Saturday, November 28, 2009

Proper Method to Slice and Eat a Mango

Haden Mango - "Most Popular"

Keitt Mango - Excellent Variety

Kent Mango - Excellent Variety

Tommy Atkins Mango - Stringy Tasteless

Thai Mango - Premium Mango

Ataulfo Mango - Asian Favorite

Mangoes ready to be Harvested

Mango Tree

Mangoes are one of the most widely eaten fruits in the world, their popularity is only surpassed by bananas. No wonder with their fantastic peachy flavor and juiciness, often referred to as "The Peach of the Tropics".

I remember as a kid literally standing knee deep in mangoes in the warehouse because we just didn't have enough room to store them properly. The entire place had the overwhelming sweet aroma of mangoes.

The best varieties sold in North America are the Philippine (Ataulfo), Haden, Kent, and Keitt varieties.

Hadens turn a deep red yellow color as they ripen and all mango varieties emit a wonderful aroma when ready to eat. Haden have the nicest eye-appeal but they are slightly stringy and fibrous.

Sometimes there is a gap in the supply chain, to fill these gaps growers plant varieties that are not necessarily very good. Tommy Atkins is a very beautiful mango, but has to be the worst variety in the world. They are completely stringy and the fibers will get stuck between your teeth. There is not much edible mango meat and any flavor is lacking. This variety has been bred for color.

Kent and Keitt Varieties

The Kent and Keitt varieties can remain almost completely green in color when they are ripe. Most consumers are turned off by their bland appearance. This is a mistake since these are two of the sweetest, best tasting varieties; and they aren't stringy at all.

Philipine (Ataulfo) Variety

Also very popular is the yellow Philippine mango also known as the Ataulfo variety. The pit is very small less than 1/2 the size of the red varieties. Ataulfos turn completely yellow when ripe and aren't stringy or fibrous at all. Widely preferred by the Asian culture and slowly taking over supermarket sales.

How to buy:

Ripe mangoes give off a nice aroma and are slightly soft when you press your thumb against the surface. A little bit of black spotting is a good sign that the fruit is ripe too. Avoid mangoes with heavy black markings or black discoloration on the skin. These are signs of chilling or overripe fruit. Mangoes do not like overly cold temperatures and sometimes in transit from farm to supermarket fruit gets chilled

Press your thumb firmly against the stem of the fruit too. Quite often this is the first place a mango will begin to deteriorate. Your thumb will sink into the flesh if the fruit is beginning to rot.

If you are unable to buy ripe fruit, it's pretty easy to ripen mangoes.  Store the fruit in a warm place in a sealed plastic bag. The ethylene gas (fruit ripener) that fruit naturally produces, will trap itself in the plastic bag and speed up the ripening process significantly. Remove the plastic bag after the fruit is ripe. Do not refrigerate.

In my experience, Ataulfo mangoes chill the easiest. Inspect the surface closely for black discoloration when you are buying this variety. Sometimes the discoloration is hard to see. If present, the mangoes will be black inside.

I hope my post helped you a little bit and you picked up a few new tidbits. Please feel free to post your comments below...

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Chilean Cherries

You know in Chile, health care including prescription drugs is free so there are an unusually high percentage of transgender citizens in the country. We had a shortage of pickers last year and had to hire transexuals to fill in the gap. Nobody bothered to tell my partners so they were in for quite a shock when the girl they were talking to spoke back in a man's voice. I laughed so hard.

The crop this year has begun and will extend to February. Lots of cold weather and frost has hurt the crop and there will be a world shortage this season, the prices high, but the quality will be excellent. If you love cherries like me you can pick up some fresh cherries at your local supermarket right now. A real nice treat for this time of year.

2 bad seasons in a row for Chile. Last year a government strike shut down all shipping out of the country and after it ended, the government employees at the airpot in Bangkok went on strike, closing that airport during a crucial shipping period. Bangkok is a most important shipping point for Chilean cherries. Add the financial meltdown of the world economy to that mix and there will be few more growers getting out of the business this year whether they want to or not.

Support your local growers by eating more produce.

Nan Feng Mandarin Oranges

I laugh at how many little kids pick these up, peel and eat them right in the store (these are the size of a walnut). They look so appetizing, a true testimonial from our kids. There aren't many fruit a kid can pick up and eat the whole thing and peel by themselves. I will pick up a handful and eat 4 at a time. Easy-to-peel and so delicious.

