First of all, let me say that I do not currently practice Yoga. I barely have time for my current exercise regime, but everyone who does Yoga, always sounds like they love it. The stretching. The breathing. The meditative aspects. The fantastic way they feel after their sessions.

So, imagine you are an artist. And you and your wife practice yoga. And on Saturday evenings, you do charcoal drawings of your wife and other friends in yoga positions. What would you do with these drawings?

You might take your drawings, put them on bookmarks, note cards, art prints, and clothing, and start a business!

This is what my friends Tina and Steve did.

Reclining Double Stretch sculpture by Steve

Steve is an incredible artist. Besides the beautiful charcoal drawings he creates, I know his passion is sculpture. He has created some amazing sculptures and has assembled those that he has not sold into a sculpture garden in their backyard. Some of these sculptures are also stylized interpretations of yoga poses! Steve is a traditionally trained medical artist with a passion for the human figure and the poetry of Asana (Asana is the Sanskrit word for a yoga pose). Steve and Tina set out to artistically portray the serenity of breath and movement realized in yoga.

Over the last two years, we have become good friends and our dinner conversations have often revolved around them launching a business, combining their passions of art and yoga.

So many people want to take their ideas and turn them into a business. You know the story… “If I like this product (or service), there must be thousands of others who do, too…”

I cautioned Steve and Tina about many of the challenges of owning a business.
• They would need to be prepared to fund the business from their personal finances.
• They would both need to continue their full-time jobs AND work nights and weekends on their new venture.
• Married couples working together in a new business feel particular strains because they are together 24/7.
They told me they did their research (they went to yoga conventions – who knew there were such things?), and as they asked around, they felt they had found a great opportunity to be first to market yoga fine art. Not just “yoga shirts,” but shirts with images that reflected the values of yoga: Art ~ Breath ~ Movement. (Actually, that’s their tag line!).

Steve and Tina also invested in social media marketing — Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr and Twitter — which got the word out to the local yoga community. Then they staged an event with the partnership of the Huntington Beach Artwalk and YogaWorks Huntington Beach with a live drawing of yoga in the studio. The crowds were there and it was a big win for all three organizations!

Steve and Tina share the lessons they learned in these first few months (with my comments following in parenthesis):

1. It’s all about the art — the art is what makes them unique. And it’s how you display the art — since we started framing the pieces, revenue has gone way up. (They made it easy for their customers to visualize their art in use, and probably took a casual suggestion from an early shopper).

2. Start in your own local community — the outpouring of support we received from our local community has driven the business. (By starting small and local, they can be hands-on, and make corrections quickly. As in many businesses, your network of family, friends, and friends of friends are usually the early adopters).

3. People are passionate about yoga, and even more passionate when these two (yoga and art) are combined – over 14 million people in the U.S. practice yoga, according to Yoga Journal magazine, the premier publication in the yoga world. (They researched the size of their market and saw the potential. Their product appeal is NOT just local, but they will have to move quickly to make sure they don’t have imitators or cheap knock-offs.)

So, if you have a passion and want to turn it into an enterprise, it’s possible! Do your research. Put together a small “Kitchen Cabinet” (it’s like a board of advisors) of knowledgeable friends who will give you honest feedback. And whatever you think you’ll spend on your business in the first year, double or triple the amount. You will always run over budget.

It will be interesting to see how Asana Art (www.asanaart.com) is doing after their first year, as I expect they will be looking at new options to expand: licensing images, endorsements, and social media marketing.

The day after they received their first order of printed cards, I was at their home and was their very first customer. The cards are quite beautiful and artistic and even if I don’t practice yoga, I feel more peaceful by sending them to friends.

As you look at the images on these cards, you can see why they make me happy! Visit their website if you are interested in ordering some: www.asanaart.com

Namaste,
Karen

P.S.  Namaste is Sanskrit for “I honor the divine in you.”

Do you wonder why Easter is so late this year? Well, you can thank the Hebrew calendar. Yes, most people know that the “Last Supper” was really a Passover Seder (ritual holiday dinner), and it happens on the same day of the Hebrew calendar each year: the 15th day of the month of Nisan.

As I wrote in a previous blog post, this year (a leap year) the Hebrew calendar has an extra month of Adar, which makes the Jewish holiday of Passover begin almost a month later than usual, at sundown on April 18th.

Passover is considered the most important Jewish holiday because it represents the Jews achieving freedom from slavery. This is why it’s filled with all kinds of happiness and merriment.

