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Archive for Wednesday, January 24, 2007

California cold snap will send consumers to Florida

January 24, 2007

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I magine grocery store managers are feeling a bit like the gas station owner who learns that an increase in the price of crude will push pump prices way above where he has them set. As competitors begin receiving deliveries at the higher wholesale rate, the temptation to raise the retail price on his existing gasoline inventory is huge.

In the wake of last week's California freeze, which destroyed the state's winter citrus crop, grocery store managers face a similar dilemma. As is their January custom, many area supermarkets had just advertised sale prices on oranges and the like, when news reports proclaimed that the price of all fresh citrus would double or even triple in a couple of weeks.

I pondered this development the other day, as I stood in front of a bin of plump, juicy oranges in the produce aisle. Today's surplus is tomorrow's shortage. Some sources estimated it would take three weeks for all of the pre-freeze citrus to move through the pipeline.

And then? Would people really begin paying $1.50 or even $2 for a single navel orange?

Reports that the California avocado crop also was damaged suggest that fresh guacamole will be a rarity at Super Bowl parties this year.

Consumers have modified their tastes to bring them in line with their pocketbooks before. Eggs and lettuce are frequent examples. As the market adjusts, we'll see a greater proportion of foreign produce and citrus from Florida until the California market recovers.

¢The series of winter storms that have afflicted much of North America in recent weeks cut both ways. While the ice and snow have complicated travel, ruined crops and left many people imperiled and without power, the storms will benefit hot-weather farmers and gardeners this spring and summer.

Low snowfall has been a factor in the drought that has gripped the Midwest during recent summers. Growers count on snowmelt to replenish sub-soil moisture, which in turn helps crops endure hot weather and periods of low rainfall in summer.

So as you shovel your driveway, remember that the snow is a good thing.

¢Last week's column about Brussels sprouts drew some devotees out of hiding. This also has happened when I have written about turnips, beets and okra - other veggies that are good for you but despised by a sizable portion of the population. What I have learned through the years is that people who love these veggies know that advertising their tastes might brand them as odd in certain company.

So when I write a column about their favorite unpopular vegetable, these readers identify me as a kindred spirit and share recipes and commentary, praising the veggie in question. True to this pattern was an e-mail last Wednesday morning from former Kansan Betsy Marvin, lately of Atlanta. Accompanying her testimonial in support of the noble but embattled Brussels sprout was the following easy recipe:

"I coarsely shred them (slice each one into 4-5 slices) while I'm browning some chopped bacon and onions. Then I throw the chopped (pieces) into the pan and saute for a little while. It's really yummy, although not necessarily low-cal."

- When she's not writing about foods and gardening, Gwyn Mellinger is teaching journalism at Baker University. Her phone number is (785) 594-4554.

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