Pristine green seedless grapes arrived in our markets last week– undoubtedly one of the best green grape varieties of the Chilean grape season. They’re known for being extra-large in size, and for having a deliciously crunchy texture and sweet flavor.
These grapes command a premium because of high demand and unfortunately supply is limited because of that. But what a way to wrap up the winter grape season! This grape is grown by a single grower/shipper– in Chile during our winter months and then again in California during our summer. We will have this grape for the next three weeks and then it will return in September with the wrap up of the California season.
As expected, most of our markets had Sumo mandarins available through the Easter holiday, but that was about it. There may be a few left in a market of two, but I wouldn’t expect them to last long. We had a great run this year. It was exciting to have them start a full month earlier than normal, but the other side of that coin is that it ended a full month sooner, as well. I’m looking forward to February 2016 when the Sumo mandarin crop returns.
Champagne mangos have been outstanding this year and seem to be growing more popular each year. This is a naturally smaller mango, yet we do offer the largest sizes available on the market. With all due respect to the mango family, this is a rather ugly mango with blemishes being the norm. And it’s tricky to land on the right time to enjoy this fruit. The mango arrives with a slight green tint and turns fully yellow very quickly, but this is not when they have their best flavor. Shortly after it becomes fully yellow, the skin will start to wrinkle –indicating the acid levels have fully dropped and the sweet tropical flavor is at its peak. Try this mango diced and piled on cottage cheese … for me just about any mango is great this way, but the champagne mango is special. We are now at the height of the season and likely will see it end in the next few weeks.
Washington asparagus is in our markets as we speak. The first of the season is the sweetest of any growing area and the Washington crop has a slight purple tint to the tops because of the cool nights of early spring. For asparagus, growth rates are determined by the overall temperature determines and it really is about the balance between daytime and nighttime temperatures. When these are balanced-not too hot during the day or too cold at night-we get the best results and supply increases. In fact, when conditions are right asparagus can grow right before your eyes! The Washington crop will peak over the next several weeks. By the way, the Eastern Washington grower from whom we get most of our fresh asparagus also pickles the 32-oz. Foster’s label asparagus fresh each year at its peak for our markets. It’s an excellent way to make asparagus last all year long.
So far, the Coastal Green Globe artichoke season has not materialized as expected. We have had to carefully manage what week we can get them and still offer a couple of in-store specials. I still think the season will come, but the grower is saying production is off 60 percent from normal. We are still actively looking for promotional opportunities and even a possible Big Board Buys soon.
The organic Tastilee tomato continues to do well. This tomato runs on the smaller side, but is packed with real tomato flavor. On the conventional side, the new crop of Canadian hothouse tomatoes has arrived in our markets. As usual, these start the season extra large. With these sizes, a single tomato slice can cover your entire burger bun. They are also excellent for slicing thick and eating like a steak, seasoned with Garlic Expressions dressing.
The sweet onion season is under way. For the next couple of weeks, we’ll be getting them from Mexican and Texan fields (home of the famous “1015” Sweet), followed by my favorite-the also-famous Georgia Vidalia sweet onions, which will arrive in May. Try grilling these with your burger or steak! And look for Walla Walla sweet onions to arrive in late June or early July.
Until next time, enjoy! Joe