Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year! This year eat a pomegranate, it's good luck!


The Produce Picker Podcast wants to wish everyone a Happy and safe New Years! Whatever you're doing/did tonight enjoy it and I think a good resolution would be to eat better in the New Year. Of course I'm talking about trying to stick to the good ol' government program 5 a day (no they did not pay me to say that, unfortunately).

But if you did choose to eat more fruits and vegetables in '08 then potentially it would be beneficial to stay tuned to the Produce Picker Podcast so that you could choose and prepare the best tasting fruits and veggies possible:)

Now I couldn't let you ring in the New Year without a produce tip so here it is.
Pomegranates are fast becoming a favorite winter holiday treat. Americans typically use them as table decor around this time of year however many are quickly learning what most other cultures have known for centuries, they're good and good for you! This is due in large part to the POM company and their introduction of POM juice (again no pay, I just think it tastes great. Wow, I'm quickly becoming a "sell out" and I'm not even getting paid. I don't think that's how it's supposed to work lol). Since their introduction of pomegranate juice a few years ago they have marketed the incredible antioxidant benefits that pomegranates and their juice provide and thus Americans have begun to realize the beauty of this fruit.

interesting fact interruption:
The ancient Egyptians used to place pomegranates in the graves of their dead for safe passage to the "other world."

The Pomegranate, however, does have a downside. It's messy! Real messy! If you get the juice on your clothes while drinking it or cutting one open it will stain. There is an alternative that is now being sold in most produce departments around this time of year, pomegranate seeds, just the seeds. This wouldn't be the way I'd go because it's just not as fresh but if you don't know how to cut into one or don't want to bother with the hassle and of course the mess then this is the way to go.

Speaking of not knowing how to cut into a pomegranate, this is a tip off to the next episode of the Produce Picker Podcast because this will be the topic I'll cover. Stayed tuned to learn the best way to cut into a pomegranate and get the seeds out. You won't want to miss it and you'll certainly want to try it, the seeds are great and add a great aesthetic touch to any salad or desert.

UPDATE: Here's the Episode! Enjoy:


Once again have a Happy New Year and stayed tuned for more great tips from the Produce Picker Podcast and Blogcast (this site's new name:))

Ray a.k.a. The Produce Picker

P.S. Check out the comment section on the previous post (12/30/07 located below the blog post in small print labeled comments) to see an interesting new product for your fruits and vegetables and meet Maya the first member of the Produce Picker Podcast community to contribute to the conversation! Join us!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Few Tips About Storing Apples and Ripening Fruit Faster

In a recent response to a blog post about Uncluttering your refrigerator's crisper, I posted a reply about the storage of apples. You may find some of these tips useful in your own kitchen. Thanks for reading.

Learning how to best store your produce will save you a good deal of money and improve your recipes. I work for a specialty grocer and knowing how to best store your produce, as a produce manager, reduces what is know in the industry as "shrink" (bad product that must be thrown away).

A quick note about storage. The gas given off by apples is ethylene gas and can be harmful as well as beneficial to your other fruits and veggies.

To speed up the ripening time of produce such as avocados, peaches, bananas, apricots, plums, pears and kiwis place an apple into a paper or plastic bag with the fruit you want to ripen faster. The gas given off by the apple will speed up the ripening process of these fruits allowing you to eat them sooner.

The ethylene gas produced by apples, however, will work against you in the same way. Fruits and vegetables that are placed, stored, close to apples will go bad (wilt, mold, decay) faster.
If you have to store apples close to other fruits and veggies place them in a ventilated bag, however, as mentioned above this will speed up their ripening process and will result in a shorter shelf life. Also, if you put apples into a bag together, make sure to watch that one of the apples in the group does not go bad. A bad apple amongst others will turn the rest of the apples bad because of the excess of ethylene gas produced by the rotting apple. The best advice is to store apples on a shelf, in the fridge, away from odor producing food.

Storing apples away from odorous foods is important because apples, which are a porous fruit, will absorb these odors thus changing their flavor.

One final apple storage tip, once you cut open an apple, drizzle a solution of 50% water, 50% citrus juice on the cut apples pieces to prevent browning. This will buy you some extra time when displaying your apple slices and improve the presentation of your recipes.

Learn the Apple Wrinkle Test in this video and make sure you're getting the freshest apples in the store!




Ray a.k.a. The Produce Picker

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Episode 6 - Cutting a Mango


It's time again for another episode of the Produce Picker Podcast. In this episode I'll show you how to cut open yet another tropical treat, the mango. Get cubed sized pieces that you can eat out of hand, include in a salsa or add to your favorite recipe.

Grab a knife (carefully!) and give it a try. You'll be a pro at cutting into this fruit in no time at all. Sure to impress family and friends alike, cutting into a mango is not only useful it's something of a show!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Reviewed!

