It all started about 5 months ago. We began to get almost daily emails from consumers all over the world (not just in the United States), asking us about our Stokes Purple® Sweet Potatoes. They wanted to know where to purchase them.

Because the emails were continuous, we started to ask consumers how they heard about them and for some background on their request.

As it turns out, the BBC has a series called “How to Stay Young” and had just aired a segment featuring the Japanese diet. Two of the BBC’s reporters took a trip to Okinawa, Japan, to take a look at the purple sweet potato. They discovered that Professor Craig Wilcox and his brother, Bradley Wilcox, M.D., have been studying the Okinawan diet for the last decade and believe a key factor in the Okinawans’ vigorous health (living to over 100) can be attributed to the consumption of…purple sweet potatoes. (Actually the title of one of the articles covering this story was “Purple sweet potato is the secret to living until 100 – but you may have to eat over half a kilo!”).

Another source that talks about the Okinawan diet and purple sweet potatoes is Blue Zones, an organization founded by National Geographic fellow Dan Buettner, who has written three books on the topic of how lifestyle and diet impact longevity.

Now there are multiple kinds of purple sweet potatoes. The kind that are grown and consumed in Okinawa are light beige on the outside and have a mottled, light purple flesh. They are available on a limited basis in U.S. supermarkets, but they must be irradiated to come onto the mainland because they are grown in Hawaii.

Okinawan Purple Sweet Potato
Okinawan Purple Sweet Potato, uncooked

The Stokes Purple® Sweet Potatoes that we market and sell are actually grown in Northern California. They have a purple-ish skin and a very dark, vibrant purple interior.

Stokes Purple® Sweet Potato
Stokes Purple® Sweet Potato, uncooked

The name “Stokes Purple®” is because the potato was first developed in Stokes County, North Carolina. Our grower partner here in California found that the growing conditions in California are actually optimal for growing the Stokes Purple®, so we’ve moved all the growing to their farms in Northern California.

Even though they have different origins, purple sweet potatoes share some of the same qualities:

In Okinawa, it is reported that natives eat an average of half a kilo (1 pound) per day of purple sweet potatoes! Professor Wilcox says the purple sweet potato helps maintain healthy blood vessels.

Here in the U.S., we have found that high performance athletes and those practicing a vegetarian or vegan diet tend to be the highest consumers of Stokes Purple® Sweet Potatoes. Our goal is to have year-round availability, but because they are SO popular (and healthy), we tend to sell out before summer begins.

The good news is that our farmer has just begun the harvest of this year’s Stokes Purple® Sweet Potatoes and we will begin shipping them to supermarkets across the U.S. next week. We distribute both organic and conventional sweet potatoes, so depending on where you shop, you may find either. You’ll recognize these amazing purple-fleshed potatoes by the label.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Stokes Purple Sweet Potatoes

If you want to try them, but don’t find them in your store by mid-September, please email us here, and we will do our best to get them into your store.

I just have to share with you a few of my personal favorite recipes for these unique potatoes: “Stokes Purple® Sweet Potato Medallions with Chipotle Cream, ” “Purple Power Breakfast Bowl,” and “Stokes Purple® Sweet Potato Oven Fries.”

Purple Power to the People!

Karen

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Trending specialty radish gets a retail-savvy, shopper-friendly treatment

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Watermelon Radish

LOS ALAMITOS, CA (August 2016) – The foodie darling watermelon radish is ready for its close-up. Frieda’s Specialty Produce introduces the first retail package for watermelon radishes, showing off the radishes’ vibrant internal color and with recipe ideas right on the bag.

Restaurants and food bloggers have already grabbed onto the more visually impactful watermelon radish—from thinly shaved onto a salad to quick-pickled for trending vegan/vegetarian grain bowls, poke (Hawaiian raw fish rice bowl), and bahn mi (Vietnamese sandwiches). The Huffington Post Food section recently featured radish recipes that include pickled and roasted radishes. Radishes are definitely trending, and the watermelon radish is the trendiest!

The 1-pound stand-up pouch provides solutions for retailers by eliminating confusion about the PLU, extending the product shelf life, and moving more radishes off the shelf. Frieda’s signature branding also stands out in the refrigerated rack so it is easy to merchandise.

