fruits and vegetables

  • Kids of all ages have per­fected the art and tra­di­tion of egg dying for Easter.

    From waxy pen­cils to small tablets of color, not much has changed in the dec­o­ra­tion process. Or has it?

    The kitchen pantry is a stu­dio of nat­ural ingre­di­ents and inter­est­ing col­ors wait­ing to be used. Com­mon food items, and food waste in some cases, will trans­form an ordi­nary hard boiled egg into a beau­ti­ful show­piece.

    Nat­ural dying ele­ments have long been used in fab­rics and paper. Porous eggshells invite color no mat­ter the source.

    Red cab­bage and beets, brown, red or yel­low onion skins con­tribute to an array of egg color pos­si­bil­i­ties. So will cof­fee, tea, and dried spices.
  • Vaca­tion­ers will take to the skies in record num­bers this sum­mer. Air travel can be very stress­ful with TSA check­points and man­ag­ing per­sonal affects.

    Feel­ing good at the end of a flight may depend on how well and what we eat and drink inside the air­port ter­mi­nal.

    Hydra­tion is essen­tial to hav­ing a good travel expe­ri­ence. Bring a portable water bot­tle to be filled once inside secu­rity clear­ance or pur­chase bot­tled water at ven­dor loca­tions. Drink up!

    Avoid bev­er­ages known to upset the tummy. Too much cof­fee, alco­hol or orange juice will bother most peo­ple. Order more sooth­ing drinks like club soda or herbal teas.

    Fruits like berries, pineap­ple, can­taloupe, cucum­bers and water­melon con­tain a high per­cent­age of water.
  • Chilly autumn morn­ings nat­u­rally make us yearn to have a lit­tle some­thing baked with our pre­ferred wakeup hot bev­er­age.

    Warm­ing up to lovely muffins, breads, loaf cakes and scones has the power to trans­form a ho-​hum break­fast into a desir­able first bite.

    Let fall pro­duce guide the menu for savory and sweet oven treats.

    Apples and pears, pump­kins and per­sim­mons, sweet pota­toes and car­rots– these are ample base­line fla­vors to set the course.

    Cran­ber­ries and other sea­sonal jew­els like dates and dried fruits (apri­cots, cher­ries, raisins, etc.) have a dis­tinc­tive mouth feel when baked.
  • A few crisp days strung together and sweat­shirts get pulled out of the closet. So too, do the recipes we love that cel­e­brate fall.

    Ingre­di­ents begin to shift and the land­scape changes in the mar­ket­place. There is more to autumn days than pump­kin spice and pump­kin lattes.

    Apples and pears are now being har­vested. It seems impos­si­ble, but true, new vari­eties seem to appear each year. Ver­sa­til­ity finds them a role in starters, sal­ads, entrees and desserts. Savory to sweet, scout out a fall favorite to switch up main menu plan­ning and lunchtime snacks.

    Tex­ture and taste give apples and pears the green light for pair­ing with cheeses, nuts, fresh greens and other part­ners. Both fruits com­pli­ment meat dishes and offer veg­e­tar­ian swaps in grain, pasta and rice prepa­ra­tions.

    Figs, pome­gran­ates and per­sim­mons are sig­na­ture fruits that fol­low apples and pears . They like that lit­tle cold snap that fol­lows hot weather. Cran­ber­ries will make an appear­ance by the end Sep­tem­ber. Once they debut, kiss sum­mer goodbye.

  • We’ve said it before-​California grows over 400 dif­fer­ent crops, some grown nowhere else in the coun­try. A few crops include wine and table grapes, almonds, arti­chokes, cit­rus, straw­ber­ries, and walnuts.

    Cal­i­for­nia pro­duces nearly all of the country’s almonds, apri­cots, arti­chokes, dates, figs, kiwi fruit, nec­tarines, olives, pis­ta­chios, prunes and wal­nuts.

    Fifty eight coun­ties make up the lush Cal­i­for­nia land­scape. All but three con­tribute to the total agri­cul­tural econ­omy. Once tran­si­tion hap­pens from win­ter crops in Mex­ico mov­ing north, the fer­tile Cal­i­for­nia soil pro­duces a bounty for our nation’s hun­gry tables.

    Pick any county in the sum­mer­time to find a work­ing fam­ily farm. We speak of “locale” when we men­tion who or where the mel­ons, onions, squash and green beans are com­ing from.

    “Brent­wood” is syn­ony­mous with “super sweet“ white corn. Located in Con­tra Costa County, this delta town is steeped in a rich agri­cul­tural heritage.

  • David John shares what to look for when shop­ping for the per­fect cantaloupe.



  • What’s new in Cal­i­for­nia grapes.

  • Thanks­giv­ing left­overs are a bet for at least one good sand­wich or warm plate of com­fort post hol­i­day feast.

    If soups, sal­ads and sides don’t lend a cer­tain kitchen inspi­ra­tion to the day after foods, rethink the approach.

