Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Brooks Tropicals’ chayote grower makes the front page

Alberto Bonilla, director of sales for Ujarras, Costa Rica-based B&C Exportadores, made the front page of this week’s The Packer.

Alberto is show examining chayote at the company’s farm. The caption notes that during chayote’s peak season from November to February, the firm exports about 20 containers of chayote and tubers from Costa Rica to global markets. About 80% is bound for the U.S.

Photo courtesy of The Packer

Friday, November 21, 2008

Greens with bacon and Florida avocado dressing

Article and recipe courtesy of the Centre Daily Times, State College, PA. Thursday, Nov. 20, 2008

Makes 8 servings plus 1 cup additional dressing

We're coming to the end of the season for Florida avocados. They're still the major commercial fruit crop in Miami-Dade, according to agricultural extension agent Mary Lamberts, who notes that they have 25 to 30 percent fewer calories, ounce for ounce, than their California cousins.

Do ahead: The dressing can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. The bacon can be fried and refrigerated several days ahead.

• ½ to 1 ripe Florida avocado depending on size, coarsely chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
• 1 cup buttermilk
• 2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
• 2 small shallots, peeled and coarsely chopped
• 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
• 2 small garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
• ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
• ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil

• 1 pound bacon, cooked until crisp, drained and broken into 1-inch pieces
• 1 ripe Florida avocado cut into thin wedges
• 1 pound mesclun salad mix

To make the dressing, combine the chopped avocado, buttermilk, vinegar, shallots, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper in a blender; process until smooth. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a thin stream and process until smooth.

To make the salad, toss the mesclun with the bacon in a large bowl. Add ½ cup dressing and toss until evenly coated. (Refrigerate remaining dressing for later use.)Season the salad with salt and pepper and mound on 8 salad plates. Tuck avocado wedges into greens.

Per serving dressed salad: 383 calories (73 percent from fat), 31.3 g fat (10.1 g saturated, 17.3 g monounsaturated), 67.8 mg cholesterol, 19.4 g protein, 6.7 g carbohydrates, 2.9 g fiber, 1,523 mg sodium.

Per tablespoon dressing: 81 calories (90 percent from fat), 8.1 g fat (1.2 g saturated, 5.7 g monounsaturated), 0.4 mg cholesterol, 0.7 g protein, 1.9 g carbohydrates, 0.7 g fiber, 89.1 mg sodium.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Two local newspapers feature recipes starring starfruit

Starfruit is getting a lot of press lately. Both the Miami Herald and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel have featured starfruit or carambola recipes for their pre-Thanksgiving editions.

The first recipe makes a tropical switch. Instead of pineapple, bake a Carambola Upside Down Cake. The second is Carambola Pickles! I'm intrigued. I've never done pickled anything before. Pickled starfruit will look beautiful.

Carambola Upside Down Cake
Excerpts from an 11/18/08 article in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Makes 8 servings. Serve with whipped nondairy topping or whipped cream.

1 to 2 Florida carambolas, sliced 1/8-inch thick
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
Juice of 2 Florida passion fruit*
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Arrange sliced carambolas decoratively in bottom of a greased 9-inch cake pan as close together as possible.
  3. Mix together 1/4 cup melted butter, brown sugar and passion fruit juice and pour into pan, lifting and rotating pan so mixture covers bottom. Set aside.
  4. Cream together 1/2 cup softened butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well.
  5. Mix together dry ingredients. Add flour mixture, alternately with milk.
  6. Stir in vanilla and almond extracts. Pour into prepared cake pan.
  7. Bake 40 minutes or until cake pulls away from side of pan and center is set.
  8. Let cool five minutes before inverting onto serving plate.
*If you can't find passion fruit you can substitute 2 tablespoons passion fruit juice available at supermarkets.

Quick Carambola Pickles
Excerpt from an 11/20/08 article in the Miami Herald

The star-shaped carambola's tart, juicy taste make excellent spicy pickles that will wake up your mouth.

Makes 8 servings

Do ahead: Pickles may be prepared 1 week in advance.

8 carambolas (star fruit)
½ cup cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
½ cup orange juice
4 inches stick cinnamon
¼ teaspoon black peppercorns
3 star anise
1 tablespoon finely shredded orange zest
  1. If the edges of the carombola ribs are brown, trim away discoloration with a vegetable peeler. Cut fruit into 3/8-inch slices and set aside.
  2. Combine the vinegar, sugar, orange juice, cinnamon, peppercorns and anise in a saucepan.
  3. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar.
  4. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 7 minutes.
  5. Remove mixture from heat and remove spices with a slotted spoon.
  6. Add the carambola slices and orange zest to the hot syrup, and let them steep for 5 minutes.
  7. Remove slices with a slotted spoon. Cool the liquid to room temperature and refrigerate until cold.
  8. Return carambola to the syrup and refrigerate, covered.

