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Broccoli Buys, Fine Figs and Smart Tags


Good buys in produce this week include broccoli from Santa Maria and cauliflower from the Coachella and Imperial valleys. Romaine, red and green leaf lettuce are heading downward in price, according to the Fresh Produce Council. Reasonable prices can also be expected for cabbage and green peppers, which are coming from Mexico.

Markets are now receiving good-quality spinach, thanks to warmer weather in the Oxnard growing area. If washing the grit from the leaves is too time-consuming, take advantage of packaged, ready-to-use, pre-washed spinach. It's more expensive than buying by the bunch but a convenience when you have to make spinach salad in a hurry.

Corn from Florida and Mexico is also available now. The ears are smaller than summer corn grown in California, but the kernels are juicy and sweet.

Fresno is anticipating a fine crop of figs, a by-product of the freeze. For the first time in years, temperatures were cold enough to send the trees into total dormancy. By spring they should be strong and ready to produce luscious fruit. Varieties include Kadota, Mission, Tena, Adriatic and Conadria.

Papayas are arriving from Hawaii and cantaloupes from Mexico, but the melons are pricey, so choose carefully. Look for fruit that's light tan with high netting (ridges).

Also try Asian pears from Washington State. Shaped like apples, they are so crisp you can add them to stir-fried dishes as a sweet alternative to water chestnuts.

Hughes has joined the ranks of supermarkets alerting shoppers to products with nutritional merit. The Hughes NUTRI-TAG program features shelf tags that point out foods low in calories, cholesterol, fat or sodium, or that serve as a significant source of calcium or fiber.

Product information is supplied by a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-recognized nutritional data service operated by Graphic Technology Inc.-Data Documents Systems. At present, some 3,000 products are involved in the chain-wide program.

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