Sunday, May 23, 2010

Tender vegetables - "lapati elavalu"

As I am in an enterprise, where I grow and deliver my produce to customers who then consume them, I am in the unenviable position of having to explain if I can even do that, about a various range of questions to do with my produce, as my customers are critical and picky and want to know the whys and wherefroms etc.

Some of them range from "last week they were less ripe, and this week they are more ripe", or "the earlier oranges when squeezed were yellower when compared with the riper ones you supplied last week". "The rice was a little darker this week when compared with last" and so on and so forth.

A new one this week from a Lady whose husband is the chairman a large garment conglomerate said she prefers the Okra very tender and similar with Aubergine and so on. It got me thinking that we really ought to have a different product as these are usually plucked a lot earlier than normal and so is tasty especially in its raw form for salads or mildly cooked form and for example in the case of tender aubergine, if lighty grilled, is delicious on its own as a bite.

I guess the way to start it is encourage the Food City stores in upper income neighborhoods to sell tender vegetables in a seperate section at a different price point. One main reason that these are not plucked is that its weight and therefore farmer income is less. So farmers wait for them to grow as big as possible. The way we cook our food by boiling to high heavan takes away all taste and so even too mature vegetables can be cooked and eaten.

Anyway it was telling that this lady also confirmed my worst fears about Cargills Food City that all the talk about slected especially direct from grower is a load of crap as she said that the quality of their fruit and vegetable really sucks. In her own words and not mine, they just dont do any quality contol and buy any rubbish that those supposed outgrower farmers supply them. They need constant monitoring and quality control, as only a big organization like Food City can technically do given their vast resources and unlike the normal food chain are able to deliver in plastic containers in cooler trucks to preserve and maintain the freshness.

For those interested in a new venture, tender pathola, watakolu, beans, makaral and even tiny carrots can form this product list. The question then becomes how much of a premium can you charge, as you have to double the price to differentiate and cover the costs of this re branding and different display. It is not easy to evaluate the economic viabilty without trying. I have to train my johnnies to pluck at the tender stage and that in itself is asking too much!

SO what comes first changing the eating habits of the locals to eat more fresh and less over-boiled or to sell the tender ones and give them new recipes in cooking. Both are insurmountable tasks.

Over to you commentators for your thoughts. How about growing your own in your kitchen pots or patches so you can ensure a continuous supply of organic and fresh the only sure way to be certain!!!!!


Stephen Jones said...

I don't know about Cargill's, which can be variable, but the quality of fruit and vegetables (and often fish) at Keels is excellent.

magerata said...

I can't comment about SL but here in Cali, we can ger tender vegetables. The Korean market we shop has most of the vegetables you mentioned in baby and normal formats. The baby varieties tend to be expensive but they reduce prices of them faster because they perish even faster. Normal vegies have longer shelf life.