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What to Do with Bad Produce, or “Stand Behind Your Fruit!”

What to Do with Bad Produce, or “Stand Behind Your Fruit!”
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  • What to Do with Bad Produce, or “Stand Behind Your Fruit!”

    Post #1 - August 10th, 2013, 6:10 pm
    Post #1 - August 10th, 2013, 6:10 pm Post #1 - August 10th, 2013, 6:10 pm
    What to Do with Bad Produce, or “Stand by Your Fruit!”

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    So The Wife bought two pounds of nectarines at Trader Joe’s.

    I cut into one, and it was mealy, juiceless, despicable.

    I cut into another, same deal.

    Now, the nectarines were brought back to Trader Joe’s, who gave a price refund, which is beyond doubt the right thing to do, but my question is: why is it the consumer’s job to do quality control for a place like Trader Joe’s?

    And for every person who brings back clearly subpar produce, how many customers just don’t make the effort, suck it up, and eat the cost (though not, of course, the produce)?

    So what I’m wondering is, by bringing bad fruit back to the store, am I achieving anything other than just getting my money back for a purchase poorly made? Or do good stores like Trader Joe’s actually go back and check out the other fruit of this type just to see if, maybe, there’s a common problem with all the fruit in that bin? And wouldn't it make sense for them to, maybe, open every package of incoming fruit, sample a little, and if they have to open a bag, just leave it in the employee break room or send employees home with it, but to make sure that what their valued customers buy is, actually, edible.

    Perhaps it depends on the size of the grocery, but whatever the place, it seems like they should stand behind their fruit…



    [NOTE: Kramer bought the fruit so it's perfectly fine for him to nose the mango]
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #2 - August 10th, 2013, 7:27 pm
    Post #2 - August 10th, 2013, 7:27 pm Post #2 - August 10th, 2013, 7:27 pm
    I'm sorry, but I'm too distracted to answer your question. What are the Hammonds doing buying grocery store nectarines in August?
  • Post #3 - August 10th, 2013, 8:17 pm
    Post #3 - August 10th, 2013, 8:17 pm Post #3 - August 10th, 2013, 8:17 pm
    Ann Fisher wrote:I'm sorry, but I'm too distracted to answer your question. What are the Hammonds doing buying grocery store nectarines in August?


    Good question, but you'll have to address that to Carolyn Berg, over whose actions I have little control.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #4 - August 10th, 2013, 8:29 pm
    Post #4 - August 10th, 2013, 8:29 pm Post #4 - August 10th, 2013, 8:29 pm
    I'm sorry, but I'm too distracted to answer your question. What are the Hammonds doing buying grocery store nectarines in August?


    No one should be buying stone fruit at a supermarket in Chicagoland in early August! This is the reason we have farmers markets, with our wonderful Michigan growers hauling in peak form late season peaches, nectarines, and plums. NO excuse.
  • Post #5 - August 10th, 2013, 8:48 pm
    Post #5 - August 10th, 2013, 8:48 pm Post #5 - August 10th, 2013, 8:48 pm
    sundevilpeg wrote:
    I'm sorry, but I'm too distracted to answer your question. What are the Hammonds doing buying grocery store nectarines in August?


    No one should be buying stone fruit at a supermarket in Chicagoland in early August! This is the reason we have farmers markets, with our wonderful Michigan growers hauling in peak form late season peaches, nectarines, and plums. NO excuse.



    I will make a point of conveying your chastisement -- and oh so righteous indignation -- to The Wife.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #6 - August 10th, 2013, 8:52 pm
    Post #6 - August 10th, 2013, 8:52 pm Post #6 - August 10th, 2013, 8:52 pm
    Hi- I don't even buy nectarines in the grocery store, I did buy some Illinois peaches at Whole Foods a few years ago, that were not bad, but I mostly stick to bananas, apples, pineapple and citrus in the wintertime.

    I bought a large watermelon at Dominick's last summer because it was on sale for $2.99, and it was the most tasteless melon. I should have asked for my money back, but I did not. The California strawberries starting in May are edible, and the Michigan blueberries are OK, but not as good as what I can get at the farmer's market. About three weeks ago, Dominick's had Michigan blueberries on sale for $.99 a pint, and since they were homegrown, I broke down and bought 3 pints. They were OK, but I have had better. When I mentioned this on the couponing blog I also post on, somebody told me that I should have made Dominick's aware about that, because they are really pushing the fact that they carry a lot of local produce. I nearly laughed, because I know Dominick's is not going to change suppliers of blueberries just because I am unhappy with them. We all know that Dominick's and Jewel advertise that they carry a ton of local produce, when they just carry a few local items.