“The watermelon radish is truly a hidden gem of the produce department—most shoppers don’t know about its beautiful color on the inside just from looking at it on the shelf,” said Karen Caplan, president and CEO of Frieda’s Specialty Produce. “Our pouch showcases what these gorgeous radishes look like on the inside, which not only attracts the attention of shoppers, it also educates them about the product with serving suggestions on the back.”

Watermelon radishes are available from Frieda’s in 12/1-lb. pouches and in 10-lb. bulk. Introduce your shoppers to their new favorite vegetable by contacting Frieda’s account managers about watermelon radishes. Frieda’s has also recently introduced a stand-up pouch for shishito peppers.

[youtube=https://youtu.be/W7U9g4fhDOw]

About Frieda’s Inc.

Frieda’s Specialty Produce celebrates a 54-year legacy of inspiring new food experiences for friends, family, and food lovers everywhere. Credited with introducing more than 200 specialty fruits and vegetables to U.S. supermarkets, Frieda’s has helped launch unique items like kiwi fruits, Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes, habanero peppers, Sunchokes®, and organic finger limes. Founded in 1962 by produce industry icon Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, subject of the 2015 documentary “Fear No Fruit,” the family company is now owned and operated by Frieda’s daughters, Karen Caplan and Jackie Caplan Wiggins, in Orange County, California. Find Frieda’s on Facebook, @FriedasProduce, and Friedas.com. Inspire. Taste. Love.

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What’s the difference between dragon fruit and pitaya?

The actual name, pitaya or pitahaya (they are interchangeable), stems from the Latin American heritage of this beautiful exotic fruit. It is native to Central America (dating back to the 13th century). However, it made its way to Vietnam and Malaysia (probably due to its popularity with Asian consumers), where it is now widely grown. We’ve heard that the Vietnamese name, “thang loy,” somehow translates into the English words “dragon fruit,” and thus the different name. In Israel, where the fruit is commercially grown and being imported into the U.S., the growers like to call it “pitaya” or “pitahaya,” while the Vietnamese growers label theirs “dragon fruit.”

So, whether you see them called pitaya, pitahaya, or dragon fruit, they are all basically the same fruit. And you are probably starting to see them everywhere! Whether it’s fresh in the produce department of your supermarket, or at your favorite juice bar, or even as a scent in an air freshener.

Frieda's Specialty Produce_Dragon Fruit Febreze

And dragon fruit comes in many different internal colors:

Dark Red (from Nicaragua)

Frieda's Specialty Produce_Dragon Fruit Nicaragua

White Fleshed (from Vietnam)

Frieda's Specialty Produce_Dragon Fruit Vietnam

And, you might have seen some gorgeous fruit from Israel earlier this year, labeled as “Pitaya” or “Pitahaya.”

Frieda's Specialty Produce_Pitaya_Red_Flesh_Israel

The one thing most dragon fruit have in common is their nutritional qualities—high in fiber and vitamin C. But the flavor profile of each fruit can be different. The white-fleshed fruit from Vietnam is gorgeous on the outside, but has a mild, non-distinctive flavor. Contrast that with the dark-purplish red flesh from fruit grown in Nicaragua, which is like a sweet, juicy, meaty watermelon.

Dragon fruit is actually a cousin of the cactus pear. However, the dragon fruit’s seeds are completely soft and edible (much like a kiwifruit), as compared to cactus pear seeds, which are crunchy like those in passion fruit! Also, unlike the cactus pear, the dragon fruit does not have spines on its skin.

Frieda's Specialty Produce_Dragon Fruit Cactus Pear Passion Fruit
Yellow pitaya, cactus pear and passion fruit

 

So, next time you’re walking by the tropical fruit section of your produce department and you see a big display, don’t be afraid to buy one and try it! Dragon fruit have a fairly short shelf life, so it’s best to take them home and include them in a fruit salad or smoothie that day or the next.

We’d love to hear what you think!

Enjoy,

Karen

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The Frieda Caplan story is one of only three documentaries to be featured at the three-month movie series

Fear No Fruit - Frieda Caplan

LOS ALAMITOS, CA (August 2016) – Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board will screen “Fear No Fruit,” the Frieda Caplan documentary, during its Movies in the Parks series. The screening is scheduled for Saturday, August 20, at the J.D. Rivers Children’s Garden in Theodore Wirth Park. Start time is 15 minutes after sunset, or about 8:30 p.m.