Papaya Fights Wrinkles

Excerpts from an article at realage.com

You really can fight wrinkles from the inside out. And there's a fruit that can lead the charge. It's papaya.

What makes papaya so perfect? Easy. Vitamin C. Papaya has loads of it, and getting lots of vitamin C may mean more youthful skin -- fewer wrinkles and less thinning and dryness. A recent study in women over 40 confirmed it.

The Mysteries of C
Vitamin C is a natural friend to skin. The nutrient is essential for making collagen, the protein fibers that give skin its strength and resiliency. And being a powerful antioxidant, C also disarms free radicals that would otherwise chip away and weaken collagen.

Thank you Jorge Jimenez for finding this article.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Top papaya photo of the week

This week’s winning papaya photograph is courtesy of Tastespotting.com
Read the article.

Papayas help minimize vision loss

Excerpts from an 11/18/08 article - Chef adapts recipe, using ingredients that help minimize macular degeneration - by Nancy Churnin for The Dallas Morning News.

About 10 million Americans suffer from age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss in people 65 and older, says Dr. Dwain Gordon Fuller, an ophthalmologist and retinal specialist in private practice at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas.

Although there's no cure, Dr. Fuller says there are natural, as well as medical, ways to slow its progress. Recent ongoing studies suggest that certain antioxidants, such as omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins and minerals, can play an important role in eye health.


  1. Vitamin C: in papayas, tomatoes, tomato paste, red bell peppers, green onions (also found in oranges, grapefruit, strawberries)
  2. Vitamin E: in olive oil (also found in safflower and corn oil, almonds, pecans, wheat germ and sunflower seeds)
  3. Beta-carotene: in carrots and peaches (also found in other deep orange or yellow fruits and vegetables: cantaloupe, papayas, mangos, apricots and sweet potatoes)
  4. Lutein and zeaxanthin: in carrots (also found in dark green leafy vegetables: broccoli, collard greens, asparagus and spinach)
  5. Zinc: in pork (also found in beef, lamb, oysters, eggs, shellfish, milk, peanuts, whole grains and wheat germ)

Read the entire article

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The grocery game: How to shop smartly

Excerpts from an 11/18/08 Miami Herald article by GiGi Lehman

Consider the challenges faced by the early Americans trying to get their first Thanksgiving meal on the table: Outsmart the wild turkeys, clean the codfish, grind the grain into meal, gather the corn and be grateful that Native American chief Massasoit contributed five deer to the feast. (Today, a nice bottle of wine or homemade pie would be considered sufficient.)

But navigating a modern supermarket in advance of the big day can be almost as daunting. Should the turkey be free-range? Are those ''whole grain'' rolls the real deal? Pay more for organic cranberries and oranges for the sauce? How many calories in that pumpkin pie from the bakery?

That's why the most useful skill for today's supermarket sleuths is the ability to read a nutrition label, not turkey tracks. So, in advance of one of the biggest grocery shopping trips of the year, here are some tips to help you put a meal on the table that's at least as healthful as the one enjoyed at the earliest Thanksgivings.


• ''You can't go wrong with vegetables and fruits unless you buy too much and throw them away,'' says Gayle Dietz, a registered dietitian and nutritional consultant with Dietz and Associates.

• Those annoying little stickers on produce have a function beyond getting you to pull the flesh off a nectarine trying to remove them. Five-digit numbers starting with 8 mean the food is genetically modified; five-digit numbers beginning with 9 are for organic produce. Four-digit numbers mean a food is conventionally grown. But the labeling is optional and a creation of the International Federation of Produce Standards, an industry group -- not a government agency.

• When is it worthwhile to buy organic? Organic produce is often (but not always) significantly costlier than other food. To spend your food dollar where it will do the most good, Consumers Union, the organization behind Consumer Reports magazine, suggests buying organic versions of these fruits and vegetables whenever possible: apples, bell peppers, celery, cherries, imported grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, red raspberries, spinach and strawberries. Blogger note: avocados, papayas, starfruit and a host of tropical fruits and vegetables never make this ‘must buy organic’ list.

