taste, they are scarce and expensive and delicious.

The first two apples of the season, Ginger Gold and Paula Red, will arrive from Hepworth Farm this Tuesday, along with their first pear, the Green Clapp

Some of the items disappearing from the shelves next week are apricots, local organic blueberries, and champagne grapes. Rainier cherries have ended and red cherries will end soon after. 

You may wonder why the poblano peppers and jicama disappeared for a while. Jicama has returned, and we will wait for the Hepworth harvest of organic poblanos. The reason we could not get them was that the truck transporting them was hijacked (along with our Yuca that week). It makes you wonder what the hijackers thought was in that truck.

You may wonder why we went almost a week without organic pineapples. Customs inspectors intercepted a container of organic pineapples that could not be allowed into port because of a type of insect that was found. When this happens, the container is fumigated, and the product within will not and can not be sold as organic.

There is starting to be a good deal of competition for our local organic tomato business. Some farmers are lowering their prices in some cases to try to get our business and also to encourage higher sales. As we negotiate prices with our farmers, we try to balance being fair to them with offering the best prices for our members. During this peak of the season, which coincides with our slowest sales period of the year, it is impossible to make any of our farmers satisfied with our level of purchases. It is challenging to juggle the various needs and stressful to try to say no to any of the farmers. If it was easy, i guess "Support Your Local Farmer" would not have become a bumper sticker.

I'm going to leave you this week with some images of the beautiful rainbow of produce coming in.  Enjoy!

This week is our high this year, 129 items from small local organic family farms!

Allen Zimmerman - Produce Buyer - General Coordinator


Diane Sawyer Meets Coop Beef Farmer, on the Teevee

From the e-mail of Peter McDonald, of McDonald Farm, one of our producers of grass-finished beef:

"Hello Everyone,

This past Wednesday was a day like no other.  World News with Diane Sawyer was looking for a farm family to profile on their Lifestyle segment and we were chosen. The shoot was fun, took all day, and left us exhausted but, here are some highlights:
Kids doing all kinds of active chores
Shannon in the garden
Shannon and Rebecca cooking up a wild farm fest feast
The whole family chowing down
Michael cutting and splitting wood
Rebecca, Patrick and Papa playing some music
And interviews with Doctors, Nurses, neighbors and the rest of us.

The big question was whether a farming lifestyle like ours is healthy, and we'll find out when we see the segment. The kids were an absolute riot in their interview.

And Emmy award winning correspondent, Sharyn Alfonsi (what a doll) was a riot, even milking the family cow.

Fun and funny and barring any serious news that could bump the segment, it will be on this Monday, August 13, 6:30 pm ABC Eastern time on World News with Diane Sawyers.


Thursday, August 09, 2012

"Drought, Corn & Food Prices" - some important information on possible things to come.

 Below is an article put out by Albert's Organics, one of our major produce suppliers, about the drought that is ravaging farms around the country. 

A photo taken by Michael Pollan in this article.

Drought, Corn and Food Prices
The devastating drought that we’ve seen this summer (particularly in the Midwest) has certainly stirred the headlines - with some reports claiming we’ll see a dramatic increase in food prices, while other reports claiming just a small uptick. My guess is that more and more shoppers will be entering your store concerned and perhaps fearful about rising food prices, and looking to you for some answers, or at the very least, a little bit of wisdom and comfort on the issue. While this article is not intended to be a proclamation on what exactly will happen, there are some pretty solid indicators we can look at that can help you as you have these conversations with your customers. To that end, here are a few key points to keep in mind as you talk with your customers:
  • The crop most affected by the drought is corn. Soybeans will also be affected, but because corn matures earlier, we’re still waiting to see how the drought affects the beans.
  • The big concern, of course, is how will food prices be affected? There are a few considerations as we examine this. In general, the Agriculture Department expects that grocery prices will go up about 3-4 percent next year - just slightly higher than a normal yearly increase. The USDA says beef prices are expected to jump 4 to 5 percent, making it among the biggest price hikes for food. Dairy product prices are expected to climb 3.5 to 4.5 percent, poultry and egg prices up by 3 to 4 percent, and pork prices up by 2.5 to 3.5 percent. The USDA projects an overall 2 to 3 percent price increase for fruits and vegetables next year. That is in line with this year’s increase.
  • The basic sweet corn that you carry in your produce department will barely be affected. Even though it’s been dry, non-feed corn is irrigated. Feed corn, on the other hand, is not irrigated and will incur the most damage from the heat and drought.
  • As has been the case with droughts in previous years, products other than meat products see very little increase in their price. However, with meat it’s a much different story. This is particularly true with poultry as so much of their diet consists of corn. The same will be true for hogs and cattle raised on grain.

  • Eggs and milk will also be affected by the drought. Milk will probably go up slightly, but not as much as beef or pork. Eggs will also go up in price, because you’re converting corn through chickens at a very rapid pace, and it’s their primary feed ingredient.
  • Many conventionally grown packaged foods (and even foods that are called natural) contain corn - most of which is not irrigated, meaning it was affected by the drought. Although 80-90 percent of conventionally raised packaged foods contain corn, it’s often such a small percentage of the ingredients in the product, that even a significant increase in the price of corn, will only add pennies to the cost of the packaged product.
In general, most experts are claiming only a modest price increase in food as a result of this summer’s drought, and it won’t really kick in for another 2 months. Let’s hope the experts are right.

Monday, August 06, 2012

No Knives

Dear Food Processors,

Please do not use knives to cut cheese.

 I know! It seems weird - "I use a knife to cut cheese at home, what's the big dif?"

Well gentle reader, let me tell you - you're cutting (A#1) a much larger chunk of cheese here, (B#2) whatever! Just do as I say. And (C#3) - sorry for that outburst - we want to have as smooth of a chunk as possible to have the least amount of air when the cheese is wrapped.

So, again, please do not use the knives to cut the cheese. You can use them to trim the cheese of mold or bad bits. You can use them to open cellophane wrap. That is all. Use the wire for all cheeses.

In Cooperation,

Just one of the many "crumbles" of Monty's Cheddar I found this morning

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

3 great blues from Rogue Creamery

You can find three great blues from the Pacific Northwest on our shelves. Rogue Creamery, in South Oregon's Rogue River Valley make eight amazing blue cheeses and their certified sustainable whole milk comes from exclusive dairies along the banks of the rugged and scenic Rogue River. We're lucky enough to have three fine examples of those cheeses right now.

 Oregon Blue cheese has been the West Coast’s exemplary, award-winning sustainable, raw cow milk blue cheese.

A natural rinded pasteurized blue set with calf rennet, Flora Nelle is a more robust and piquant blue with subtle hints of blueberry, a paste that is crumbly to cut but creamy on the palette, and a long finish.

 Echo Mountain Blue Cheese is a montage of rich flavors made from a blend of sustainable pasteurized cow and goat’s milk. The flavor is clear, crisp, brilliant and complex in its subtle hint of goat’s milk. 
I think you can taste the cool Oregon Coast in each bite of these exceptional blues!