During a recent Agriculture Issues Center meeting at the University of California, Davis, (I serve on the center’s advisory board) I was fascinated with a short presentation about bees by one of the Davis ag researchers. She and her graduate student gave a short synopsis of their work and then asked for questions.

I couldn’t get my hand up fast enough. I asked what I thought was the most obvious question:

“What about colony collapse disorder? You didn’t talk about the bee shortage.”

Their answer was a bit shocking to me: “There is no shortage of bees.”

What? With all the press over the last 10 years, I really couldn’t believe what they were saying. So, after the meeting, I did some research and spoke to the director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center, Dr. Daniel A. Sumner. A highly respected researcher and spokesperson, Dan has been quoted numerous times in the Wall Street Journal, LA Times, and dozens of other publications.

Dan started by telling me that he continues to work on this issue because the news media (and even some of the scientists) have gotten the broad supply-and-demand story so mixed up. He told me the number of bees has gone up not down in the past 10 years. The cost of pollination has fallen, while demand has gone way up (with more almond acres). Demand up but price down is a sure sign that supply is now much more available than a decade ago.

I also learned that much of the supply of bees is trucked around the country to move from growing area to growing area, as most of the bee population in the U.S. is used to pollinate crops (with almonds being one of the top users). Very few are used for producing honey. During the short presentation, I learned that many bees start out in North Dakota, are trucked to California for almond pollination season, then are moved to other parts of the state and country, depending on the need for bees.

Here is a chart showing the types of crops that use bees for pollination, with the time of year and pricing.

If you’d like to know a lot more about “bee-conomics,” here is a recent article published by Dr. Sumner and the professor who spoke to us, Dr. Hyunok Lee.

So what did I learn from this experience?

Well first of all, I learned that just because something is reported in the news or is on the internet, it does not make it true. We all know that the news media is oftentimes looking for sensational stories that pull at our hearts or make our stomachs turn. I learned the importance of asking questions and doing more investigating.

I was also reminded of how interconnected and resilient agriculture is. The fact that almonds are one of the fastest growing crops in California is no secret. But all I ever heard was how much water it takes to grow almonds (the drought, water shortages, etc., have been hot news topics for years). But who knew that it takes an average of two hives per mature acre of almonds and there are now almost a million acres of mature almonds in California.

It’s good old supply-and-demand economics (which I studied in college). And that’s where the resilience comes in.

With constant talks of drought, water shortages, urban sprawl, Amazon buying Whole Foods, Walmart buying Jet.com, and McDonald’s relevance in the future, I know for sure that our industry is resilient. Farmers will always produce food. They will always find a way to fill the demand and the fact that we now enjoy a global economy just gives us more opportunities and options.

As for the bees, it was good to know that there is no bee shortage. I wonder what else isn’t true that is reported by the press?

Karen

Summer is ripe for dragon fruit promotions

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Red Dragon Fruit - Nicaragua

Los Alamitos, CA (June 2017) – This is the perfect time to really drive retail sales for red-fleshed dragon fruit with a lower retail price point. Nothing adds color and excitement like this eye-catching, pink-skinned, magenta-fleshed fruit.

“Summertime is peak season for dragon fruit, and the prices are very reasonable,” said Alex Jackson Berkley of Frieda’s Specialty Produce. “Dragon fruit is one of the top-selling and trending tropical fruits, and also resonates with Asian and Hispanic shoppers.

“Build a big, beautiful dragon fruit display with signage about the different varieties, as shoppers may want to try all the colors and flavors. Merchandise other tropical fruits along with the dragon fruit to make the display a truly exotic destination,” said Berkley.

Nicaragua Dragon Fruit

Available from June through November, Nicaragua red dragon fruit has a rounder shape—like a pink softball—with a deep magenta flesh and better flavor than the mild Vietnamese variety. Frieda’s ships Nicaragua fruit from both Miami and Los Alamitos, California, in pallet or truckload volume.

In addition to Nicaragua, Frieda’s supplies dragon fruit from several other growing regions to offer year-round availability on this trending fruit:

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Dragon Fruit Varieties

Vietnam Dragon Fruit

Available in white and limited red flesh, this top-selling variety boasts a beautiful appearance and is available year-round. (It’s also the only dragon fruit that has to be irradiated.)

Israel Pitaya

Available from July through March, the non-irradiated Israeli crop has multiple colors and appearances, from white flesh, to red flesh, to the popular yellow skinned fruit with white flesh. Some varieties feature curly “leaves,” while others may have a more unique pinecone-type shape.

USA White and Red Dragon Fruits

Similar in appearance to the Vietnam fruit, they’re grown in Florida and California, and available from June to August.