Hey everybody. The Produce Picker Podcast and Produce Picker.com got a review on food411.com! Just thought I'd write a quick note to share my excitement and give you a chance to check it out. It's the fourth one (bullet point) down. Stay Tuned.





Monday, November 26, 2007

Updates

Hi everybody! I just wanted to give a quick update regarding minor changes/additions I have made here on the blog.

First, in an continuing effort to make this blogging thing easier for everyone, I've created a section located in the upper right hand corner of this blog where you can subscribe. When you enter your email into the box provided you will be given a few easy prompts and then you'll be an official Produce Picker subscriber. This means that you will automatically receive an email at whichever address you provide every time anything new is added to this blog. New videos, new blog post, new updates. It's easy and it keeps you updated without the hassle of having to check back time and again to see if there is anything new here. Simply subscribe and we'll do the rest.

Second, for each new episode of the Produce Picker Podcast there will be show notes. That means that under each show posted here you will find notes that correspond to what I have said during that episode. For example, if I mention honeydew melons you will find a link to honeydew melons that you will be able to click on and read more information about them.
Or if I talk about a certain knife used to cut the melon you may find a link which takes you to a site where you can buy the very same knife that I used in the episode. These notes can be a helpful resource to finding out even more information regarding the topics mentioned on each episode of the Produce Picker Podcast.

Enjoy and Thanks for reading/watching!

Ray a.k.a The Produce Picker

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Episode 5 - Opening a Coconut

Here we go with Episode 5. In this episode I'll show you the easiest way of getting a coconut open. Whether you want to make a party drink, a unique serving dish, coconut milk, or just wish to eat fresh coconut this method will teach you how to get to the inside of that coconut. Pick one up at your local market and give it a crack.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Did You Know...?

Did you know... a banana is actually an herb!? TRUE

... a tomato is a fruit or at least it was until the United States Supreme Court stepped in! YEP

... asparagus is packed in boxes with extra room at the top because the stalks continue to grow after they've been harvested! Weird, but also true. (just a little creepy, I think)

... placing an unripe avocado into a paper bag with a banana or an apple will make it ripen quicker? Check it out.

... the hottest part of a chili pepper is NOT in the seeds but in fact comes from the chili's membrane, or in the placental tissue, which holds the seeds? Confirmed. Also try drinking milk if the pepper bites back more than your mouth can handle.

... pulling the leaves out of a pineapple is not an accurate test of its ripeness. I heard this one straight from the horses mouth or the guys and gals at Dole. Same thing:)

You can learn more interesting and quirky facts about produce from this blog or by visiting producepicker.com. I bet you never knew there was so much to know about produce! Make sure to also watch The Produce Picker Podcast (a video podcast) where you'll learn the tips and tricks to picking out perfect produce.

Make sure to subscribe to this blog so you can be automatically notified via email of all new episodes of The Produce Picker Podcast and blog entries. Thanks for your support and interest and please send an email to Ray@producepicker.com and introduce yourself!

-Ray a.k.a The Produce Picker

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Produce Picker Podcast Episode 4 - Coring a Pineapple



I learned the technique for coring a pineapple from a classically trained French chef and now I'm passing that technique onto you. A little practice with this technique and you'll quickly become a pineapple coring expert. Remember to pick perfect pineapples by looking for green leaves, no blemishes (i.e. brown/soft spots, mold on the bottom), and an overall golden coloring. Pineapples are picked ripe and will not get sweeter past harvest only juicier. Enjoy and let me know how it goes for you and pass the word to a friend, the Produce Picker Podcast is the place to learn the best produce tips and tricks!

Ray a.k.a. The Produce Picker

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Produce Picker Podcast - Episode 3 - Avocados


It's time for another episode of the Produce Picker Podcast. In this episode you'll learn how to pick out that perfectly ripe avocado. These little guys can be expensive. You don't want to get home with an old one or not be able to use it in time for that party. Watch the tricks to getting the best avocado in the market.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Episode 2 of the Produce Picker Podcast - Watch Your Weight

Episode 2 of the Produce Picker Podcast. We're now also on iTunes! Search for Produce Picker Podcast on iTunes and subscribe. In this episode I demonstrate the importance of picking heavy citrus. The heavier the citrus the more juice it contains. The more juice it contains the fresher the citrus. Enjoy.

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video

Friday, September 14, 2007

Produce Picker Podcast Episode 1

Video thumbnail. Click to play
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Welcome to Episode 1 of the Produce Picker Podcast. The companion video podcast to ProducePicker.com, these videos will demonstrate the tips and tricks to picking out the freshest produce at the market.

Monday, September 10, 2007

What You Should be Eating Right Now.

