As you know, our company roots run very deep when it comes to Kiwifruit. It was back in 1962 that my mom, Frieda, was first introduced to the Chinese Gooseberry, which was then being commercially grown in New Zealand. She immediately imported her first shipment of about 240 boxes, but it took her more than four months to sell them. That’s how she discovered that Kiwifruit has a great shelf life!

The next season, she suggested that the Kiwifruit growers produce some marketing materials to help educate the produce buyers and consumers on how to handle them. Kiwifruit needs to be ripened so it’s soft enough to eat, and people needed information on how to enjoy them – more than just a neat-looking garnish. In the early years, we even told people that Kiwifruit tasted like strawberries so they had something familiar to compare them to. Today, Kiwifruit tastes like Kiwifruit!

And about that name … Chinese Gooseberry. It was problematic for us since the fruit was not from China and not related to gooseberries. My mom is credited with helping change the name to Kiwifruit, after the Kiwi, New Zealand’s national bird, which similarly has brown “fur.”

Over the years more and more Kiwifruit was being grown around the world and our company began playing a relatively smaller role in its marketing. But, we’ve always continued to sell Kiwifruit.

Back in 1993, we got a call from a local backyard farmer named Roger Meyer. He had developed a small crop of yellow-fleshed Kiwifruit, which he had been researching for more than 10 years. We worked with Roger for many years, marketing and selling his annual crop of a few hundred cases of Yellow Kiwifruit.

Today Gold (Yellow) Kiwi has become quite a large business, and Zespri in New Zealand is growing hundreds of thousands of pounds of this fruit not only in New Zealand but also in California.

A few years earlier (1988), we got word of another variety of kiwi called “Hardy Kiwi” coming out of Oregon. It was called “Hardy” because the rootstock held up fairly well to different growing conditions. But, we didn’t like the name…

So, the fruit was renamed Baby Kiwifruit and, funny thing — they actually resemble green gooseberries!

Baby Kiwifruit are typically green and fuzzless and about the size of grapes. The inside flesh is green, with small edible black seeds, just like regular kiwifruit. They are only available for a short window of time — and the U.S. season typically starts in late September and goes through October. Growers have found that it’s easiest to pack them in clamshell trays, just like other berries.

Of course, Baby Kiwifruit are also kid-friendly, and a great way to make your fruit salads more interesting. Or, you can just eat them out of hand, although I sometimes find them reminiscent of green eye balls…

The first shipment of the season arrived in our warehouse on September 27, and we are already shipping them cross-country! If you can believe it – our biggest customers for these cute fruits are in New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania!

Look for Baby Kiwifruit near the berries in your produce department (they need to be refrigerated). If you don’t see them, please go ask your produce manager or store manager to order them for you.


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Three years ago when my daughter Alex bought her Mac computer for college, my husband recommended she get a “back-up drive,” so she could save a copy of all her work, in case something happened to her computer.

When I asked Alex about it, she said, “Yeah mom, I subscribed to Apple’s back-up service for less than $100 a year.”

“But Alex, you need to get a back-up drive.”

“No mom, I am going to just back it up to the cloud.”

“The cloud?”

Never gave it a second thought, until I was attending an agri-business seminar this past March. The last speaker for our three-day conference was there to talk about the latest and greatest in the IT (information technology) world.

The focus of his presentation? Cloud computing.

Cloud computing, in essence, gives you the ability to use services on demand, rather than having your own hardware and software. There are public clouds, private clouds and hybrid public/private clouds.

Right now, owners of businesses can opt NOT to buy their own computer hardware and software systems, and instead can use the cloud option. Find a company whose software you like — and pay as you need it. You can operate your business from your laptop, utilizing THEIR software and hardware. Their information may be stored in a public cloud, or private cloud. Welcome to the new business model.

There is even a book called Cloud Computing for Dummies! Here is an excerpt from the book, explaining the cloud:

The “cloud” in cloud computing can be defined as the set of hardware, networks, storage, services, and interfaces that combine to deliver aspects of computing as a service. Cloud services include the delivery of software, infrastructure, and storage over the Internet (either as separate components or a complete platform) based on user demand. Cloud computing is the next stage in the Internet’s evolution, providing the means through which everything — from computing power to computing infrastructure, applications, business processes to personal collaboration — can be delivered to you as a service wherever and whenever you need.

