pro­duce storage

  • “Take Care“

    All indus­tries have jobs that require train­ing. Food, and pro­duce specif­i­cally, are no dif­fer­ent. What sets us apart is the care and han­dling required of fresh food prod­ucts.

    Indi­vid­u­als who are new to the pro­duce learn­ing curve are promptly informed that they are not han­dling a can of veg­eta­bles on a gro­cery store shelf.

    What­ever the role played along the sup­ply chain, human hands are involved. Plant­ing, har­vest­ing, pack­ing, ship­ping, and prepa­ra­tion call for a deep under­stand­ing of tak­ing the best care, at all times, of the fruits and veg­eta­bles.

    Fac­tors like proper stor­age tem­per­a­ture and cold chain are fun­da­men­tal not only for prod­uct longevity, but also for how it may end up tast­ing on the plate.

    There is a sub­stan­tial dif­fer­ence for retail clerks between “throw­ing freight” and care­ful han­dling. Proper receiv­ing, put-​away and hand-​stacking can pre­vent dam­age (crack­ing, bruis­ing and smash­ing) to fresh goods.

    Some items are hardier than oth­ers. Pota­toes, onions and car­rots quickly come to mind. Still, giv­ing them a soft touch rather than a rough tum­ble will pre­serve their integrity.

    Bell pep­pers may appear to be sturdy. Slam­ming their car­tons down on a rack or shelf will crack their ten­der walls and loosen their mem­branes. Treat them as frag­ile cargo, along with most other unsus­pect­ing fresh ingre­di­ents.

    Pota­toes, toma­toes, avo­ca­dos, pears, whole mel­ons, and other fruits and veg­eta­bles are often stored at room tem­per­a­ture to main­tain qual­ity. Some items in this group like the room tem­per­a­tures for quicker ripen­ing purposes.
  • “Vol­un­tary“

    In the realm of fresh food prod­ucts, either retail or food­ser­vice, prod­uct recalls are not par­tic­u­larly unusual.

    A recall is the action or method of remov­ing or cor­rect­ing prod­ucts that are in vio­la­tion of laws admin­is­tered by the Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion (FDA).

    A food recall occurs when there is rea­son to believe that a food may cause con­sumers to become ill. A food pro­ducer ini­ti­ates the recall to take foods off the mar­ket. In some sit­u­a­tions, food recalls are requested by gov­ern­ment agen­cies, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion (FDA) and the U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture (USDA). Obvi­ously, prod­uct can be recalled for many rea­sons. This can include (but not be lim­ited to), the dis­cov­ery of organ­isms such as bac­te­ria like Sal­mo­nella or for­eign objects like bro­ken glass or metal. It can be due to a major aller­gen (dairy or nuts) not being dis­closed on a label.

    Most prod­uct recalls are char­ac­ter­ized as being “vol­un­tary”. This term is some­what ambigu­ous and may lead indi­vid­u­als to believe that a vol­un­tary recall is optional. That is def­i­nitely not true.

    A vol­un­tary recall is an indi­ca­tion that the man­u­fac­turer, grower or ship­per of the poten­tially harm­ful pro­duce has been in com­mu­ni­ca­tion and coop­er­a­tion with the fed­eral agency.

  • All in the Fam­ily

    Cab­bages are from the “cole crop” fam­ily. Other mem­bers in this hearty tribe include broc­coli, Brus­sels sprouts, kohlrabi, col­lard greens and cau­li­flower.

    We can sep­a­rate cab­bages in to four main types: green, red (or pur­ple), Savoy, and Napa cab­bages.

    In com­mon are the sexy lay­ers of alter­nat­ing leaves, each cup­ping the next, form­ing a firm, dense head. Spring is the per­fect excuse to explore using all four types of cab­bages in a myr­iad of ways.

    Braised, boiled, charred, sauteed or raw; rolled, slawed or casseroled– cab­bage is happy at cen­ter plate or assum­ing a sup­port­ing cast role.

