NEW YORK CITY — There's nothing worse than biting into a gorgeous, shiny red apple — and tasting nearly flavorless, mealy starch.
If you’ve noticed that your local produce has been less than stellar lately, it’s no coincidence. It’s an unfortunate reality at this transitional time in the spring, when some crops imported from the Southern Hemisphere taper off and domestically grown fruits haven't yet come into season.
“The industry is actually in a major gap this time of year,” said Julio Garcia, manager at New York Produce, whose business supplies produce to major chain and independent markets in the city.
"We are just finishing up with apples and pears from the West Coast and finishing up with the offshore fruits from Central and South America."
As supplies of fruit such as grapes dwindle, their prices go up. In the meantime, there is nothing particularly "in season" at the market.
Your best bets these days are fruits and berries coming out of California and Florida, according to Josh Padilla, the produce coordinator for Garden of Eden, a small grocery store chain with locations in Morningside Heights, Greenwich Village and Chelsea.
“I would stand by the citrus and the strawberries,” he said. “The strawberries are coming from California, and it depends on what brand it is. I particularly like Driscoll strawberries because their strawberries are really good.”
Oranges sourced from both California and Florida are still tasty at the moment, and pears and grapefruit are good at this time of year, according to Zimmerman. He also suggested all manner of berries — blackberries and blueberries, in addition to strawberries.
Mangoes are the fruit to buy right now, said Garcia. In May, we can expect more of a fruit bonanza.
“Next month we will have dragon fruit, cherimoyas, rambutan, jackfruit and lychee on the exotic side, as well as cactus pears,” he said. “Soon enough there will be plenty of fresh watermelons and cantaloupes from the East Coast, and what I consider the best summer fruit of all — the luscious peach from Georgia, South Carolina and late summer from New Jersey.”
Garcia also advised buyers to stay away from stone fruit this time of year.
“I would not eat any stone fruit from offshore countries. They have to be picked immature and they are in cold storage for a long, long time,” he said. “In the industry, we say that they ‘taste like wood.’”