Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A fresh experience: PMA Fresh Summit

Rambutan. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

This is the rambutan, the "hairy cherry" found throughout Southeast Asia. I discovered it in the Georgia World Congress Center, in the Frieda's specialty produce display on the floor of the Produce Marketing Association's Fresh Summit. On Monday, I joined about 100 "influencers" for a breakfast and tour of this impressive convention, one of the largest in the United States. I was on the floor for a couple of hours and would have stayed longer, but they turned out the lights and packed up for home - it was the convention's last day.

I still managed to pack a lot into a few hours. I don't use the word "amazing" too often, but I must apply it here - this assembly of produce growers and marketers and affiliated industries was staggering in size. There was just sooo much food there! I will share more about my Fresh Summit experience in the next few weeks, but here are a few photos and notes, a first glance, you might say. 

First up, the only pictures I took at the actual show, an artist working the cucurbitaceae medium, at the National Watermelon Promotion Board booth. My pictures do not do justice to the art - you will note that the artist is carving Elvis into the melon.

Watermelon artist. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

At the Duda Farm Fresh Foods booth, I met the delightful Julie Deily of The Little Kitchen, who made a delicious Meyer Lemon spritzer and a tasty smoked salmon spread with red celery. Bloggers are all about marking the occasion: that's Duda Farm Fresh Vice President Sammy Duda on the left, Julie next, and Gwen from Bunkycooks, and me. (I'm a regular reader of Gwen's blog and was thrilled to finally meet her).

From left, Duda Fresh Farms Vice President Sammy Duda, Julie Deily of The Little Kitchen, Gwen Pratesi of Bunkycooks, and Lucy Mercer of A Cook and Her Books. Julie Deily/The Little Kitchen .

Duda Fresh Farms offers one of my favorite fruits, clementines. I pack two lunch boxes five days a week, and when clemmies are in season, I go through a box (or bag) a week. They're also perfect carpool treats - to hand out when the kidoodles get in the minivan for the ride home.

Clementines. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

While at the Duda Fresh Farms booth, I admit that I got a little giddy when I saw the Meyer lemons. Meyer lemons are impossibly exotic to me - I have wonderful grocery stores, but the Kroger carried Meyer lemons for hmmm, about a nanosecond last season. And whenever I get vocal about my lack of Meyer lemons, my California friends make taunting jokes like "come to my house and take all you want from the tree in my backyard." Now that I have a bag of Meyers for my very own, I need to plan just the right thing to make with them - lemon pudding, lemon cake, lemon curd, lemon tea bread, lemon ice cream? Let me know what you think.

Meyer lemons. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Now, if I ever take my California friends up on the Meyer lemon tree offer, I will bring them muscadines from Paulk Family Farms in Wray, Georgia. I'm late to the muscadine bandwagon - the musky aftertaste and thick skins took some getting used to, but I love them now. I have a special plan for these "musky dimes" and will post soon. (footnote: just checked the Paulk Vineyards website and the very first sentence is a quote from Scripture "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for with out me, ye can do nothing." John 15:5. How cool is that?)

Muscadines. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
A little further down the Georgia Grown aisle, I talked with the Georgia blueberry folks. They loaded up my bag with dried blueberries, another convenient, healthy snack for lunchboxes.
Dried Georgia blueberries. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

I brought a few of these Buddy Fruits home and my girls went crazy for them. They are just fruit and milk and are shelf stable, perfect for lunchboxes. The smoothies come in three flavors - mango, peach and banana. I will definitely look for these at the supermarket. (Just checked the website and they're available in Wal-Mart and Publix in my area + there's a $1 off coupon on the home page.)
Buddy fruits. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

I admit, I had too much fun talking with the carrot guys at Bolthouse Farms, the company that developed a product I always have in my refrigerator - baby carrots. I explained to them that I buy both kinds of carrots - the baby carrots for snacking and the cello bags of carrots for cooking. They assured me that I'm the kind of customer they really like. Here's what's new in baby carrot land: packaging to appeal to different ages and stages: on the left with the orange bunny, for younger kids; the Louis Vuitton influence in the middle is for tween and teen girls; and the Space Odyssey design on the right is for young boys. I think they're cute, but my kids will want ranch dressing with them.

Baby carrots. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

I met so many interesting people at Fresh Summit and plan to bring you more stories soon. California Giant Berries, Earthbound Farms, Driscolls, California Avocado and Frieda's, and many more, were all delightful and provided me with a lot of ideas for future blog posts. I want to send a special thanks PMA for the invitation and tour, and Dan'l Macky Almy of DMA Solutions who was an excellent and enthusiastic tour guide.

Text and images copyright 2011, Lucy Mercer. With the exception of Julie Deily's picture, provided by The Little Kitchen.


bunkycooks said...

Hi Lucy,

It was so great to finally meet you as well and thank you for reading Bunkycooks. :) I had no idea that this event was going to be so large and it was certainly more fun than I expected. I also took home some great goodies and look forward to putting them to good use in my kitchen in the coming days. BTW, we LOVE Meyer Lemons, so have fun with those!

I hope we get to see each other again soon!


Broderick @ Savory Exposure said...

Those GA dried blueberries were nice! They need to sell those. I also tried the buddy fruits, the apple banana flavor -- pretty tasty. I'm jealous about those meyer lemons! It was good to see you at the show!

Julie Quinn said...

Wow - really enjoyed reading this and looking forward to more to come. Makes me want to get the blueberries from the farmer's market this summer out of my freezer and make some scones.

And my assumption with the lemons would be a pound cake. So yummy and you do it so well!

Linda @spiceboxtravels said...

Looks like fun, Lucy! Meyer lemons-- may I suggest my Meyer lemon and thyme caipirinha (or lemonade).

JulieD said...


I can't wait to see what you do with the Meyer lemons! It was so nice to meet you!! Let's keep in touch.

Dan'l Mackey Almy said...

Lucy - it was great meeting you and all those who participated in the Fresh Experience Tour. Love your blog and your post - thank you! And anytime you are looking for FRESH inspiration do not hesitate give us a shout and we will connect you! Best, Dan'l