The park board encourages people to bring a new fruit or “fruit that scares you” to eat as a part of the movie experience.

The Movies in the Park series runs each year from June through August with recent blockbusters as well as Hollywood classics. “Fear No Fruit,” “He Named Me Malala,” and “Batkid Begins” are the three documentaries in the lineup.

Directed by Mark Brian Smith, “Fear No Fruit” chronicles the life of Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, the first woman entrepreneur on the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market in the 1960s. While the film focuses on the life and career of the produce icon, founder of Frieda’s Specialty Produce, it also features interviews with other industry power players like Rick and Tonya Antle of Tanimura & Antle, Dick Spezzano (formerly of Vons), The Supermarket Guru Phil Lempert, and David Karp, The Fruit Detective. The storyline touches on California agriculture along with the state’s current water crisis and its impact beyond agriculture.

“Fear No Fruit” was an official selection at the San Luis Obispo, Newport Beach, Carmel International, and Sedona International film festivals. The documentary is now available on DVD on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, and Kino Lorber, and as a Netflix DVD rental. Streaming and digital downloads are also available on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Instant Video, Xbox Video, Vudu, and Vimeo on Demand. Additionally, the film is available for educational and community screenings via Kino Lorber EDU.

About Frieda’s Inc.

Frieda’s Specialty Produce celebrates a 54-year legacy of inspiring new food experiences for friends, family, and food lovers everywhere. Credited with introducing more than 200 specialty fruits and vegetables to U.S. supermarkets, Frieda’s has helped launch unique items like kiwi fruits, Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes, habanero peppers, Sunchokes®, and organic finger limes. Founded in 1962 by produce industry icon Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, subject of the 2015 documentary “Fear No Fruit,” the family company is now owned and operated by Frieda’s daughters, Karen Caplan and Jackie Caplan Wiggins, in Orange County, California. Find Frieda’s on Facebook, @FriedasProduce, and Friedas.com. Inspire. Taste. Love.

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Thanks to feedback from retailers and their shoppers, Frieda’s Specialty Produce now offers peppers in 8-oz. stand-up pouch

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Shishito Peppers

LOS ALAMITOS, CA (August 2016) – Very popular shishito peppers are now available in eye-catching, convenient, 8-oz. stand-up pouches from Frieda’s Specialty Produce.

In its winter 2015 industry trends report, United Fresh Produce Association highlighted shishito peppers as a growing/trending item in foodservice, and these mostly mild peppers are showing up as an appetizer on menus around the country. That trend translates to increased retail sales opportunities with consumers, especially during summer grilling season.

“We have been selling shishito peppers for several years, and every year they get more popular,” said Karen Caplan, president and CEO of Frieda’s. “Shoppers will be looking for these peppers and our grab-and-go pouch makes it easy, while retailers will love our eye-catching, easy-to-merchandise package that will protect and extend the life of the product.

“Our shishito pouch offers the perfect solution for everyone,” added Caplan.

Using 60 percent less material than a clamshell, Frieda’s shishito pouch stands up for easy display and stands out in the produce aisle with its bright color, playful copy, and serving ideas.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Shishito Peppers

Shishito peppers are available from Frieda’s in 12/8 oz. pouches and in bulk. Organic shishito peppers are also available in bulk in limited supply during the summer.

Add some spice to your summer sales by contacting Frieda’s account managers about our shishito peppers, or any other peppers like Carolina reaper, Trinidad scorpion, ghost, and orange habanero peppers.

About Frieda’s Inc.

Frieda’s Specialty Produce celebrates a 54-year legacy of inspiring new food experiences for friends, family, and food lovers everywhere. Credited with introducing more than 200 specialty fruits and vegetables to U.S. supermarkets, Frieda’s has helped launch unique items like kiwi fruits, Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes, habanero peppers, Sunchokes®, and organic finger limes. Founded in 1962 by produce industry icon Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, subject of the 2015 documentary “Fear No Fruit,” the family company is now owned and operated by Frieda’s daughters, Karen Caplan and Jackie Caplan Wiggins, in Orange County, California. Find Frieda’s on Facebook, @FriedasProduce, and Friedas.com. Inspire. Taste. Love.

