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May Your Holidays
Be Fresh, Not Frozen

Christmas is all but here!  With Christmas Eve only two weeks from today, we’re working diligently this week to secure our supply for all the traditional trimmings and a few not-so- traditional treats in fresh produce. You will have your choice of conventional or certified organic in many of these items.

We have secured all we can get of those incredible Cape Blanco cranberries, but we may run out as we get closer to the holiday. Hopefully we won’t but just in case you really, REALLY want this Northwest fruit, which I can understand, I recommend you pick up what you need ASAP.  Cranberries take freezing very well – just rinse, dry a bit, toss them in a freezer bag and then into the freezer for use at a later date.

We will have plenty of sweet potatoes and yam varieties, although any yam you can get in the USA is actually a sweet potato despite the fact that orange-flesh sweet potatoes are commonly called yams! True yams are indigenous to Africa and Asia and are very large, ranging in size from a pound or so all the way up to a record 130 pounds. To my knowledge true Yams have never been imported to or cultivated in the United States. All of the sweet potatoes, whether white, orange or purple flesh are just that, varieties of sweet potatoes. Why the confusion?
As I understand it, firm varieties of sweet potatoes were produced before soft varieties were introduced In the United States. When soft varieties were first grown commercially, there was a need to differentiate the soft from the firm.  African Americans were already calling the “soft” sweet potatoes “yams” because they resembled the yams in Africa. Thus, soft sweet potatoes were referred to as yams to distinguish them from the firm varieties. My personal favorite is the Red Garnet variety baked with maple syrup, butter and pecans … of course, just about anything would probably be good baked in this way!

Mandarin oranges have been exceptionally good this year and will be readily available in all the markets. The Cara Cara and Heirloom oranges are also off to a good start. Usually we hold off on promoting oranges until after the first of the year, but this year the fruit seems to be sweeter than December fruit usually is.

For something special, the Honeycrisp apple is always a nice treat, but this year we will be bringing a very nice Christmas pear to the markets. Traditionally the crisp Asian Pear is the pear of choice for this holiday and we will have plenty. This year we are adding a very special Comice pear that some are calling a Christmas pear. This fruit is harvested and the very best are set aside and conditioned to be just perfect for the Christmas holiday! These pears are very creamy and sweet, excellent for eating out of hand, poaching or glazing!

Of course we will have all the dinner veggies, from imported asparagus to Brussels sprouts, tender French beans and portabella mushrooms!

I just found out that the boat bringing fresh blueberries from Chile will not arrive in time for Christmas. This leaves us with flying the fruit directly into Los Angeles from Chile. I must secure the amount of fruit that we will need to get through the Christmas holiday this morning in order to secure air space. Shipping by air raises our costs considerably, but if we really tighten our belts we can offer a real value on great quality fresh blueberries for this holiday.

(Pictured above: Frozen lettuce and row crops in Yuma, AZ,
on the morning of Dec. 5, 2013)

Now for a little weather-related update. We’re not the only region suffering through a deep freeze. The cold, Arctic air reached well into California, Arizona and northern Texas. Early reports are that some early strawberry crops and citrus in California may be affected. In Arizona, a region we count on for our winter supply of row crops such as lettuces, broccoli and cauliflower did suffer from some frost damage. Mostly this causes the plant to protect itself by shedding a layer of skin, called epidural peel. This can cause some browning in the ribs on lettuce. Many growers in the area harvested heavily just ahead of the freeze and this created an abundant supply over the past few days. Now that everyone is swimming out of the cold and holiday demand across the nation will put pressure on the already reduced supply we expect to see some costs go up. We are relying on our long-standing relationships to keep us in the best quality products and absorb some of the possible impacts in cost. We will be doing our best to soften any impacts that may occur through the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

I will keep you updates as more information comes available. At any rate we will have plenty of choices for you in the Markets for the holidays!

Have a very Merry Christmas!

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