April 12, 2013

B-Bye Citrus – Hello
Asparagus, Vidalias,
Artichokes, Ramps, etc.

What a great citrus season we have had over the past couple of months – the variety, taste and eating quality has been excellent! Now that we are moving into the second half of April, many of the varieties are winding down fast.

The grapefruit from Florida and Texas is still outstanding, as are the other citrus varieties; but this will not last much longer. Three-pound bags of late-season Nugget mandarins are set to arrive next week. This fruit is grown and packed by the same growers that brought us the Sumo Mandarins – which we all loved and that we have to wait another year to get!

First-of-the-season Washington asparagus arrives this week and this year’s early harvest seems to be sweeter than ever. There is still asparagus in the market from both Mexico and California, but in keeping with our commitment to move closer to home as the seasons unfold, we have made the move north. We are working with Columbia Valley growers for our asparagus – the same growers who produce our Washington-grown pickled asparagus and green beans, which customers have loved. Hopefully, as the Northwest growing season progresses, Mother Nature will cooperate and we’ll be able to bring you some special values on those in the coming weeks.

Vidalia sweet onions arrive this coming week – a clear sign that summer is just around the corner. Vidalias are a variety of onion accidentally discovered in the 1930s in Georgia, where they are now the official state vegetable, and they’re celebrated by chefs as sweet, flavorful, and mild. These onions are even protected by the federal government, and legally, they can only be grown in a 20-county region of Southern Georgia (people do try to get around the law, and people are caught – in 2001 a Florida produce company was fined $400,000 for putting Vidalia labels on Peruvian onions).

Speaking of around the corner, apricots and apriums are expected to start around the first of May.

Fresh blueberries are in transition from Mexico to California as we speak. They’ll be on our “Big Board Buys” April 17-23 – along with giant Castroville green globe artichokes. These are the largest artichokes available for the 2013 season. Don’t miss out – artichokes are expected to start decreasing in size by the first week of May.

California’s new crop of sweet corn has started in a small way. We expect it to ramp up by the first week of May, allowing us to procure enough that we can offer a special value. And speaking of ramping up – ramps!  These increasingly popular perennial wild onions (or some call them wild leeks) smell strongly of garlic, and are found in wooded areas across eastern North America, from South Carolina to Canada.  Both the white stalks and broad green leaves are edible, and are used in a lot of Southern cooking. But they’re of particular significance to the people of Appalachia, where they’re commonly fried with potatoes in bacon fat, or scrambled with eggs, pickled, used in soups or used with other foods in place of onions and garlic.

Ramps are available as we speak, but they are undersized and immature due to the cool spring weather on the East Coast. So, we’ve elected to hold off for a bit longer and let the crop come into its own.

Last but not least, Pristine green seedless grapes arrive late this coming week. Pristine is a trademark for a new and unique late-season green seedless table grape developed via cross-breeding in Central California. It’s an unusually large grape with a good shelf life, and a unique flavor that has been described as starting with a touch of vanilla and ending with a Granny Smith apple.

I just call it jumbo-sized, very sweet and crunchy! Some of you may remember them from last year. This variety is short lived but a clear sign that the imported grape season is at its end.

Have a great week,

Joe

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