Spicy root is more than just a traditional staple

Los Alamitos, CA – (February 2017) – Horseradish root is a must-have item for Passover, the traditional Jewish celebration beginning at sundown on Monday, April 10, and ending Tuesday, April 18. Retailers should now pre-book their horseradish orders in preparation for this important cultural holiday.

“Horseradish and parsley sales go through the roof the week before Passover as they are the most traditional produce items used for the holiday meal,” said Karen Caplan, president and CEO of Frieda’s Specialty Produce. “In addition to Passover, fresh horseradish is also used as a condiment for fish and seafood during the Christian observance of Lent, which begins March 1 and ends on April 13. It is a great opportunity for retailers to increase basket ring.”

But this traditional root is actually gaining popularity as part of the growing weekend brunch trend, and as a key ingredient in bloody Mary beverages and other chef-inspired creations. In fact, the Baum + Whiteman Restaurant and Hotel 2017 trends report listed horseradish among the year’s buzzwords as the use of horseradish went up 29 percent last year.

“Weekend brunch has become a part of the culture, and the trend continues to grow. Fresh horseradish is going to grow along with it,” said Caplan. “Once shoppers experience fresh horseradish while dining out, they will try to replicate it at home.”

Call Frieda’s account managers today to pre-order horseradish roots, as well as other Passover essentials including parsley, beets and baby beets, fingerling potatoes, parsnips, parsley root, specialty carrots, and baby apples.

About Frieda’s Inc.

Frieda’s Specialty Produce has been inspiring new food experiences for friends, families, and food lovers everywhere since 1962. From kiwifruit to dragon fruit and from Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes to habanero peppers, Frieda’s has introduced more than 200 unique fruits and vegetables to the U.S. marketplace. Founded by produce industry trailblazer Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, subject of the 2015 documentary “Fear No Fruit,” the family company is 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.

I was surprised by the last question asked from the audience when I participated as a panelist at the THRIVE AgTech conference earlier this month:

“What do you think is the future of cannabis in California agriculture?”

I was even more surprised when the moderator turned to me and said, “Karen, why don’t you take that question, as I would consider cannabis a specialty crop, wouldn’t you?”

I smiled and jokingly said we could sell it in 1-ounce packages, like our other specialty items.

But seriously, I then mentioned my presentation at the food trend conference, Bitten LA back in October, where Jeff the Cannabis Chef did an entire presentation about his career cooking with cannabis. After all, cannabis edibles are very popular these days.


Since then, I’ve done a little research. And in fact, I have had more than one industry person tell me it’s no secret that many hot house growers in California are looking at the financial returns on growing cannabis. The Orange County Register estimated the value of California’s marijuana crop in 2015 to be the number one leading agriculture commodity at $23.3 billion. Just for comparison, coming in second on that list is milk at $6.28 billion and almonds at about $5 billion.


With all of the buzz, pardon the pun, around the California cannabis industry, there are also some concerns that directly impact the produce industry. Would fruit and vegetable growers switch out edible crops to grow cannabis? Many experts don’t seem too concerned about the switch as there are more fees, regulations, and risks of property forfeiture that come with growing commercial cannabis. At least, for now.

And just last Friday, the International Cannabis Business Conference was held in San Francisco. So I imagine we are going to see a lot of information in the news in coming weeks.

So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when the latest edition of the newsletter Israel21C arrived with the following headline:

 “5 reasons Israel is dominating the cannabis industry”

The article highlights that Israel is more than 10 years ahead of other countries in terms of cannabis innovation. Whether it is in growing, processing, medical treatment, or venture funds (iCAN is an Israel-cannabis venture fund), a lot is going on in Israel.

But back to the question I was asked. In case you’re wondering, I don’t think you will see Frieda’s adding cannabis to our product lineup anytime soon.


Demystifying different types of purple sweet potatoes, one tuber at a time!