    From Ger­many to Asia, schnitzel to stir fry, world cuisines know how make cab­bages some­thing we crave. Com­fort dishes made by grand­moth­ers give mod­ern recipes a run for the money.

    Selec­tion: Choose firm, heavy heads of green, red and savoy cab­bage with closely furled leaves. Color is an indi­ca­tion of fresh­ness. For exam­ple, green cab­bages stored for too long lose pig­ment and look almost white. To ensure fresh­ness, check the stem ends of cab­bage heads to make sure the stem has not cracked around the base, which indi­cates unde­sir­ably lengthy stor­age. Chi­nese cab­bage leaves should be crisp, unblem­ished and pale green with tinges of yel­low and white.
  • Han­dle with Care

    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.

  • Heir­loom Toma­toes


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


  • Ital­ian Prune Plums


    David John III explains how to choose, ripen, use and enjoy this sea­sonal treat!


  • Juicy Fruits

    US demand for stone fruits has been con­sis­tent but not grow­ing much in the past five years.

    The 2020 sea­son looks to improve demand with a longer sea­son and even some new vari­etals on the hori­zon.

    Exclu­sive nec­tarine and plum vari­eties grown in California’s Cen­tral and San Joaquin Val­leys have farm­ers excited about this year’s pro­duc­tion.

    The oppor­tu­nity is there to intro­duce stone fruits to new and next gen­er­a­tions. An empha­sis on fresh foods and ver­sa­til­ity in use can bring a new audi­ence to the table.

    Stone fruits are a type of drupe, thin-​skinned, fleshy fruits con­tain­ing a sin­gle large seed (hence the name stone) encased within a tough outer shell. They can be cling­stone or free­stone, fuzzy or smooth, sour or sweet.

    The dru­pes we call stone fruit come from about 15 species of the genus Prunus, a mem­ber of the rose fam­ily, and include peaches, nec­tarines, plums, apri­cots and cher­ries.

    Stone fruits are highly sea­sonal. Most vari­eties won’t ripen after they’re har­vested and are picked at their peak of ripeness or readi­ness. This is often a small win­dow for har­vest crews.
  • Mush­room Storm

    Cul­ti­vated mush­rooms have become an expected “in-​stock 24÷7” pro­duce item for con­sumers. White but­ton vari­ety leads the way in sales, fol­lowed by organic and brown mush­rooms.

    Increas­ing pop­u­lar­ity has put mush­room grow­ers in a mush­room pickle.

    Faced with ris­ing costs and mul­ti­ple pro­duc­tion chal­lenges, mush­rooms look to be headed for stormy weather. Prod­uct short­ages, higher prices and cus­tomer pro­rates for the upcom­ing hol­i­day sea­son are a for­gone con­clu­sion.

    Mush­room har­vest­ing is highly labor-​intensive. Work­ing with an almost always too light labor force (by 25 per­cent), it is not unusual for grow­ers to have to leave mush­room beds un-​harvested due to no pickers.
  • Taste Cal­i­for­nia

    Cal­i­for­nia avo­ca­dos have arrived! They are gen­er­ally avail­able from April to Sep­tem­ber, but for the nearly 5,000 grow­ers in the state, the avo­cado sea­son is a year-​round endeavor.

    Farm­ers walk their avo­cado groves every month to check on the trees, assess weather affects and grove con­di­tions. They must ensure avo­ca­dos are on the right track for pro­jected har­vests. Each stage in the growth cycle is crit­i­cal.

    Avo­ca­dos, grown on trees, have a tree growth cycle with six stages: flow­er­ing, shoot growth, root growth, fruit set, fruit growth, and har­vest.
    That’s a lot to watch and care for dur­ing each sea­son.

    Cal­i­for­nia pro­duces about 90 per­cent of the nation’s avo­cado crop. Ninety-​five per­cent of Cal­i­for­nia avo­ca­dos are the Hass (rhymes with pass) vari­ety.

    The Hass vari­ety accounts for about 80 per­cent of all avo­ca­dos eaten world­wide. By now, most of us under­stand that an avo­cado is actu­ally a fruit.