Falling for Freshness

It used to be that spring and summer menus had the monopoly on fresh fruits and vegetables—especially in restaurants north of the sunbelt. But with imports on the rise and the burgeoning farm-to-table movement, the quantity, quality and variety of produce available in fall and winter has increased. That’s good news for chefs, operators and the customers they serve—all of whom are seeking healthy, seasonal and sustainable foods.

Crop Updates

Apples: Expect a record fresh Washington apple crop of about 108.8 million cartons this season, about 5 million more than last year. Varieties include Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Fuji, Gala and Granny Smith. The Washington Cameo apple crop is projected to be about 1 percent of the total state; it’s one of the highest quality crops on record.

Avocados: In the fall, all three major avocado-producing areas—California, Mexico and Chile—are getting product into the hands of vendors. Supply of buttery Hass avocados is high this time of year, making it a good time to buy.

Broccoli: Growing conditions have been very favorable for broccoli, notes Ocean Mist Farms, a leading vegetable grower. Quality is exceptional, although supply is a little lighter than usual.

Brussels sprouts: Stalk sprouts are available through December, as well as bulk packs, net bags and clamshells. Heads are coming in tight and firm with a brilliant green color, reports Ocean Mist Farms.

Grapes: Harvesting of the California table grape crop was delayed by about two weeks but all varieties should be in good supply through January. The California Table Grape Commission lists more than two dozen red, green and blue-black grape varieties.

Pears: The USA Pear Bureau reports a pear crop of roughly 385,000 tons this fall, down from last year’s bumper crop of 440,000 tons but still ample. About 84 percent of fresh pears are grown in Oregon and Washington; varieties include Anjou, Bartlett, Bosc, Comice, Concorde, Forelle, Seckel and Starkrimson.

Potatoes: Quality is good and yields very high, with a whole range of specialty potatoes coming into market, states the US Potato Board. There’s a wider selection of petites, purples and fingerlings, although the foundation potatoes (russets and reds) are still strong. The Idaho Potato Commission reports nearly 12 billion pounds of Idaho potatoes will be harvested this fall. The majority are russets (Burbank, Norkotahs, etc.) but about 6 percent of acreage will yield niche varieties. These include Yellow Finn, Yukon Gold, Russian Banana, Purple Peruvian, Cal Red, Huckleberry and French Fingerling.

Sweet potatoes: The harvest is underway in North Carolina and elsewhere, and will continue into the latter half of October. Acreage is up about 9 percent in North Carolina and throughout the U.S. to meet the rising foodservice demand for fresh and value added sweet potatoes, such as fries.