RUNNING IN THE FAMILY

RUNNING IN THE FAMILY

We get orders for heirloom tomatoes a number of times each season here at Sofresh, and I always find them intriguing to look at when they arrive at our warehouse (ie. a quick quality check in the chiller room). They’re pretty and at the same time a little strange looking in a fascinating sort of way. They’re colourful and odd-shaped, even a little distorted. And they’re distinctly un-uniformed in size, unlike the common red/orangey all-roundish ones commonly found in stores. So what’s the deal with heirloom – a.k.a. heritage – tomatoes, really?   First off, what are heirloom tomatoes? They’re open-pollinated (or “true breed”) tomatoes. But note this tricky bit of trivia: while all heirloom varieties are open-pollinated, not all open-pollinated varieties are heirloom varieties. Tongue-twister aside, open-pollination means that when heirloom tomato varieties self-pollinate or are pollinated by other tomatoes, the resulting tomato seeds produce future tomato plants which are identical to the parent varieties. Put simply, heirloom tomatoes are not commercial hybrid tomatoes (ie. the common red/orangey roundish ones). Put crudely, heirlooms are “in-bred” tomatoes (hence their odd looks?).   Another way to understand this non-conforming variety of vegetable is that an heirloom is a variety that has been passed down through generations of an original family. Why is this done? Because of certain characteristics – such as size, shape, colour, stripes, patterns, a unique taste, or some desirable oddity – that someone had wanted to preserve and reproduce consistently. In the world of golf or tennis, when a piece of equipment is tagged “non-conforming” it usually becomes very desired, because it gives the player wielding it...
WHY IS IT CALLED LADIES’ FINGERS?

WHY IS IT CALLED LADIES’ FINGERS?

A dear, long-time friend of mine recently posted on her Facebook page a mouthwatering picture of an okra dish she’d created. Not only did the pixels jump right off the screen and grab my eyeballs by their sockets, Jean also freely shared the “oh-so-easy” recipe to her creation. Jean’s a professional private chef who cooks up a storm for her celebrity clients in Europe. Although currently based in Hamburg, she’s a Singapore girl at heart and has represented Singapore at international food and trade shows. So, I think it’s safe to say that she knows what she’s doing.   Coincidentally about the same time, right before I saw Jean’s post, I happened to be thinking about okra. Perhaps it’s because I so often see it here at Sofresh – it’s a common vegetable item that we supply our cruise ship, commercial vessel and oil rig clients with. To be exact, I was wondering how the name “ladies’ fingers” came about for okra. It was a fleeting, random thought, but I guess now it warrants an investigation once and for all.   What I found was a bit of a let-down for me, to tell the truth: okra pods are long, slender, and elegantly shaped, just like a lady’s finger, hence the name (Duh!). Oh well, at least that’s easy to remember.   But I also found out that okra is known by a few other interesting names. “Okra” is the name most commonly used in America, the UK, and the Philippines (perhaps because of past American influence). In some parts of America and English-speaking Caribbean it’s called “gumbo”. While...
IT’S ALL IN THE SEED (WELL, MOSTLY)

IT’S ALL IN THE SEED (WELL, MOSTLY)

It seems I’ve been doing it wrong all this time! I’ve been hacking out the most important part and dumping it: so many years of utter waste! A friend once told me he watched a group of tourists eating mangosteen for the first time at our famous Newton Circus hawker centre, but the fruitseller had not told them how to eat the fruit, and they were biting into each one as if eating an apple, flashing purple-stained grimaces with each awful mouthful. I feel a little like one of those tourists.   Apparently, the most nutritious part of an avocado is its seed, which is edible! If an avocado (flesh) is a super-food, then its seed is an extra-super-duper-food. And here are some of the reasons – which I’ve just found out – why this is so.   Firstly, the avocado seed is packed with soluble fibres. It’s reported to contain the highest amount of soluble fibre in the world for its size. So this little fella is punching supremely well about its weight in this category. What the fibres do is lower cholesterol levels. One theory why it’s so effective is that the fibres bind cholesterol before it can be absorbed into our blood system. So for anyone who’s watching their cholesterol levels, this may be some exciting knowledge.   Secondly, avocado seeds are super rich in antioxidants. Avocado is an antioxidant superhero, but in fact 70% of an avocado’s antioxidants are found in its seed. Many read “antioxidant” tagged to a product and are immediately sold, no further questions need be asked. I’d like to hold back...
WHAT NOW, 2016?

WHAT NOW, 2016?

I have to admit that I’ve been struggling to write this blog entry. No, that’s getting quite far ahead of myself. I’ve been struggling to think of what I should write about – the brilliant idea, the blockbuster topic to start 2016 with – so in reality, I’m actually miles away from being able to struggle with the writing itself.   It’s been a pretty hectic start to the new year. Christmas was a rare break for us: we had no ships scheduled that Friday. But it was back to work on Boxing Day to prepare for the packed following week leading up to New Year’s Day. And it’s been full-on, non-stop action since New Year’s Day weekend to now.   We’re now about midway through our annual going-bananas season. This happens between mid-October to early-April each year, when the northern hemisphere prepares to receive winter and the cruise ships head south for summer holidays in this half of the world. Not only is it nice and balmy weather here, it’s also safer sailing because the ships don’t have to navigate around ice-bergs, some as big if not bigger than the ships themselves, and other such natural obstacles as they would have to if they stayed north.   Here at Sofresh, we started preparing for this current high season from around last June, even while we carried-on with our usual year-round business. All our equipment was serviced to ensure everything would run smoothly. We added storage facilities to increase our capacity. And we gave our suppliers a heads-up. All of this is an annual ritual for us, because we...