Poor Pecan Crop and Consumption in China May Mean an Increase in Prices This Year

Photo from the USDA
Want pecans for your pie this Thanksgiving? Don't wait to buy them!
No matter how you say it -- pee-khan, pi-khan, pee-can or any other variation -- the price of pecans is going up.

The increase may not be seen on grocery store shelves just yet, but a number of contributing factors mean that your pecan pies will likely be a little more expensive this holiday season. But here in Texas, we need our pecan pie. In addition to the pecan tree being our state tree and the pecan being our state nut, earlier this year the Texas House of Representatives named pecan pie our state pie. So this is a big deal.

According to Forbes, the peak price for pecans in December 2012 was a little more than $2 per pound. Pecans are an alternate-bearing crop, meaning they have a good crop one year followed by a poor crop another year. Last year was an on year, with a huge bumper crop being harvested.

This year, growers are facing a low yield due to the pecan trees' yearly cycle as well as issues stemming from last year's drought, a late-spring freeze and increased demand for pecans in China. These factors have caused estimates of prices to be in the $9 to $11 per pound range for shelled pecans beginning in late November.

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City Hall Farmers' Market Returns with Eight New Vendors

Categories: Market Watch

Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
The City Hall Farmers' Market is held in the shadow of the Houston City Hall.
The City Hall Farmers' Market reopened on September 20, and this week I went to see what its eight new vendors are offering, as well as what the regulars have in store for shoppers this year.

The market boasts more than 35 vendors, many of which are organizations looking to spread the word about their work in the community and recruit volunteers or collect donations. There are a few produce stands, and several booths offer items such as essential oils or goats'-milk products. The majority of the vendors, however, sell prepared foods.

The location is part of what sets City Hall Farmers' Market apart from other markets in and around Houston. Because it sets up on the grounds of City Hall, its audience is professionals who work downtown and are looking to get out of the office for a quick bite during lunch break. The market is open from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., on Wednesdays only.

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2013 Houston Fall Produce Guide: What To Buy & When To Buy It

Graphic by Monica Fuentes
Check out our fall produce guide to see which fruits and vegetables will be available in the coming months.
Say goodbye to summer squash, watermelon, tomatoes and cucumbers, and say hello to pumpkins, winter squash, citrus and dark leafy greens.

Fall is here, and that means it's time to begin using season-appropriate fruits and vegetables. As Houstonians we are fortunate, because there's a lot of great produce being grown on Texas farms. And now is the time to buy the bounty: sweet potatoes for your casserole, pears for your tart, and much more. With assistance from Urban Harvest Market managers Tyler Horne and Libby Kennedy and the Kirby Whole Foods Market's Andrew DeYoung and Charles Perez, we have created a guide to show you which produce will be in season this fall and when you can expect to buy it.

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Pigs Have Seams, and Other Lessons Learned at Revival Market's Hog Butchery Demo Series

Photos by Christina Uticone and Joshua Payne
Morgan Weber, Adam Dorris and Ryan Pera break it down at Revival Market's Hog Butchery Demo.
If you think spending two hours watching a pig butchery demonstration at Revival Market makes for a weird date night, we probably couldn't be friends. Earlier this week my husband and I shared a romantic evening -- with about 20 other hog butchery/charcuterie fans--while getting up-close and personal with a couple of hogs, and the Revival Market guys: Chef de cuisine Adam Dorris and owners Morgan Weber and Ryan Pera.

Revival Market started its Hot Butchery Demonstration Series back in June, and it was such a success that they brought it back in August. When the e-mail about this hit my inbox a couple of weeks ago, I was sending emails to make reservations within minutes.

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Ten Farmers' Markets in & Around Houston to Visit This Summer

Stock up on fresh produce all summer long at these farmers markets in and around Houston.
My favorite thing about the summer is buying fresh, in season, produce from farmers markets. The beauty of Houston is that we are blessed with so many -- and ones that are open just about every single day.

Here are ten farmers markets in and around the Houston area for you to frequent this summer, whether it is on a Saturday morning or after work on a Tuesday, there's a farmers market waiting for you.

10. Grogan's Mill Farmer's Market
Every Saturday, 8 a.m.- noon

For those of you who live in The Woodlands or in Spring, this farmers market is perfect for you. Located in the Grogan's Mill Village Center, this farmers market offers a variety of vendors year-round selling gourmet coffee, fresh goat milk products, homegrown vegetables from local farms and even treats for your dogs. In fact, you can bring your dog to walk around the farmers market while you enjoy an iced coffee from AA Costa Rican Gourmet Coffee and a pastry from Angela's Oven.