Nan Fengs are the King of Oranges and you guessed it from China. The sweetest orange in the world and seedless too, my kids love these things and so do I. Available approx. November through February the only comparable fruit would be the "dancy" tangerines (seeded) for flavor and sweetness.

Not available in supermarkets, only in asian stores. Why I don't know...these have been around for many years. Like any piece of fruit make sure when you pick these up that they are not dry inside by following a few simple tests. They should be orange color, squeeze them gently make sure they're firm and not overly soft, smell them they should not smell like green mold or fermented juice; and lastly...peel one open and taste it.

I hope I've introduced you to a new variety of fruit you will love and enjoy forever.

Women can be so funny when they shop for produce, sometimes we would catch women eyeing the extra large cukes and they would nudge their girlfriend and have a laugh. They would pick them up and squeeze them and giggle and have a look of embarassment or laugh even harder if they noticed we were watching.

Produce clerks have to have a great sense of humor. We hear it all, "hey nice melons", "that's a lovely set of coconuts", "omg...don't let my wife see the size of that cucumber or she'll never look at me the same way again" and we take it all in stride with a smile. You gotta be happy and enjoy your job or we drag everyone down with our misery.

There are a lot of varieties of cucumbers available in your neighborhood stores today and I'm gonna talk about 4 of them...

Long English Cucumber

Long English Cukes are the most popular variety because they're seedless and the outer skin is soft so you don't have to peel it. Straight cukes are more expensive than crooked ones, they taste no different simply eye appeal. When you're buying any variety of cuke make sure the ends are green and firm, not yellow or soft. Green and firm means fresh.

Field aka Slicer Cucumber

Slicing aka "field", "slicers" cukes have lost their popularity because of their seeds, gas, and tough outer skin. There are now "burpless" varieties of cukes but I don't know any retailers that have a continuous supply available year round. Smooth skinned or bumpy, the taste is about the same. Usually the price is about 70% to 50% less than long english cukes.

Persian Seedless Cucumbers

Persian cukes are becoming very popular for those that can afford to pay twice the price of a long english cuke. The flavor and texture of a long english cuke and the crunch of a dill pickle. Nice combo.

Dill & Bread n' Butter Cucumbers

Dill cukes aka "bread n' butter", "pickling", "gherkins" are nice to eat fresh or pickled. The smaller ones have more crunch and last longer in your fridge. If you're gonna pickle them, many people put them in their washing machine to sit overnight in cold water to firm up and then turn on the gentle cycle to wash off the prickles. Saves a lot of time not scrubbing by hand. Cukes for pickling are fussy. Make sure there's no condensation on the bag if you're buying a large quantity for canning, cool and firm, not hot or soft when you squeeze them. Put your hand all the way through them to the bottom and make sure there's no field heat.

How to buy Parsley

One of the many ways I would get to know new shoppers in my store was to follow them through the store and discreetly drop fruit into their shopping basket. When they got to the cashier counter and proceeded to deposit their produce on the counter to be rung through, a puzzled expression would appear on their face as they would find produce items they couldn't recollect getting.

The cashier and I would always get a big laugh out of it as we let the customer in on our joke. Just one of the many ways we bonded with our customers and became friends.

Parsley is a simple herb and easy to purchase without much fuss, either it looks great and we pick up a bunch or it looks terrible and we don't.

I'm gonna tell you a secret to reviving parsley once it has become drab in your fridge. This can only be done once so you should wait until you're actually going to use it. Run the parsley under cold water, shake off the water and then put the bunch upside down in a glass of ice. After a few minutes it should revive and appear as fresh as the day you bought it.

A good storing idea is to cut about 1/2 inch of stem off the bottom of the bunch and place the parsley in 1 inch of water in a glass in your fridge and just use it as needed. Simple but works great.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Many of us have families and we stress and worry about what exactly is in the foods we eat. Genetically modified foods...are they safe for our children? Will they save the world from starvation? Are you even aware GM ingredients are in our foods?

This documentary explores the relationship between genetically modified foods (GM), the companies that own the patents and the impact GM foods have on our society and the world.

It is filmed and documented from the anti-GM foods point of view and we are only hearing one side of the story. It's important to remember there are always 2 sides to every story and to keep an open mind.

I believe we have a right to know what's in our foods and no one has the right to patent our genes.

Genetically modified labelling, world hunger, pesticide resistant crops, farming, the patenting of genes, and FDA irregularities, are just a few of the topics discussed in this hard hitting and informative film.