As our rabbi reminded us recently, “It’s actually expected that you get drunk on Passover!” (Drink responsibly, of course.)

On the first two nights of this 8-day-long holiday, Jewish families have a big dinner, and it is encouraged to invite both friends and strangers. There are traditional foods and parts of the meal which are ceremonial. All attendees take part in a reading from a special book called the Haggadah.

For those of us in the fresh produce business, or if you just love food, we know that Passover has some very distinctive foods that are used at the Seder. And we know that shoppers will be looking for them at their local markets.

No. 1 is horseradish! Grating and eating fresh horseradish reminds us of the bitterness in the lives of our ancestors, and I’m sure the tears that you shed while grating the horseradish is a reminder of the tears that were shed. Fresh parsley, apples and walnuts are just some of the other fresh foods that are eaten during Passover.

Of course, Matzah (or Matzo — similar to crackers, that we call “unleavened bread”) are eaten for all 8 days of Passover. That’s right, you can eat no regular breads or cakes during Passover. Hmm… Sounds similar to the rituals during Lent — giving up favorite foods. Almost every single supermarket in the United States will have a display of Passover-safe foods for the month leading up to the holiday.

As part of this Passover display, I was actually quite excited that our local Ralphs supermarket offered special calendars for their Jewish shoppers. I’m sure other supermarkets that have a large contingent of Jewish shoppers may do the same.

You can find all sorts of information on Passover on this website www.happypassover.net.

Many churches across the country have begun reaching out to their local Jewish synagogues, so their members can experience the Passover traditions. What a great way to educate and teach tolerance in our community, don’t you think? Since it is traditional to invite strangers to the Passover meal, I encourage you to reach out to your Jewish friends and see if they have an extra chair or two for their upcoming Seder.

Happy Passover!
Karen

Now that it’s officially spring (which started at 7:21 p.m. EDT on Sunday, March 20), we’ll begin to see more springtime vegetables appearing in our supermarkets and farmers markets.

Just this week, we started to see good supplies of fresh English Peas at our local farmers market and of course at the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market.

Most of us are accustomed to buying our English Peas already shelled — frozen or canned. But if you happen to see fresh in-the-pod English Peas, and have some time, give them a try.

It’s a lot of work shelling peas, but they are so fresh and delicious. When you pop open a pod, you will find between 3 and 5 single delicate peas. They can be eaten raw, added to salads, or lightly cooked.

I’m sure it was the laborious nature of preparing English Peas that was the inspiration for developing something better.

What if you could combine the sweet individual peas with the delicate, crisp edible pods of Snow Peas (used in Asian stir-fry recipes) to create a new vegetable that was totally edible — peas and pod.

Well, that’s exactly what happened.

It was Dr. Calvin Lamborn, a plant breeder working at the Gallatin Valley Seed Company of Twin Falls, Idaho, who created this new cross: Sugar Snap Peas! I’m not sure if it was BEFORE he was featured in the April 16, 1979 edition of People Magazine, or after, but Dr. Lamborn contacted Frieda’s back in 1979 and we began selling and marketing these special peas on his behalf.

This was shortly after I returned from college and I so vividly remember introducing this new vegetable. I personally drew an illustration showing how to string a Sugar Snap, and this was included on our purple label. (We packaged them in bags to keep them moist and fresh.)

One of our first customers was A & P Supermarkets in Baltimore. We had convinced the local food editor (then Marian Burros, who went on to The New York Times) to run an article on the Sugar Snap Peas. And, once we knew when the article would be published, we contacted our retail customers in that area and encouraged them to have them in stock.

The morning that the story broke in The Baltimore Sun, we got a panicked called from the produce buyer at A & P.

“Shoppers are lined up outside our supermarkets (the stores didn’t open til 9 a.m. in those days), with copies of the food section in their hands. I don’t think we ordered enough of these Sugar Snap Peas! Can you fly more to me…TODAY?!”

It was a very exciting time in our company history.

Of course, today — 33 years later — there are many “new and improved” varieties of Sugar Snap Peas, Snow Peas and English Peas. Sugar Snap Peas are now found in veggie trays, alongside baby carrots (which we also had a hand in introducing in 1972) and cherry tomatoes. Our children are growing up enjoying so many fruits and vegetables that were not around when I grew up.