Due to an ever expanding global market it's often hard to tell what fruits and vegetables are actually "in season." These days most fruits and vegetables are available virtually year round. But does that mean that they are always at their best any time of the year? The simple answer is no. Despite the increasing availability of items such as apples, strawberries, artichokes, etc. there still remains specific times of the year when these fruits and veggies are at their best.
So what should you be eating right now? Let's begin by looking at a few different fruits that you may want to pick up during your next trip to the produce department or farmers market. Up first, figs! The summer is ending and with it the height of fig season. Because figs taste best at the end of the season, now is the time to get your hands on some before it's too late. Make sure to feel the figs. You're looking for figs that are soft and yield to gentle pressure but not so soft that they feel mushy. What do you do with figs you ask? Plenty. Check out some of these recipes you're sure to love: www.californiafigs.com/recipes. Homemade fig filled cookies, count me in!
Next up, Bartlett pears. Another end of summer fruit, the Bartlett has a greenish skin that often turns yellow during the ripening process. Buy Bartlett's that are firm and allow them to ripen on your counter top. If you want to eat them now make sure they are free from blemish (i.e. bruising, soft spots, and stem punctures) and give to gentle pressure.
Finally there's melons. The end of the summer also means a peak to melon season. If you haven't already bought a melon or two it's time to do so now while they are at their sweetest and the variety available is still large. My tip is to try a melon that you haven't tried in the past such as a Crenshaw (my personal favorite) or a Casaba with its sweet, crisp taste. Right now there is a large variety to choose from and if you're lucky enough to have them available to you try as many as you can before they are gone. You'll probably find you have a new favorite melon when you're done.
That's what you should be eating now. Remember to visit www.ProducePicker.com to see examples of all the fruit mentioned. Thanks for reading!

-Ray a.k.a. The Produce Picker @ProducePicker.com

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Friday, September 7, 2007

A Tip for the Produce Rookie

When a new clerk is hired in my produce department I need him or her to understand quickly which products should remain on the shelf and which ones should be culled (an industry term meaning to get rid of, discard, or throw away) those fruits and vegetables that have gone bad or are in the process of doing so. In other words, these items are ugly and will not sell. Yes I know, in a world where people starve this sounds like a terrible thing to do and it is. Fortunately many companies are now making efforts to recycle these products or donate them to those in need. But in truth, many times these products simply get put into the trash. I encourage everyone to inquire at their local market as to their policy for culled product (a.k.a. shrink). Are they simply throwing it away or putting it to good use? If they have no policy in place you should send in a comment card or talk to the manager and suggest that in order to keep your patronage they should consider implementing a program to recycle or donate these items.
One of my first lessons to new hires that have no experience with recognizing good from bad fruit and vegetables is to simply ask themselves; would I buy this? If the answer is no then it must go. And before you ask, the answer is no, Johnnie Cochran didn't help me write that last line.
Because there is so much to learn when you first start working in a produce department such as what each item looks like, where it is located, what is is used for, etc., I find it easiest to tell the rookies (perhaps this is you) to apply the would you buy it rule.
The lesson here is that you should always take a couple extra seconds to look at the produce item you are buying and the others that are around it. If it looks appetizing, you should go ahead and pick that one for purchase. However, because often times the product available relies upon the subjectivity of the person who put it there, you should look at the surrounding like products (i.e. comparing one orange to another). The majority of items in the group should look the same. The bad items will reveal themselves in the form of bruising, soft spots, mold, wilting, discolorations and various types of other blemishing.
Until you learn the specifics of what makes each item fresh or if you never learn, simply remember to ask yourself; does that orange, peach, apple, lettuce, etc. look appetizing? If so then most times you've found an item that will yield fresh flavor.
Check back for more tips and personal anecdotes about picking fresh produce. While a piece of fruit might look appetizing on the outside it's often times the things you can't see that tell the real story. Here and on the web site I'll teach you via videos, pictures, and narratives how to look inside produce before you buy it and without cutting it open. You'll find the tips here will save you money and spare you the frustration of buying bad produce.

- Ray a.k.a. The Produce Picker @ProducePicker.com

Learn the secret language of produce at: www.ProducePicker.com and SUBSCRIBE to this blog at the bottom of this page and get automatically notified whenever a new post is made!

Welcome

Welcome to the very first Produce Talk! Thanks for joining me on this journey to explore the world of produce. Believe it or not there is a lot more to know than you might think. But perhaps you're here because in fact you already know this. Whatever the reason, welcome. The goal here is to deliver the knowledge I've gleaned working as a produce clerk. At the same time I hope to learn from you and the knowledge you might have from cooking, eating, growing, or just reading about fruits and vegetables. The final product should be a great resource for anyone looking to answer their questions or curiosities about all the various fruits and vegetables available. ENJOY!

- Ray aka: The Produce Picker @ProducePicker.com

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