• How To Buy: Fresh Raspberries

    ...I love eating handfuls of Raspberries when they're picked fresh. Sometimes I can eat a couple of pounds a day...

  • How To Buy: Fresh Green Peas

    ...also known as "English" and "Sweet" peas are one of my favorite veggies. Sometimes tough to find fresh because of their short shelf-life...

  • How To Buy: Fresh Apricots

    ...today's varieties have changed a lot from our parent's days and it is quite common today to find Apricots the size of peaches...

  • How To Buy: The World's Hottest Peppers

    ...three things to remember when you're handling hot peppers are... 1. Don't rub your eyes... 2. Handle peppers by their stems... 3. Keep out of reach of children...

  • How To Buy: Purple Concord Grapes

    ...if you have ever had Welch's grape jelly, drank their purple grape juice or had their fruit snacks; then you've been eating Concord grapes...

  • How To Buy: Fresh Red Cherries

    ...I have sold millions of pounds of cherries and made a few mistakes along the way. Here are some great tips to buy and enjoy cherries....

Friday, March 15, 2013


Ruby Red Grapefruit


Honey Tangerine

video

Some of the best varieties of oranges and grapefruit have seeds. Seeded varieties of citrus are usually sweeter and much healthier to eat. Check out my short video... I show you how to remove seeds quickly and easily.

I especially love to eat Florida Honey Tangerines and Texas Rio Star grapefruit but hate chomping on the seeds and cleaning them off the floor of my produce store when I was in retail. This was my solution. Enjoy!

Monday, May 21, 2012




Green Kadota Figs


Black Mission Figs


Green Calimyrna Figs


Brown Turkey Figs


Fresh Figs on tree


Fresh Figs on tree


If you haven't had the pleasure of enjoying fresh figs before you're truly missing out. Sweet as sugar, figs are fantastic whether eaten fresh out of hand or used in desserts.

The most popular figs sold in North American markets are the green calimyrna and black mission varieties. But the green kadota and brown turkey varieties are also very good. Most fig lovers buy these by the case (called "flats") and they can consume them all in one sitting.


How to buy:

Fresh figs must be bought ripe. Figs won't ripen after they have been picked. Ripe fruit should feel soft to the touch and the outer layer of skin should peel away easily. Quite often there will be cracks in the skin this is another sign of ripeness. Pass on any figs that feel spongy or hard.

Sticky syrup leaking from figs is also a good thing. Shrivelled, moldy or pock marked fruit are signs of poor quality. Figs can become moldy overnight and spoil if they are left out at room temperature, always keep refrigerated.

I like to spread ripe figs over fresh baked bread, cook down some pears, squeeze pomegranate juice into the mix and finish it off with melted brie on top. Delicious...

I have sold tens of thousands flats of figs over the years. But the best figs I have ever eaten were off the trees at my friend Zia Talebi's farm in Oliver, B.C. a passionate grower.

Please let me know about your favorite variety of figs and any other comments my visitors would enjoy reading...

Friday, May 18, 2012


Ripe Gac Fruit


Gac Fruit Plant


Gac


Interior of Gac Fruit


Gac Fruit Plants


My wife Kim used to eat this unusual gourd as a child in Vietnam. Discussing Gac fruit brings back fond memories for her. We have travelled through Vietnam on ocassion and there are still a few fruit in the world that have captured my curiosity.

The Gac fruit is one of these curiosities. It is not always convenient to stop at a road side fruit stand and sample the local fruit. Unfortunately sometimes I have to wait years before I get to quench my curiosity. I will be back in Saigon later this year around Vietnamese New Years and will get the chance to eat my fill of Gac!


What is Gâc?

You are probably aware that tomatoes are high in lycopene.  But are you aware of a fruit that has 70X higher lycopene than tomatoes? And, you are probably aware that carrots are high in beta-carotene.  But are you aware of a fruit that has 10X higher beta-carotene than carrots?

It is estimated that there are between 250,000 to 300,000 species of flowering plants, and regrettably, only about 10% of them have been investigated for commercial or medicinal potential. Gâc (Momordica Cochinchinensis Spreng)(pronounced "Geuk" by native Vietnam speakers) is relatively unknown in western agricultural circles. Guichard and Bui first identified carotenoids in Gâc fruit when they traveled to Vietnam in 1941. The discovery of Guichard and Bui rocked the scientific world.

According to a 2004 USDA paper (reference below), Gâc aril (the red seed sac) has about 40-70 times the lycopene of tomatoes, and 10 times the beta carotene of carrots. West and Poovlet reported a concentration of 18,810 ug of betacarotene, and 89,150 ug total cartenoids per 100g.  This is the real deal. Today, cultivation of Gâc is exceedingly rare outside its native habitat of SE Asia. This is highly unfortunate and represents a missed opportunity for the health conscious consumers worldwide.