Read more here.

You’ve probably already used cloud computing services without realizing it.

• Ever use a back-up assistant for your cell phone? That’s the cloud.
• Do you have a Gmail, Yahoo, AOL or other web-based email account? The cloud.
• Use to manage your customer lists and contacts? The cloud.

I encourage you to check it out, because according to what I’ve read, Amazon and Google are already using the cloud to store much of their information. The future is now! Well, I guess this gives new meaning to the saying, “my head is in the clouds.”

And now you know!

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If you are not in the produce industry, you probably didn’t know that there is a National Apple Month. Actually, I just read that the U.S. Apple Association has made National Apple Month into a three-month promotion – September, October and November… I think that makes it an oxymoron! Regardless, having an apple month is a great way to communicate to consumers that freshly harvested apples are available.

We are so spoiled here in the United States — almost all of our fruits and vegetables are available 12 months out of the year, so we may not even realize when the new crop of anything becomes available.

Well it’s that time for apples. And if you live near an apple-growing area, you are surely aware of it, as many farmers have a “pick your own” event at their orchards. Although I have never picked my own apples, I have many friends across the country who say that it is a wonderful weekend family activity.

Most commercial apple growers in the United States harvest their fruit during a three-month time period. I called one of my apple grower friends (Brian in Wenatchee, WA) and he gave me the scoop:

Growers harvest apples at different times, depending on the timing of their ripening. Some varieties are ready to harvest in August (like Galas and Honeycrisp). Then in September come the Braeburn, Cameo, Fuji, Golden Delicious and Jonagold. And finally, the season finishes up in October and sometimes November with Granny Smith, Pink Lady and Red Delicious. And there are many other varieties — these are just the biggies from the West Coast. New York apple growers have many other varieties.

Apples are still harvested by hand into bushel baskets (if the trees are tall, they have to climb up ladders to harvest), and then transferred to large bins holding a thousand pounds or more. The apple bins are then transported by truck to a cold storage/packing shed where they are inspected for quality and ripeness (using a refractometer). Next, the apples are immediately put into cold storage (33 to 34 degrees).

The fruit is then washed, graded, waxed and packed into large 40-pound cartons, in which all apples are the identical size. You should see some of the high-tech equipment that apples are packed on. It is an incredibly fast-paced sight to see!

Imagine for a moment how big the apple industry must be. Growers have to produce enough apples to supply every single consumer (through supermarkets and restaurants) in America, 365 days a year. Plus, I’m certain that every apple grower and shipper exports apples to other countries around the world, too. And, yes, even though you might find apples from New Zealand in your local supermarket at various times of the year, the U.S. apples growers are the primary source of supply, which is why apples are commercially grown in 36 states!

We all know the saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Well, listen to your mother and grandmother! Apples are high in fiber, fat free, sodium free and they are a source of the mineral boron, which may promote bone health. (More info on boron here.)

So, next time you entertain, instead of having a wine-tasting party, why not have an apple-tasting party! Take off the labels, and cut various apple varieties into eighths. Have your guests score each (unnamed) one on sweetness, color, tartness, crunchiness, etc. I bet you’ll be surprised. Many people think that apples only come in three colors (red, green and yellow) and may not realize the incredible flavors and textures that are available.

When shopping for apples, you’ll find that some retailers refrigerate them. We think that’s good! Apples should always be refrigerated to maintain their freshness and crispness. When you get them home, store your apples in the fridge, not on the counter.

As far as my favorite apple variety, I have to side with my mother. We both love the Fuji apple. They are quite sweet-tart and very crunchy.

So, during your next stop at the grocery store, check out the apple display. This is the time of year when supermarkets have “Apple-o-Rama” promotions and you’ll have the most choices.


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Most of us probably don’t give a second thought to the vegetable seed industry, but I can tell you that in my business, seed companies are extremely important.

