Produce Department News!

Produce Department News - September 19, 2014

Farmer Updates

Greetings from the produce department! Despite the cool weather in the area we’ve been extremely busy sourcing new local and organic products. The weather has reduced all quantities of local produce. Farmers in the area have reported zucchini and cucumbers are done for. Unless you stop by the co-op and pick up Honey Hill Organic Farm’s greenhouse grown cucumbers that is.

Yesterday, I visited River Bluff Prairie Farm near Sherrill, Iowa to check out some concord grapes. It was a beautiful day and I was grateful to be able to visit such an amazing and magical place. Pulling into the drive I finally saw the vines and jumped out of my car to meet the family. I later learned these grapes grow on vines over 100 years old and have never been sprayed. When I asked about fertilizer I was informed it was merely grass cuttings that came from the rows after mowing. I was immediately given a sample of the grapes and I can only imagine what my face looked like once taking my first bite. The pleasant sweet shock was written all over my face! I looked at the farmers in amazement that such a little, plump grape could cause such excitement! After taking a tour and learning more about the farm, I was on my way back to the co-op with a car that smelled like grape jelly. Although these grapes are seeded, don’t let that deter you. The recipes you can use these bad boys are in are worth every bit of work. As it turns out, I was advised on how to make grape pie. It turns out to be one of the simplest things in the world. If you’d like to hear more, or grab a recipe from the co-op, please stop on by and ask the produce department for one and we’ll be glad to share! Don’t forget these grapes are ideal for jelly, juice and wine making!

Besides the beautiful landscape that transcends this area during the fall, we’re also fortunate for a bounty of fall root vegetables and squash. We’ve brought in two varieties of sweet potatoes from Tree of Life Gardens. All the squash in the store is also coming exclusively from local farmers. We are carrying butternut, acorn and spaghetti and we’ll see more varieties arriving in the coming weeks. ‘Tis the season for beets as well! This week we will begin exclusively carrying only local beets as well. Adam’s Garlic from Cassville, WI delivered a second shipment of purple carrots that are not only vibrantly colored but pack a major beta carotene punch! Little Maquoketa Organics will have their Pumpkins and varietal squash in soon also. There is a rumor around town we’ll be having a pumpkin carving contest here in the store so please stay tuned!  

Season Updates

  • Apples and pears are now coming in from out West. Here in the Midwest some early varieties are being harvest. We should be seeing local apples in soon.
  • Pears are also in full swing in the western U.S.. Around the time of frost is when we’ll see the local ones arrive here in the area.
  • Berries have been difficult to source. The U.S. berry season is wrapping up quickly. We have strawberries and raspberries here at the co-op but they’re going fast! Come and get yours now!
  • Citrus is extremely limited here in the U.S. In November we’ll start to see more availability from our neighbors in the southern U.S.
  • We still have a large supply of melons. There is nothing like a seedless watermelon to remind us of summer!
  • Pomegranate season has begun! We have an ample supply in the store and we all LOVE them!
  • Peppers are coming in full force, especially locally. Here at the co-op we’re carrying red bells, yellow bells, green bells, Italian frying peppers, poblanos, jalepeno, banana peppers and serranos.
  • Brussels sprouts have arrived! These are usually best after the first frost as it sends the sugars straight to the Brussels making them so tasty!
  • For those of you on the hunt for parsnips, we’ve been hearing rumors the harvest is starting shortly, as soon as I see them they’ll be arriving!
  • Local lettuce is in short supply but we’re crossing our fingers that Two Onion Farm will have some available to get our hands on.
  • Broccoli and Cauliflower markets are still tight. The spike in pricing will continue according to commodity reports. Bugs and weather have unfortunately impacted the season.
  • Tomatoes are still plentiful but winding down. If you’re looking to make salsa, tomato sauce or do any canning please keep us in mind. We encourage members to take advantage of our case discount program.

Produce Department News - August 24, 2014

Farmer Updates

Organic, local sweet corn is in the house! We recently received our first shipment in the store from the Wilson family out of Cuba City, WI and we’ll be looking forward to also having some in from Honey Hill Organic Farm in Potosi, WI as well. This corn is amazing, the kernels look like pearls! If you’re looking to freeze corn for the winter, whip up a batch of corn salsa or throw some on the grill we’ve got you covered.  I bet many of you are asking—why is this organic sweet corn so late in the season? The answer is interesting. Organic farmers plant their corn later than conventional farmers for a few reasons. First, there is less potential of GMO contamination from neighboring conventional fields due to differences in the time of pollination. Planting later also helps with maintaining the seeds have a warm enough soil temperature to assist with uniform seedling emergence, and it’s easier to use mechanical weeding systems as well. Lastly, it also prevents common seedling diseases. With all of that, it’s no wonder that organic sweet corn is so beautiful and tastes like summer!

Organic colored potatoes anyone? Not only do we have yellow, red and russet potatoes, but we recently brought in adirondack red and blue potatoes from Honey Hill Organic Farm in Potosi. These hearty taters are colorful and make a great addition to any meal. Both are have swirled colors inside that make them really stand out, especially in red, white and blue potato salad!

A recent new addition to our produce list, Josh Huberty from Holy Cross, IA owns Son of a Bean Gardens and has been bringing us his latest bounty of veggies. We’ve brought in pickling dill, bunched arugula, heirloom purple/green beans and heirloom golden wax beans that are delish!