Stories like the origins of Sugar Snap Peas, Baby Carrots, Habanero Chiles and hundreds more like them, are what I get to do every day.

Changing the way America eats fruits and vegetables.

Isn’t my job fun?

Enjoy!
Karen

Although I love the taste of a fruit smoothie, I realized long ago that it was better for me to eat whole fruit, than to drink a smoothie, which usually has a lot of calories and natural sugars. Consequently (and much to my daughter’s frustration), we don’t go to Jamba Juice much.

But now that this popular smoothie chain has come out with three new drinks, I might be changing my mind.

A recent news release announced a new line of fruit and vegetable smoothies at Jamba Juice:

Berry UpBeet – Strawberries, blueberries, carrots, beets, broccoli and lettuce
Apple ‘n Greens – Apple-strawberry juice with the juice of darky leafy greens, carrots lettuce, peaches, mangos and banana, plus a shot of spirulina
Orange Carrot Karma – Carrot juice, orange juice, mangos, banana and ice

I think it’s fantastic that Jamba Juice has modified their offerings to be better for us! As I drive by my local Jamba Juice, I can’t help but notice all the kids who play soccer, baseball, and dance lining up. Now, they (and their parents) will have a healthier option that includes both vegetables and fruits.

I just might have to stop there in the future and give them a try.

Enjoy!
Karen

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Easter Egg Radishes

Yes, you read correctly. If you shop in an upscale store or at a farmer’s market, you may have noticed bunches of radishes that are anything but red. Obviously they get their name because they look like a bunch of colored Easter Eggs.

It was probably 25 years ago when we found the first Easter Egg Radishes. The grower presented us with bunches of radishes in pinks, purples and whites, and we went crazy. Not only is the name adorable, but the presentation of these multi-colored radishes is a conversation piece.

It’s only in recent years that we’ve seen increasing supplies of these radishes, which are grown primarily in the Santa Maria area of Southern California. Our longtime friends at Babé Farms (a family-owned farm) have developed quite a following for their specialty vegetables.

As with most specialties, there are always challenges in growing. If it’s too cold, the radishes don’t grow fast. If it gets too hot, the green tops get “burned” and may turn yellow or brown. (Even though you don’t eat the tops, having green tops makes a nice retail display.)

I personally love the taste of radishes, and so does Frieda! (Actually, every week, she purchases 1 to 2 bunches so she can munch on them or add to salads.)

One of my coworkers, Mary, shared a delightful recipe with me using radishes as part of an appetizer. (She tells me it is a very traditional French way of eating radishes.)

Buy a fresh French baguette. Cut into individual slices — on the diagonal if you like. Butter each slice with high quality unsalted Butter (I love Irish butter). Then, arrange a few slices of freshly washed and thinly sliced radishes on top. Sprinkle lightly with a high quality sea salt (Fleur de Sel). Of course, I say anything with bread and butter involved is fantastic!

Enjoy!
Karen

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know that when I travel, I like to read magazines that I normally do not come across.

Last week, while flying home from the Houston Rodeo with my husband, Garry, he leaned over and said, “I think y’all might want to check out the in-flight magazine.” Enough said.

I opened up the March edition of Hemispheres Magazine to page 66 -71 and read the most fascinating story, entitled “The Meal Plan.”

For decades, school administrators have struggled and failed to improve student lunches. This (slightly mad) professor offers a different approach: tricking kids into eating well. It’s Working.

You probably know that I am personally passionate about helping people get healthy through better eating (lots of fresh fruits and veggies, of course). So when I read this story about Cornell University professor, Brian Wansink, and his study of human behavior, I was fascinated!

You can read the entire article here, but this is the crux of his idea and the amazing results:

After he spent a week in a Plattsburgh, New York, school cafeteria, he made two SIMPLE suggestions to the school lunch manager to increase students’ consumption of fresh fruit.

1. He told her to place the fruit in attractive bowls by the cash register.

2. He recommended that she display signs urging kids to eat them.

Sounds too easy to be true, right?

Well, check out the results. The school lunch manager reported that two months after she implemented these two changes, her sales of fruit fresh had increased four-fold (to 1,000 pieces). She was stunned — and also ran out of fruit, as she did not expect that kind of response.

But, what was amazing and encouraging to me, was that the school lunch manager started getting emails from parents saying that their kids were now raving about the fruit in the cafeteria! (BTW, this is exactly the kind of response we saw when the U.S. Senate tested the School Snacking program about 8 years ago in 100 schools across the nation.)