Updated March 30, 2020

There is no doubt that purple sweet potatoes have gained popularity—just open the pages of Eating Well, Martha Stewart Living, The Washington Post and O, The Oprah Magazine. Even journalist Dan Buettner, author of Blue Zones, credits these purple beauties with being part of the diet and lifestyle that has propelled the longevity of the centenarian Okinawa population.  But not all varieties of purple sweet potatoes are created equal.

The four main types of purple-fleshed sweet potatoes consumed in the U.S. are Stokes Purple® sweet potatoesOkinawan sweet potatoes, Murasaki sweet potatoes and Charleston sweet potatoes. Ube (pronounced OO-beh) is available in concentrate form only, not as a fresh potato. Shoppers and foodies alike often confuse these varieties based on skin color, flesh color, different names and even incorrect internet images.

Take a look at what makes each variety different.


Stokes Purple® Sweet Potatoes

Born in the U.S.A., Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes originated in Stokes County, North Carolina. They’re now grown commercially in the perfectly sandy soil of central California. Available year-round, these sweet potatoes have purple-tinted skin with a deep purple flesh that intensifies when cooked.

Exclusive to Frieda’s, these unique Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes have a somewhat moist, moderately starchy texture and are mildly sweet with slight floral notes. They are a good source of vitamin C and contain a high level of anthocyanins—the antioxidant compound also found in blueberries that gives this potato its purple hue.


Some of our favorite ways to use Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes include sweet potato pie, served as a crostini, or in stuffing, soups, curries and more!

Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes are available at grocery stores nationwide and on our website at www.friedas.com/shop.


Okinawan Sweet Potatoes

Believed to have come from the Aztecs of South America with the Spaniards to the Philippines and China in the 1490s, the plant of these sweet potatoes did not reach Japan until the 1600s. The initial planting was in Okinawa—the southern island of Japan—before they were cultivated throughout Japan, hence the name. Eventually these purple tubers ended up in Hawaii and became a part of the native menu—they are also known as Hawaiian sweet potatoes.

With a creamy, beige skin on the outside and bluish-purple flesh on the inside, these sweet potatoes are grown in Hawaii for the U.S. market. Okinawan sweet potatoes have a mildly sweet flavor with notes of honey and a dry, very starchy texture. According to The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner, consumption of these potatoes is correlated to living a longer life.


Murasaki Sweet Potatoes

Murasaki sweet potatoes (also known as Japanese sweet potatoes) first originated in Louisiana, developed by the Louisiana State University’s Sweet Potato Research Station in the early 2000s. Today they are primarily grown in California.

This sweet potato variety has reddish-purple skin with a flesh that is actually white. Their name comes from the Japanese word for purple because of the color of their skin. If you’re wondering what this looks like—check your phone! The sweet potato emoji is actually a Murasaki! Murasaki sweet potatoes have a sweet taste with notes of brown sugar and vanilla, and a very starchy, moist texture, making them good sweet potatoes for baked goods. They are a good substitute for the fresh ube variety given their level of sweetness, although they lack the beautiful purple color that ube is known for.


Charleston Sweet Potatoes

The Charleston sweet potato is not as widely available in grocery stores as some other varieties. Its purple flesh is slightly sweet with earthy notes but it is very dry and chalky in texture so it is commonly used in seasoned savory dishes as well as in Asian cuisine.




Ube (Purple Yam)

Ube is commonly used in desserts all over the world—in ice creams, tarts and even donuts! Also known as a purple yam, ube is a staple of the Filipino kitchen and is well-loved all over Asia as a dessert ingredient for its sweet and nutty flavor.

With all the attention on ube comes the confusion about this elusive yam. (Yes, a true yam!)

First of all, we have never seen ube available fresh in the States. Many people would argue that they indeed have bought some ube, but photographic proof usually shows they have purchased either Stokes Purple® or Okinawan sweet potatoes (or sometimes even taro root, as it can be slightly pinkish on the inside).

This, folks, is fresh ube.


You can blame the misconceptions on the plethora of information and imagery on the internet. If you search for an image of ube yourself, you’ll understand the conundrum. Only when you search for ube’s botanical name Dioscorea alata will you find ube’s true form: a tuber with brown, bark-like skin and flesh that ranges from white with purple specks to lilac.

