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Aug 14, 2010 09:38 AM

Crappy fruit - what's the story??

Does anyone have the secret to finding decent fruit in this city? I shop at Jean Talon Market when I can, and my local Provigo, PA, Sakaris, and smaller fruiteries around the plateau the rest of the time. But I find that fruit-buying is largely a crap-shoot. The quality varies hugely , from delicious to inedible. I LOVE a good peach and have found some pretty good Ontario ones, but some are just mealy, mushy and tasteless. The same goes for tomatoes. Is this because they've been refrigerated in transport/ storage? I notice that sometimes when stuff has just been put out on the shelf, it is VERY cold. I would never put peaches or tomatoes in the fridge at home, so why would I buy some that just came out of the fridge? And what's with the cardboard baskets that Ontario peaches come in? That's a lot of peaches for a 2-person household, especially when they all ripen at the same time - and I'm always afraid the ones on the bottom will be rotten, since you can't see them at all. Some places have peaches available in bulk - but these are often from the U.S. for some reason, and are much more expensive. I've had a lot of terrible apples, too - even when I stick to local ones in season. Even bananas - I stopped buying them a few months ago when I kept getting ones that looked fine on the outside but were all black in the middle. I always thought oranges were pretty reliable and consistent but last winter I kept getting ones that were all dry inside. Finally, I can't believe how often I see moldy, rotten fruit on display in some stores - ugh.
Is it just me? Am I too picky?

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  1. I don't have an answer to this but I certainly understand!

    1. I'm with you. I have a hard time finding decent fruits and vegetables. A lot of supermarkets have fruits that are starting to go bad or they're completely inedible because they are mealy or dried out. Sometimes I buy things and two days later they're rotting even though I'm storing them properly. I know someone who has family in food distribution and importation, he says that among the big cities in the region Montreal tends to be last on the chain and that things tend to go to Toronto and New York first.

      2 Replies
      1. re: PadmeSkywalker

        I forgot to add, Costco tends to have surprisingly good fruit. In season, the sell pomegranate arils in a container. I love this since I hate the mess separating them from the pomegranate makes.

        1. re: PadmeSkywalker

          I suspect that Young Brothers on Van Horne near Outremont metro (my local market) buys a lot of their fruit and other stock at Costco and repackages it. Their stuff is consistently very good, and they do take care to note whether items are organic and/or sourced from within Quebec.

          Granted, it's not Chez Louis, and you sometimes do get a few bad guys at the very bottom of, say, a tub of berries (probably due to mixing batches), but overall the RQP is quite decent.

      2. The best supermarket fruit I've found in Montreal is at the Mourelatos in Ville St-Laurent (*not* the one on Ste-Catherine) and at Adonis's various branches. I only get there every few months, though.

        A peach tip: keep the basket in the fridge and only take out the ones you want to eat the day before you want to eat or cook with them. They usually are good to eat/cook within a day and the rest keep in the fridge about a week.

        1. I totally agree.

          All I can say is that although its a bit more expensive Eden on prince arthur and parc has amazing fruit and vegetables. Ive honestly never bought a piece of fruit or veg there that wasn't absolutely perfect. Every night I see the store clerks inspecting all the items ... they really seem to care. Beyond that, I think they must just have better suppliers than other stores.

          Their watermelons are the best Ive ever had Im pretty addicted to them lol

          16 Replies
          1. re: kpaxonite

            Yeah, I used to go there when it was more convenient to my day-to-day wanderings. I seem to remember something funny like a sign saying not to handle the fruit, which I found ridiculous at the time, but I do see the logic of not wanting everybody manhandling everything...I don't want to buy an avocado without giving it a little squeeze, but I don't particularly want to buy one that has been squeezed by a bunch of other people - the catch-22 of fruit. Side note - I seem to remember hearing that somewhere in Europe (Italy? France?), customers never touch the fruit - they ask for what they want and the merchants do all the touching. Imagine if someone tried that here?

            1. re: stak

              Stories like that are old wives tales; the supermarkets and green grocers there are essentially the same as here.