    I've never returned any produce back to the store. In the summertime I buy very little produce in the grocery store, and in the wintertime I have a tendency to pick safe items such as bananas. I sincerely doubt that any of the stores sample any of the produce before they put it out on the shelves. They just want items that look pretty, and they really don't care how they taste.
  • Post #7 - August 10th, 2013, 9:01 pm
    Post #7 - August 10th, 2013, 9:01 pm Post #7 - August 10th, 2013, 9:01 pm
    Hi- Unfortunately the majority of the people never make it to the farmer's market, either because it is too much trouble, or it is too expensive. If you have only had supermarket peaches, you also don't realize that there are much better ones to be had at the farmer's market. I know the majority of the people here visit the farmer's market or belong to a CSA, but probably 75% of the people in the Chicago area have never been to a farmer's market I bet you. I believe the average person in this country only consumes two servings of produce a day anyway.
  • Post #8 - August 10th, 2013, 9:05 pm
    Post #8 - August 10th, 2013, 9:05 pm Post #8 - August 10th, 2013, 9:05 pm
    NFriday wrote:Hi- Unfortunately the majority of the people never make it to the farmer's market, either because it is too much trouble, or it is too expensive. If you have only had supermarket peaches, you also don't realize that there are much better ones to be had at the farmer's market. I know the majority of the people here visit the farmer's market or belong to a CSA, but probably 75% of the people in the Chicago area have never been to a farmer's market I bet you.


    We've bought maybe 30 pounds or more of peaches at the Oak Park Farmers' Market in the past few weeks, mostly for putting by and mostly seconds, as mentioned in another thread. Seconds are not very expensive, probably less expensive than supermarket peaches, and for our purposes, just fine.

    I'm curious, though: why don't you ever return fruit to the grocery store? Not worth the effort?
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #9 - August 10th, 2013, 9:08 pm
    Post #9 - August 10th, 2013, 9:08 pm Post #9 - August 10th, 2013, 9:08 pm
    Completely ridiculous to pronounce all local fruit perfect and wonderful and that anything bought in a mainstream store is such crap that you shouldn't be allowed to expect better. I've had several bad peach purchases so far this summer from GCM AND the vaunted GA peach truck. And just bought some delicious ones from WF. If the store sells 'em, they should make it right if they are sub-par but I'm not sure it's realistic to say that tasting one bag would ensure that the entire batch is acceptable or not. It IS a natural (hopefully) product after all which means QC shouldn't be an exact science.
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington
  • Post #10 - August 10th, 2013, 9:12 pm
    Post #10 - August 10th, 2013, 9:12 pm Post #10 - August 10th, 2013, 9:12 pm
    boudreaulicious wrote:I'm not sure it's realistic to say that tasting one bag would ensure that the entire batch is acceptable or not. It IS a natural (hopefully) product after all which means QC shouldn't be an exact science.


    Totally agree, but I don't know how else to check for the quality of a batch. A random sample is one way to do it, but surely not foolproof.

    Was at a lunch today, and I brought up this topic, and everyone around the table had a story about bad produce from Trader Joe's.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #11 - August 10th, 2013, 9:18 pm
    Post #11 - August 10th, 2013, 9:18 pm Post #11 - August 10th, 2013, 9:18 pm
    Well that's an entirely different issue but I don't think someone there opening up a bag for the staff to taste would solve it...I'm not a TJs fan generally but even those who love it rarely talk about the produce ;)

    But TJs aside, I do think it's possible to get decent fruit at a mainstream grocery, especially those selling local stuff, and equally possible to get a bad bag at your local farmer's market.
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington
  • Post #12 - August 10th, 2013, 9:32 pm
    Post #12 - August 10th, 2013, 9:32 pm Post #12 - August 10th, 2013, 9:32 pm
    Hi- In the first place, I'm selective about what I buy at the grocery store, and it is too much bother. One time I bought a bag of onions at Aldi's, and I had to throw out at least half of them, and I should have returned them, but Aldi's is out of my way, and they don't have a customer service desk, and so it is a major pain to return anything there.