Now, the ube that is used widely comes as a jam (Ube Halaya) or in a powder, extract, or frozen form. It turns out that preparing these true yams is labor intensive and that is why they’re commonly available in processed forms. Ube pops up in some unexpected places, including in McDonald’s ice cream in Asia and Yogurtland here in the U.S.

Now, go forth and explore all the majesty of purple sweet potatoes and let us know which ones you like best!

To check out more of our Ultimate Guides, click here, here and here.















Anyone who knows me is probably shocked to see me writing about Tom Brady of the New England Patriots. It’s no secret that I don’t pay much attention to sports—but I love attending live sporting events. I haven’t been to a football game in a while, but I am well aware of the Super Bowl, which now seems better known for the commercials that show during the game than for the actual game. I did spend the afternoon at my daughter’s watching the game, but that’s not what I wanted to talk about.

I’m an avid reader of The Wall Street Journal and an article in the February 1 edition caught my eye: “Meet Tom Brady’s Shaman.” I was intrigued.

The article highlights Brady’s admiration for the book “The Four Agreements, a Practical Guide to Personal Freedom” by Don Miguel Ruiz.

I first became aware of this book when my longtime designer friends, Ted and Peggy, mentioned this Toltec shaman to me back in the 1980s. They traveled and studied with Don Miguel Ruiz, even before he wrote this book in 1997. And in fact, when I first got the book, I read the forward, and sure enough, I saw Ted and Peggy’s names listed with the acknowledgements.

The book is small and a quick read, and Don Miguel’s wisdom is so simple and straightforward.

Here are his four agreements:

  1. Be impeccable with your word.
  2. Don’t take anything personally.
  3. Don’t make assumptions.
  4. Always do your best.

Many things have been written about Tom Brady. He’s 39, but looks 29. He takes perfect care of his body. He is very private and an amazing athlete. And now, we can add to that list “ardent student.”

Photo credit: Wikipedia/Jeffrey Beall

Although Brady went through a rough patch with Deflategate, it was nice to see that he has a more spiritual, grounded side. In a time when many athletes are not great role models for young people, with their foul language and poor behavior (both on and off the field/court), it was refreshing to see how he used The Four Agreements as his new compass. The Wall Street Journal article quoted Brady as describing the book as a “kind of a mantra for my life,” and indicated it helped him navigate the urgent intergalactic crisis that was Deflategate.

Each of us would do well to consider these four short sentences as a way to approach our work, our life, our friends, and our family.

I can honestly admit that I never thought the Super Bowl would inspire me to re-read a book. But after Brady, one of the best athletes of our time, helped win a fifth Super Bowl for the Patriots and I learned that he finds strength and vision in this book, I went home and picked it up again.

I suggest you consider doing that too. Remember, don’t make assumptions.



Capitalize on the shift in shoppers’ behavior during 40 days of Lent

Los Alamitos, CA – (February 2017) – Lent-observing shoppers, especially Hispanics, change their shopping behaviors to accommodate going meatless starting on Ash Wednesday, March 1, and continuing through Thursday, April 13. Produce departments should capitalize on this shift by stocking up on specialty Latin produce and meat substitutes during this religious holiday season.

Twenty-six percent of Americans observe Lent and abstain from meat (except fish and seafood) on Fridays during this 40-day period. Some go meatless the entire time.

“Lent is becoming a big food holiday as the culture and demographic continue to shift,” said Karen Caplan, president and CEO of Frieda’s Specialty Produce. “There is an opportunity here for retailers to offer authentic Latin produce and capture that Hispanic buying power during Lent and afterward.”

A recent Nielsen study shows Hispanics represent almost 18 percent of the U.S. population, and in 2015 they had $1.3 trillion in buying power. A Food Marketing Institute report shows 91 percent of Hispanic shoppers prefer stores where they can find Hispanic products.

