Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mangos, papayas star in a variety of dishes

Excerpts from a 5/27/09 article in the Galveston County Daily News by Bernice Torregrossa

Not long ago, mangos and papayas were rare treats, something fondly remembered from tropical vacations. Now, mangos and papayas are encountered in the produce section of virtually every grocery store. Here, as in many of the warm parts of the world, they’ve become sort of a more-portable snow cone, cooling and sticky-sweet.

Papayas originated in Central America, where Christopher Columbus recorded his enthusiasm for them, calling them “the fruit of the angels.” Spanish and Portuguese explorers took them from the Americas to many of the other territories they visited, including India, the Philippines and parts of Africa.

Like melons, papayas are generally used raw, either eaten alone or chopped in a fruit salad. They also are a frequent ingredient in fruit smoothies, where they add a big boost of vitamin C and antioxidants.

When mixed with other fruit, it’s best to make papayas a last-minute addition, because they contain papain, an enzyme best known for its role as a meat tenderizer. While this makes papaya an excellent addition to marinades, the enzyme does much the same thing on other fruits, and can make them mushy after a while.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Coconuts in your diet

Foods You Should Be Eating, But Aren't
Improving your health can be as simple as eating these items.
Excerpts from an article by Susan Adams on

Eaten many coconuts lately? How about cherries or blueberries or grass-fed beef?
You should, because these are all foods with powerful health properties. However, few people pack their grocery carts full of these items.

"In America, most people don't eat three servings of fruit and vegetables a day," says nutritionist Jonny Bowden. According to him, there are 10 very healthy foods we don't eat enough of.

Ignore the Food Pyramid
Bowden says many Americans are misled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's food pyramid, which is a graphic, pyramid-shaped depiction of nutrition guidelines, updated every five years, that tells Americans what to eat according to food groups. Bowden dismisses it as the product of interest group politics.

"It demonizes fat," notes Bowden. "Fat is an essential building block for many important compounds in the body." This is why Bowden puts grass-fed beef, wild salmon and, yes, coconuts, on his top 10 list.

Coconuts are a terribly misunderstood food, according to Bowden. The fat in coconuts is a particular kind that's good for you. It's called MCT, or Medium-Chain Triglycerides. The body doesn't store MCT as fat, says Bowden, but rather uses it as energy, like a carbohydrate. Coconuts are also high in lauric acid, a fatty acid that tends to kill pathogens. In addition, coconut oil is great for cooking since it has a very high smoke point.

Eat Mediterranean
For Bowden, sticking to a Mediterranean-style diet is the healthiest way to eat. That means plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, and lots of olive and nut oils. The Mediterranean diet has indeed been proved by study after study to have multiple healthful properties.

For more information about the Mediterrean Diet Pyramid .

SlimCado Avocado Season Kicks off

Press Release
HOMESTEAD, Florida, May 19th, 2009

Just in time for summer’s salads, salsas, dips and spreads, SlimCado avocados are coming into season. With half the fat and one-third fewer calories,* SlimCados pack a lot of avocado into every health-conscious serving.

Brooks Tropicals, LLC, starts picking the early varieties at the end of May. Commercial volumes are expected by mid-June, with promotional volumes becoming available during July and August. Harvesting normally ends in January, with light volumes in February. Over sixty percent of Florida avocado’s retail sales are distributed by Brooks.

President Craig Wheeling estimates that “one million bushels of avocados will be harvested during the 2008-09 season. That’s approximately ten percent less than last year.”

Bill Brindle, vice president of sales for Brooks expects this season’s pricing to be slightly higher at the beginning, as the crop is expected to start off light. As the season progresses and volumes ratchet up as projected, he anticipates more typical pricing.

Brooks Tropicals strives to deliver SlimCado avocados at their freshest to their customers with the Continuous Cold Chain®, a process which cools the fruit down to its core immediately after picking. The fruit is kept cool throughout the packing and distribution process to ensure that the highest-quality fruit is being delivered to your store.

“This year’s looking good for Florida avocados,” said Brindle. “Marketing them as SlimCados not only grabs shoppers’ attention, but correctly positions this Florida avocado in the produce section as the health-conscious avocado choice.”

It’s been a great year for avocados as health professionals continue their recognition of avocados as having monounsaturated fat, which is considered “good fat.” With doctors recommending that fat, even good fat, should be eaten in moderation (up to 70 calories a day), avocado lovers double their health-conscious servings by eating SlimCados.

Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Brooks Tropicals, notes that consumers are already asking for SlimCados. “Although it’s only out of season four months, to SlimCado aficionados it seems much longer.”

SlimCado avocados have gone beyond being just an essential ingredient in Latin cooking; this avocado has provided health-conscious inspiration for mainstream recipes from appetizers to salads to entrees. With Florida avocados coming into season, it will soon be the perfect time to enjoy this tasty domestic fruit at its freshest.