It’s kind of like what I do at home. If I have fresh fruit on the counter, or pre-cut veggies in my refrigerator, my family will chose them for mid-day snacking, instead of unhealthier choices. Instead of asking my daughter what vegetable she wants for dinner, I give her a choice: Do you want asparagus or baby broccoli?

I hope you take a moment to read this article as there are some great ideas and “a-ha’s” in it. Some of you don’t have kids at home, but have close friends who do. Feel free to pass this article along, even to the school lunch director at your local school.

It benefits all of us to teach healthy eating habits to everyone we come in contact with.

Good eating!
Karen

Although much of the country is still covered with snow and experiencing cold weather, the first day of spring is just around the corner.

When I think of spring, I think of planting new flowers and fresh herbs in the garden. During the winter, most of us buy the packaged fresh herbs in the produce department to make our savory meals taste sensational. These herbs have probably been grown in greenhouses in various parts of the country, cut and packaged and then shipped to your favorite market. It’s the most practical way for supermarkets to offer fresh herbs to shoppers.

But in the spring, as you wander through your produce department, be on the lookout for fresh potted herbs (aka living herbs).

The living herb business has come so far. I remember back in the 1980s, Frieda’s worked with a couple, John and Mary, who were doing something very innovative at local farmers markets. They grew an assortment of fresh herbs in 4-inch pots and assembled them in tote baskets containing eight pots. We sold them to our local supermarkets. It was a successful, but short-lived venture.

Now there are growers all over the country who have built quite a business on growing pots of living fresh herbs. They usually grow and ship these herbs in their local area, as many herbs are a bit too delicate to ship cross country.

Some of the more sophisticated growers have developed a retail display system, with signage, shelving, and even a watering system, so that when you walk into your produce department, the display is eye-catching and inspiring.

When you see this mini-display of fresh herbs, I hope you’ll imagine how easy it will be to have a “home garden” right in your kitchen! Many of these potted herbs are not meant for replanting into gardens — they are meant to grow on your kitchen counter, so you can clip as you need.

Want to make an authentic caprese salad with fresh basil, tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella? Pull a few leaves off the plant on your counter! Actually fresh basil plants are the No. 1 selling fresh potted herb in the country. As we get closer to summer, you may find large displays of fresh basil in small pots near the tomato display.

Nothing tastes as good as fresh herbs added to a dish at the last minute. In addition to fresh basil, you should be able to find mint (spearmint and peppermint), dill, chives, tarragon, chervil, oregano, sage, marjoram, thyme and more.

Here’s one of my favorite caprese salad recipes.

Enjoy!
Karen

I was talking with my friend, Lori, and she mentioned that she had gone to her dentist several times to check out an aching sensation she was having in her tooth. After X-rays and several exams, they thought she was crazy. They found nothing. And now the pain is suddenly gone.

I told her that doesn’t surprise me. I said, “Lori, remember a few months ago you were complaining about having stomach problems. Have those problems gone away, too?”

She looked at me strangely, and said, “Yes, Karen they went away. And now that you mention it, the tooth pain I was having happened at the exact same time and that pain has gone away, too.”

I told Lori that every tooth in your mouth is “linked” to an organ in your body. Much like in acupuncture, where there are pressure points that are linked to various parts of your body. Lori had no idea what I was talking about.

So I went to my computer and entered this website: www.meridiantoothchart.com. I asked Lori which tooth was bothering her and clicked on that tooth. Sure enough, her stomach was linked to that tooth.

Call me crazy, but that’s exactly what happened to me. One of my teeth has been a bother for about 5 years. Coincidentally, I have been having problems with my thyroid for the same period of time. It was only when my friend, Al, introduced me to the concept of the meridian tooth chart, that I discovered a problem in that tooth (I needed a root canal). Once I had the root canal about two months ago, my thyroid calmed down and stopped giving me problems.

Al also recommended I see a biologic dentist. A biologic dentist uses different protocols when they are treating you. They use no metals in your mouth.

I found out, from my research, that some metal fillings contain mercury. Over time, that mercury leaks into your body and that is not good. Also metal fillings (mercury or otherwise) do not bond to your teeth. Like all metals, they contract and expand with heat.