There are trade groups, such as the American Seed Trade Association, and there are the big seed companies, like Syngenta, Monsanto and Nunhems. There are also niche seed companies such as Stokes Seeds, Paramount Seeds, Corona Seeds, Seedway, Seeds by Design and Siegers Seed Co. — just to name a few.

I’ve mentioned before that I read some pretty crazy publications in my work, and as I was catching up on my stack last weekend, I came across the June issue of American Vegetable Grower Magazine. I was fascinated with an article on the future of the vegetable seed industry, so I wanted to share some highlights from it.

What trends are driving the vegetable seed industry?

Global food demand is right there on top. The farmers who grow the food we eat are part of an amazing patchwork of food producers across the world. As the world’s population grows, plant science plays a vital role in meeting the global food demand. Other trends include plant disease problem solving and developing seeds that produce superior tasting foods. (Taste is always No. 1 in my book.) In addition, new and unique vegetable varieties — think maroon carrots and purple snow peas — is another trend driving today’s seed industry.

What do growers look for in new seed varieties?

Farmers want to grow foods that are disease- and insect-resistant. Did you know that seed companies play an important role by developing varieties that will reduce the need for pesticides, herbicides and insecticides? And some seeds will grow better in different climates and soil types. Companies are busy developing a corn variety for grain that grows in Iowa, which will be completely different than the fresh corn grown in Northern California.

What are the biggest challenges for the vegetable seed industry now?

Consolidation in the grower community is a major challenge. Consolidation happens when companies join together, so that instead of a group of small growers, you might have only one VERY LARGE grower. So, when a seed company approaches a commercial grower with something innovative, it’s often more difficult to reach the decision makers.

(It’s the same phenomenon that we have seen in the supermarket business. Many of us only have two or three large supermarket companies in our area, when we used to have six or eight. This makes it more challenging for food suppliers like Frieda’s and offers consumers fewer choices.)

The good news is that just as consolidation is happening in all segments of business, it is cyclical. There are always entrepreneurs who are not satisfied with the status quo and launch their own companies. That’s how Frieda’s ended up with seedless watermelons. (A small company a few decades ago pioneered this now-mainstream product.)

So, now when you go to the market and pick out your fresh veggies, you might think twice about how they got there.

And now you know!


 Cucumbers are one of my favorite vegetables. I love their refreshing, cooling flavor. But as I was growing up, I always hated peeling off the outside skin (a necessity as the skin was bitter). As you must know, field grown cucumbers have a tough (though edible) skin. It just seems like so much work to have to peel them, before slicing and adding to salads.

Enter: Hot House Cucumbers, aka Hydroponic Cucumbers, aka European Cucumbers, aka Seedless Cucumbers, aka Burpless Cucumbers. It probably won’t come as a surprise that Frieda’s Inc. had a hand in the first marketing of this now widely grown product. It was back in the late 1960s that my mother received the first Hot House Cucumbers at her produce stand at the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market. They were kind of strange looking and originally came all the way (by truck) from Florida. First of all, they were wrapped in plastic film (partially to identify them from the field grown version and also to protect them from the cold – since they are grown in hot houses, they should NOT be refrigerated).

Second, they did not have to be peeled. It took many years, and lots of educational material, to make sure consumers and produce buyers knew that they did not have to be peeled. What a time saver! And they had an added bonus: (to be blunt) they do not make you burp, which used to be a common complaint.

Now they are grown and distributed throughout the United States from as far north as Canada and in many places throughout North America and Mexico. As with most vegetables, the harvests move from growing area to growing area, starting in the south (Mexico) in the winter months and moving north (Canada) in the summer.

The latest “innovation” in cucumber marketing is the “baby” Persian cucumber. These mini cucumbers are about 6 inches long and usually come packed in clamshells or bags and now can be found in most every supermarket across the country. They are called “Persian” cukes because these miniatures have long been popular with shoppers of Persian and most Middle Eastern descents. Sliced into salads, they are quite firm and crunchy. And they do not have to be peeled.

