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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Friday, September 14, 2007

Produce Picker Podcast Episode 1

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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

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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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