    Today at the Evanston market I was not able to get there until 12:30, and one of the farmer's there is usually really good about marking his stuff down rather than taking it home. When I looked at his peaches, which were $5 a quart or 2 for $8, somebody informed me that they had just reduced the price to $5 for three quarts. It was too good of a deal to pass up. A lot of people don't know that you can get deals like that though.

    Yes, on occasion you can get half way decent produce at grocery stores, but in general most grocery store produce is subpar. The grocery stores only want to buy produce that can keep for a week, because most of their produce comes from either California, Florida or Mexico, and it goes to a warehouse first, and then is distributed to the chain stores. If there is one ripe peach in a load, the chain store will reject the whole load.
  • Post #13 - August 10th, 2013, 9:40 pm
    Post #13 - August 10th, 2013, 9:40 pm Post #13 - August 10th, 2013, 9:40 pm
    NFriday wrote:Hi- In the first place, I'm selective about what I buy at the grocery store, and it is too much bother.


    Totally with you on the "bother" issue, but it seems like bringing it back to the store might, just might send a message.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #14 - August 10th, 2013, 10:45 pm
    Post #14 - August 10th, 2013, 10:45 pm Post #14 - August 10th, 2013, 10:45 pm
    David Hammond wrote:
    NFriday wrote:Hi- In the first place, I'm selective about what I buy at the grocery store, and it is too much bother.


    Totally with you on the "bother" issue, but it seems like bringing it back to the store might, just might send a message.


    Unfortunately I'm betting the store manager just writes it off as "shrinkage" and the complain never gets back to the regional or corp. office much less the buyers.

    I would also guess that buyers will select sub-standard produce rather than not stock it.
    Can you imagine the backlash if the store manager at Jewel had to explain that rather than carry grapes this week they decided to wait till good product was available?
    Most shoppers would freak. They've become accustomed to having everything at their fingertips regardless of season and prefer variety over quality.
  • Post #15 - August 11th, 2013, 12:26 pm
    Post #15 - August 11th, 2013, 12:26 pm Post #15 - August 11th, 2013, 12:26 pm
    We saw a segment on tv news where they held up a "typical" size peach that they said was about 2-1/2 inches. they then held up a peach from this season which was over three inches. The point was that the amount of rain that the peach growers have recieved this season has been extreme. And although some crops were damaged when some areas flooded, a lot of the peach trees in other areas rejoiced and produced extra large fruit. The problem, they said, is that the amount of water the trees received diluted the sugar content of the larger peaches and they were not as sweet. I would never have thought of this! (finally something useful from the nightly news snark snark)

    I cold not get to the Georgia peach truck this year and I am somehow perversely satisfied to read the report that they were not impressive.

    Now don't jump on my head but we have been buying peaches from Sam's Club and they have been really nice: juicy, not mealy, fairly large, could be a tiny bit sweeter but, still, for peaches that are right in our regular shopping path on a Tuesday, we are happy.
  • Post #16 - August 11th, 2013, 1:53 pm
    Post #16 - August 11th, 2013, 1:53 pm Post #16 - August 11th, 2013, 1:53 pm
    Usually mediocre fruit doesn't have enough tartness or is too firm. Mulberries are a great example of the former. I was disappointed to find some local plums I bought recently were examples of both. In either case, I usually do something that involves cooking and adding acid. With the mulberries I made a shrub and the plums I cooked down and added some champagne vinegar to taste then made into a panna cotta layer.
  • Post #17 - August 11th, 2013, 2:42 pm
    Post #17 - August 11th, 2013, 2:42 pm Post #17 - August 11th, 2013, 2:42 pm
    mgmcewen wrote:Usually mediocre fruit doesn't have enough tartness or is too firm. Mulberries are a great example of the former. I was disappointed to find some local plums I bought recently were examples of both. In either case, I usually do something that involves cooking and adding acid. With the mulberries I made a shrub and the plums I cooked down and added some champagne vinegar to taste then made into a panna cotta layer.


    Just curious, have you ever purchased mulberries? Those fruits seem to be usually harvested on private property, randomly. I don't think I've ever seen them for sale anywhere, but it's certainly possible.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #18 - August 11th, 2013, 3:27 pm
    Post #18 - August 11th, 2013, 3:27 pm Post #18 - August 11th, 2013, 3:27 pm
    David Hammond wrote:
    mgmcewen wrote:Usually mediocre fruit doesn't have enough tartness or is too firm. Mulberries are a great example of the former. I was disappointed to find some local plums I bought recently were examples of both. In either case, I usually do something that involves cooking and adding acid. With the mulberries I made a shrub and the plums I cooked down and added some champagne vinegar to taste then made into a panna cotta layer.