Cater to the Cuaresma (Lent) crowd with seasonal popular items like Soyrizo™, SoyTaco™, cactus pads (nopales), fresh Poblano and Anaheim peppers, and dried peppers like Guajillo, Ancho Mulato, and Pasilla Negro. Other items that complement fish and seafood include ginger, fennel, dragon fruit, and citrus, such as key limes, Meyer lemons, and pink lemons.

Call Frieda’s account managers to optimize your product mix today.

About Frieda’s Inc.

Frieda’s Specialty Produce has been inspiring new food experiences for friends, families, and food lovers everywhere since 1962. From kiwifruit to dragon fruit and from Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes to habanero peppers, Frieda’s has introduced more than 200 unique fruits and vegetables to the U.S. marketplace. Founded by produce industry trailblazer Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, subject of the 2015 documentary “Fear No Fruit,” the family company is 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.

I was invited to be a panelist at the THRIVE AgTech Innovation Forum held last week in Menlo Park, California. After lunch, the program focused on what the consumer wants from the fresh produce industry and what insights that may provide for the technology business.

My fellow panelists included Gareth Keane of Qualcomm Ventures, Hank Giclas of Western Growers Association (a group of growers in California and Arizona) and Michael Teel, CEO of Sacramento-based retailer, Raley’s.

I was excited to meet Michael, as I had been following his career for many years. He is the third generation of the Raley family to own and operate the 82-year-old chain of 127 stores.

Michael started off talking to the standing-room-only audience of more than 200 people. To me, he “got naked” with the audience about his professional management philosophy and his business.

Credit: Jeff Rumans Photography

He told us that the way the grocery business works is that typically big food companies (consumer product goods or CPG companies) develop new products. They present them to retailers, along with financial incentives and support, so the retailers will stock and advertise them in their stores.

About two years ago, Michael started an initiative at his company that was pretty radical. He decided that his company would adjust some of the ways they received financial support from these CPG companies by focusing on what was right for his own customers. Raley’s would put its customers first when making decisions about product mix, marketing, and displays.

He referred to this entire initiative as being “purpose-driven,” meaning Raley’s’ higher purpose would drive everyone’s behavior and decision-making. And it was born out of his desire to improve the health of the families that shop in Raley’s. His vision is to “infuse life with health and happiness.”

In support of the initiative, Raley’s removed all tobacco products from stores in 2015. Last year private label sodas that contain high fructose corn syrup, and artificial colors and flavors, were discontinued. Check-stand offerings were improved by removing all artificially sweetened sodas and upgrading the selection of snacks and treats.

Then the most interesting thing happened—same store sales and customer satisfaction both increased. Prior to the initiative, same store sales had declined for a few years.

My first question to Michael after our panel was: “How did your buyers feel about your decision?” He said that at first they were a bit surprised and had some adjusting to do. But in the end, they welcomed the strong direction and support from their leader. The initiative made their decision-making a lot easier. To some degree, he infused their lives with health and happiness too.

Credit: Jeff Rumans Photography

I first became aware of purpose-driven organizations about 10 years ago, when I worked with a consultant named Paul Ratoff. He helped us redefine Frieda’s strategy and purpose over the next few years. Two years ago, Paul published a book, “Thriving in a Stakeholder World.” The tag line for the book is “Purpose as the New Competitive Advantage.”

Meeting Michael Teel and seeing how a purpose-driven organization can deliver better bottom-line results was exciting for me.

Can you think of other purpose-driven organizations? Many charities naturally come to mind. My prediction is that, with the increasing number of millennial entrepreneurs, we will begin to see more purpose-driven companies grow and thrive.


P.S. I was proud to have two other produce industry leaders on the stage with me that afternoon: Bruce Taylor of Taylor Fresh Foods (you’ve seen their packaged salads and veggies in your local supermarket) and Kevin Murphy of Driscoll’s (their strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries are known worldwide for their amazing taste and quality).