I’m thrilled that they are now widely available. I can buy either a 1 lb. or 2 lb. package a couple of times a week, and store them in the refrigerator. I slice 1 or 2 of them lengthwise and include them in my own lunch or my daughter’s. They are great eaten as is, or dipped in hummus.

I still purchase the Hot House Cucumbers, as I find they have a softer texture when thinly sliced into salads. And try this for a refreshing beverage…When you are entertaining add thin slices of cucumber and lemon to water. It gives a fresh, earthy flavor and is healthy alternative to other beverages (like sodas…which are virtually banned at my house).

I do have one recommendation when purchasing Hot House Cucumbers: pick a good one which will last at home – inspect the ends to make sure they are NOT soft. That’s the part that goes bad first. Some retailers refrigerate them and others do not. When you get home, it’s best to store them at the same temperature that you purchase them (it’s the change in temperature and humidity that causes them to go bad quickly).


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If you’re a Los Angeles native (like I am) …then you know what’s at the intersection of these two streets. It is the Original Los Angeles Farmers Market.

Nearby is the famed multi-level Beverly Center shopping mall, the Fairfax District (filled with Judaica shops and New York-style delicatessens) and not far from Rodeo Drive.

A few weeks ago, my husband, who is a Houston native and moved to Los Angeles just three years ago, made reservations for us to take the Melting Pot Food Tour of the Los Angeles Farmers Market.

Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m. was the appointed time. (They conduct tours several days a week.) We lucked out–there were only four other people in our group when there usually are 12-15 people on each tour.

They had “suggested” we not eat breakfast before we start this 3 ½ hour walking/sampling tour. I only wish I had taken their advice.

Our first stop was at Bob’s Coffee & Doughnuts for coffee and the best doughnuts I’ve ever tasted.  (Llet me assure you that I do not like doughnuts–they make my stomach hurt.) These were fresh and AMAZINGLY good. (And my stomach didn’t even notice!). Okay, I’m full already and it’s only 9:45!

Then we spent the next two hours tasting French cheese and bread, homemade peanut butter and peanut brittle, agua dulce (sweetened fruit juice), Brazilian barbecue, and more. There are more than 25 shops and 50 different eating establishments at the Los Angeles Farmers Market. It’s a foodie and tourist haven. I was stuffed, and it was only 11:30.

And now, for the piece de resistance! We walked outside the Farmers Market and about ¾ of a mile up West 3rd Street. On this Sunday morning, there weren’t a lot of people out, so it was an easy walk. We saw Derringer Cycles (for all you motorcycle buffs), A.O.C. and Little Next Door (apparently two of the hottest restaurants in L.A.). And, my personal favorite, Joan’s on Third, which is the most amazing food establishment and, I believe, the inspiration for the Dean & DeLuca national chain of gourmet food stores. There we were served samples of their #1 selling food item: Chinese Chicken Salad which was to die for!

Before we ended our tour with lunch (did I mention not to eat breakfast before you go on this tour??) at Mishima, a Japanese Noodle bar. We also walked by the New York-style, Sex and the City-inspired bakery, Magnolia, which had opened for business just days before.

All I can say is that it was well worth the $49 per person for the “culinary walking adventure.” And, whether you are a Southern California native or are here visiting for a few days – this was a landmark that is not to be missed!

And by the way, wear comfortable shoes and DO NOT EAT BEFORE THE TOUR!

From your new tour guide,


Ever since I was young, I have loved eggplant. I’m not sure why. (Maybe it’s because it’s also called by its French name, Aubergine…pronounced oh-bear-jhean…in Europe and Canada).

But I do remember that my late Auntie Ruth (my mother’s older sister) always served an eggplant caponata dip, with crackers, at all our family gatherings. The squishy, chewy texture, and rich flavor brings back so many memories.

So, a few years ago, when I started barbecuing during the summers, I began experimenting with eggplant on the grill. I feel like I have perfected it…as even our most finicky guests comment: “Wow – I’ve never tasted Eggplant like that. I like it!”

Salt and resting are my secrets.

