The pro­duce indus­try is highly depen­dent upon an effi­cient trans­porta­tion sys­tem. From truck­ing, rail ser­vice and ocean ship­ping, to ports and bor­der con­trol facil­i­ties, putting food on the table relies on a dynamic machine.

While the United States has more than 300 com­mer­cial har­bors and more than 600 smaller har­bors, the top ten port com­plexes han­dle a major­ity of cargo vol­ume and inter­na­tional ves­sel calls.

Port con­ges­tion exac­er­bates first-​to-​last mile delays in freight move­ments. This dri­ves up the cost of goods in both the global mar­ket­place and pro­duce sup­ply chains in the United States.

Con­tainer ships with pre­cious cargo have been expe­ri­enc­ing long wait times, all year long, at ports to unload con­sumer goods, fresh pro­duce and mate­ri­als for most indus­tries.

A recent record was bro­ken with forty-​four con­tainer car­ri­ers anchored and await­ing a berth space out­side the twin ports of Los Ange­les and Long Beach, Cal­i­for­nia. The aver­age wait time to dock rose to 7.6 days, up from 6.2 in mid-​August.

Ves­sels are lin­ing up with imports just as inland trans­porta­tion, truck­ing and rail­roads, con­tends with its own bot­tle­necks of ship­ping con­tain­ers that aren’t being moved fast enough into dis­tri­b­u­tion cen­ters and ware­houses.

Cal­i­for­nia port delays are just one of many fac­tors pil­ing onto a global supply-​chain crisis.

Read more: Ship Shape →

Some­times the health­i­est and tasti­est dishes are the sim­plest. Keep­ing meals sim­ple is ideal as these last hot days of sum­mer roll into fall.

Using only a hand­ful of ingre­di­ents, like five or less, makes sense for reluc­tant kitchen cooks.

September’s mash up of sea­sonal pro­duce is truly a schiz­o­phrenic best of both worlds.

On the one hand, some of the prized toma­toes of the sea­son are just com­ing to mar­ket. Fresh herbs, peaches, zuc­chini, sweet and hot pep­pers, egg­plants and corn beg for the spot­light.

The other hand is deal­ing out new crop apples, pears, quince, figs, nuts and grapes. Hard squash, new pota­toes and onions, kale and beets paint a new plate palette.

Uncom­pli­cated and straight­for­ward, sal­ads, entrees and sides are assem­bled in short order with just a few sim­patico ingre­di­ents. Pantry sta­ples such as olive oil, salt and pep­per are exempt from the tally as those are always at hand.

Mid-​week time man­age­ment for hur­ried din­ners and hun­gry mouths let pro­duce shine bright. Zuc­chini rib­bons, nec­tarine and beet salad or lemon-​garlic spinach spruce up the plate. Given avail­abil­ity of pre-​cut veg­gies and fruits, the pain of slic­ing and chop­ping can be elim­i­nated.

A recent Cap­rese salad served on the week­end took advan­tage of already sliced moz­zarella cheese. How easy is that for a sexy quick starter? Fresh basil leaves, gar­den toma­toes and the per­fect thick­ness of soft moz­zarella. Bellissima!

Read more: Gimme Five →

Move to close out these last pre­cious days of sum­mer on a healthy note. Mod­ify the daily dietary reg­i­men to incor­po­rate a few health­ier choices. This will kick start a ter­rific fall lifestyle.

Plant-​based/​Plant-​forward eat­ing prac­tices have been widely adopted and quite pop­u­lar in recent years. An empha­sis on meals focused pri­mar­ily from plants can do a body good.

This includes not only fruits and veg­eta­bles, but also nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans. Eat­ing a plant-​based diet means get­ting most or all calo­ries from fresh, whole plant foods that are min­i­mally processed.

The Mediter­ranean diet is a way of eat­ing that’s based on the tra­di­tional cuisines of Greece, Italy and other coun­tries that bor­der the Mediter­ranean Sea. Plant-​based foods, herbs and spices are the foun­da­tion of this diet. Mod­el­ling this way of eat­ing could be the first step in over­haul­ing the diet by fall.

Olive oil is the main source of added fat. Fish, seafood, dairy and poul­try are included in mod­er­a­tion. Red meat and sweets are eaten only occa­sion­ally.

Start by build­ing meals around veg­eta­bles, beans and whole grains. Eat fish at least twice a week. Try using olive oil instead of but­ter in prepar­ing food.

Instead of calorie-​laden heavy desserts, serve fresh fruits after meals for a sweet treat. Grapes, mel­ons, oranges and fresh berries can be quite sat­is­fy­ing after din­ner.

Eval­u­ate daily sugar, cof­fee, and alco­hol con­sump­tion. Look for ways to adjust or reduce intake. Exam­in­ing these uncon­scious habits hon­estly may yield to the promise of reduced inflam­ma­tion, higher energy lev­els and bet­ter sleep.