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Help shoppers make healthy lunch and snack decisions for their children by offering specialty options

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Not Too Cool For School

LOS ALAMITOS, CA (August 2016) – School is almost back in session. Time to wow parents and kids alike with weird and wild specialty fruits and vegetables perfect for lunch boxes and after-school snacks.

“Never underestimate how adventurous children can be when it comes to food,” said Karen Caplan, president and CEO of Frieda’s Specialty Produce. “They prove to us time and time again that they are open to try something new and fun.”

Stock up on easy favorites like baby apples, organic baby heirloom apples, baby bananas, blood oranges, and Yellow Sweetie grapes, as well as wow items like rambutan, dragon fruit, baby kiwifruit, and starfruit.

In addition to supplying retailers, Frieda’s also works with wholesalers who support the USDA Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Program (FFVP) to inspire more than 400,000 students nationwide with fun fruits and vegetables like jicama, rainbow carrots, organic finger limes, and seasonal stone fruits.

“Frieda’s has been our partner in growth in FFVP,” said Chris Mills of Bonanza Produce Company in Sparks, Nevada. “The program is bigger, more diverse, more successful, and most importantly, the children have had the opportunity to learn and taste so many different fruits and vegetables.”

According to a report by the National Fruit & Vegetable Alliance, over the past five years, children’s fruit intake increased by 18 percent, and the FFVP increases children’s fruit and vegetable consumption by one-third cup a day on school days.

Wholesalers and foodservice distributors who are interested in including specialty and exotic fruits in your FFV program can contact Frieda’s account managers.

About Frieda’s Inc.

Frieda’s Specialty Produce celebrates a 54-year legacy of inspiring new food experiences for friends, family, and food lovers everywhere. Credited with introducing more than 200 specialty fruits and vegetables to U.S. supermarkets, Frieda’s has helped launch unique items like kiwi fruits, Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes, habanero peppers, Sunchokes®, and organic finger limes. Founded in 1962 by produce industry icon Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, subject of the 2015 documentary “Fear No Fruit,” the family company is now owned and operated by Frieda’s daughters, Karen Caplan and Jackie Caplan Wiggins, in Orange County, California. Find Frieda’s on Facebook, @FriedasProduce, and Friedas.com. Inspire. Taste. Love.

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Next Wednesday, my mother, Frieda Rapoport Caplan, will turn 93. I’ve decided to rename her the energizer bunny. That’s because she keeps on going. She has so much energy and such a busy personal life that she has to publish her weekly schedule for my sister Jackie and me to keep on hand, so we know where she is. She is calendared out at least through the end of the year.

Frieda Rapoport Caplan 93 years

But, she has cut back. She only comes into the office four days a week (back in the day, she used to work seven days a week!). Get that straight. At 93, she comes to work four days a week. I think that’s pretty darn amazing.

But what is more amazing is what she spends her time on.

First of all, she is a voracious reader. Whether it is Dr. Christiane Northrup’s newsletter on women’s health or an update from the Southern Poverty Law Center, my sister Jackie and I (and other family members) are often the beneficiaries of her reading and personal “clipping service.”

A couple months ago, my mom and I went on a weekend retreat during which we attended a wonderful presentation by University of California, Irvine, on its program: UCI MIND – UC Irvine Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders. The professor talked about how they were studying people as they age and whether or not they developed any memory issues or deterioration.

Much to my surprise, a few weeks later, mom announced to Jackie and me that she would like to donate her brain to the program at UC Irvine.

So, Jackie and I have spent the past few weeks in meetings and visits as they take mom’s medical history and study her amazing habits, potentially to uncover the secret to her longevity for the benefit of future generations.

Jackie and I have a few hypotheses of our own about her secrets to long life; here are just a few. Our mom:

Mom has always said that one of her greatest joys was that she ended up working alongside her two daughters.

I would say that, in fact, Jackie and I (and my eldest daughter Alex) have the most joy because we get to see Mom four days a week at work, and her name will always be our legacy (we changed the company name to Frieda’s, Inc. in 1990 when we bought the company).

So, happy birthday, Mom! You continue to inspire us.

Karen

P.S. You can personally wish Frieda a happy birthday here.

Frieda's Specialty Produce_August2016 Birthdays
The Frieda’s team celebrating our August birthdays earlier this morning.

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