Tag Archives: Local Produce

Our Farmers, Our Partners

The summer months are among the most enjoyable times of the year for me to buy produce. This is when I get the chance to deal with all of our local farmers. Most of you have seen or been at the Eastern Market on a Saturday or Sunday morning, but to visit it at 3:00 a.m. during the work week is a different experience altogether. As I walk from shed to shed, selecting and negotiating produce for our stores, I enjoy the many casual conversations I’m able to have with our partners, the local farmers.

As the summer wind blows in, so do our locally grown fruits and vegetables. My usual first stop each morning is with Rob Ruhlig of Ruhlig Farms, which is located in Carlton, Michigan. Ruhlig Farms grows a wide variety of vegetables, such as corn, peck tomatoes, cabbage, pickles, zucchini, yellow squash, greens, broccoli, pumpkins, winter squashes and peppers. Ruhlig Farms is also a large grower of annual flowers.

My second stop is with Ron & Tim Campbell of Campbell Farms. They provide us with fresh bunches of radishes, cilantro, parsley, carrots and leeks.

Our next stop is with Everett Leitz of Leitz Farms, which is the grower of the famous None Better label. Leitz Farms is, without question, the most perfect and precise grower at the market. You would be hard pressed to ever find a tomato or cucumber that is not picked and ripened to perfection there. In the months of late July through early October, all of the grape tomatoes, vine-ripe tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, cucumbers, and honey rock melons you find in our stores are a direct result of the hard work done at Leitz Farms.

Next up on the Eastern Market tour is Tom Wolak of Wolak Farms, which is located in Armada. Tom provides us with all that sweet corn most of you can’t wait to indulge in. Tom’s corn is usually the sweetest on the market but typically the last to be ready (2nd week of August). Tom also provides the best green beans, which he grows almost exclusively for Nino’s.

Jim Vansteenkiste of Vansteenkiste Farms is easily my most pleasant visit each morning. Jim is always upbeat and just a joy to do business with–not to mention one heck of a grower. Jim usually provides us with Swiss chard, bunch beets, kale, greens, bok choy, and specialty peppers.

Our last stop each morning is with Dave Rudich of Rudich Farms. Dave is another excellent grower and is usually one of the first Michigan growers to have corn ready. Dave also grows some of the best green peppers in Michigan.

My relationship with all of our farmers goes back a long time, and nothing brings me more joy than supporting our local growers. Maybe one day they will figure out how to grow all year round.

Does Spinach Really Make You Stronger?

There are many easy-to-overlook health benefits to spinach. Spinach is low in saturated fat and very low in cholesterol. It’s also a good source of niacin and dietary fiber.


It provides the following:

  • Protein,
  • Vitamin A,
  • Vitamin C,
  • Vitamin E,
  • Vitamin K,
  • Thiamin,
  • Riboflavin,
  • Vitamin B6,
  • Folate,
  • Calcium,
  • Iron,
  • Magnesium,
  • Phosphorus,
  • Potassium,
  • Zinc,
  • Copper,
  • Manganese.

On the other hand, one downside to spinach is that it is high in sodium.

Nino’s carries many varieties of spinach, such as baby spinach or salad spinach, classic spinach for cooking, organic baby spinach, and fresh bunched spinach. Depending on how you plan on using it, we have you covered.

One thing I’ve learned over years of buying produce is that having trust in your vendors, growers or suppliers is essential to carrying high-quality produce on a consistent basis. This has never been a problem with Riggio Distribution Company. Riggio’s is the owner of the ever-famous Aunt Mid’s label that you have seen in our stores for over 25 years. Their packing and processing plant is located right here in Detroit and is one of the safest, cleanest facilities in the entire country. The plant is regularly audited for compliance to strict standards and to confirm qualifications, understanding of important food-safety principles, and the ability to meet food-safety requirements and compliance expectations.

When different varieties of spinach arrive at the plant, they are carefully and thoroughly washed and prepared using custom processes. Then they are gently packaged in those red or blue bags you have seen in our stores. Both spinach bags are breathable and designed to maintain freshness longer. Along with meticulously following FDA-required Good Manufacturing Practices, the plant follows the principles of HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points), which is a rigorous system designed to prevent and mitigate potential problems at key junctures of the process. Another important component of an effective food-safety program is the ability to trace products back to where they were grown and forward to where they were distributed. In addition to being one of the healthiest vegetables available, spinach is also one of the safest, thanks to the great work of our friends at Riggio Distribution.

Looking for some great spinach recipes? Get started with these recipes from Chef Pete!

Senior Produce Buyer: Hand-Selecting the Freshest Fruits and Vegetables

For those of you who don’t know who I am, I’d like to take a few minutes to explain how I’ve come to be the Senior Produce Buyer for Nino Salvaggio’s. I have been around our stores since I was a little kid, chasing after my Dad, Mike Santoro, who has been with Nino Salvaggio’s since 1979 and is now one of the managing partners at our Saint Clair Shores location.

Long Experience: I started working at the age of 14–by working I mean that was when I was first able to collect a paycheck for my efforts. Prior to that, I was working for baseball card money and maybe a few extra bucks to go see a movie.

Although I’ve worked in all departments of our stores, produce has always been my passion. From early morning setups to late-night merchandising changes, produce is in my blood. It’s hard to believe at times, but I have been around the produce business for over 20 years.

My experience has led me to become Senior Buyer, which means I’m the one responsible for all those fresh fruits and vegetables you see when you walk through our doors at Nino’s.

Hand-Selected Produce: The most common question I hear is, “How does Nino’s always have the freshest fruits and vegetables?” My team and I hand-select, taste, and negotiate our produce for the best prices. That’s what we do!

Each morning, I’m at the Detroit Produce Terminal at about 4:00 AM; I personally select all the produce as it is unloaded off the trucks. This ensures that we are bringing the freshest produce back to Nino’s. Another advantage to going to the terminal every day is that we are able to keep our inventories light, which also keeps our produce fresher.

The Almighty Knife: A produce buyer’s most important tools are his smart phone, his marker, and his knife. You may not realize it, but there isn’t a single piece of fruit in our stores that has not been tasted. Some days, for example, I might cut up to four or five different loads of cantaloupes to decide which is the sweetest for our stores. Now there are definitely peak and off-peak seasons for all fruits, so my job can be difficult at times. However, you can be sure that if it’s in our stores, it’s sweet enough to eat.

Stocking the Shelves: Once all the produce has been selected and the prices negotiated, our Nino’s semi-trucks are loaded up and begin their voyage back to our stores, where our staff is eager to unload them and begin stocking our shelves. This process repeats itself daily.

So the next time someone mentions Nino Salvaggio’s and its fresh produce, you can explain how it all happens!