    A few sim­ple fresh ingre­di­ents will ignite a spark to the dol­drums of those glass dishes stacked in the fridge.

    Intro­duce gin­ger root, cilantro, edamame and shi­take mush­rooms for a boost of fla­vor to any bowl of Asian noo­dles or rice dish. Spice it up with chili pep­per paste (kochu­jang) or chili pep­per flakes (kochukaru).

    Fresh herbs like basil, mint and Ital­ian pars­ley boost taste buds with a dif­fer­ent take to cold sal­ads. Tar­ragon or baby dill move things in an alto­gether new direc­tion.

    Peas, arti­choke hearts and fen­nel bulbs and fronds add more than just bright green­ery. Allow the dis­tinc­tive tex­tures and extra­or­di­nary fla­vors to sur­prise the palette. It’s not grandma’s turkey salad if wal­nuts, apple chunks and curry pow­der get folded in to the mix.

  • The 2019 Lunar New Year starts on the fifth of Feb­ru­ary. Com­ing off the Year of the Dog, this is the begin­ning of the Year of the Pig in the Chi­nese zodiac. The ele­ment for the year is Earth.

    The promise for the new year is one of joy, cel­e­bra­tion and suc­cess in all areas of life.

    The pig (known also as the boar) is said to be gen­er­ous, social and sta­ble.

    An Earth Pig year com­bines a real­is­tic but happy-​go-​lucky socia­ble pig com­bined with the steady and sen­si­ble char­ac­ter­is­tics of Earth, it her­alds a reward­ing and pros­per­ous year. This will be a year to enjoy friend­ships and social con­tacts and come together for the com­mon good.
  • Cold and flu sea­son has arrived with some vengeance. It is shap­ing up to be an intense cou­ple of months.

    Hol­i­day travel and shop­ping crowds con­nected the dots on both coasts.

    Hard to know which is which? Usu­ally, colds are milder and include a runny or stuffy nose. A cough and sneez­ing go along with a cold.

    The flu is usu­ally more severe and typ­i­cally comes on sud­denly. The flu has a knack for wip­ing peo­ple out for a few days. Fever, body aches, and exhaus­tion com­monly accom­pany the flu.

    Pre­ven­tion is key. Hav­ing a flu shot will min­i­mize the affects of this year’s virus. Proper and fre­quent hand wash­ing will stave off con­t­a­m­i­nat­ing germs left on door knobs, phones, uten­sils and other surfaces.
  • Car­ni­val sea­son always cul­mi­nates on Fat Tues­day, the day before Ash Wednes­day, the first day of Lent.

    Peo­ple lucky enough to visit New Orleans the week lead­ing up to Mardi Gras will enjoy a feast of foods and sig­na­ture bev­er­ages.

    Influ­ence comes largely from Cre­ole and Cajun cuisines. Clas­sic crowd pleasers include gumbo, jam­bal­aya and étouf­fée.

    Loca­tion aside, plan a cel­e­bra­tion dur­ing the days of Car­ni­val. High­light slow cooked, fla­vor rich meals that can feed a large table.

    Build­ing depth in dishes is easy when it comes to mas­ter­ing the all pow­er­ful Miropoix. Three veg­etable basics — car­rots, cel­ery and onions com­prise this start to many fine dishes.
  • There are ten cel­e­brated national hol­i­days in the United States, so named by con­gress. After those stayed hol­i­days, peti­tions get intro­duced to local, state and national offi­cials for com­mem­o­rat­ing other wor­thy days.

    Fewer than 150 are granted in an aver­age year, across all cat­e­gories, by the pres­i­dent of the United States. Still oth­ers get invoked at a more local level procla­ma­tion.

    Even so, that still gives us every­thing from National Pome­gran­ate Month and National Cherry or Pecan Pie Day to draw atten­tion to the pro­duce indus­try and ingre­di­ents wor­thy of a food hol­i­day.

    How­ever man­u­fac­tured, some of the food related hol­i­days make per­fect sense. National Bar­be­cue Day and National Ham­burger Day coin­cide with the upcom­ing Memo­r­ial Day Hol­i­day week­end.

    For most of the coun­try, Memo­r­ial Day week­end launches the sum­mer out­door cook­ing sea­son. We build mem­o­ries around shar­ing food and cre­at­ing food events in more casual environment.

  • How to select corn; baby corn; intro­duc­ing new Sun­shine Raspberries.


  • David John dis­cusses sea­sonal items; mar­ket con­di­tion of figs; how to pre­pare fresh gar­banzo beans for a sum­mer treat.


  • Tail­gat­ing Sea­son is well under­way. This great Amer­i­can tra­di­tion has moved to higher ground where food and sports take the field together.

    Sim­pler times called for pedes­trian sand­wiches, potato chips and cold drinks tossed into a tote bag. Move over Rover.

