Wandering the lands foraging and picking from trees. Singing birds, smiling little creatures, the hum of insects, waterfalls, rivers, streams and forests surround. The daily comfort of the sun and nightly wonder of the stars. Meals right from the tree and garden. No garbage, no waste. Just enriching the soil and planting new seeds. Climbing trees, trekking the land and your home, forever under the skies.
Ok, that'd sure be nice, but in all likelihood you're buying much of your fruit and produce. Perhaps some nice morning sounds of horns, traffic and trucks backing up outside your window. But, if you love fruit and would like to eat a lot of it, there's some things you can do. Overall, it's best to live in a place where fruit is abundant and cheap. Tropical or Mediterranean climates especially (though fruit can be tough to come by in touristy islands). But here's some stuff to consider regardless.
1) Grow your own food, forage and connect with neighbors with fruit trees/garden space. This is ideal and most natural, but it may not feed your every meal all year. Though, you'd be surprised how far just 1 plant or tree can go. The less developed, the better for foraging. It's honestly just worth the experience. Nothing beats something right from a tree. Just in random excursions we've foraged: coconuts, mangoes, blueberries, raspberries, persimmons, figs, avocados, rollinia, sapodilla, guava, papayas, bananas, tamarind, mulberries, passion fruit, breadfruit, starfruit, cherries, citrus, rambutans, longans and jackfruit.
2) Connect with local farmers. Ideal as well, though not possible for everyone. Just research your area, then drive around and see if you can talk with them. Definitely worth a shot.
3) Wholesale produce markets. There are wholesale markets all over the world (and I don't mean Costco). The closer to a metropolitan area, the more likely you'll find one. It's usually the best for quality, price, quantity and variety.
4) Local produce markets. Chain grocery store produce is usually garbage. The small, local produce places usually have the best quality and lowest prices. Often they'll have case discounts too.
5) Ethnic grocery stores. Especially Caribbean, Mexican, Asian and Indian. They usually have low prices, good quality and large variety as well. They often carry more exotic fruit like coconuts, sapote or guanabana. Asian ones usually have frozen durian too.
6) OK bigger chains. Whole Foods has low prices on bananas and occasionally good sales on fruit. Sprouts (mainly in the Midwest/West), has consistently low prices, good variety and fruit tends to be pretty good. Costco tends to have good deals on organic produce, mainly greens, carrots, mushrooms, celery and dates. Surprisingly good quality too. They also have good deals on fruit throughout the year, particularly watermelons, tomatoes, pineapples, blueberries, organic bananas and avocados.
6) When all else fails, banana smoothies! You can always find bananas, and it can be an awesome staple at points in the year when not much other fruit is available. Wait until super ripe and blend with water.
Wholesale Produce Markets:
Wholesale markets may be your best bet. Not just for quantity and price, but for quality and variety as well. The best quality I tend to come across is at the wholesale markets. These are huge warehouses or large open air markets where you can buy by the case. They tend to serve all of the area's small grocery stores and restaurants. Some are better than others, though you can generally guarantee they'll have the best quality, variety and prices for your area. Likely they'll have produce/brands you'll never see in your local grocery store. It's just an awesome way to buy fruit, and people tend to be super friendly. If you can find one, the wholesale markets are the place to be.
Some tips when going:
- Taste first- Generally they'll let you try it (because they have so much), if not, just buy one case and try it before buying more. We always bring a knife and spoon.
- Walk around first- Take a lap of the market, note all the deals, then come back.
- Loyalty- The more you go to the same people, the more likely they'll give you good deals.
- Cash- Most wholesale market vendors are cash only.
- Hours- Make sure you check their hours. Some may be open late at night or early in the morning.
- Cheap fruit- Fortunately, cheapness is a sign of quality, in-season produce.
- Ripe fruit- You can get some amazing deals on ripe/over-ripe fruit. You can always cut it up and put it in the fridge.
Ones we've been to...
Plant City Farm & Flea Market (Plant City, FL)
Halfway between Tampa and Orlando, this was our home for much of 2014-2015. Loaded with all kinds of fruits, but some highlights:
- Mangoes- Atalufos, Hadens, Kents, Keitts, Haitians, local South Florida mangoes and even some OK Tommy Atkins. Usually ~$7/case, but if ripe or you get to know them, it can be much lower.
- Tomatoes- Romas and beefstakes. 25 lb boxes for as low as $9. Local for much of the year too, from Florida and the Southeast.
- Melons- Huge cantaloupes for $1 and huge watermelons for $2.
- Persimmons- 25lb cases for $20, sometimes lower if ripe (which you generally hope they are!)
- Tropical- coconuts, lychees, sapote and guanabana. Cheap prices too, especially when in season in South Florida
Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market (Downtown Los Angeles)
The LA Market is famous and for good reason. Probably one of the best markets out there for quality, variety and price. We just experienced it in the winter. Just loaded with so much fruit, but the main highlights:
- Mangoes- Hadens for $2/case (so amazing). R2E2 Australian mangoes (probably best we've ever had), for $5/case.
- Tomatoes- Organic Roma's for less than $1/lb.
- Cantaloupes- ~$10 for a case of 9 huge ones
- Tropical- they have loads of tropical fruit (still cheap too), we found post-season lychees for less than $1/lb.
Hunts Point Terminal Produce Market (Bronx, NY)
We were here in summer/fall. Awesome experience and just an absolute monstrosity of a market. We'd especially go for the deals on really ripe fruit, which you may even get for free. They have everything you can imagine, but our highlights:
- Figs- they'd always have over-ripe ones and we'd load up. Once we bought ~100lbs for $20, and they were righteous!
- Mangoes- we were living off the summertime Kent mangoes. ~$5/case on average (sometimes less)
- Jersey tomatoes- such amazing quality Beefstake/Roma Jersey tomatoes. ~$16 for 25lb case.
- Fresh Dates- the yellow round ones, called "Bahri dates". Grown in CA/AZ and just pure bliss. Usually expensive, but we found a ripe case for $1/lb.
Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market (Philadelphia, PA)
An indoor warehouse we relied on in the late spring/early summer. Smaller than NY, but still enormous with low prices, wide variety and awesome quality. Loads of variety, but we lived on mangoes and tomatoes pretty much:
- Ataulfo Mangoes- so amazing and only $7/case (~20 in a case) and sometimes lower if super ripe
- Tomatoes- Romas/beefstakes/heirlooms. Usually $16/case for 25 lbs of Romas, but we'd sometimes walk away with ripe, half cases for free
There are loads of other wholesale markets out there. We even shopped at one in New Taipei City, Taiwan. Just do some research and talk with your local produce market/restaurants on where they buy from. Hope this helped a bit!