I first saw a Finger Lime more than 15 years ago. Two lovely female scientists who managed the Citrus Variety Collection at the University of California at Riverside visited our office and brought samples of some of the “new and unusual” citrus fruits that were not yet commercially grown. One of their samples was the Finger Lime.

 

These green and reddish finger-shaped fruits were intriguing, to say the least. I remember breaking them open and watching the “citrus caviar” ooze out! It was the coolest thing to look at.

And the flavor! They are extremely tart, but the tiny balls of lime goodness are intriguing. They kind of pop on your tongue like caviar.

Fast forward to about 10 years ago, when I was in Berlin, Germany, at a produce show. I ran in to an Australian grower who was showcasing his newest discovery: Finger Limes! He was growing a small commercial crop and was looking for new customers. Unfortunately, due to agricultural restrictions, we could not import Finger Limes into the United States (unless they were frozen, which kind of ruined the texture).

So, we are really excited to now have commercial quantities of these eye-catching Finger Limes grown in the United States. There are just a few growers, all in California.

When I visited my first Finger Lime orchard, I couldn’t help but notice all the thorns on the bushes. As it turns out, these thorns are one of the reasons the Finger Limes are so expensive. Harvesters must go to great efforts to not be “stabbed” by all the coarse thorns when picking the fruits – imagine combat gear and leather gloves! Also, the Finger Limes match the color of the bushes, so it’s a challenge to find the fruit.

Within the next few weeks, and continuing through December, you should be able to find Finger Limes in upscale supermarkets around the United States. Here’s a photo of our packaging, so you know what to look for:

 

Don’t be shocked at the price. You can expect to pay between $5 and $10 for a small package. But remember, there are quite a few Finger Limes in each package, and a little goes a long way.

We’ve also been shipping our Finger Limes to chefs all over the country, so you may see them when you dine out, too. Some of my favorite uses for Finger Limes include:

And of course, as I’ve written about before, my favorite part of the produce business is the people. I love all the different personalities and behind-the-scenes stories of the growers and their families.

Two weeks ago, one of California’s largest Finger Lime growers came to visit us. Below is a picture of Lisle and me at lunch – can you tell he’s a character?

By the way, did you know there is a name for this kind of photo? It’s called a “selfie,” which means I hold my phone/camera in front of me and take a photo of myself. So, here’s a selfie of me and Lisle.

Enjoy!
Karen

This will be the fourth year that I am devoting a blog post to one of my absolute favorite fruits: Angelcots®.

Angelcots® are white-fleshed apricots grown exclusively by one farmer in a small micro-climate in Northern California. The season is short (usually 4 to 5 weeks), but unfortunately this year, due to high winds and strange weather, the complete harvest of the crop took place during 10 days. And due to wind damage, the crop size was reduced by 25 percent.

Read my Angelcot® posts from 2010 and 2011. They truly are a taste of heaven.

My recommendation is if you are looking for a wonderfully flavored fruit, visit our website for a list of supermarkets (nationwide) that have ordered Angelcots® from us, and go buy them this weekend. I will be going to my local Trader Joe’s and Ralphs to buy mine. I will probably purchase two or three packages, since supplies are so limited.

Many friends often ask me how to ripen stone fruit once you get it home from the supermarket. Ever find some wonderfully aromatic peaches or nectarines but they are hard as rocks? Well, here is my “secret.”

Get a brown paper bag — they are the perfect ripening mechanism. When I was in St. Louis a few weeks ago, I saw that Schnucks Market offered free brown bags adjacent to their stone fruit displays.

When you get home, do not wash the fruit. Put as much fruit as you will want to eat in a day or two, inside the brown bag and fold the top over. Leave the bag on the counter (out of the sun), in a cool, dry area.

Check the ripeness each day. It should take a day or two for the fruit to ripen perfectly. Do not refrigerate the fruit, but consume it right away. (Wash it after it has ripened.)

There is nothing like a perfectly ripened nectarine, sliced over the sink, as an afternoon snack. Actually, it is one of my favorite summertime treats.