About six to eight hours before I plan to serve my grilled veggies, I cut the eggplant into 1-inch slices (keeping the skin on). (I am referring to the large dark purple skinned eggplants that you find in your produce department.) I arrange them on baking sheets and salt them heavily with KOSHER salt, leaving them out on the counter at room temperature. The Kosher salt causes the eggplant to sweat (beads of water will form) and this removes the bitterness of the eggplant. After an hour or so, I pat off the water with paper towels, flip the eggplant slices over and salt the other side, and repeat the process for another hour.

Then the grilling begins. I fire up the grill (first on HIGH, and then when the grill is hot, turn the heat down to medium-high). I gently brush olive oil on each eggplant slice and place the oil-side down on the grill. Close the barbeque cover, let the eggplant slices grill for about 8 to 10 minutes. While still on the grill, brush the top side of the eggplant with olive oil. Turn it over to cook on the second side for another 5 to 6 minutes (or until tender when touched with tongs).

And now, the second half of my secret recipe…I remove the eggplant slices from the grill and place on a serving platter and cover it with foil. I let the eggplant rest at room temperature (under foil) for at least 2 to 3 hours. (Then I usually grill Zucchini slices, red and yellow peppers and Portobello mushrooms and arrange them on top of the eggplant, under the foil).

The RESTING does something special to the eggplant. The flavors open up. I usually drizzle a light Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing (or balsamic glaze) over the veggie platter during this resting period.

Nowadays, there are numerous commercially grown varieties that come in many shapes and colors. Check them out: Graffiti Eggplant, Japanese Eggplant, Chinese Eggplant, Thai Eggplant, White Eggplant, and Indian Eggplant.


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This summer, like many other businesses, we decided to use interns to get many of our “odds and ends” projects done. Plus, philosophically, I see it as a way to give real world experience to college students as they are deciding what they want to be when they grow up.

Most small companies might consider hiring one intern…but we decided to hire FOUR this summer. It was a big undertaking, but well worth it.

First, meet Kate. She has just started her third year at USC as an accounting major and she comes from a farming business. Her dad, Howard Elmore is a large vegetable grower and casually mentioned to me at a conference that his daughter was looking for an internship. I told him that she needed to do her own follow through, and send me an email and her resume. (I just hate it when parents try to do all the work for their kids…they are being helicopter parents. Let the kids learn what it’s like to secure a position on their own. They own it and will feel better about it.)

I was happy when Kate followed through right away. After a phone interview and interviews with three people from our finance department, we decided to bring her on board for six weeks to work in Accounting.

Second, there is Julian. Julian is the son of our Marketing Manager, Jaime. Julian has just started his second year at Occidental College. He is an Economics major and had never worked in an office environment. After an interview with two people in the HR department, we agreed to bring him on to help with special projects in HR and Marketing.

Third, there is Frankie. Frankie is my sister’s son and he is starting his second year at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo and is majoring in Mechanical Engineering. Frankie has helped us out before – so we knew he could work on special projects as needed.

So, how did it go?

Well, I decided to do something different and each of them was required to send me an email at the end of each week, giving a brief overview of “what they learned.” I learned a lot about their personalities, their writing styles and their level of detail. I also met with each of them, at least once a week – just to check in and see how they were doing.

I enjoyed their insights.

From Kate: The Company operates with an emphasis on cross-functionality between departments to ensure a smooth processes flow. The relaxed, yet productive work environment also helps the communication (I believe) between sales, buyers, accounting, marketing and warehouse logistics. Also, the Company’s relationships with growers stress communication. I learned from Dorian about Frieda’s vested interest in customer satisfaction, and the importance of forming long-term relationships with growers with an equal interest in the quality of the product and ultimately consumer satisfaction.

From Julian: Each week has brought some sort of new task to finish or new skill to develop. Along the way I have learned how to use Excel, Photoshop, Illustrator, how to write in HTML and FBML code and even how to edit a movie in iMovie. Yet it was the intangible lessons I am learning from being in a professional environment that will resonate most with me in my future endeavors.

From Frankie: I learned about food safety auditing and what it is. I learned about what the agricultural industry has to do to meet safety standards and how few are known to be third-party certified. This was a tough project for me, as I only knew some of my instructions, going into the project. Much of the paperwork was a foreign language to me, so I learned how complicated (but necessary) it can be.