After seeing my biologic dentist last August, and then doing a lot of research, I began the process of replacing all my metal fillings. Under every single one of my metal fillings, he found decay. So basically, I have had a “low-grade infection” running in my body (from the decay) for quite a while. All those times I wasn’t feeling so hot, and couldn’t figure out why … that was probably it.

Check out the meridian tooth chart and click on any tooth, then look at what organs it relates to. If you’ve had a filling, any pain, or a root canal, I guarantee you will find this chart insightful.

And, if by chance, you want to consider changing dentists to one who is more holistic in their approach, you can find one here: www.mercuryfreedentists.com.

And now you know!
Karen

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Zululand Queen Baby Pineapple

A few months ago, one of my blog followers sent me an email:

“I live in Colorado and can’t seem to find your Baby Pineapples in my store anymore. Why not? I love them!”

First of all, let me explain the Baby Pineapple phenomenon.

Most of us are used to finding conventional sized pineapples in our stores. They’re available throughout the year from various countries — Costa Rica, Mexico, Ecuador, Dominican Republic and many more tropical places. The demand is so great that many countries export their delicious pineapples to the USA, and each country’s crop tastes and looks a little different. (Read my previous post to learn how to pick a good pineapple, no matter the color or origin.)

More than 20 years ago, Frieda’s started getting calls from caterers and hotels looking for “mini pineapples.” They wanted smaller pineapples to use in gift baskets, decorations and tropical fruit platters. The large pineapples were just too big.

The first Baby Pineapples we brought in were from Hawaii, but the smaller size usually meant that the fruit was immature, not flavorful, and frankly not tasty enough to eat. That was a challenge for us because we didn’t want consumers to be disappointed with the taste.

Enter South African Baby Pineapples, aka the “Queen” variety. Also known as Victoria Pineapples in Australia and England.

When we first received a sample of the Zululand Queen Baby Pineapples, we were fascinated! Imagine a pineapple that is fully mature, yet only 7 to 8 inches long, including the crown. Although the crown fronds were sharp and spiky, the inside fruit was a deep golden yellow and the flavor was amazing.

We recognized right away that these Baby Pineapples were consumer friendly — perfect for households with only 1 or 2 people. You could buy a Baby Pineapple and have no waste! (Plus, we found that these baby pineapples had no core, so even less waste.)

The downside is that due to the perishable nature of pineapples, we have to fly them to the USA from South Africa. This means that one of these Babies may cost as much as a regular sized pineapple. But their intense, sweet pineapple flavor and adorable appearance makes them really popular.

Back to why Baby Pineapples can’t always be found in your supermarket. Not a lot of supermarkets stock the Baby Pineapples because they don’t realize there is a demand for them. So, what do you do if you want some? Find your produce manager (who you introduced yourself to after reading my blog post), and ask him or her to order them for you!

Having a Hawaiian-themed party or barbecue? Use Baby Pineapples as table decorations that your guests can take home.

Having a brunch? Halve Baby Pineapples and fill with tuna or chicken salad for an eye catching main course.

Next time you are in the mood for fresh pineapple, consider trying this petite version!

Enjoy!
Karen

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You’ve probably seen them on magazine covers, in ads, on billboards, coupons, signs, packaging, and even on shipping boxes. These funky black-and-white patterned boxes are QR codes – short for Quick Response – and they are popping up everywhere! (We are even using them on our company business cards.)

If you have a Smartphone (Blackberry, Droid, iPhone, etc.) and a QR code reader “app,” you can scan the code and it will launch your browser to a pre-determined website or microsite, or even send you a text message. For example, if you see a QR code in a magazine ad for Coach® bags and scan the code with your phone, it will probably take you to the Coach® website.

Every QR code is customized by the company or person who creates it, and each is unique.

Supposedly, it is a way to engage us, as consumers, by providing more information. Instead of spelling out a lengthy URL in print, a QR code acts as a high-tech shortcut that instantly takes consumers to a website once scanned — no typing required. Some marketers offer coupons and special offers via QR codes, others simply provide a link to the company website. This technology is especially appealing to Gen Y and Millennials.

QR codes originated in Japan, where they were initially used for tracking parts in vehicle manufacturing. But of course, in the last 17 years, their use has expanded and they’re considered one of the leading edge marketing widgets. (Sometimes they are called 2D barcodes.)

Here are some interesting applications for QR codes:

Next time you see one of those black-and-white squares with the seemingly random pattern, you can impress your kids or grandkids by whipping out your Smartphone to scan it for more info.

And now you know!
Karen