    Just curious, have you ever purchased mulberries? Those fruits seem to be usually harvested on private property, randomly. I don't think I've ever seen them for sale anywhere, but it's certainly possible.


    I get them from my family's farm, I've never seen them for sale in Illinois. I saw them at the NYC Union Square Farmer's Market a few times.
  • Post #19 - August 11th, 2013, 7:59 pm
    Post #19 - August 11th, 2013, 7:59 pm Post #19 - August 11th, 2013, 7:59 pm
    I recently bought a huge container of strawberries from Jewel, and when I got them home, I had to throw the entire container away, because underneath the top layer, they were all completely moldy. I was enraged and totally prepared to return them, but I have three kids under the age of five and a husband who works opposite hours from me so I would have had to drag all three of them back to the store and no. Just...no. Then I got mad at myself for letting them get away with it. On the plus side, I almost never buy anything at Jewel.

    I have also heard nothing but bad things about the produce at Trader Joe's, but I never shop there anymore anyway (see above: three under five) so I can't personally confirm or deny. My father has sworn them off, though.

    Finally, about large fruit- my father, an avid gardener, has always told me to choose small or medium fruits and vegetables, because larger fruits tend to be very bland, for the aforementioned reason. It's interesting to know why. I used to see big fruit and get really excited, but I am almost always disappointed when I give in to that.
  • Post #20 - August 11th, 2013, 8:20 pm
    Post #20 - August 11th, 2013, 8:20 pm Post #20 - August 11th, 2013, 8:20 pm
    mgmcewen wrote:
    David Hammond wrote:
    mgmcewen wrote:Usually mediocre fruit doesn't have enough tartness or is too firm. Mulberries are a great example of the former. I was disappointed to find some local plums I bought recently were examples of both. In either case, I usually do something that involves cooking and adding acid. With the mulberries I made a shrub and the plums I cooked down and added some champagne vinegar to taste then made into a panna cotta layer.


    Just curious, have you ever purchased mulberries? Those fruits seem to be usually harvested on private property, randomly. I don't think I've ever seen them for sale anywhere, but it's certainly possible.


    I get them from my family's farm, I've never seen them for sale in Illinois. I saw them at the NYC Union Square Farmer's Market a few times.


    It seems like there's no really good reason why mulberries could not be sold (though they are rather delicate). Generally, they're just not.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #21 - August 11th, 2013, 9:56 pm
    Post #21 - August 11th, 2013, 9:56 pm Post #21 - August 11th, 2013, 9:56 pm
    David Hammond wrote:It seems like there's no really good reason why mulberries could not be sold (though they are rather delicate). Generally, they're just not.


    Their extremely delicate nature is, from what I understand, why they aren't sold commercially.
  • Post #22 - August 12th, 2013, 7:24 am
    Post #22 - August 12th, 2013, 7:24 am Post #22 - August 12th, 2013, 7:24 am
    A stand at the Andersonville farmer's market sold mulberries earlier this year. I buy a lot of other stuff from her, but can't recall her name. She is on the north-east corner of market (at Clark St, in front of Starbucks). I thought the mulberries were ok, not terribly flavorful.

    To your original question, I don't return bad fruit because I don't want to expend the time or effort. But it isn't just fruit: same problem when the grocery store leaves something out of my bag or I get home and discover some other odd problem. But back to fruit, I usually just make a mental note of which fruit was disappointing and just try a different variety/stand next time. I've been buying a lot of fruit from Hillside Orchard this year and nearly all of it has been delicious. Best apricots I've had in years (I was starting to think apricots didn't have any taste until they were either dried or made into jam!). So I've been sticking with them, but last week I picked up some of their Flamin Fury peaches and they just didn't have much taste, despite being really ripe.
  • Post #23 - August 12th, 2013, 8:04 am
    Post #23 - August 12th, 2013, 8:04 am Post #23 - August 12th, 2013, 8:04 am
    Darren72 wrote:Best apricots I've had in years (I was starting to think apricots didn't have any taste until they were either dried or made into jam!). So I've been sticking with them, but last week I picked up some of their Flamin Fury peaches and they just didn't have much taste, despite being really ripe.