Drop­ping a few extra pounds can incen­tivize going far­ther in a total fall reset. Putting exer­cise on the daily cal­en­dar makes it a pri­or­ity. If the work­day locks in seden­tary behav­ior, decide how to break the streak. Set an alarm for a sure fire way to get in those 10,000 steps. Sched­ule in a time slot for a phys­i­cal appointment.

Read more: Plant Ahead →

Chips and salsa are pretty stan­dard fare in most Mex­i­can restau­rants. At home, we rely on them for a go to snack or pre­cur­sor to an enchi­lada or chili rel­leno din­ner.

The combo is a good stand-​alone bite when hang­ing out with friends on the patio.

Salsa lit­er­ally trans­lates to sauce. Don’t get stuck think­ing that tor­tilla chips are the outer lim­its to what pairs per­fectly with salsa.

Purists might fol­low the pico de gallo or rojo route. That’s a ter­rific jump­ing off point for home­made salsa. Chili pep­pers, toma­toes, onions, fresh lime and cilantro get the job done. The fresher the bet­ter wins over salsa fans.

Step­ping away from this clas­sic, expand to other ingre­di­ents to pump up the salsa reper­toire. Explore unlikely sum­mer and trop­i­cal ingre­di­ents. Straw­ber­ries, man­gos, peaches, pineap­ples and even water­melon rise to meet salsa aspi­ra­tions.

Pome­gran­ate arils are a sur­prise ele­ment that deliver on zing and crunch fac­tors. Dessert is unique with a ladle full of fruit salsa over vanilla ice cream, chur­ros or cin­na­mon tor­tilla chips. Bold is not bor­ing when it comes to new ways to inter­pret tra­di­tional appli­ca­tions of how we put salsa in motion

Con­sider serv­ing these level up con­coc­tions with tra­di­tional menus choices like Baja style tacos or faji­tas. When cook­ing chicken, fish or pork, those bright and fruity ver­sions con­vert ordi­nary din­ner to one of higher inter­est.

Tomatil­los can be added to nearly any­thing salsa. Tangy, more acidic, and less sweet, this green tomato-​looking thing is in the fruit family.

Read more: Salsa Crush →

Cal­i­for­ni­ans have been cul­ti­vat­ing grapes for more than two cen­turies.

Today, Ninety-​nine per­cent of table grapes in the United States are pro­duced in California’s warm, dry cli­mate that is ideal for grape grow­ing.

With eighty two grape vari­eties grown, Cal­i­for­nia grapes come in three col­ors — green, red, and black — and are in sea­son from May through Jan­u­ary.

Deter­min­ing when grapes are ripe is a real sci­ence . Both the U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Cal­i­for­nia Depart­ment of Food and Agri­cul­ture are involved in set­ting and mon­i­tor­ing grape pro­duc­tion stan­dards. Sugar con­tent, color, bunch and berry size and uni­for­mity are all mea­sured before har­vest begins. Work­ers who decide which grapes to har­vest are trained pro­fes­sion­als with years of expe­ri­ence.

Once picked, fresh grapes are eas­ily dam­aged by rough han­dling, warm tem­per­a­tures, exces­sive mois­ture and decay-​causing organ­isms.

Grape bunches are care­fully inspected and then imme­di­ately packed by hand into ship­ping con­tain­ers – often right in the field.

Shortly after picking/​packing, the field heat is removed from the fruit in cold stor­age facil­i­ties. Grapes are stored at tem­per­a­tures between 30 F and 32 F. From this point, until they reach their des­ti­na­tion (mar­kets through­out the world), the grapes will be main­tained in a care­fully reg­u­lated envi­ron­ment to assure they arrive in just-​picked condition.

Read more: Good­ness Grapes →

The word “water­melon” con­jures up images of free-​spirted sum­mer­time fun. Fam­ily gath­er­ings, care-​free beach days, back­yard bar­be­cues, and out­door camp­ing events keep water­melon on the top of the sum­mer gro­cery list.

Over thirty states in the U.S. grow water­melon for the sum­mer sea­son. When domes­tic har­vests end, we move back to imported mel­ons from Mex­ico and Guatemala. This means there is a year-​round sup­ply of this fam­ily favorite.

Most peo­ple eat the red flesh of water­melon down to the rind. Once fin­ished, they toss out the rest of the water­melon. Gar­den­ers know to put the rinds in the com­post heap. Back­yard chicken farm­ers give their hens a tasty rind treat.

Those two good uses for the rind are not the only ben­e­fits of using the entire water­melon. The flesh, juice and rind are one hun­dred per­cent edi­ble.

A few sug­ges­tions for putting the rind to good use make water­melon a zero waste food.

Make Pick­les. Water­melon rind is pretty sim­i­lar to a cucum­ber. A quick boil and cool down of the cut up rinds allow them to absorb what­ever pick­ing spices and vine­gar pre­ferred. Sweet, sour, spicy or some­thing in between give water­melon pick­les a full range of options.

Read more: It’s a Rind →