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

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