Left to right: Bruce Taylor, me, and Kevin Murphy


Liven up citrus displays with California-grown exotic varieties

Los Alamitos, CA – (February 2017) – California specialty citrus supplies are back after a few weeks of winter rainstorms. Cheer up shoppers with California-grown exotic citrus varieties like Tahitian pummelos, kumquats and other “quat” varieties, specialty lemons, and more.

“We have had an incredible specialty citrus season so far—these varieties really bring excitement to the citrus display,” said Alex Jackson, senior account manager at Frieda’s Specialty Produce. “Winter doesn’t mean just apples and oranges anymore. A big, beautiful display of bulk and packaged specialty citrus will draw attention.”

Specialty citrus is not just great for retailers, but foodservice as well. “Mocktails and fizzy drinks are big this year, and specialty citrus is key to making things exciting at the bar as both ingredients and garnish,” added Jackson.

Start California dreaming, and contact Frieda’s account managers today to stock up on peak-season citrus such as Tahitian pummelos, kumquats, limequats, mandarinquats, pink lemons, proprietary varieties of mandarin orange, and organic mango oranges.

About Frieda’s Inc.

Frieda’s Specialty Produce has been inspiring new food experiences for friends, families, and food lovers everywhere since 1962. From kiwifruit to dragon fruit and from Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes to habanero peppers, Frieda’s has introduced more than 200 unique fruits and vegetables to the U.S. marketplace. Founded by produce industry trailblazer Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, subject of the 2015 documentary “Fear No Fruit,” the family company is 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.

When I see or hear the word “charcoal,” I immediately think of those black briquettes that are used for grilling (if you don’t have a gas grill). At one time, the only way to grill or barbecue was to buy charcoal briquettes, splash some lighter fluid on them, and light a match. Your food might taste a bit like kerosene, but, who cared?

Now here we are in 2017, and charcoal is one of the top food trends for this year.

And no, it’s not the same as the barbecue briquettes.

Also known as activated charcoal, this pitch-black powder is made from heated coconut shells (coconut anything is another big trend), which is harmless and different from consuming charred foods. If this sounds familiar to you, it is because activated charcoal is used in your water filter for purification and in your hospital for poison absorption. In fact, my daughter Alex told me she first got familiar with charcoal as an ingredient in facial masks that remove toxins and impurities from your skin.


As far as trends go, charcoal is everywhere from bread and baked goods to ice cream, and from juices and smoothies to cocktails. But I’m still skeptical.

Last week, Alex and I walked into my local Nekter Juice Bar after a hard workout. She pointed out, “Oh, look. They’re sampling charcoal juice! Want a taste?”

Did I want a drink of charcoal juice? Alex, you must be kidding!

After a bit of questioning, I tried a small sip of the blackish-gray liquid. It wasn’t so bad!

As it turns out, according to a March 2015 Time Magazine article and a September 2016 POPSUGAR article, not a lot of scientific research has been done on the health benefits of drinking charcoal drinks. But when mixed with other green juice drinks, it seems to be safe enough. Plus, the green drink cocktail masks the chalky, gritty taste of the charcoal.

When I went back to the Nekter Juice Bar last night for my regular green drink, I asked how the charcoal drink blends are selling. I was told that they are very popular and they were sold out!

Instinctively, it makes sense that, if you want to detox your body, a green drink with charcoal would help with detoxing. (You can even make your own!) But as one of the articles warned, don’t have a big charcoal drink within a couple of hours of taking medicine. Also, too much of a good thing might have the opposite effect on your digestion.

For me, I will probably just stick to “the Greenie,” made with a base of kale, parsley, cucumber, and celery with a little apple and lemon for flavor. My naturopath tells me I need to drink at least one green drink a day to help make my body less acidic (more alkaline). This will help reduce any inflammation.

That’s my favorite on the right, “the Greenie.”

For those of us who have recommitted to healthier habits in the new year, consider just making one small change at a time. So, one of my first commitments for 2017 is to eat more greens. And a green drink at my local juice bar requires no preparation on my part and tastes amazing.

As for charcoal juice, it’s not for me but that should not stop you. Try it and see!