    Let me tell you something about apricots:

    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #24 - August 12th, 2013, 8:10 am
    Post #24 - August 12th, 2013, 8:10 am Post #24 - August 12th, 2013, 8:10 am
    Love it! Thanks.
  • Post #25 - August 12th, 2013, 8:16 am
    Post #25 - August 12th, 2013, 8:16 am Post #25 - August 12th, 2013, 8:16 am
    About apricots, though, I love them too, but I agree with Larry that they're like 1 good in 30. Or maybe even more. They're a constant heartbreak.

    I remember walking across York Commons in Elmhurst in the mid 70s with a good friend. It was maybe 2AM. We came upon an apricot tree that was just full of the most perfect fruit. There was even a basket on the ground with a sign, "Take Some!" We stayed there for a long time gorging on apricots. Never had an apricot so good since then, which is very sad.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #26 - August 12th, 2013, 9:25 am
    Post #26 - August 12th, 2013, 9:25 am Post #26 - August 12th, 2013, 9:25 am
    I agree with what others have said -- it's too much bother to go back to the store. I tend to buy much of our produce from the smaller grocers and feel like I have better luck with the quality. Granted, there's risk at the smaller stores because the shelf-life might be shorter for whatever I'm buying.

    As for the Georgia peach truck, we were very happy with the box we bought. Between the bowl of sliced GA peaches and my jello shots, I made a lot of friends at a volleyball tournament this past weekend. ;-)
    -Mary
  • Post #27 - August 12th, 2013, 9:28 am
    Post #27 - August 12th, 2013, 9:28 am Post #27 - August 12th, 2013, 9:28 am
    I have had really good apricots this year from Seedling, but the peaches seem very hit or miss. None have been terribly mealy, but wildly variable in terms of how big, small, tart, sweet, bland etc. We got a few from the grocery store, my husband picks up a few of the "tree ripened" ones occasionally. Those have generally been good this year.

    There was a woman at the Wicker Park market this weekend who says she is just plain afraid to buy peaches any more, because she's had so many that are mealy and bland.
    Leek

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  • Post #28 - August 12th, 2013, 9:31 am
    Post #28 - August 12th, 2013, 9:31 am Post #28 - August 12th, 2013, 9:31 am
    The GP wrote:I agree with what others have said -- it's too much bother to go back to the store.


    I'm sure that's the attitude of many, including us. It's usually eccentrics like Kramer who return fruit...though if it's a place you shop at frequently, and are there regularly, it's easy enough to bring back the bag of offending fruit.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #29 - August 12th, 2013, 12:27 pm
    Post #29 - August 12th, 2013, 12:27 pm Post #29 - August 12th, 2013, 12:27 pm
    Ah, a subject near and dear to my heart. My family always teases me that I remind them of the Seinfeld bad fruit episode and that stores are not going to let me shop there anymore.

    I've had great peaches from Trader Joe's (they were from Georgia and in a large 5-pound box). But they haven't had them since and I've got my name on their "call" list if they return, but I don't think that will happen. So I bought a little container of about 5 peaches in an open plastic box with a net cover. The instructions were to ripen in the box. What I cut into had nerve to go by the name of "Peach". It was mealy, stringy and had zero juice. Trader Joe's is always great about a refund. So I just won't buy peaches from them again, unless they're the ones from Georgia.

    But I did try a TJ watermelon and it was great (seedless, $3.99). Much better than a recent melon from Dominick’s that claimed to be seedless but was filled with black seeds. Dominick’s will take fruit returns. Most of the Dominick’s employees where I shop are great. But there is one person who always demands more than the receipt. She wants me to bring in the dripping, bad-tasting, rotten fruit for evidence. Times are tough at our house right now and I don't want to waste money. I'm not to proud to pull a Kramer and return bad fruit.
  • Post #30 - August 12th, 2013, 2:36 pm
    Post #30 - August 12th, 2013, 2:36 pm Post #30 - August 12th, 2013, 2:36 pm
    One in thirty seems about right for store-bought apricots. They're another fruit that has to be picked unripe, since it bruises easily. Unfortunately, when I was growing up in Sacramento, I mowed the lawn of a guy with an old, twisted 'cot tree that he let me pick every year. I'd bring buckets of the most wonderful-tasting fruit home, and we'd freeze it. I'll never be able to get over those apricots. :cry:

    Geo
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)

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