I would recommend it to everybody, watching this film will open your eyes to some of the truths that are rarely discussed in the media today.

Will GM foods feed the hungry of the world or this a just a marketing ploy to make them more acceptable.

I want proper labelling to know that the cereal I'm buying is made from genetically modified grains so I can make an informed choice.

Did you know the testing of gm foods for public safety is not required? Why not?

GM produce can often be a godsend to the retailer, extending the shelf life, ensured continuity of supply, and better eye appeal, which can add up to higher profits. But a public relations nightmare so it's a touchy subject they'd rather not discuss but if cornered, they will side with public opinion. It's important that we make our opinion known by filling out customer comment cards at the supermarket. This may sound silly but it can be a direct line to the heads of billion dollar's called Consumer feedback. Believe me it works.

When we planted our fruit trees a few years ago in South America we were required to pay a foreign company royalties for the Canadian varieties we planted. The trees were developed in Canada by the Canadian Government and the rights were sold to a large fruit company in a foreign country and they alone control who has access to these varieties and sometimes deny growers access to certain strains so they can control world prices. We grew many of the trees from seedlings ourselves but we were still required to pay a royalty fee.

The rights I believe were sold for one million dollars. There are approx. 6+ million trees planted each year at a royalty of $1-$2 per tree. Many growers believe there were some shady under the table dealings that went on. Unproven.

Our South American crops start a couple of months after the North American crops finish.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Potatoes are the no. 1 selling vegetable in North America. A simple enough tuber that is cheap to produce and easy to grow.

It would probably surprise you to know that potato packers and manufacturers are some of the wealthiest people in the produce industry and the country.

Usually paying the farmer a pittance and reaping huge profits for themselves. Produce is a commodity and like the stock markets... prices change daily.

I have a lot of respect for farmers and I have spent years in the field inspecting produce. Farming is damn hard work.

Potatoes are generally graded into 4 categories, A's - Large, B's - Medium, C's - baby, and #2's - small, misshapened (I could get more technical but I want to keep it simple and easy to understand).

Potatoes you buy in the stores are usually A's - Large with a few B's mixed in to increase profits. B's cost much less so packers will sneak this grade into the bags. B's are very hard to sell because of their small size and they're a pain to peel. Usually they'll be mixed into #2 bags of potatoes.

When buying no. 1 grade potatoes they should be oval in shape, clean, and have eye appeal. There should be no knobs, pointy ends, scabs, broken scuffed skin, green skin, deformed or misshapen potatoes in the bag.

If the potato bag is colored to give the potatoes inside better eye appeal inspect the potatoes carefully. This is a sneaky practice to fool consumers. Place your fingers on the potatoes and squeeze they should be as hard as rocks. There shouldn't be any wrinkles or eyes. The best test is to smell them, if they're rotten it's the worst smell in the world. Ugghhhh!

Russet Potatoes are the same as a baker potato so if you can find a bag of big russets you can save yourself alot of money. Whites and russets are especially good for mashed potatoes.

Red Potatoes are denser and take a little longer to boil and are perfect for potato salad because they hold together better.

Yellow Potatoes take less time to cook (boiled water), only 20 minutes. These are usually more expensive and have more flavor.

Baby Potatoes or "Creamers" are extremely popular and it's not uncommon to pay $2/lb for packaged product. Quite a few potato packers put "B's" in the bags and pawn them off as baby. When preparing these babies it's a good idea to cut a few in half and check for black centers.

Purple Potatoes or "Blue" are very high in antioxidants and I highly recommend them. Also they take about 20 minutes longer to cook in boiling water because they have such dense flesh.

The quality of potatoes in bags has gone down over the past few years because of unscrupulous packers. You probably know what I'm talking about. The only way to correct this problem is to fill out a complaint card at the Customer Service counter at your local supermarket. Complaints are taken seriously and will be checked out by management. Make sure you include the Packer's name or the Brand.

I have alot of friends that are potato packers too lol, the bad ones make it hard for the good ones because they can undercut by putting lower grade and bad product in their bags. With centralized buying being the norm today Produce Buyers see a lot less of the products they're buying and bad suppliers slip through the cracks.

I've always found the "Green Giant" label to be one of the best produce brands and I recommend it. No paid endorsement! LOL!

If you've never seen this video before you will be absolutely AMAZED! The best part starts about 2:33 seconds into the clip...