Steinbeck Country Produce's Ethan Stewart Discusses the Brassica Category
SALINAS, CA - If I could name a category of produce that I’ve truly seen grow and evolve over the past couple years, one of the first items that comes to mind is cauliflower. From crumbles, to grain substitutes, to the latest in pickling trends, this category seems to be getting its share of the limelight–and definitely my shopping list.
If you ask Ethan Stewart, Sales and Commodity Manager, for Steinbeck Country Produce he would agree.
As we move through the winter months, with spring affectionately marked on our calendars, I spoke with Ethan about the program at Steinbeck, and what we can look forward to as the company ramps up growth on this popular category. From traditional white to colored cauliflower, and a new crop of the unique cousin to cauliflower, romanesco, this company is creating a buzz in specialty produce and beyond.
“Steinbeck has translated generations of success with white cauliflower into specialty cauliflower, our vertically integrated operations have allowed us to fine-tune each variety from a growing, packing, and shipping perspective,” Ethan shared with me. “Our adaptability and knowledge of the brassica category have allowed the success of this program to really take off.”
In California, Steinbeck is anticipating another great run up to its season in Salinas. The colored flower program has grown significantly over the past five years and, as Ethan added, coming back to Salinas will mark a full calendar year in which the company has had commercial production of Romanesco.
And what is Romanesco you ask? Also referred to as Romanesco cauliflower and Romanesco broccoli, this veg is an edible bud of the species Brassica Oleracea, which includes cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kohlrabi to name a few items. Romanesco is similar to cauliflower with a crunchy texture and nutty flavor that offers a versatile canvas for chefs and home cooks.
“We have tinkered with some logistics and practices to give the crop more consistency,” he said, adding that Steinbeck has tremendous supply on each variety and are looking for partners to grow this program with for the future. “With year-round production, we can offer a host of unique items that allow retailers and foodservice operators to differentiate from the norm.”
New this year, Steinbeck will be offering a clear UPC wrap designed for retail–showing the product well, and creating more opportunities to let the items speak for themselves when merchandised on a veg wall.
“We offer years and years of experience to deliver a high quality product in the colored cauliflower category and that experience has meant a shorter learning curve on the Romanesco...all of this in turn delivers a great product for our partners to utilize and enjoy,” Ethan said. “This is definitely a trend that is on the rise. With consumers looking for new and different food items, the colored flower and Romanesco offer a great way to add color and catch eyes in the produce department as well as add visual appeal to any plate.”
Looking to whet the consumer palate this year? So is Steinbeck Country Produce.