Most people familiar with my company, Frieda’s, know that our signature color is PURPLE. We “chose” this color 50 years ago, when my mom, Frieda, was getting ready to open her business on the Los Angeles Produce Market. Frieda hired a painter to paint her business sign, and it turned out that the only color he had available was a pale lavender. So our first company sign was purple, and it stuck! (Too bad we didn’t have the foresight to trademark the color.)
We have always been intrigued when a grower presents a new “purple” fruit or vegetable to us, such as Purple Wax Beans, Purple Asparagus, and Purple Bell Peppers.
But nothing has gotten our attention like our most recent introduction, the Stokes Purple® Sweet Potato.
Actually, there is quite a history to this unique sweet potato. It was first grown and cultivated in Stokes County, North Carolina, by Saura Pride Sweet Potatoes.
After they trademarked the name and seed as Stokes Purple® Sweet Potato, Saura Pride was contacted by a grower in California – A.V. Thomas Produce – who supplies some of the best sweet potatoes to supermarkets and restaurant distributors all over the country. Like Frieda’s, A.V. Thomas is also a family-owned company, and the two of us have joined forces to grow and market this most unusual purple vegetable.
Here is a photo of the potato raw. The dark purplish skin on the outside doesn’t even hint at the fabulous and eye catching intense purple flesh when it is cooked.
|Stokes Purple® – raw
The color is amazing – don’t you think?
|Stokes Purple® – cooked
Well, the first major crop of this Stokes Purple® Sweet Potato was just harvested less than a month ago and we have started shipping it all over the country. As a matter of fact, this past weekend, in Anaheim, we displayed and sampled it at our industry’s largest trade show.
Here is the easy-to-make recipe we sampled at the show.
What’s especially great about these Purple Sweet Potatoes is that they stay firm when cooked. They don’t get mushy like regular sweet potatoes, so they’re perfect for salads or homestyle fries. Through our extensive tasting and testing, we also found that they must be baked (not microwaved) longer than regular sweet potatoes.
Actually, one of my longtime chef friends, Alan Greeley of The Golden Truffle in Newport Beach, says that his favorite way to cook then is to wrap them in plastic and then foil and roast them for 1½ to 2 hours. Then he refrigerates them overnight before using in recipes. This keeps them super-moist yet firm. Don’t be put off by how long they take to bake – these potatoes are SO TASTY and MOIST, you will go crazy for them!
We are just starting to get orders from all over the country – actually the phone has been ringing off the hook. If you would like to try the Stokes Purple® Sweet Potato, talk to the produce manager at your favorite supermarket and ask them to contact us to order them for your store. (If your produce manager can’t comply, we also have them for sale on Amazon.com, but understandably, they are significantly more expensive this way.)
As I am getting ready to plan my menu for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner, I am already trying to figure out which Purple Sweet Potato recipe I am going to make. I think my family will love the flavor and texture.
Early last month, I reconnected with a high school friend of mine, Mindy. Turns out Mindy lives outside of New York City and is a highly respected Nutritionist and Registered Dietitian and does a lot of consulting in the food business (www.mindyhermann.com).
So, when we had breakfast together last month — both of us ordered oatmeal and fresh fruit, of course — the first thing I asked her was, “So what do you think of Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to reduce the allowed size of sugary drinks in the city?”
Being a business owner, I am generally not in favor of the government being overly involved in my business, so I imagine the big beverage companies like Coke, Pepsi and retailers like 7-11 are not thrilled.
However, in this instance, Mindy and I discussed Bloomberg’s plan as it relates to obesity.
It is no secret that our nation has a serious obesity epidemic. People are fat. Kids are fat. And they are getting fatter.
So what causes that? To some degree, I think marketing. You know what I mean: Food marketers have made sugary drinks appealing. They come in fun colors, dazzling flavors, and they are often decorated with images of cartoon characters or athletes to appeal to kids.
And, they are cheap to purchase.
Sugar is also addictive, as I recently discovered during my Vegan Journey. Even if you don’t know that you are eating something with added sugar, like salt and pepper pistachios, for instance, you find yourself wanting more, sometimes uncontrollably. I call that an addiction. Mindy also told me that your brain does not register the calories consumed in a drink like it does when you eat whole food, like fresh fruit.
So, when Mindy forwarded me an article from The New York Times, authored by well-respected science and nutrition authority, Jane Brody, her analogy to another “addictive substance” really struck home.
You can read the entire article here, but here are the paragraphs that got my attention:
“Cigarette smoking is a classic example. Myriad well-publicized reports documenting its hazards — even warnings on cigarette packs — did relatively little to get people to quit smoking and keep others from taking it up. It was not until smoking was banned in workplaces, restaurants, public buildings and transportation that smokers became social pariahs and millions gave it up. Today only about one American man in five smokes, down from nearly one in two 40 years ago.
Just as the tobacco industry disputed the link between smoking and lung cancer for many years, claiming the evidence was circumstantial and did not prove cause and effect, the American Beverage Association says that there is no proof that sugary beverages are major players in obesity and diabetes.
But why wait decades for conclusive evidence, by which time millions will have been sickened or died from obesity? If there were an environmental threat with even a fraction of the health risk posed by sugary drinks, there would surely be a large public protest.”
So, even though I do not like government creating regulations that so closely affect business commerce, I have to support Mayor Bloomberg’s objective here. Because sugar is a naturally addictive product, and because simply educating consumers that sugary drinks should not be a regular part of any persons’ diet is not working, then something must be done.
And for all of us tax paying consumers who are concerned about the rising cost of health care insurance — just imagine how much our insurance costs would go down, if obesity and its related diseases (diabetes, heart disease, and stroke) were not such an epidemic in America.
