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.

Read more: “Voluntary“ →

Cold and flu sea­son is on the hori­zon. Some work places have already seen the unwanted viral spread of germs, coughs and sore throats.

This is a good time of year to refresh the fun­da­men­tals of pre­ven­tion. Invest­ing in healthy habits is a good jump start to ward­ing off a lousy cold or flu bug.

Flu vac­ci­na­tions are avail­able at nearly every phar­macy, gro­cery store and clinic in town. Dou­ble down on pro­tec­tion by boost­ing your immunity.

The Cal­i­for­nia cit­rus sea­son is just under­way. Some of the best sources of vit­a­min C are cit­rus fruits. Juic­ing up with new crop navel oranges, grape­fruits, tan­ger­ines, man­darins and lemons gives the body a lift and sup­ports the body’s nat­ural defenses.

A well-​balanced diet, rich in veg­eta­bles and fruits– leafy greens, cau­li­flower, mush­rooms and cit­rus fruits– pro­vides the nutri­ents to resist pathogens. Atten­tion to what goes on the plate is par­tic­u­larly impor­tant when fight­ing sea­sonal bugs.

Read more: Flu Shots →

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.

Read more: Mush­room Storm →

This won’t be the last time we get to sing the praises of win­ter squash this sea­son.

New on the scene, are the very curi­ous and cool vari­eties that we don’t see through­out the course of the year.

Red kuri squash, which also goes by the name orange Hokkaido pump­kin, has smooth flesh and a rich, sweet fla­vor that shines through in pies, soups, and side dishes.

A recent work­place recipe chal­lenge high­lighted a num­ber of hard squashes. From savory soups, stews and chilies to spicy squash salad with lentils and then on to a mix of sweet squash desserts, ver­sa­til­ity burned brightly.

Red Kuri squash seemed to pose the most threat to prospec­tive cooks, chefs and bak­ers. Not know­ing what this cute lit­tle tear-​drop shaped pump­kin tastes like was the first hur­dle. How to pre­pare it was the next obstacle.

Read more: Red Kuri Curry →

No one likes to get pushed around. Some­how, the early retail pres­ence of all things Thanks­giv­ing, Christ­mas and Hanukkah in Octo­ber feels like we are get­ting nudged. Stop the push­ing.

In the orbit of fresh pro­duce, we take our cues from truly sea­sonal veg­eta­bles and fruits.

Import pur­chases make eat­ing avo­ca­dos, corn and toma­toes a year-​round culi­nary pos­si­bil­ity. There are still a few Amer­i­can grown items that com­pletely set a tone for “here today, gone tomor­row” enjoy­ment. Fresh cran­ber­ries are indeed a sea­sonal har­bin­ger.

Native to North Amer­ica, cran­ber­ries are a pow­er­house of nutri­tion with sub­stan­tial health ben­e­fits. Antioxidant-​rich, they hold the magic for a mul­ti­tude of con­di­tions from pre­ven­tion to rem­edy.

This fall fruit dar­ling is har­vested begin­ning in Sep­tem­ber and goes through mid-​November in states like Wash­ing­ton, Ore­gon and Michi­gan. Wis­con­sin and Mass­a­chu­setts are the two largest pro­duc­ers in the United States.

Cran­ber­ries grow on low-​lying vines in imper­me­able beds lay­ered with sand, peat, gravel and clay. These beds are known as “bogs” or “marshes” and were orig­i­nally cre­ated by glacial deposits.

Com­mer­cial bogs use a sys­tem of wet­lands, uplands, ditches, flumes, ponds and other water bod­ies that pro­vide a nat­ural habi­tat for a vari­ety of plant and ani­mal life.

Most cran­ber­ries are wet har­vested when grow­ers flood their bogs. They then use har­vest­ing machines that loosen the cran­ber­ries from the vines. Air cham­bers in the cranberry’s cen­ter allows it to float to the water’s sur­face. The berries are then cor­ralled and trans­ferred to a truck for transporting.

Read more: Eat, Drink & Be Cran Merry →

There is some­thing dis­tinctly fall-​like when it comes to egg­plants. Maybe it’s their aubergine shades, or sexy shapes and curves that resem­ble fall gourds and squash.

Mov­ing back to heartier cook­ing meth­ods in fall makes egg­plant a can­di­date for ideal roast­ing, bak­ing, stuff­ing and grilling prepa­ra­tions.

Although the dark pur­ple ver­sion is really the best known and read­ily found in most gro­cery mar­kets, the shape, size, and color can vary. From small and oblong to long and thin, look for shades rang­ing of dark to pale pur­ple to white green and even yel­low ver­sions.

Those dif­fer­ent shapes, sizes, and fla­vors are uniquely suited for dif­fer­ent uses in the kitchen. The long skinny ones tend to be “meatier”, mak­ing them great for stir-​fry appli­ca­tions. The baby sized ones are ten­der and mild, and can be eaten whole, skins and all. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, the white and yel­low vari­eties are sweeter.

Graf­fiti egg­plant come in both large and small sizes. Their name comes from the inter­est­ing and pat­terned striped mark­ings on the fruit. They have small seeds and a thin peel, mak­ing them great to eat whole — no peel­ing nec­es­sary. They are per­fect for bak­ing, roast­ing and stew­ing. Names like Pur­ple Rain or Shoot­ing Stars attract attention.

Read more: Egg­plant Revisited →