“We always get asked the difference between dragon fruit and pitaya. The names can actually be used interchangeably!” said Berkley. “The key is to have the fruit properly labeled with a PLU—which we do on all the fruit we ship.”

From super-trendy pitaya bowls and smoothies to tropical fruit platters for summer entertaining, red-fleshed dragon fruit is the hottest fruit of the season. Retailers, wholesalers, and foodservice providers interested in growing their tropical fruit program should contact Frieda’s account managers 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.

Last weekend, I attended a cooking class conducted by my favorite longtime local chef, Alan Greeley. Alan is well known in Orange County as the chef-proprietor of The Golden Truffle restaurant in Newport Beach. Earlier this month, he announced that after 37 years, he is closing up shop in August. Turns out he is moving to Sarasota, Florida, to start a new chapter in his life. The local paper did a nice story on Chef Alan and the history of The Golden Truffle. (Alan also helped us develop our favorite recipe for our Stokes Purple Sweet Potato a few years ago.)

The first time I dined at The Golden Truffle, I noticed all the framed photos of Alan with Elton John. I learned that Alan was once invited to make dinner at a local executive’s house. He rented a giant tub, filled it with ice, and created an amazing display of fresh seafood, plus prepared some amazing dishes. Turns out the guest of honor that evening was Sir Elton John, and a lifelong friendship was born. Rumor has it that whenever Elton John is in SoCal, he has Alan deliver some of his famous curried pies, always quite popular with the British.

So, when I received an email that Chef Alan was conducting his last ever Father’s Day Barbecue Cooking Class, I signed up immediately. I got there early, walked straight to the back of the restaurant, and found Alan. After a big hug, all I could say was, “WTF?” (You have to know Alan…the “f” word is one of his favorites. He frequently peppers his conversations with it, so it was quite natural for me to say that.) He let me know that his longtime love, who worked by his side for many years, had moved to Florida, and it just wasn’t as much fun without her. So he’s moving to Florida to be with her.

When the class started, there were about 50 of us there, all longtime restaurant patrons and friends of Alan. We were all poured a lovely glass of Listel Rosé and Alan started talking. He often referenced his favorite barbecue cookbook.

He started the class by explaining the difference between barbecue and grilling. According to Alan (and I took this verbatim from his notes):

Barbecue is a whole day social event. You show up early, light the fire, start drinking, gambling, playing cards, be sure you have a case or two on ice, do more drinking, a little nooky if you can pull it off, take a small nap, shower to wash off the smoke, prep the food, have a fresh drink, and it’s time to eat.

Grilling is a 1-2-3 hour affair. Pour yourself a drink if no one does first (if you invite the right guests, they will pour it for you). Light the grill, add some asparagus, steak, fish, etc. No clean up, no hassle. Eat.

As you can tell, Alan is a lot of fun and has a great sense of humor.

I also learned a lot of helpful hints from him during the hour he spoke to us:

■ He said not to barbecue in linen or cotton clothes because you will never get the smoky smell out of them.

■ The best barbecue is a Weber because you can control the air flow. He said it’s all about air flow (with a Weber, you don’t have air leaks). He said the Big Green Egg is a Weber on steroids.

■ He told us that the reason you need to allow a whole day (and lots of alcohol) when you barbecue is that the key is not to rush it. It takes time. He laughed while recounting some of his friends calling him during a barbecue and complaining to Alan that “the food wasn’t done yet. It didn’t cook fast enough.” Alan says you cannot rush barbecue. It’s all about heat, smoke, and going slow.

■ He talked a bit about cold smoking (Scandinavian style), and how to brine meat or poultry. I learned that while adding salt to veggies (like eggplant) will leach out the liquid, when you brine meat, it actually causes it to absorb liquid, thus making it more tender.

He did tell a few barbecue jokes; here’s the only one that was G-rated:

The definition of Tennessee BBQ: Chase a pig up a hickory tree. Light the tree on fire. Have dinner.

After an hour of sharing his secrets to great barbecue and giving us a behind-the-scenes tour of his custom-built smoker (outside behind the restaurant), we all sat down for a lovely lunch of brisket, pulled pork, barbecued potato salad, smoked salmon, cherry tomatoes with dill, and peach melba for dessert. And lots of Listel Rosé.

I know I have about six more weeks before the restaurant closes and Alan drives across the country. So I’m sure I will be back a few more times to share a glass of wine with him and let him decide what I will have to eat. It was at my first meal at The Golden Truffle over 15 years ago that I experienced not ordering off a menu, letting the chef decide what was best.

If you find yourself in Orange County soon, I highly recommend a meal at The Golden Truffle. Bon appetit!