Enjoy the fruits of summer. What a perfectly healthy, good tasting way to snack!

Karen

Almost every year for over 20 years, I have gone to Maui for a week’s vacation. Sometimes with my husband and our friends, sometimes with a group of girlfriends, or sometimes with a daughter or two.

This year I went with my 19-year-old daughter, Sophia, and her friend Demi.

Sophia on the left, Demi on the right

As I reflected on my week in Maui, I have some thoughts and lessons to share:

1. At least once a year, everyone needs to take at least a one-week vacation. It takes at least two days to decompress and relax. And the last day is a waste, as you are packing and traveling back home. So a week’s vacation is really only 4 days.

2. Resist the temptation to check your work email. Every time I checked my email, I found my aggravation level went up. My “out of office” message said I was on vacation, so I would have been better off NOT checking my email.

3. Walking and swimming are forms of exercise, but they may not feel like it while vacationing. It feels more like meditation to me. You think about nothing and you enjoy the scenery, all while lowering your heart rate.

4. Making healthy eating choices makes you feel better, and makes your vacation more relaxing. We ate TONS of fresh fruits and veggies. Admittedly, we had dessert a few nights, but I never felt good afterwards. What made me feel good was eating fresh healthy food in moderate portions.

5. The quality of fresh produce on Maui has really improved over the last two years. The island now has a Whole Foods Market, in addition to Costco. Both do a great job on fresh produce. It was interesting to see what a nice job Safeway is doing as well. They have the best produce selection and quality in West Maui.

6. Napping is highly underrated. I made a point to nap everyday, even when I wasn’t “tired,” per se. And if I could not fall asleep, I’d turn on my Slack Key Music by Doug and Sandy McMaster, and fall asleep in 10 minutes. Thanks to my sister Jackie, who suggested I attend one of their concerts during my trip to Kauai last September. Their music is very relaxing music.

7. Vacations end too quickly. I wish I would remember how fantastic, stress free and calm I feel after a week’s vacation. I would schedule them more often. Most vacations seem too short, or become “honey-do vacations,” filled with errands and projects. Even if you cannot go away to Hawaii, I think a vacation filled with alone time, a little exercise, healthy eating and no email is good for everyone.

8. Alone time with your children is true quality time. Although hard to schedule, and admittedly there will be times when you get on each others’ “last nerve,” I think the bonding time between parent and child, or grandchild, is priceless.

Wondering if you have time for vacation? There is no time like the present!

Enjoy!

Karen

Practice Aloha.

Those words were printed on the back of every server’s t-shirt at the highly recommended restaurant, Mala Ocean Tavern, which I had dinner at this week while vacationing on the island of Maui in Hawaii.

I was so intrigued by “Practice Aloha,” that I Googled the saying on my iPhone after we sat down for dinner. You can imagine my surprise when the restaurant’s home page came up, featuring a book with the title “Practice Aloha.” The author’s name is what really caught my attention.

Mark Ellman.

That seemed impossible, because 24 years ago, while I was pregnant with my oldest daughter Alex, my husband and I came to Maui and dined at an amazing restaurant called Avalon. The chef was a transplanted native of Los Angeles, who purchased our Chilean baby coconuts, called Coquitos, to make his signature dessert, Caramel Miranda. It was named after the famous actress, Carmen Miranda, who wore a hat covered in fake fruit. Meant to resemble the hat, his dessert was a platter of fresh Hawaiian fruits, a scoop of Hawaiian macadamia nut ice cream and chopped Coquito Nuts sprinkled on top.

That chef was Mark Ellman.

Last I had heard of Mark was when he closed Avalon, and concentrated on another food venture: a chain of Hawaiian taco stands called Maui Tacos.

I quickly stopped our server, and asked her if Mark was the chef/owner and if he was at the restaurant. To my excitement, she said yes, and I quickly pulled out my business card and asked her to please give it to him – that I was a long time friend. She told me he was very busy, but she would pass it along.