    Tail­gat­ing has become a lively, con­vivial event with a life of its own. This portable party binds game day good eats with an oppor­tu­nity for social­iz­ing with friends and other fans.

    The menu may be a bit more high art than high brow. Bring the gear and appetites for a day long feast. Game day? We’ve got you covered.

    Sips & Drinks: Go with cool quenchers for those Indian Sum­mer days to hot tod­dies for chill­ier ones around the cor­ner. Fresh cut mel­ons, cel­ery, cucum­bers and cit­rus deliver for bev­er­age gar­nishes. Dress up apple cider with spices, pear slices or even cran­ber­ries. Cheers to fresh lemon­grass or rose­mary skew­ers adding more drama to cock­tail bars.

  • Food safety risks may be reduced on the farm by fol­low­ing good agri­cul­tural prac­tices (GAPs).

    GAPs help grow­ers under­stand the prac­tices and risks asso­ci­ated with their farm. They help iden­tify prac­ti­cal ways to reduce the risk of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ing pro­duce being grown, har­vested and packed.

    There is no such thing as zero-​risk, but prac­tices and steps need to be in place on farms to min­i­mize any poten­tial risk of con­t­a­m­i­na­tion. Although the com­mon prin­ci­ples of GAPs don’t change from farm to farm, each GAP is unique, as every grower does things dif­fer­ently.

    GAPs focus on assess­ing the risk in five key areas:
    Water
    Manure/​Compost and Soil Amend­ments
    Land Use (Previous/​Adjacent) and Ani­mal Access (Domestic/​Wildlife)
    Equip­ment, Tools & Build­ings
    Employee Health & Hygiene
  • The cal­en­dar page says Novem­ber so all bets are off. The imme­di­ate feel of this new month takes on a more fes­tive and impres­sive aura.

    Maybe we start to pay closer atten­tion to every detail of the plate. Is it pos­si­ble to have even more col­ors avail­able when using fresh ingre­di­ents this month?

    The shift towards apples, pears and cit­rus is evi­dent as they crowd out peaches and nec­tarine dis­plays. Hard squashes and root veg­eta­bles make their way to menu selec­tions at food­ser­vice venues.

    Besides pump­kin every­thing (food and bev­er­ages), there are some easy ways to add drama to the plate. Take Sat­suma man­darins, com­ing on region­ally through­out Cal­i­for­nia, are a good start to glam­our.

    These delight­ful hand fruits have a zip peel and make the per­fect any­time snack. When the indi­vid­ual seg­ments are sep­a­rated, they brighten up a morn­ing break­fast and do more than dec­o­rate a sup­per dish. They perk up a ho-​hum serv­ing right away with a pop of color.
  • Every­one loves pie, right? No argu­ment there. The only thing that might come close to sur­pass­ing pie is to have an indi­vid­ual hand pie all to one’s self.

    We’re not talk­ing about those gar­den vari­ety, store bought, waxed paper wrapped, card­board crust, sug­ary coated, fake fill­ing small pies. Nope.

    Instead, the bar is set high for ten­der, flaky pie crusts, ready for portable, lovely cre­ations burst­ing with local ingre­di­ents.

    Crisp, cool evenings war­rant get­ting back into the kitchen with the folks we love to hang out with. Hand pies are the stuff that mem­o­ries are made of when we include friends, fam­ily mem­bers and even cowork­ers if one is so inclined.

    It really doesn’t mat­ter if scratch bak­ing skills are not per­fected. There are plenty of “secret recipes and tips” avail­able to make the process less daunting.
  • Far too often, lack of care or inex­pe­ri­ence col­lide with pos­i­tive con­sumer encoun­ters. That clash adversely affects fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles.

    Prod­uct qual­ity and prod­uct con­di­tion are two sep­a­rate issues. How we han­dle fresh pro­duce can def­i­nitely impact the lat­ter.

    Care­ful han­dling will max­i­mize fresh­ness, and add to shelf life or serv­ing appear­ance. It makes sense then that mis­han­dling is counter pro­tect­ing the inven­tory and in-​stock items.

    The influx of new employ­ees through­out the food indus­try requires train­ing and coach­ing on the sub­ject of han­dling. Proper receiv­ing is the first step in main­tain­ing good qual­ity stan­dards.

    Observ­ing clean­li­ness of truck trail­ers, inte­rior vehi­cle tem­per­a­tures and neat and straight pal­let stacks are a few signs that a deliv­ery is accept­able. Look for car­tons or cases that have not been split open or torn.

    Cold chain pro­to­cols are impor­tant year round. As we approach cooler sea­sons, chances are that pro­duce is trav­el­ling to us from far­ther away places. Keep­ing prod­uct in best tem­per­a­ture ranges is crit­i­cal to longevity. This goes for every­thing from berries to zucchini.


  • David John dif­fer­en­ti­ates heir­loom toma­toes in looks and taste; what to know about stor­ing tomatoes.