Gâc is a bright-red fruit that grows as large as a cantaloupe and covered with short spines, hence it is sometimes referred to in English language as "Spiny Cucumber" or "Balsampear".  It grows abundantly on attractive, vigorous tropical vines all over sub-tropical Asia, especially in Vietnam.  The vine is mildly drought tolerant, and reportedly hardy to 10 degrees F.  The large seeds cannot be spread by birds and the plant is considered non-invasive.  A fountain of antioxidants, as recent scientific research unveiled, this fruit is grown in home gardens and valued for its medicinal potentials.

Unfortunately, cultivation of Gâc is exceedingly rare outside its native habitat of SE Asia.  In Asian households, the red oily pulp is often cooked with rice. The color and fatty acids from the fruit pulp and seed membrane are stirred into the rice, giving it a lustrous appearance and oil-rich, mild nutty taste. The bright red color generates the visual effect that represents good luck and joy in Vietnamese tradition.


What are the health benefits of Gâc?

Recent scientific analysis of Gâc oil has revealed that gâc contains significant and extraordinarily high amounts of important anti-oxidants necessary for good health and slowing the effects of aging. The impressive graph below compares the amount of lycopene in Gâc fruit to other common fruits which are already known for their high lycopene content.  Gâc fruit contains 20X-70X higher lycopene than tomatoes. As such, Gâc is a commercially viable source of this important phyto-nutrient.  The lycopene is contained in the aril, which is the red oily sacs surrounding the seeds.  Insignificant amounts of lycopene are found in the orange mesocarp flesh of the fruit.





Gâc fruit oil also contains beta-carotene in significant and extraordinarily high amounts, approximately 10X higher than vegetables already known for their high beta-carotene content, such as carrots. Gâc also has high levels of fatty acids which creates a lipocarotene to deliver higher bioavailable carotenoids. Compared to beta-carotene found in carrots and dark-green vegetables, beta carotene from Gâc fruit appears to be more easily absorbed. Gâc extract has been shown effective in colon cancer tumor remediation in mice (reference below).







Carotenoids in plants are the primary dietary source of vitamin A worldwide. The most efficient pro-vitamin A carotenoid is beta-carotene which is abundant in yellow and orange fruits, such as mangoes, papayas, yams, and of course  Gâc, and in green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, sweet potato leaves, and sweet gourd leaves.   In developing countries, thousands of children go blind every  year due to a dietary deficiency of vitamin A.

Consumption of foods rich in b-carotene theoretically can replete individuals to a healthy vitamin A status.  Gâc is remarkably high in beta-carotene and is an outstanding potential resource as a natural cure for Vitamin A deficiency.

A number of studies have shown that each of the each of the carotenoids (such as alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein, canthaxanthin, zeaxanthin, and cryptoxanthin) can have different functions as well as concentrate differently in various tissues. For example, lutein levels are highest in the retina, the liver, and the lungs. Alpha-carotene levels are highest in the breast and cervix, while lycopene is very high in the liver, lungs, and breast.

Carotenoids play a major role in cancer prevention and control, and each acts in a specific organ or tissue. Some of the carotenoids, including alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin and gamma-carotene, are converted in the body into vitamin A. Others can be metabolized into a great number of compounds that have also been shown to inhibit cancer. And because they can be dissolved in lipids as well as water, they play a major role in protecting the brain.

Many people are aware that very high doses of vitamin A over extended periods can cause liver and brain toxicity, especially in the very young. The unique thing about carotenoids converted to vitamin A is that they will never produce enough vitamin A to be toxic, no matter how high a dose of the carotenoids taken. There is no known toxic dose of beta-carotene, even for infants.

It could be said that the Vietnamese people have the lightest, smoothest, and healthiest skin of all Asian races.  Recent scientific studies have demonstrated the skin rejuvenating, toning, and youth enhancing benefits of Gâc oil, and recent products have been introduced to capitalize on this.


What does Gâc taste like?

Gâc flesh and oily sacs are quite palatable and have very little taste,  it could be described as a very mild taste, in the same way that a cucumber has very little taste.  It is only slightly sweet or not sweet, and it would definitely not be described as delicious, more like plain or bland slightly nutty taste.  The aril texture is soft and mushy, similar to raw chicken livers.  The mesocarp (light orange outer fleshy part under the spiny skin) is about 2 cm thick and has a soft spongy texture.  It is normally discarded (composted!).  When the seeds and oil sac are cooked with rice, they impart a lustrous appearance and oil-rich, mild nutty flavor to the rice.

As with any pure vegetable oil, pure Gâc oil is not delicious, and it would not be wise to try to get your family to take it with a teaspoon in pure form.  Soft gels is the preferred method to take pure Gâc oil.  This is similar to many other vegetable oils, which by themselves are quite unpleasant to ingest. Olives are delicious, but a spoonful of olive oil, well, you get the picture.

For western diets, a convenient way to prepare Gâc is to drop the seed sacs into a pot of tomato sauce and cook briefly.  Of course if your tomato sauce has a rich tomato taste and already contains some other healthy ingredients like olive oil and garlic, the Gâc imparts almost no detectable flavor to the tomato sauce while turbo-charging it with phyto-nutrients. Add it to your spaghetti sauce, use it to make some pizza or lasagna, or slip it into your favorite salsa recipe! If you have had the opportunity to try fresh Gac please leave your comments below for other visitors to check out...

