What happened to October? We are on the threshold of Thanksgiving and it seems like time has been flying over the last few weeks. So before any more time slips by, here’s the scoop in fresh produce:
Apples and pears are old news, but still excellent quality. The Honeycrisp, Opal, Kiku and Pink Lady apples are among my favorites at this time of year. But I do have to mention the Granny Smith because if apple pie is on your holiday menu, it’s a great choice. And we still have a wide selection of Northwest-grown pears to choose from.
There are a few new things to shout about in the citrus category now that we’re moving into the second half of November. We usually hold off on bringing in Satsuma and Cutie Mandarin oranges until we’re certain they’re eating well. And this year, it’s this week. We’re off to a great start – Family Tree Orchards Satsumas have arrived and they’re everything we were hoping for, as in sweet, seedless and easy to peel. The Cutie Mandarins are good, but I think they will get even better as we move toward the Thanksgiving holiday. We received our first deliveries of organic Satsuma mandarins this week, as well, and they taste GREAT! Very sweet, seedless and easy to peel. Mandarin oranges are the perfect snacking item. In fact, they belong in the category of that popular slogan: “You can’t eat just one!”
We’re seeing our first arrivals of Harbor Island Grapefruit from Florida and the Rio Red Grapefruit from Texas. They’re great but they’ll just keep getting better as we move through the next several weeks.
In berries it’s all about Cranberries, Blueberries and Red Raspberries this time of year. Strawberries are a roll of the dice – we’ll be closely examining each delivery to be sure the quality measures up. If so, you’ll see them in the markets.
My berry recommendation for the holiday is to plan around the imported fresh blueberries. We had a pretty rough time of it last year when it came to berries throughout
the winter. I think this year may be a totally different game. The blueberries eat very well and supply looks great for the holiday. Red Raspberries have been exceptional and we think that will hold through Thanksgiving. We have what we feel is the best quality in cranberries – Cape Blanco brand. These are 100 percent Northwest grown and harvested specifically for fresh market fruit through late October and early November. These berries are full color, large in size and sweeter than other popular brands. They will be available all the way through the holiday season.
AVOCADOS!!! As you may have noticed, Hass avocados have been in short supply and over-priced for the past couple months, thanks to an early end to the California season in late July and a late start to the Mexico season. This was further compounded by some extreme August weather, followed by a workers’ strike and finally by a truckers’ strike that limited the flow of fruit entering the United States. The good news is that we finally are seeing the supply increase and costs are dropping weekly. We already have started lowering the retail price in our markets in anticipation of where the avocado market is heading. We actually think we may see enough supply that we’ll be able to offer promotional pricing within the next couple of weeks.
This year also looks to be better than last year when it comes to veggies typically used in holiday side dishes. Looking into next week we see a good supply in Asparagus, Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli, Cauliflower and Beans. Speaking of Green Beans we know that these can be a roll of the dice as well during the Thanksgiving Holiday so we offer a 1# Bag, Washed and Trimmed French Bean just to be sure we have the best quality possible. But we also will be looking closely at the conventional and organic Green Beans. If the quality is where we expect it to be, you’ll have yet another choice for your traditional green bean casserole.
Fresh, organic herbs are another absolute must for this holiday and we plan to cover every need. The most popular fresh herbs for Thanksgiving are the Herb Bird Blend, Poultry Blend, Sage, Thyme and Rosemary. Chives matter as well but we do usually struggle to get the desired quality over the winter months. We’ve asked our supplier to make an extra to find a high-quality source to get us through Thanksgiving.
Mushrooms can play a big role in holiday recipes. We do have a few Chanterelles available along with a wide selection of fresh and dried options. If your recipes call for Porcini or Morel, dried are the way to go. Keep in mind that dried mushrooms are a 10-to-1 ratio with fresh. In other words, a reconstituted dried mushroom will weigh 10 times more than its dry weight. In fresh options, we have your traditional White Mushrooms, but for cooking I recommend the Brown Crimini for the best flavor. Some other that may entice your flavor curiosity are the Shiitake, Baby Shiitake, Oyster, Enoki, Bunashimeji and Miatake.
Of course we will have all the traditional holiday staples in organic or conventional:
Potatoes: So many options! Fingerling and Baby, Variety Sweet, Russet Baking or Yukon Gold for mashing. Speaking of mashed potatoes, my favorites are the large Yukon Golds. They save peeling time and cream nicely. I use extra Kerrygold butter, Half and Half and roasted garlic in my Thanksgiving mashed potatoes – and I have to admit, they’re awesome (I’ll also admit I’m not a such a good cook when it comes to some things – like gravy – so I buy the fresh gravy from our Deli and it’s awesome, too!).
Onions: We’ve got Pearls, Sweet Mayan, Spanish, Red or White along with the Shallots and Garlic needed.
Butternut: We have a couple of family-size, time-saver options like a 32-oz. cubed butternut squash package, and a 32-oz. pack of halved Brussels Sprouts.
Have a fresh and wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends! – Joe