I was stunned when Mark came by our table. We hugged and he joined us for most of our dinner. We caught up on 24 years. And he still makes Caramel Miranda with our Coquitos! I recognized many of his signature items from my dinner at Avalon over 20 years ago. He now offers gluten-free flatbread on his menu (my daughter Sophia was thrilled), cures his own olives and imports feta cheese from Greece. Everything on his menu, from the flatbreads, to the seared ahi tuna, to the flourless chocolate torte for dessert, was amazing.

What's on Karen's Plate? - Karen's Blog - Mala Ocean Tavern - Caramel Miranda
Caramel Miranda
What's on Karen's Plate? - Karen's Blog - Mala Ocean Tavern - Ahi
Ahi

In 2010, Mark published a book call “Practice Aloha – Secrets to Living Life Hawaiian Style,” which includes stories, recipes and lyrics from some of Hawaii’s favorite celebrity folks. He also has a small cookbook, called “Mala Ocean Tavern Cookbook,” featuring many of his fantastic recipes.

We reminisced how he was a founding member of the Hawaiian Regional Cuisine movement back in the 1980s, and organized many fellow Maui chefs to encourage and support small, organic farmers on Maui. Mark told me that when he started in the business, he had to “import” 80 percent of his produce from the mainland. Now, more than 20 years later, he proudly gets more than 80 percent of his produce from local Maui farmers! It was so heartwarming to see how these young and creative chefs, with seemingly competitive restaurants, joined together to better Hawaiian agriculture for all and the economy.

And that’s when it dawned on me why all the restaurant staff shirts said “Practice Aloha.”

What's on Karen's Plate? - Karen's Blog - Malo Ocean Tavern - Practice Aloha

Aloha means to hear what is not said, to see what cannot be seen and to know the unknowable. And did you know that Aloha is actually the law in Hawaii?

I truly felt the Aloha spirit while sitting with Mark and enjoying the sound of waves.

What's on Karen's Plate? - Karen's Blog - Karen Caplan - Mark Ellman
Me and Mark Ellman

I hope when you are in Maui, that you’ll find your way to Mala and get a taste of that true Aloha Spirit!

Mahalo, and Practice Aloha,

Karen

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I am a lifelong learner.

At least once a year, I attend a seminar, class or conference, and I always go in with an open mind. Sometimes I find myself asking why I signed up, because I have so much work to do back at the office. But I have learned, over and over again, that there is always a lesson to be learned. And, these lessons tend to be shared by amazing teachers.

Two of my most memorable teachers were men who I met through Vistage, my CEO group. We meet monthly and we have a world-class speaker come in at least eight times a year.

Over a dozen years ago, I met Jack Daly. Jack is a successful entrepreneur and trainer of world-class sales people. I’ve had him come to Frieda’s to do training several times over the years and he always teaches us something amazing.

Jack Daly speaking to our Sales Team at Frieda’s.

From left to right: Alex (my daughter), Jack Daly and me.

He is also a bit neurotic. Jack sent me his list of goals (a.k.a. his Bucket List) and it is six pages long, including:

He has 120 items on his bucket list, and he has already achieved 79.

But, the biggest lesson he taught me is his mantra for the No. 1 rule of selling:

Ask questions and listen. 

Because of Jack, I resist the temptation to start any conversation with anything but a question. It might be, “What are your plans for this weekend?” Or, “What did you think of that speaker?” So, thanks to Jack, I learn something interesting about everyone I meet.

My other remarkable teacher is Boaz Rauchwerger, who spoke to my Vistage Group about 10 years ago. You can read about him here. He, too, talked about asking questions.

My favorite questions from him are: “Where are you from, originally?” and “Tell me about your family.” No matter whom I meet, and what the circumstances are, those two questions open doors.

Asking questions makes the other person feel important. It engages them in the conversation, and opens them up to whatever your eventual agenda might be.

This past month, I have met with clients, friends, strangers and family. I always think of Jack and Boaz and the lessons they taught me.

Next time you are at a meeting, an appointment, or making a presentation, start with a question. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

Karen