*Excerpts of this article are credited to: gac-seeds.com




Fresh Strawberries in the Garden


Fresh picked Everbearing Strawberries


Strawberry Fields


I'm a strawberry lover and when I come across a good batch I hate sharing. I used to hide the best fruit in the back of my store and dole it out sparingly to my favorite customers. They would come in and say "Ok Rick, out with it! What's good today and where are you hiding it!".

I have sold millions of pounds of strawberries over the years and become choosy. My standards are high, which means you get better fruit.

Finding the local berry farm and picking your own strawberries during the summer months is alway best. Filling your buckets and eating at the same time of course. This is a great family activity that everyone usually enjoys. Smiles all around.


How to buy Strawberries:

There are a couple of really good commercial brands in the supermarkets that I recommend. Driscoll and Well-Pict are the 2 best brands offering premium strawberries. New varieties bred to last longer on the supermarket shelf may not have that deep red color we always associate with good fruit. The taste test is always best so pop one in your mouth.

It's true good looking fruit with eye-appeal usually tastes better. When buying fresh strawberries make sure the leaves are green and the seeds can be either yellow or green too. If you are picking up a clamshell container of berries open it up and check under the leaves for mold, wetness and decay. The berries should smell nice. Turn over the container and inspect the bottom too, juice leaking from the clamshell is a sign of bad quality. Pass on the strawberries if the seeds have a brown or black discoloration. Pitting, pockmarks and wrinkling are signs of age.


Free-to-use Strawberry Transparents







Saturday, November 19, 2011



C-14 aka Royal Dawn Cherries


C-14 Cherries


Rainier Cherries


Rainier Cherries


We started picking C-14 (Royal Dawn) cherries a few days ago in Chile. C-14 is a very nice variety, so juicy, big size and it tastes wonderful. You will notice in the photos that they have a little nose bump, this doesn't affect the taste or quality. I love eating cherries fresh off the tree, at the beginning of the season I always stuff myself full. These will start arriving in North American markets next week. Our orchards are 80 kms south of Santiago in an area called Codegua and our partners have more fruit in the Curicó region. This season's crop is beautiful and the country is anticipating it's largest crop ever.

The Rainier cherries are ready too and gorgeous as you see; very big and excellent quality. We usually like them to color up a little more (red blush) before we begin picking. One of my favorite cherry varieties because they are so sweet. We lay reflective material (like mirrors) under the trees in the Rainier cherry blocks to enhance the sun's rays, this helps them color up nicely and speeds up harvest times. On Google Maps satellite view CHECK IT OUT HERE you can see the reflective material in our orchards. We will ship the Rainier as far away as Shanghai & Beijing.


Red-Striped Lapins Cherry


This is a new variety of cherry that appeared in the midst of the orchards last year. A oddball looking cherry that looks alot like the Rainier variety. We have grafted a few trees and will watch how they progress over the next couple of years. Quite unique with its yellow and purple flesh. Who knows you may see these in your local supermarkets one day in the not too distant future.




Young Pepper Plants


Young Green Pepper


Young Pepper Plants


No.1 Grade Extra Large Green Peppers


Young Pepper Plants


No.2 Grade Green Peppers


I always like to inspect produce first hand in the field and at the packing shed whenever possible. It's much easier to spot potential problems and manage at the farm level.

I've included a few shots of some young pepper fields in Oliver, B.C. taken in early July. This is a popular region to plant grapes, peaches, nectarines, plums, pears, apples, cherries and plenty of vegetables too.

Green Peppers picked at maturity should feel as hard as fresh picked apples (this applies to all peppers including hot varieties). When you break one open it makes a loud noise like biting into an apple or the sound you hear in those old Bick Pickle commercials. Produce buyers I deal with today are often amazed at the quality. Similar to Hot House Pepper quality without the Hot House price!

I usually like to spend some time discussing the right varieties to plant each season. Sometimes we make mistakes... As we continue to improve our quality, people like you will get better produce in your local supermarkets.


Free-to-use Green Pepper Transparents











Staccato Cherries


Centennial Cherries


Lapin Cherries


Lapin Cherries


Sweetheart Cherries


Packing Line in Wenatchee, WA


Besides growing and packing our own fruit each season, I spend countless hours inspecting cherry orchards during harvest. Controlling the fruit from orchard to supermarket is very important to me. I travel extensively during the growing seasons, I drove about 12,000 kms this year in Washington and British Columbia in about 6 weeks.

Not too many people get to eat as many cherries as I do, one of the perks of the job! I've uploaded a few cherry photos for my readers to enjoy. Notice how green and vibrant the stems are, a sure sign of freshness. Always check for green stems when you are shopping, the fruit will easily last a couple of weeks in your fridge.


Free-to-use Cherry Transparents