RKS Food: Making Contact in the Produce Department? Your Grocery Intel! Confessions of a Proud Produceaholic

Being proximate to grocery chains Metro/Fortinos/No Frills and a much smaller non-chain Lady York in Toronto I can have some fun comparing prices of produce. Being mostly a vegetarian fresh and high-quality produce is essential. I saw California cauliflower at $6.00 today at No Frills but at the smaller Lady York local cauliflower without black mold tinges was $3.99. Miss Vickie’s Chips are $5.69 at Metro and $4.99 at No Frills. Blackberries can range “on sale” from $2.99-$4.99 depending on the store.

COSTCO can be a source of great produce but sources imports much earlier than grocery chains because they buy in huge quantities. Yet in the doldrums of winter you might find big juicy Israeli grapefruits where their counterparts at the grocery chains are dry and tough.

The large grocery chains are at their best for produce in summer months when local produce is available but a local farmer’s market I attend on Sundays also tops them all for a few short months but if you don’t comparison shop there you can get “taken’. You can find zucchini flowers at the farmer’s market but ask for them in a large grocery chain you’ll get a blank look.   In winter there is amongst some humans SAD known as Seasonal Affective Disorder but SAD is rampant in the large grocery chains with their produce!

In the last few months I do not know what came over me but at Lady York I have stated chatting with the produce guys and asking them what is really good this week. They appear somewhat startled at human contact but quickly warm up especially when I say I once worked as a fruit broker one summer.

Their advice is spot on. I can pick out quality produce but sometimes it is difficult. For example I saw some South African bagged tangerines that looked so so but far better than the anemic Spanish and Moroccan varieties.  My produce guy said the South African’s were excellent and they were. Same story with the eggplants as I managed to pick the last of the local eggplants. I asked about the Florida eggplants and a frown furrowed his brows. He said they are full of seeds and bitter!

Given that in North America local produce is shrivelling and restricted to carrots, potatoes, cabbages, squash, apples and pears imports will soon rule the roost and help from the produce guys pay off. I can’t take this personalized approach at most big chain stores due to the fact most produce staff are simply shelf stockers but once I did with a Greek man called Gus the produce manager at one of Toronto’s biggest grocery stores. He knew I was married to a Greek and that I had travelled to Greece frequently and we hit it off and he was my grocery intel!

I suppose it is a question of human contact. Yes, I love my fruits and veggies which has been made all the keener with all the produce markets I have attended in Europe over the decades. At 12 years old I was bargaining for watermelons in Greece. Eating is a part of life and shopping for what is on your plate should be a passion not to be shot down by people who callously call you a shopping addict.

Published by Robert K Stephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food ,drink, travel, film, and lifestyle issues. He also has published serialized novels "Life at Megacorp", "Virus # 26, "Reggie the Egyptian Rescue Dog" and "The Penniless Pensioner" Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden and the University of Toronto. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he has established this publication. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."

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