              Ive never seen that sign but then again I usually dont find a problem with the fruit I buy at eden. Obviously I do give it a little squeeze first but I rarely have to put it back. At other supermarkets sometimes when I try to buy a pear I have to squeeze about ten of them to find one that isnt already half pureed lol

              1. re: kpaxonite

                when i tried to pick out some cherries to put in a bag in brussels the lady made me pour them all back saying you have to grab a handful not individually choose them so we are lucky here to squeeze or inspect closely before purchasing! I use to go to anka to buy fruit but now just go wherever convenient such as eden, parc ave. fruit stores+there is the organic market in outremont (dollard) on Sundays. Today the metro peaches looked enticing were big and pinkish but when touched were rockhard and very cold, having just come out of their cold storage. Best fruit i ever had was in greece, figs fresh from the orchards, melons so fragrant and dripping juices, even the watermelon tasted sweeter. Thats the trouble in montreal limited produce--apples are good and the strawberries in season but often rest of fruit comes from too far or doesnt get enough sun to sweeten.

              2. re: karela

                i remember this was how it was at marche de l'ouest when I was a child (~20yrs ago)

                1. re: celfie

                  Stak, I feel your pain. As someone else mentioned we don't exactly live in a fruit producing region besides apples, strawberries and melons (limited) for a short period of time and maybe a few other things. So we pretty much have no choice but to buy imported fruit from the US and beyond. Your best bet and where I get my fruit from on a weekly basis is "Tania" on the south side of JTM, those few stalls (Chez Louis to Tania all stock pretty much the same stuff) are your best bet, you'll pay a bit more but won't have to worry about the "crap shoot". Ask them what's "extra good and fresh this week" and they'll steer you in the right direction.

                  Yes, the fruit come from far away and no they are not organic and who knows what they are sprayed with but I've rarely had a disappointing piece of fruit from there. The nectarines and cherries they have been selling all summer are great (although cherry season is over so the quality is starting to dwindle), their watermelon has been spot on although for the past 3 weeks I've been buying local small watermelon from one of the stalls. It seems to be re-sold watermelon (noticed the same ones at Mourelatos) but nonetheless a product of Quebec and very good. As far as tomatoes, I've given up and grow my own but I'd try Birri. I've also given up (a long time ago) on any supermarket fruit/veggies including Adonis and Mourelatos, they both seem to always sell sub par produce every now I give them another chance but they can't win me back.

                  We seem to forget what part of the world we live in, we unfortunately don't have the climate of the Mediterranean where fruit tastes better and is more abundant due to the sun and other conditions, we don't live in California or Georgia for a great peach, our food has to travel so right away we are a step behind. Remember, we are a top producer of maple syrup in the world that says a lot. lol

                  Apple season is right around the corner so as long as you find a good vendor at the market you shouldn't be too disappointed, I had some great ones last year.

                  As for refrigerated produce, the vendors have no choice or else everything would rot within a few days. I'm assuming everything gets transported in refrigerated containers as well or else it would arrive rotten and then it's of course kept in refrigerated warehouses at the depots across the city.

                  No, it's not an old wives tales, I had vendors in Barcelona and Florence yell at me for picking my own fruit, they do it for you.

                  1. re: ios94

                    No one has mentioned blueberries... we have damn good blueberries!!! and raspberries and blackberries!!

                    Regarding vendors I never had a problem in anywhere in northern italy or france and certainly not in germany or england...oh well.

                    1. re: ios94

                      Thanks - I'll make sure to try Tania next time.
                      I agree that we have to lower our expectations based on our geography, but what bugs me is the lack of consistency; I have bought Ontario peaches here that I thought were great; but the next basket could be awful. So I was wondering if there was some trick that I'm missing or if some vendors have better ways of storing or handling their produce that would result in a better product; is there a way to know that one basket of rock-hard peaches will ripen beautifully but another will just turn to tasteless mush?
                      I've even had bad luck with apples in Montreal - even in apple season I've had great ones and awful ones; can a bad vendor turn a good apple to crap? Do you have any recommendations for apple vendors at JTM?
                      Interesting that you mention supermarket veggies; for some reason, I don't generally have the same difficulties with vegetables. They're not always fantastic and you have to watch out for rotten/ moldy/ wilted stuff when choosing at the store, but what I get is usually edible, at least.
                      EDIT: oops, that was supposed to be a reply to ios94...not sure why it ended up here.

                      1. re: stak

                        i'm not certain of exactly how it works, but a manager at a downtown grocery store told me most stores get produce from the same supplier - the provigo sorts usually get first pick, followed by the mourelatos types and PA gets the last pick. I didn't inquire further but he was insistent on it working like this

                        1. re: celfie

                          was it the manager at provigo...because that would be in his interest to say

                            1. re: celfie

                              I'm not sure how the whole process works but I have an idea, I have to believe there is more than one wholesaler (I believe that's what you mean when you say "supplier") in the city. Maybe the big chains deal with one wholesaler but there must be some smaller players out there. I could be wrong. Even if there is one supplier it doesn't mean that the supermarkets get the highest quality produce if anything they probably take the cheaper stuff.