Florida avocados are grown commercially on about 6,500 acres, mainly in Miami-Dade County at the extreme southern end of the state. Florida’s avocado production normally accounts for 9 percent of U.S. avocado acreage.**

*Compared to the leading California avocado.
**Florida Department of Agriculture.
SlimCado is a registered trademark of Brooks Tropicals, LLC.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Employee Health Fair

Brooks Tropicals hosted its 1st annual Employee Health Fair at the Homestead facility. Medical technicians provided free health screenings for cholesterol, blood pressure and body mass index (BMI). Technicians were also available to answer questions about the risk of heart disease, stress, aches and pains.

Those that participated got a free 5 minute-chair masage and signed up to win some great prizes.

Here's to our health.

Brooks Tropicals kicks off Florida 'SlimCado' season

05/19/2009 article written by Christina DiMartino for the Produce News

Brooks Tropicals, the largest producer of Florida avocados, has begun picking fruit and said that there will be ample promotional opportunities once the peak shipping season begins later this summer.

"It will be a big year overall for the 'SlimCado' avocado," Mary Ostlund, marketing director for Brooks Tropicals LLC, based in Homestead, FL, told The Produce News.

With all of the media attention to the healthy fat in avocados, consumer demand is strong and growing. But people are also learning how to make the best of the 70 grams of fat per day limit recommended by doctors. The SlimCado' brand is important because it tells consumers they can eat more of this delicious item and still stay within their fat and calorie limits."

Ms. Ostlund said that the Florida-grown SlimCado" has 50 percent less fat and a third fewer calories than other avocado varieties. And people are finding new and interesting ways to use the item. "Salsa recipes are vastly expanding," she said.

There is a lot of buzz now about recipes that incorporate avocados, papayas and mangos, as alternatives to tomato salsas, and they are particularly good with vinaigrette dressings. At the foodservice level, chefs are even using salsas made with tropical produce as toppings on seafood and poultry entrees. The creative doors are wide open for recipes that include tropicals for bringing interest, excitement and great flavor to plates."

Ms. Ostlund said that statewide estimates call for 1 million boxes of avocados this season. Brooks grows on about 3,100 acres and produces about half of the state's volume. The majority of the commercial crop is located in the Miami-Dade area in south Florida. "If you think about where most commercial volumes of avocados are produced, such as the Hass variety, you find climates that are typically hot and dry," said Ms. Ostlund. But south Florida is anything but dry -- it's hot and very humid. It is understandable that a different kind of avocado would flourish in this region. The SlimCado' is naturally grown without [genetically modified organisms]. The result is a great tasting, lower fat and calorie avocado."

Volume statewide is expected to be about 10 percent lower than last year, but that is good news. "Florida avocado trees have an alternative annual growing cycle, so this figure is pretty impressive for a lower-volume year," she said. We have learned how to keep the trees pruned and manicured in ways that enable the trees to yield larger crops during the lower cycle year. It looks like a great season overall."

Brooks Tropicals started picking SlimCado avocados in mid-May. In mid- June, the company will be up to commercial volumes. In July, August and even into September, promotional opportunities will be prime for the abundant crop. Ms. Ostlund said the fruit is good size and high quality. "The volume in Florida has decreased since Hurricane Andrew devastated the area in 1992," she added. But SlimCado' volumes have increased because we have gotten so good at growing them."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Avocado Chicken Salad

They start picking SlimCados Wednesday. I know it'll be light pickings for a month, but I can't help get excited about the season starting

Pal's sister Mary Beth shares a great salad for outside fun. This recipe uses a SlimCado instead of mayonnaise, so there's no worrying about this salad being out too long.

This SlimCado Avocado Chicken Salad serves 4. It's adapted from a recipe from Cooking Light


  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, filleted
  • 1 SlimCado Avocado, chopped
  • 1 large beefsteak or slicing tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 bunch scallions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • Kosher salt and fresh black pepper
  • 1 lime


  1. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high. While oil is heating, salt and pepper both sides of the chicken.
  2. Add chicken to pan and sear 4 or 5 minutes per side, until browned and just cooked through. Remove chicken from pan and let cool.
  3. Mash the SlimCado Avocado then combine with tomato, scallions, and cilantro in a bowl. Squeeze half a lime onto the mixture and stir to combine.
  4. Once cooled, chop the chicken into 1/2-inch chunks. Squeeze the remaining lime over the chunks and add to avocado mixture. Stir until combined.
  5. Salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tropical fruit marketers try to play to 'stay-cationers'

Excerpts from an 5/04/2009 article in The Packer by Abraham Mahshie

Tropicals are the luxury consumers can afford themselves when eating out less often, suppliers said, and it is up to retailers to promote properly and take advantage of this window.

Mary Ostlund, marketing director of Brooks Tropicals Inc., Homestead, Fla., said “our papayas sell easily whole, but when you’ve got more than what you can sell, you chop it up into processed or make delicious smoothies with it.”

Ostlund added most of Brooks’ retailers have good sales when they slice a papaya open and cover it with (plastic) wrap. "Customers see it and realize the papaya can be eaten like a melon.”