Karen

Chef Alan Greeley and me

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McCormick’s Flavor Forecast 2017 points to the produce department

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Grilling Trends 2017

Los Alamitos, CA (June 2017) – From perfect-for-grilling baby potatoes to specialty peppers and fresh Asian flavors, the produce department is where it’s at for summer grilling essentials.

The recent McCormick & Co.’s Flavor Forecast 2017 “5 Hot Ideas for Summer” includes grilled potatoes, Korean barbecue flavors, and fruity, sticky sweet, and spicy glazes.

“These grilling trends resonate with shoppers seeking new food experiences for summer grilling, and they can go to the produce department for it,” said Alex Jackson Berkley of Frieda’s Specialty Produce. “Merchandise specialty produce alongside conventional ones to inspire shoppers. Retailers can get creative with in-store displays and signage, suggesting new ways to use produce for summer grilling.”

Here are some merchandising suggestions to complement each grilling trend:

Bring on the heat

Complete your pepper display with a wide range of heat level from mild mini sweet peppers to grilling favorites like poblano and serrano, all the way to the super-hots like ghost, Trinidad Scorpion, and Carolina Reaper.

Grilling potatoes

Display fingerling and assorted baby potatoes like Frieda’s Star Spangled Spuds with russets and Okinawan sweet potatoes with orange sweet potatoes.

Korean barbecue flavor center

Add daikon, napa cabbage, and Shanghai bok choy to your Asian vegetable display and make sure to have kimchi in the refrigerated case.

Frieda’s also suggests adding these grilling favorites: shishito peppers, jicama, radish varieties, baby pineapples, summer squashes, mini graffiti eggplants, baby Japanese eggplants, and pearl, boiler, and cipolline onions.

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.

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zYCn4Wix6dw]

Our president and CEO Karen and our company were featured on Intel’s #SheOwnsIt series which spotlights women small business owners and their journey of success.

“It is an absolute requirement to be fearless when you run a business. Sometimes you’re going in a direction no one else has been before. And the leader has to be leading the charge.”

And we’d follow her anywhere.

Like many, I had developed a regular workout routine, which involved going to my local gym, open seven days a week. With that came a regular annual or monthly fee.

The gym also offered classes (which I admit I tried on occasion), including cycling, Zumba, yoga, aerobics, etc. It also has a large variety of weight machines, free weights, racquetball courts, a steam room, etc.

And that worked great for me for many years.

Except when it stopped having an appeal for me. I started to dislike the stinky smell, the old equipment, the marginally motivated people who were in the gym, and honestly, I felt surrounded by staleness. I wanted to try something new―mix it up a bit.

A few years ago, my co-worker Bailey started talking about Orangetheory Fitness, a new workout place she’d found. Classes are one hour long, you wear a heart rate monitor, and your heart rate, along with calories burned, is displayed on multiple computer monitors on the walls. A coach guides you through a combination of high intensity cardio and weight training, while fast paced music plays. It sounded way more fun than trudging into my local gym with that awful smelly sock aroma, surrounded by a mix of other people with mixed agendas for their workout plans.

So I tried it. And, I have to admit, since I’m a pretty social person and am energized by being around younger people, it actually made it more fun for me to work out in this environment. I also found I was getting a much better workout. Plus, everyone there seemed as motivated and energetic as I was.

You may have heard of other exercise options that are now available, such as Peloton, which allows you to have a “private indoor cycling” studio in your home, and connects you to Peloton’s content and user network via Wi-Fi.

Welcome to the new economy and yet another disruptor to an existing business model.

We all know it’s important to have a healthy lifestyle, which includes exercise, healthy eating choices, plenty of rest (I now strive for at least seven and a half hours of sleep a night), and reducing stress.

The great thing is that there are many options available for us to create a customized healthy lifestyle. My healthy eating choices can come from the conventional grocery store or I can subscribe to Blue Apron or Purple Carrot and feel like a gourmet cook.

And I can do my exercise in the comfort of my home with a virtual class (Peloton), or take a walk on the beach or on a hiking trail in the local mountains, or step up the intensity at a local fitness venue like Orangetheory. Or if I choose, I can stay with an older business model and join my local gym.

That’s the great thing about the new economy; there are so many options available to us. For everything we do.

For me, I chose to quit my local, conventional gym and try something new. I attend Orangetheory classes three to four times a week, am trying out a local yoga studio, and take an occasional hike in the mountains. And who knows, in a few months, I may want to change it up again. But the great thing for me is that I have broken out of my rut of the same-old, same-old and feel more inspired and energetic.

You may want to consider quitting your gym too!

Karen

P.S. Here is a photo of two of my favorite coaches from Orangetheory, Kristian and Megan.