Our markets are in full Thanksgiving mode. In Produce, we’ll have all the traditional and not-so-traditional fruits and vegetables in both organic and conventional – fresh, ready and available through the holiday weekend.
While we can’t guarantee we won’t run short, we’re busy studying our notes from last year and working directly with our growers and suppliers to ensure the best possible quality and ample supply. Here are a few things I’d like to mention in particular this year:
We have secured what we think is the best potato for mashing! There are many spins on the traditional mashed potatoes that ramp them up to deliver a special flavor – perfect for the larger Northwest-grown Yukon Golds we’ve secured for the occasion. The large size makes them easier to peel, and the creamy golden flesh makes them look like they’re already buttered! This variety potato has a great creamy texture that makes them perfect for mashed potatoes. Want to try something new? Try our recipes for “Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes with Olive Oil” and “Sweet Potato and Yukon Gold Gratin.” Or google “Celery Root, Garlic Mashed Potatoes.”
If you don’t already have a gravy in mind to smother traditional mashed potatoes, swing by our Deli and try “Our Own” fresh gravy pouches. These gravies are our own recipes, and are made from scratch with real ingredients –all you have to do is heat them up. It’s awesome! This is what I buy because my gravy-making skills are, well, unreliable. They don’t call me lumpy for nothing.
Speaking of traditional, what would Thanksgiving dinner be without sweet potatoes? For me it would be a missing. The Red Garnet sweet potato is my favorite. Although commonly called a yam, it’s not a yam at all. A true yam is indigenous to Africa, where nearly all true yams are grown to this day. It’s the orange skin and flesh of the red garnet that resembles the color of yams – but the similarity ends there. Yams are not as sweet and are huge in comparison.
Although there are several varieties of orange-flesh sweet potatoes, the red garnet is the sweeter and creamier variety – and is very popular! We also have golden sweet potatoes for those traditional recipes that call for a white-flesh variety. Both are available as certified organically grown. Speaking of organic, we also have the Purple Stokes sweet potato – a deep-purple-flesh variety with its own unique flavor and texture. Worth a try.
Brenton at Family Tree Orchards in Reedley, Calif., called the other day to let us know he has a few more of the new, fresh Desert Queen figs. You may have noticed these in our markets in late August and September. Family Tree Farms has been working diligent, and searching the world over, to bring a better-tasting fig to the USA. We were able to get two exclusive, exceptional varieties for the first time, thanks to that work. If you love traditional figs like Black Mission and Brown Turkey, you’re going to love the Desert Queen, which Brenton happens to have some of – we took all he can give us. They’re being harvested and processed today and will arrive in our markets on Monday, Nov. 20. Of course this is a “while supplies last” situation as fresh figs are basically done. We are really looking forward to next August when we think Family Tree Orchards will have an even better supply of what we think will become the favorite variety.
We’ll have all the fresh veggies you expect – abundant and available, from organic green beans and tender French beans, asparagus and broccolini to Brussels sprouts and butternut squash. We’ll also have both butternut squash and Brussels sprouts in our fresh-cut veggie section all cut up and ready to cook.
We’ll have delicata squash, which is rapidly growing more popular. Among the reasons is that you can eat the skin of this squash – just cut in half the long way, scoop out the seeds, slice into half-moon pieces, toss in your favorite oil and roast until tender. Salt and pepper to taste. I like a little Parmesan sprinkled just before serving.
But the squash I’m most excited about are the organic Butterkin squash we had grown for us this year. We introduced this variety last year and I think it’s a winner. This is a cross between a butternut and a sugar pie pumpkin. Scoop out the seeds, peel, cut into bite-size pieces and toss with your favorite oil and garlic in a large bowl. Salt and pepper to taste. Arrange on a baking sheet and bake at 400˚F until the squash is tender and lightly brown – about 25-30 minutes.
We have a wide selection of fresh herbs ranging from individual varieties like sage, rosemary and dill, to mixed combinations like Poultry Blend, Herbed Bird Blend and Seafood Blend.
In the fresh mushroom category, you have choices from the mild enoki or bunashimeji to the robust shiitake or Crimini and more. Keep in mind many of these mushrooms are in high demand over the holidays and we’re doing our best to stay slightly ahead yet stay fresh in spite of orders being cut from the growers.
Cape Blanco fresh cranberries are back. This is a 100 percent Northwest-grown cranberryt grown specifically for the fresh market (rather than juice, etc.). I think it’s the best fresh cranberry grown. We had a little glitch this year with our first deliveries. For some reason, the fruit broke down fast and became mushy. I think it was due to the several high temperature days we had in September and even a few in October. As soon as we detected the issue, they were pulled off the floor and we’ve now replaced them with freshly harvested fruit that is back on track with the quality we count on from the Cape Blanco Farm.
A long overdue break in the Hass avocado market has finally occurred. After about 18 months of short supply and high cost, Hass prices have moderated and supply has improved enough to let us do some promotional pricing for the holiday, even in the larger sizes we typically carry. Look for the avocado market to continue to improve as we move into December, barring any goofy weather in the growing areas.
For something fun, have you tried the Hyakume persimmon? Known as the chocolate persimmon because of brown flecking in the flesh and a sweet flavor, this fruit is nearly 100 percent edible. Try slicing into wedges and serving with a thin slice of Parmesan. It is surprisingly good. If you’re not sure, just ask and we would be happy to let you try a slice before you buy it.
You may have noticed we’ve been tip-toeing into the California satsuma mandarin season. Although available since late October, we chose to wait an extra week and even then start in a small way. The early satsumas from California barely meet minimum sugar requirements and in most cases are even “gassed” (called sweating) to bring out the orange color. A minimum-sugar, force-ripened satsuma is not your best eating experience. We’re getting our first truly tree-ripened satsumas from Family Tree Orchards on Saturday. These were harvested just the other day when the fruit was naturally ready. This grower’s fruit is truly worth waiting for. All our markets will have large displays of these satsumas through the end of the month. Not to worry – several other growers will step up as we move into December, the peak of Satsuma season!
Whew! I got a little long-winded! Thank you so much for all your support, have a wonderful holiday with you and yours! — Joe