Season Updates

  • The first shipment into the co-op of U.S. grown apples arrived today. They’re organic ginger golds. These apples are one of the first varieties harvested and pack a sweet, sharp taste. Their primary uses are for cooking and eating raw.
  • Locally, we’re seeing cabbage, ground cherries, potatoes, carrots, onions, cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes and MORE tomatoes. We’ve brought numerous types and sizes of heirloom tomatoes in.
  • The blueberry season is winding down. We’re still seeing some come from northern climates.
  • The demand for lemons is very high and the supply is low, the market is trying to stabilize but we likely won’t see that happen until after September.
  • Melons from the Midwest (and locally) are showing up. We’re now carrying Yellow Dolls (yellow fleshed watermelon), honeydew, cantaloupe, red seedless watermelon, piel de sapo, and snow leopard melons (like a white fleshed cantaloupe). Try one you haven’t had before!
  • We’re trying to patient at the co-op but we’re dying to get some Tree of Life mushrooms from Cuba City, WI! These folks are in their second major harvest of the season so look for their mushrooms (white button, crimini, and Portobello) in our bulk bins or in their new conveniently packaged options. They’ll be arriving in a few days!

Other News and Information

A question I frequently hear is 'why do produce prices change so often'? The reason for such fluctuations is that items in the produce world are commodities. A commodity is a raw material or agricultural product that can be bought and sold. Other examples of commodities are cattle and coffee. Although there are many variables that affect commodity pricing, the biggest are supply and demand, and climate/weather. With that, we consider the drought in California that hasn’t been only going on recently, but much longer than the average person remembers. It’s been going on for the past three years. A new report from the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences has found that the drought will cost California $2.2 billion in revenues and result in the loss of 17,100 seasonal and part-time jobs. Because we rely on so many products from California, that will translate to the store shelves in relation to pricing. Not only is California on the radar but here in the Midwest we’re starting to have weather that’s impacting our growing seasons as well.

Since we believe in being stewards of the community and its health, we’ve been committing ourselves to some sustainability efforts in the produce department. We frequently donate any produce that isn’t worthy of gracing the store’s shelves any longer or it goes into compost buckets that make their way to local farms and to the community garden right here in downtown Dubuque! We also save boxes from our distributors and offer them up to our farmers to help keep their costs down. Some of the boxes also travel up to the front of the store for you to use for your groceries. We strive to keep waste to a minimum and always recycle. 

First post!

Farmer Updates

As many of us know, it’s the busiest time of year for our farmers—harvest time! It has been magical lately to see the bounty of all the local farmers come into our store. There have been numerous local, organic items coming in throughout the week. Within the last seven days, we’ve brought in summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, numerous varieties of heirloom tomatoes, heirloom cherry tomatoes, slicing tomatoes, yellow onions, eggplant, and Cossack pineapple ground cherries (Kalee’s taste buds screamed they taste like fruit loops). Every farmer that is on board with us right now is happy and loves coming in to deliver their produce. It’s pretty easy to spot one of them coming or going with a big smile on their face! One of our farmers, Delia from Little Maquoketa Organics informed me that she sat outside all of Sunday and only sold $4.00 worth of produce. It made me realize the sad reality of just how difficult it can be for farmers in today’s world. She was extremely grateful that they are able to sell to the cooperative and loves seeing her produce on display. There have been many similar stories I’ve heard from other DFC producers. Not only are these farmers a part of our mission, but we are a part of theirs.

There are two more farms I will be visiting in the next week. One farmer will be providing us with shelled peas and the other farmer has ORGANIC SWEET CORN! In addition to those folks, we have two more farmers that have reached out to me today. It’s amazing to see just how many organic farmers are in the area!

Seasonal Updates

It’s been fascinating learning about the seasonality of produce. Although we all know about the Midwest and what does and doesn’t grow and when, what about out West where a large percentage of our food comes from? As we learn through the seasons, I want to keep folks in the know on this. Who would’ve thought that cherry season is over?

  • Apricot season is winding down.
  • We’ll be receiving our last shipment of dark sweet cherries Thursday. There are wildfires in Washington that have decimated cherry trees. It’s rough out there.
  • We’re still a ways out from the U.S. apple season. Currently, most apples are coming from Argentina or New Zealand (what a journey huh?)
  • Plum and Pluot season is in full swing. We have red and black plums now as well as dapple dandy pluots and green pluots.
  • Peach season is winding down. If you’re thinking of freezing them for the winter (peach cobbler in February, yes please!) get ‘em now!
  • Melons are in full swing now. They’re coming from California but we should start to see the local melons in the co-op soon. We have quite the variety, come over and try a sample!
  • Grape season is also in full swing as you’ll notice by the price. We expect local grapes to be coming in a little bit down the road.

New Product Spotlight

It’s so difficult to just pick one! Kalee recently spoke to a supplier and discussed the ample availability of pluots. What is a pluot? I didn’t know what they were up until about a month ago. It’s a cross between a plum and apricot. You might hear others refer to them as plumcots, or apriums. These little bad boys pack a major punch of vitamin C, vitamin A, fiber and potassium and a low in calories. We currently have two kinds of pluots in the store, the dapple dandy (aka dinosaur eggs) and green pluots. We’ll be doing quite a bit of sampling in the upcoming week so don’t forget to stop by and have a taste!