Since Kate left to go back to school in August, she has called and emailed me several times. She has told me over and over again that her friends who did internships this summer, basically did filing all summer. She was so proud to tell them that she helped us document actual finance processes as part of our computer upgrade.

Julian was effusive on his last day. He was thrilled to tell me that during his last week, he was allowed to use his computer skills and produced (using raw footage and raw soundtrack) the rough-cut to one of our Specialty Produce 101 YouTube videos (soon to be published on our Frieda’s Specialty Produce Channel). He also said that the most important skill he learned during his time interning in our office was proper protocol for working in an office environment. (I never thought about how important a skill that is to teach our college students.)

And Frankie was a surprise for me. He sat right outside my office and we got to interact each day (he is very funny). Frankie spent much of his time on the phone during his six weeks here – calling suppliers. He told me that he has improved his phone skills and no longer has call hesitation. When someone he called got a bit agitated, it was a challenge for him. But he improved his people skills. He learned how to better negotiate (get the information we needed) and although it was frustrating when people didn’t do what they said they would, so he would just call back again.

Earlier, I mentioned that we had 4 interns this summer. Our fourth, Rolff, will be starting next week. He is a third year student from EARTH University (in Costa Rica). He and his family are from Haiti and we are excited that he will be working with us for three months. I will be writing more about Rolff in a few months.

No matter how small (or large) your company is, I highly recommend having student interns. What a great way to give back…and for students to get real world experience.


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Each Sunday, after our breakfast together, I have gotten into the habit of taking my mom grocery shopping.

This past Sunday, we had stopped into our local Whole Foods so she could pick up a few things. As we walked through the produce department, I noticed a small display of hard-shelled squash. Seeing the Sweet Dumpling and Delicata Squash reminded me of my first few years in the produce business. It seemed that every fall season (back in the late 1970s) would bring a new variety of squash.

At one point, I think we were offering more than 15 varieties – each a different color, shape and flavor! I found in those early days that most people (buyers and consumers alike) didn’t realize that squash was edible…they thought they were totally for decoration. All hard shelled squash are edible, but the bigger ones are just harder to cut.

What I like most about Sweet Dumpling and Delicata Squash is their small size and great flavor. Sweet Dumpling has an internal golden flesh which is thick and super sweet. Delicata, even though it looks similar with its green and cream stripes, tastes like Corn Chowder! Really, like corn chowder.

When you pick up a squash, it should be heavy for its size. If it seems light in weight, it is probably dehydrated. The domestic squash season starts in late August and goes through Thanksgiving, so most of the squash you find now should be heavy (and meaty), since they are freshly harvested.

Microwave or Oven? Everyone always asks this. Well, if you are in hurry (during the week) – then by all means, use the microwave. You should always halve the squash before cooking (which hastens the process) – and it should take less then 10 minutes (but let the squash rest for about 5 minutes, to complete the cooking and develop a fuller flavor). For exact directions and delicious recipe ideas, click here to go to our website.

But, if you want to savor the smell and the taste of freshly roasted squash, then I really recommend baking it. Yes, it heats up your kitchen, but you can cook squash at the same time as other dinner items. The slow cooking time allows the full flavor of the squash to develop – and sometimes cooked squash can taste like dessert (instead of like a vegetable high in fiber and vitamin A).

Coincidentally, I was at a Gourmet Club dinner party on the Saturday evening before and one of the guests (my friend Don) brought a very delicious side dish…made with three varieties of hard shelled squash. I asked Don if I could share his recipe. Since cooking is one of Don’s passions, he doesn’t use exact recipes, so when you read this you will get the idea (this recipe serves 16 people).

Don’s Amazing Squash
The key is to make this in a Clay Pot with a lid.

The Clay Pot makes the perfect tenderizer for the squash. And yes, the skin on these varieties is edible!

So, as the weather continues to cool, take the opportunity to cook up some squash. Use them to decorate your counter top, until you cook them for dinner!


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