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Room to Grow at Urban Harvest Eastside Sunday Market

Photos by Christina Uticone
A rainy Sunday morning, but we hardly noticed while we shopped, tasted and chatted our way through the market.
When Urban Harvest announced that they were expanding their Eastside market to include Sundays, I was ecstatic. An early morning Saturday run to the Eastside market is a staple in our weekend routine, but it's always nice to have options, and the location is perfect for us to combine with book shopping, breakfast eating, recycling returning and other errand-running-type chores.

It's been about a month since Urban Harvest threw open its, um, parking lot to Sunday morning shoppers and while it's quieter than its Saturday counterpart, there is much to enjoy.

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Ramps Aren't Rampant in Houston

Photo by David Marcel
Ramp and spring pea soup.
From the mailbag, a reader request for ramps:

Ramps, which are basically wild leeks, are widely available in other parts of the country in the spring. Where can Houstonians find lovely spring vegetables like ramps, fiddleheads, etc? Tried Trader Joe's, no luck. Houston needs our ramps!

Sorry to say, but ramps are pretty hard to find in Houston to begin with -- especially this late in the season. Calls to Revival Market, Whole Foods and Central Market all netted the same response: No ramps. Maybe next year.

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Whataburger Ketchup Now Available by the Bottle Thanks to H-E-B

Texans love their homegrown restaurants and grocery stores, and the affinity that people feel for San Antonio-based H-E-B is easily matched (if not surpassed) by the cult of Whataburger. The best thing to come out of Corpus Christi aside from Selena (a.k.a. the Mexican Madonna), Whataburger inspires the sort of passion in Texans that In-n-Out evokes in those silly, silly Californians.

It's only natural, then, that two such beloved food purveyors would come together on a project guaranteed to endear both to fast food-loving Texans for all eternity.

It was announced a few weeks back that Whataburger would soon be selling its Fancy Ketchup, Spicy Ketchup and Original Mustard in H-E-B stores across the state. To anyone unfamiliar with the burger chain's condiments, let's just say they're pretty popular.

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State House of Representatives Votes to Pass Texas Cottage Foods Bill

Categories: Market Watch, News

When HB 1139 -- also known as the Bake Sale Bill -- was signed into law in June 2011 by Governor Rick Perry, it set a precedent in Texas for so-called Cottage Food Bills that allow small, independent bakers and other culinary artisans to make and sell food from their homes.

Former Houston Press food critic Robb Walsh profiled the "pirate bakers," canners and tamale-makers who fought to have greater freedoms in selling their goods in his feature "Come and Bake It" in February 2011 -- just a few short months before the bill was finally passed.

"Bake sales and homemade tamales are only two of a long list of beloved Texas food traditions that health authorities are stamping out," Walsh wrote of the dark days before the State of Texas saw the light.

"Your tax dollars are also helping eradicate the dewberry jam, mayhaw and muscadine jellies, and other preserves that were once sold at farm stands," Walsh continued. "To the disappointment of many budding local food entrepreneurs, homemade food products may not be sold at farmers' markets either."

Not only has that changed, now the state is allowing even more goods to be brought to farmers markets -- and it should be easier now, too.

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Cupcakes Are Out: Five Treats That Are In

Courtesy of rosebengal
Cupcakes are on their way out, so what other treats are in?
Cupcakes have been the rage in America for several years now. After stores were opened exclusively to sell cupcakes, television shows were centered on the little individual desserts and the public went crazy over different cupcake presentations and decorations, it seemed as if cupcakes were the end-all-be-all desserts.

However, after recent results showing that Crumbs Bake Shop's stock has fallen by 22 percent. What once was being sold for more than $13 a share, is now going for a measly $1.30. In addition, Sprinkles has delayed its much-ballyhooed cupcake ATM.

The cupcake industry just isn't what it was a few years ago, when everyone and his mother wanted to get a cupcake -- cupcakes are elegant and have interesting designs and sweet flavors. Personally, I have always loved cupcakes; they're like your own personal cakes. But there's the problem. Everyone knows how to make them, causing the public's demand to diminish for something so homemade and simple to put together, as noted in a Wall Street Journal article about the crash of the cupcake market. Why would you pay nearly $4 for one when you can make a dozen or two at home for less than that?

One of the biggest draws with cupcakes, however, was the fact that they're little; they are easy to package to go or to eat in a shop. Their size makes them the perfect treat for individuals. But there are also other small treats we should keep our eyes out for -- they could be the next big, or little, things.

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