YOUR PRODUCE MAN'S "FRESH TIPS"
March 29, 2002
Our last PRODUCE MAN PUZZZZLE dealt with Spring produce: California grows about 10,000 acres of Artichokes. How many acres does Italy grow? If the artichokes grown in California filled a grocery cart, then the artichokes grown in Italy would fill a semi-truck! Italy loves chokes. In fact, the original plants grown in California came from Italy. The original growers in California were very much Italian. In fact, those early Italians would have loved to have grown artichokes a little further north of Castroville. The perfect growing region for artichokes in the United States unfortunately had buildings on the land. We call it San Francisco. Italy today grows about 150,000 acres, 15 times more than grown in the United States. This weeks PUZZZZLE deals with Spring produce: In the early part of this century, how did Asparagus growers heat up their fields of asparagus? See next weeks Fresh Tips for the answer.
--AVOCADOS: Prices this year have been much better than the past few years. And its not because California growers have a huge crop. In fact, this years crop is about the same size as last years crop. The difference this year is that Mexican fruit is being allowed into more states and for a longer period of time. For the past few years, fresh Mexican Avocados were allowed only into 19 northeastern states from November 1 through the end of February. This year, the USDA is allowing Mexican Avocados to enter another 13 states as far west as Colorado, and the fruit is being allowed into US markets until April 15, an additional six weeks. So far this season, 93 truckloads of Mexican Avocados have entered the Denver markets. With a loss of market share, of course prices would fall. California grows about 95% of all the Avocados grown in the United States. Florida grows the rest. California growers have fought for years to keep fresh Mexican fruit out of the United States, claiming that a pest infestation from Mexico could do considerable damage to Californias export business, not just with Avocados but with many other commodities. New studies are showing that Avocados are actually very healthy, not just a fruit full of fat. The history of the Avocado dates back to ancient Aztec and Mayan Indians. It wasnt until the 1920s when the first Hass variety was discovered, in the back yard of Rudolf Hass, a postal worker who lived in La Habra, California. Avocados can turn just about any salad into an entrée salad. One of the hottest ways to serve Avocados is grilled. It adds a great dimension to your menu. Proper storage is vital with Avocados. The less oil content, the more susceptible to chill damage, which turns the inside fruit black. As oil content improves, chill damage becomes minimal. The longer you keep your Avocados cold, the more likely they can spoil. Keep unripe fruit in your backroom, and covered. Fully ripened fruit can be stored in your refrigerator for several days.
--LETTUCE REMAINS HIGH: The last time we saw prices like this, sustained for this long, was about 7 years ago when a huge white-fly infestation nearly crippled winter lettuce supplies from the desert. This time, the culprit wasnt the tiny white fly, but the cold weather. Prices have yet to hit the bounce-back point, the point where consumer rejection of the prices will start to lower the prices. Demand has remained fairly strong, keeping prices at these record levels. Some growers are already leaving fields in Yuma and will start moving to more northern fields near Bakersfield, in Huron. By mid-to-late April, some minor harvest may take place with some early fields in Salinas. Until about mid-April, expect to continue to see these volatile pricing of iceberg and leaf lettuces, along with marginal quality and yields. During transition time, moving from southern growing regions to more northern fields, quality and supply can become unstable, causing a roller-coaster of pricing and quality. Continue to buy just before you use it and substitute with other items, like Spinach, Cabbage or Napa Cabbage.
New crop Limes are just starting to be harvested from the Varacruz growing
region in Mexico. Growers there say that the start is somewhat slower
than normal, due to a heavier than normal rainy season. Since Limes
have the thinnest skin of any other citrus, it makes the Lime more susceptible
to damage in inclimate weather. Rains especially will cause soft spots
and decay spots on the thin skinned Lime.