Mindy and I talked about the challenges and giving consumers alternative beverages. We both agree that drinking water is the perfect beverage. It is better for your body, for your health and it tastes great!
OK, so we all know about Facebook. For all you Facebook virgins, the way I describe it to my 89-year-old mother is, “It’s like a bulletin board. You post things you want to share on YOUR bulletin board, and those who you have chosen as YOUR Facebook friends can see what you’ve posted. And it’s updated 24/7.” Hard to believe, but I have many friends and business colleagues who are NOT on Facebook.
It’s not until they want to share some good news, photos from a trip or reconnect with friends from high school that many take the leap into Facebook. I’ve heard that the biggest users of Facebook are the over 50 crowd – even thought it was started by a Harvard student to connect with other students. If you haven’t seen the movie The Social Network, it’s a great and mostly factual story about the creation of Facebook, and founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Some of you may have heard of a social network called Pinterest. I’ve heard rumblings of Pinterest (pronounced “Pin-trest”) for a couple of years, but really didn’t know a lot about it or even understand it.
Pinterest wasn’t on my radar until I attended an industry luncheon last week, at which several local Southern California food bloggers spoke.
Unfortunately, many of the produce folks in the audience did not have an interest in blogging, nor did they realize the positive impact it can have on the consumption of fruits and vegetables.
But when asked what the number one way people find their blogs was, all three blogger panelists shouted out “PINTEREST!”
Although I set up a Pinterest account for myself a few months ago – and my company, Frieda’s, has been on Pinterest for a while – I haven’t been personally active.
According to its website, Pinterest is an online pinboard. It allows you to organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. You can browse boards created by other people to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests. People use boards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and share their favorite recipes.
Bingo – sharing favorite recipes.
No wonder Pinterest has become so popular. Instead of having to thumb through cookbooks looking for photos of recipes that look good, you set up your own Pinterest account, search for photos that look yummy, and like them or pin them! As you click through the photos, sometimes you get recipes, and sometimes you are taken to another website or blog that has a recipe.
Like any new site, you have to spend time exploring it. And because Pinterest has become so popular, you get new content each day. If you want to know about the viability of Pinterest, which at this point has no income, check out this article about their latest round of fundraising, generating $100 million.
Of course, during my first exploration of Pinterest, I searched “Recipes Vegan,” and I was thrilled to find hundreds of photos and recipes.
Check it out!
You have probably heard of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign. She’s made it her personal mission to combat obesity and end it within a generation.
It’s actually scary to think about the fact that our kids generation will be the first to live shorter lives than their parents’ generation, all because they aren’t as healthy. This is not a just political cause, even thought it was started by the First Lady.
Whether you are Democrat, Republican or Independent, I think you will agree this is an important issue. After all, the latest statistics show 17% of children are obese, and obese children become obese adults, which cost our health care system millions and billions of unnecessary dollars.
“Let’s Move” involves making changes in exercise and food choices. The fresh produce industry has formed a support campaign called Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools (LMSB2S) and our mission is to raise money to help put salad bars in public and private schools.
We know that if school aged children get in the habit of eating fresh fruits and vegetables for lunch, they will continue to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables at home and in the future. Since the LMSB2S campaign started a few years ago, more than 1400 salad bars have been funded and placed in schools in 45 states as of June 1, 2012.
Even though my children are grown, I have joined industry colleagues to help raise money to fund 350 salad bars in California schools by May 2013, which is the amount of California schools that have requested a salad bar.
I am sure there are schools in your state that have applied for salad bars. If you are interested in finding out more about putting salad bars in schools in your area, check out this website.
And whether you have school aged kids, grandkids or have friends that do, I hope you’ll join me in helping change the way kids eat. Wouldn’t it be a perfect world if the ideal party snacks were grapes, slices of melon, carrots, celery and cucumber with fresh guacamole or hummus? I think so!
This past weekend, I traveled to Houston and drove about an hour to a city called Galveston to eat lunch at Mosquito Café.
Mosquito Café got its name because of the large mosquitoes that are everywhere in Galveston. My long time friends, Stephen and Patricia Rennick, moved from Southern California to Houston a few years ago and purchased Mosquito Café.
Stephen is an accomplished baker, which is how I met him 35 years ago. He owned a local Southern California bakery called Bridge Creek Bake Shop, where his quiche, cupcakes and cakes were so fantastic that I was a regular customer of his for years.
When they moved to Galveston, he went back to his entrepreneurial roots and bought a restaurant. But, just a few months later, Hurricane Ike hit the gulf coast. Bad timing.
After Ike, they lost everything. Their restaurant was completely under water and they spent 4 months without electricity. But, amazingly, they rebuilt everything and reopened last year.
As you can see, the restaurant is located in the historic part of Galveston. And last year, they opened Patty Cakes across the street, which is a bakery featuring Stephen’s delectable desserts and bread.
When I saw them last weekend, it was a thrill to see that both of their daughters, Sasha (32) and Kyla (29) have joined them in their business. It’s truly a family affair.
“I’m a vegan” was the first thing out of my mouth, not knowing what they might have to serve me. Patricia told me, “You have to have our ‘Health Nut’ for lunch – you’ll love it!”
When Stephen joined us at the table, he whispered to me that he believes Mosquito Café is the only restaurant in Galveston that serves vegetarian fare. They change their offering every week or two. You can check them out on Yelp, Urban Spoon and Zagat Guide to see why they have been rated one of the top 15 restaurants in the greater Houston area.
I guess it’s not a surprise that they have a vegetarian option. After all, the owners are from California!
I hope if you are ever in Houston, you take a drive to Galveston. It’s a beautiful area right on the ocean, and reminded me of South Carolina.
And be sure to go across the street to get dessert at Patty Cakes!