Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit the California Science Center in downtown Los Angeles. I remember taking field trips in grade school to the (then named) California Museum of Science and History. Although my memory of the museum had changed, things were still very much the same.

When I recently visited, I was with a small group of prominent women, who were given a behind the scenes tour of Space Shuttle Endeavour, which ended its service in May 2011. You can read about how the Endeavour was named (and the proper English spelling) here.

What was most interesting to me was how it arrived at the California Science Center in 2012. Over 20 organizations submitted proposals to display the Endeavour, after it was decommissioned (including Space Center Houston). We were actually told the story from the man who wrote the proposal, and received the phone call from NASA, that the Endeavour would be permanently housed at the California Science Center. They had only weeks to come up with the multi-million dollar funding needed, and prepare the delivery plan for the shuttle!

On display was the actual “receipt” for the Space Shuttle. Yes, that’s right. For an almost $2 billion piece of equipment, there was a regular, paper “Transfer Order – Excess Personal Property” receipt, signed by a NASA Property Disposal Officer!

If you live in Los Angeles, you will never forget when the Endeavour, mounted on the back of a large aircraft, flew its last mission around major Southern California sites (like the Hollywood sign, Coliseum and Disneyland) on September 21, 2012. It then landed at Los Angeles International Airport and, over the course of three days (October 11-14), was towed through major neighborhoods in L.A. to reach its final destination at the California Science Center.

You can watch the short, time lapsed video of the Endeavour’s trip here.  Believe me, it will give you chills!

If you have a trip to Southern California planned this summer, I encourage you to visit the Space Shuttle Endeavour. Here is a photo inside its temporary residence at the Samuel Oschin Pavilion. A permanent center is under construction nearby.

As I think back six months, when the Endeavour was making its way through Los Angeles, I only wish I could have witnessed it in person. It would have been awesome to see this sign up-close, instead of as part of the photo exhibit.

We love L.A.!

Karen

One of my favorite spring vegetables is the artichokewhich was recently dubbed the state vegetable of California! If I go to a restaurant that has freshly prepared artichokes as an appetizer, I cannot resist ordering one. I especially like the large green artichokes steamed. Dipping the leaves in a little butter or mayonnaise makes it extra delicious. Yum!

So, when I was walking by our test kitchen earlier this week, and overheard our marketing team buzzing about a BABY artichoke recipe, I had to try it.

Have you ever seen a baby artichoke? Here’s a photo of my new favorite, our Fiesole (fee-eh-so-lay) Baby Purple Artichokes. We have been selling them for years, but recently launched a campaign to introduce them to more consumers nationwide.

I was excited to taste the baby choke recipe the team was preparing, since I have never personally cooked with them. It turns out the recipe was a Raw Artichoke Salad, which includes thinly sliced, raw baby artichokes and arugula, my favorite peppery salad green.

Check out the recipe they used from the New York Times:

Raw Artichoke Salad 
Total time: 15 minutes

Ingredients
• 4 baby artichokes
• 1 tablespoon lemon juice
• 1 small garlic clove, smashed to a paste, optional
• Salt and pepper
• 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 2 handfuls arugula
 • Parmesan, for garnish

Preparation
 1. Remove dark tough exterior leaves from artichokes. Trim stem end and cut off top of each artichoke. Slice artichokes as thinly as possible and place in a small mixing bowl. Add lemon juice and garlic, if using. Season well with salt and pepper, add olive oil and toss to coat.

2. Put arugula in a shallow bowl or on a platter. Spoon artichokes over greens. Garnish with a few shavings of Parmesan.

Not the most glamorous photo, but it was DELICIOUS!

So, give this recipe a try next time you are looking for a delicious and easy salad to make, and want to try those cute Fiesole Baby Purple Artichokes. They are available almost year-round, but right now is their peak season.

Bon Appétit!

Karen

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Orange County Register

We were on the front page of the Orange County Register business section!  (Subscription only. Day pass and 7-day free trial available.)

The article profiles our company history and the three generations of women behind it: founder Frieda Caplan, president and CEO Karen Caplan, COO Jackie Wiggins, and Promotions Manager Alex Jackson, Karen’s daughter.

Columnist Jan Norman writes:

“For 51 years, Frieda Caplan has created a reputation for selling exotic fruits and vegetables, such as Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes, kiwifruit and spaghetti squash.  It’s a reputation her daughters have built on at Frieda’s in Los Alamitos, and now a third generation is coming into the company.”

Read more about our history here.

Earlier this week, I attended a produce trade show called the Northern California Fresh Produce and Floral Council Expo. There were over 150 booths, representing vendor companies from all over the world, and supermarket retailers, food service distributors and produce managers walking the show.

About 60% of the booths represented fresh fruits and vegetables, and 40% were filled with flowers, plants and floral accessories.

As I walked the show, I stopped at a booth for Mayflower Distributing, which was filled with balloons, a big business for floral departments of supermarkets. Just as I was ready to walk away, the owner Joe asked me, “Can I help you with anything?”

Well, actually, I did have a question. I wanted to know if there really was a worldwide helium shortage. A good friend, who started a balloon arrangement business, is paying double for helium what she was two years ago, and mentioned the shortage to me.

As it turns out, Joe had a lot to say on the subject. He told me that one of the biggest users of helium is MRI machines (only 7% of helium use is for balloons!). You can read more here about the helium shortage.

What I found most interesting was a product his company is using to reduce the helium shortage on his business.

As you can see from this photo, the contraption at the base of the balloon looks like a giant spring, which props up the balloon like a neck brace. Since this balloon is filled with regular air (not helium), the normal buoyancy caused by the helium is not there, and without this invention the balloon would droop. That would just kill the party balloon business!

So, voila! Necessity is once again the mother of invention.

I’ve always thought the produce industry was extremely resilient. In the face of near natural disaster, (a freeze) or business crisis (spinach recall), we always come through with a new invention, process, source of supply or a solution. We literally make lemonade out of lemons.

And I guess the floral and decorative accessory business is also resilient and inventive.

It’s good to know that a helium shortage will not hold back the balloon business!

Karen

Two years ago, our marketing team was brainstorming promotions, and we kept coming back to the story of how my mom introduced the Kiwifruit to America in 1962.

The way she tells it, is that a consumer went into a Salt Lake City supermarket, asking for a fruit she had while traveling in New Zealand. It was called the “Chinese Gooseberry,” and she wanted to buy some at her local store.

The produce manager didn’t know what it was, but he called the produce buyer of his company, who was located in Southern California. The buyer promised to ask about the fruit on his next trip to the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market.

That produce buyer found Frieda, and asked her about these Chinese Gooseberries. Well, a few weeks later, she was offered some from a local importer. Talk about good timing!

The “Chinese Gooseberry” was renamed Kiwifruit, and my mom imported the first Kiwifruit shipment into the United States. After developing marketing materials, both sales and supply exploded.

But it all happened because of that single produce manager, which my mom refers to as “The Power of One.”

So, in 2012, we decided to honor and bring attention to produce managers by creating a national holiday called Love Your Produce Manager™ Day (LYPM), which is on April 2. We chose April 2 because that is our company anniversary.

This year, Chase’s Calendar of Events, the authority on holidays, listed LYPM Day for the first time, making us official!

Even though this years’ official Love Your Produce Manager™ Day has already passed, it’s never too late to introduce yourself to your produce manager and get to know him/her. They can be a great source of information, and by acknowledging how important they are, I bet you’ll make their day.

As a matter of fact, if you go to your supermarket and take a photo with your produce manager, post it on our Facebook page and we’ll send you a special gift!

Love your produce manager!

Karen