Beetle, fungus threaten Florida's avocado industry

Excerpts from an AP story by Sarah Larimer on 5/8/09

A little beetle could cause big problems for Florida's multimillion-dollar avocado industry.

Scientists are tracking the redbay ambrosia beetle as it crisscrosses the southeastern United States, spreading a fungus that is killing avocado trees. The beetle and the fungus it transmits could be devastating in Florida, the country's second-largest avocado producer.

In Miami, Craig Wheeling the CEO of Brooks Tropicals says the impending threat of laurel wilt disease bears a striking resemblance to citrus canker, which struck Florida orange and lime growers years ago, causing millions of dollars in damage. "Having gone through that mess in the early 2000s, we're very concerned when we see the redbay ambrosia beetle coming down," he said.

Fruta Bomba and Belize Fruit Packers participate in government conference

From our Belize offices comes this article about attendance at a government held 'HIV/AIDS in the workplace' conference. These are excerpts from an article in the El Guardian, a Belize newspaper.

Many individuals infected with HIV find that their work colleagues, in their ignorance, are afraid to work with them.

The Labour Department developed a program to combat this problem. Ms. Hertha Gentle, Senior Labour Officer and Program Coordinator recruited companies interested in developing HIV awareness in their work place.

The final part of the program was a two-day Peer Education training session held on May 5 and 6. The session was hosted by the Labour Department in collaboration with the National AIDS Commission. Fourteen companies were represented including Fruta Bomba Limited and Belize Fruit Packers Limited.

Ishmael Gonzalez, Personnel Coordinator of Fruita Bomba Limited, said, "We have approximately 800 people in our workforce, and it was imperative that we develop an HIV/AIDS policy to eliminate any stigma and discrimination that may develop."

Carambola's past

Starfruit's more 'historical' name, carambola has a rich history highlighted in this article on the Fruits and Health blog.

Carambola was originally a Portuguese name, and goes back to the Sanskrit "karmara", which means 'food appetizer'.

To the English living in southern Asia, the carambola was known as the Coromandel gooseberry. The settlers in southern China dubbed it the Chinese gooseberry and learned that the Chinese name for it was "yang t'ao", meaning 'goat peach'.

Carambolas originated in the Malay Archipelago between South-East Asia and Australia. They are now grown in Africa, Brazil, the West Indies, and the US. They are a good source of Vitamin C, along with some potassium, niacin, and phosphorus.

The Chinese and the Indians cook the unripe fruit as a vegetable and eat the ripened fruit as dessert.

The 30 Best Groceries for Ultimate Wellness

Excerpts from an article written by Catherine Lewis, AHJ Editor -- published: May 11, 2009

With all the “best” and “worst” lists out there, here is another list that is bound to get you to sit up and take notice. And the best part is that this time, the list really matters. It’s the list of 30 fruits, vegetables and more you cannot miss out on. It is literally a guide to put good health in your hands (or garden).Make sure you’re incorporating these fruits and vegetables in your diet for the best health:

  • Tomatoes
  • Carrots, Papaya, Mangoes, and Cantaloupes: In fact many orange and yellow colored vegetables are quite important since they contain beta carotene (the pigment that gives them the yellow color) which the body uses to convert into vitamin A. Vitamin A is an essential cancer-fighting vitamin.
  • Apples
  • Mushrooms
  • Almonds, Pine nuts, Peanuts, Brazil nuts, Sunflower seeds
  • Spinach, Broccoli, Cabbage, Lettuce, Green turnips
  • Oranges, Lemons, Kiwis, Strawberries, Grapefruit, and Tangerines
  • Black beans, string beans, lima beans, French beans, peas, lentils, legumes

If you’re not getting enough of the above fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds in your diet, today is the day to start! Even by incorporating just a few of these into your daily regimen, you will be on your way to better health in no time.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Papaya, how it's served in China

Interesting way of serving a papaya with crushed ice in the seed cavity. Photo courtesy of the China Daily in an article highlighting how the Tang Palace (唐宫) served the fruit for Mother's Day.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Salsa featuring fresh produce could bolster tropicals at foodservice level

Excerpts from an article in The Packer published 4/30/09 by Abraham Mahshie

Despite the dreary economy, tropical fruit suppliers are seeing glimmers of hope and signs that the groundwork has been laid for a robust future.

"The mainstream food service industry first entered into the tropicals' arena as an add-on category," said Mary Ostlund, marketing director of Brooks Tropicals, LLC., Homestead Fla. "They make a salsa, a marinade or a sauce out of papayas, mangos, avocados and other tropicals."

Ostlund said food service has carried the interest in tropicals also to desserts, having just tried a great papaya ice cream. She said she is finding more people are using tropical fruits and vegetables to add a tropical flair to main dishes, like a steak topped with a papaya salsa. "Food service is finding that a menu entree with one or more tropical ingredients is always a winner."