The Tastes of 2009

Excerpts from an 11/17/08 article in the Convenience Store News

CHICAGO -- Don’t expect bland flavors in 2009, according to research firm Mintel, which recently released a report of the trendy flavors that will be used in new products next year. Product manufacturers will mix in exotic fruits and fresh, soothing flavors, with a touch of spice, the company stated.

"Today's manufacturer is constantly looking for those tastes and aromas that stand out and capture shoppers' imagination," Mintel new product expert, Lynn Dornblaser, said in a statement. "By adding exotic fruits and unusual ingredients to everyday products, companies give people the opportunity to experiment and move out of their comfort zones without breaking the bank."

There are seven flavors that will present themselves in 2009 and become heavy-hitters across the globe, the company stated. Those flavors cited by Mintel are:

Starfruit -- An unusually shaped, distinctly flavored fruit that is catching on around the globe.

Read the entire article

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My Facial Is Tastier Than Yours

Excerpts from a New York Times article by Natasha Singer
Published: November 12, 2008

The New York Times held a ‘facial face-off’, a contest between several different types of facial masks made from unusual ingredients. The winner was the avocado, but close behind was the papaya which made the skin feel cleaner and smoother but kept on slipping off the face. Other facials in the face-off included coffee and aspirin.

Here are the recipes for the winning masks.


1 very ripe avocado
1 tablespoon honey
Mix and mash together into a soft, uniform paste. Spread thickly onto face. Wait 15 minutes. Wash off.


1 very ripe papaya
1 tablespoon honey
Cut papaya in half and discard seeds. Dice papaya into small pieces. Mash papaya into a smooth paste. Use a strainer to remove extra liquid. Add honey. Apply to face. Wait 10 to 15 minutes. Wash off.

The New York Times article

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Flowers of an avocado tree

Armando from R&D took these up-close photos of avocado flowers for his work. They turned out so strikingly beautiful that it is worth a blog post.

Fresh Trends 2008

A brief summary of the survey taken by The Packer.


The likelihood of a person buying an avocado was highest in:

  • households making $100K or more, 51%. Consumers earning less than $25,000 were the least likely group to buy. This is a change from last year when consumers in the lowest income bracket were among some of the most likely to buy.
  • the West, 60%. In contrast, 33% and 21% of buyers in the South and Northeast, respectively, were likely to buy an avocado. The Midwest came in at 24%.
  • families with 3 or more kids, 42%. In households with no children, only 31% said they were likely to buy.
  • 21 to 39 year olds, 36%. Lowest in 50 to 58 year olds, 29%.

In papayas, the survey found that papaya purchases increased 3% over the year. 9% purchased papayas in the last 12 mos. Papayas were the commodity that consumers were least comfortable selecting. Only 13% said they knew how to choose ripe fruit. Only 9% said they knew how to ripen papayas once they got them home.

The likelihood of a person buying a papaya was highest in:

  • the Northeast at 10%, but tying for close seconds at 9% are the South, West and Midwest.
  • 21 to 39 year olds, 11%, 50 to 58 year olds, 4%. Other age groups came in right being the 21 to 39 year old results.
  • Families with 3 or more kids, 16%. In households with no children, only 7% said they were likely to buy.
  • Buyers that were single, 13%. Married buyers came in at 8%.

Kumquat Refrigerator Pie

Our Kumquat grower offers an alternative to a key lime pie.

8 oz. whipped topping
2/3 cup pureed kumquats
1 - 14 oz. can condensed milk
½ cup fresh lime juice
9” graham cracker pie crust

1 Combine and beat the condensed milk and whipped topping.
2 Add the lime juice and beat until thickened.
3 Wash the kiwi fruit, cut in half and remove seeds. Puree in a blender or food chopper. Add to the above milk mixture.
4 Pour into the pie shell and chill in the refrigerator or freezer*
5 Garnish with kumquats or mint leaves

*this pie can be frozen: thaw before serving.

Interesting facts from the Florida Department of Agriculture

Florida has the fourth largest population, the fourth largest economy, the most golf courses, the most lightning strikes and one of the largest agriculture industries in the nation.

Agriculture is Florida’s second largest industry after tourism, ranking 9th in overall farm revenues ($6.97 B). Meanwhile Florida ranks only 23rd in number of farms. The FDA sees this last statistic as proof of Florida farmers being more efficient.

For us living in Homestead where foliage farms abound, I thought it was interesting to note that foliage plants made up 12% of Florida’s agriculture’s revenues in 2006.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

PMA Fresh Summit 2008 - photo album

PMA's over. It was a grueling two days (for three of us, it was three days). Everyone worked hard and it paid off. Here are just a few pictures from the show.