                              I would be very interested to know exactly how the process works in this city if someone out there has any idea.

                              Obviously guys like Chez Louis for example pay more for the better produce come winter time as he typically carries fresher products with a higher price.

                              1. re: ios94

                                Heard an item on NPR's Planet Money podcast recently on precisely this topic. It was at a wholesale produce market in New Jersey, but it's probably a similar process here. Basically suppliers show up, try to sell their product at the highest price; the buyers for the higher end places show up earlier and are more willing to pay top dollar for higher quality items. As the night goes on the amount and quality of produce goes down, the prices do so accordingly, and the bargain basement buyers get their bargains then (when they're not too late). So a store like Eden would likely have a buyer more committed to high quality than say, the guy who supplies the 4 brothers on St-Laurent, and this is reflected inthe prices you pay at retail. I'm thinking that's probably what used to take place at marché central before it become a big-box parking lot; don't know where it would have moved to, probably somewhere in the burbs.
                                I would very much doubt that there is only one supplier for the whole island of Montreal, the amount of produce they would have to carry would be gigantic, and the buyers would probably not accept the kind of price-gouging that such a monopoly would inevitably lead to.

                                1. re: johnnyboy

                                  Wholesale fruit and veg is still sold at Marché Central. It's only the retail part that was shut down. I believe Canadawide, who are at Marché Central, is the biggest wholesaler in Montreal with Courschesne Larose being the other big player.

                      2. re: ios94

                        I agree that we are not a peach growing region but both Ontario and Nova Scotia have amazing peaches when in season. Its just disappointing to have such great peaches so close, yet sadly just out of reach. Even at JTM I find that only about 30-40% of the peaches are truly worth it.

                        Also in Ontario I've seen mini-sized baskets for sale that solves the problem of too many peaches for a small household. Haven't seen that here.

                        Forget the peaches at Costco - uggghhh!

                        1. re: buspirone

                          The peaches at Costco used to be excellent; in the past 2 years, they have been off. I'm not sure what changed.

                        2. re: ios94

                          ios, the so-called "banana belt" of the Niagara Peninsula also has excellent peaces, which could arrive here in a few hours by truck, but they are usually picked far too green. I did get some fine peaches Chez Louis recently.

                          Chez Louis
                          150 Rue Saint-Georges, Drummondville, QC J2C4H1, CA

                  2. I live right across the street from a Metro supermarket. It's not my first choice of where to shop, but I find myself going in there often for a few things because its convenient. I've been particularly unimpressed with their "fresh" produce. I've seen tomatoes that are soft to the point of being almost soggy and with flies crawling on them. What's more (and this isn't a knock against Metro specifically) a lot of the big chains like IGA, Maxi, Metro etc. seem to never or rarely bring in local field tomatoes when they're in season. Instead they sell hothouse ones all year round. A friend told me its because they now have contracts in place with Quebec hothouses and are committed to selling their product 12 months a year. I don't know how true that is though.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Haggisboy

                      My biggest problem in the fruit area is what happened to juicy peaches? Either they are too hard and need to go into a brown paper bag and then come out mush and no juice, or they are a little soft but still no juice. I miss the good ol' days when you bit into a peach and the juice trickled down your face.

                      1. re: blondee_47

                        The basket of Ontario peaches I got at PA sat and ripened a bit and I put the rest in fridge and have enjoyed sweet juicy peaches all week. Let them warm up a day as the poster above suggested. This basket was from Nickel Orchards, RR2, Ruthven, Ontario. Go Nickels Orchards! But I agree that luck is involved.

                        Did you know there were fruit-ripening and storage tips on the bottom of the basket? I didn't until right now when I looked for the orchard name.

                        Apples are now happening.

                        Apples are one of the few fruits where we get a lot of different varieties. Some of it is really fresh off the tree too.

                        you can get info on which apples are ripe during what part of the season at the apple producers lapommeduquebec website. Go to the mise en marché section for the latest communique about what varieties are now on the market.

                        Montreal is surrounded with apple areas, but I am partial to the covey hill area, where I get my crabs for my year's supply of crabapple jelly.

                        For those interested in producers and intermediaries, the apple producers website is part of the food marketing and distribution system.. For more info on the marketing thing, Quebec's (industrial scale) agricultural lobby, the UPA, has links to all sorts of food producer groups in quebec.