SPOONER -- While your friends and neighbors are lying in the sun somewhere getting a tan on a remote beach, or while they're turning a key in their winter get-away homes in Florida, Texas or Arizona, don't feel you're stuck going nowhere. You too can travel, even travel the world, but in the oddest place.
And when they slice into that morning pineapple or get fresh papaya with their hotel breakfast, do not despair because so can we.
Most of us, even here in rural America, take our fresh food for granted. We expect to have asparagus in January and strawberries for Valentine's Day, but if you stoop to realize where these products are from, it's astounding.
Australia supplies their Breese, Jazz and Smitten apples to the plethora of apples from Washington State, which supplies then year-round. Even Canada kicks in with their Ambrosia apples.
New Zealand supplies apples and are also known for their navel oranges as is South Africa.
You might remember those wonderful Clementine oranges from Spain, the ones that came packaged in the little wooden boxes, they have been replaced by the California grown Halo's and Cuties due to a longer growing season and resulting in a lower price.
Most of the common fruits and beg we eat comes from the United States and some from Canada.
Potatoes and onions, peaches, nectarines, and cherries come from Washington State with the Vidalia onions from Georgia.
If it weren't for California, we wouldn't have year-round broccoli, cauliflower, all the lettuces, celery and carrots.
Canada supplies the red potatoes with the local Kitchen Klean company supplying the majority of the spuds.
Speaking of potatoes, the very little fingerlings are very popular now and Economart carries the ones that are not only pre-packaged but washed and ready for the microwave in their own individual bowls.
As the wind blows and the snow piles up, you can buy garlic from China and asparagus from Peru. This might be the year you try Dragon Fruit from Vietnam or maybe some Jack Fruit, which according to Ted, tastes just like Juicy Fruit gum.
While your vacationing friends are applying their after-burn lotion you can be choosing some Ugly fruit, which tastes like a tangelo or some Start fruit which tastes like kiwi.
Ken Marsku, an Economart employee since 1995 and head of the produce department, still can't understand why the price of bananas isn't more that the fifty-nine cents they've been for years.
“After all,” he says, “this fruit is picked in a country far away and shipped by boat and hauled by truck and other means to be stored and delivered, all for the same price they were ten years ago”.
Sadly that isn't always the case. He talks to growers who have pulled their crops, like asparagus due to a lack of pickers and replaced them with almond trees, which require less work to harvest.
Economart credits approximately ten percent of their sales to organic fruit and veg, which in the industry is considered pretty good. The younger generation is big on eating healthy, “clean” food and the older generation is beginning to see the wisdom of this way of thinking.
Economart now carries up to forty kinds of salad for sale in pre-packaged bags for a convenient 'grab and go'. Chopped salads leading the pack like the Chopped Kale Salad with its green and red cabbage, romaine lettuce, kale, carrots, green onions, cranberries and pepitas-a small salty seed. Also included in the package is a container of Greek Yogurt Poppy Seed dressing. Add a fork and you've got lunch.
Displayed next to the salads are the expanding varieties of refrigerated dressings. Refrigeration needed because there are fewer preservatives in them, something else that is gaining an audience.
Kale not only comes in huge bags but there are recipes for smoothies on the back of the package for the beginner as well as the dedicated health drink people.
Other pre-packaged items that sell very well are the stuffed mushrooms and the attractive containers of three-times washed, fruit and vegetables. Marske makes sure all the cut fruit and vegetables are washed three times before they are cut and packaged, and he recommends that consumers do the same when they get their produce home. “It doesn't need to be washed in any particular solution, plain water works fine. Even washing the fruit you peel is a good idea too.”
During the summer, Economart buys a large quantity of local produce that includes, dill, rhubarb, Smith's apples, cucumbers, sweet corn, squash, kale and even tomatoes from the Red Cedar Produce company, who grows them all hydroponically.
The reason they can start supplying items like corn on the cob early is that the crop harvest follows the season, starting in Florida and then Georgia becomes the supplier and finally Indiana before the local growers can supply the locally grown corn.
It's the same for grapes which start in Chili, then Mexico and finally California.
There are fresh herbs available all year and new to the department is the almond-based cheeses that come in Cheddar and Mozzarella flavors. Hummus (mashed chickpeas) have become very popular as a non-dairy dip and the varieties are wide and imaginative.
The newest product on the market is the old crop-cauliflower. It's the new everything food and recipes already abound for disguising it as rice, mashed potatoes, pizza crust and fried rice. It comes packaged as crumbles, reducing the time making the finished product.
While your friends are leaking cash on their winter pursuits, get in from the cold and take a walk around the world market of Economart's produce department. Pick up some vegetables from around the world to make a good and hearty winter soup so you can eat it in front of a cozy fire while dreaming of spring and how you're going to spend all the cash you saved staying home.