Goodbye to the Visionary of Vegetables
January 26, 2020 12:14 PM   Subscribe

If you've bought sunchokes (Jersusalem artichokes), dragon fruit, jicama, Stokes Purple sweet potatoes, kiwifruit, habanero peppers, or black garlic in a grocery store in the U.S., you' ll want to eat a fruit or vegetable today in honor of the woman who helped get them there: Frieda Rapoport Caplan, aka "“Kiwi Queen” and “Mother Gooseberry.” “Mushroom Lady” and “the “Mick Jagger of the produce world.” [She] broke the glass ceiling in the testosterone-doused produce world and forever changed the way Americans eat fruits and vegetables."

Caplan is the subject of the documentary "Fear No Fruit" (available here, on YT), which chronicles Caplan's professional life, from her stint as a young mother keeping the books for relatives at a produce house to the founder of Frieda’s Specialty Produce, now a $50-million-plus business whose customers have included Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. She died January 18, 2020 at age 96.

My favorite tribute to Caplan comes from The Perishable Pundit: Frieda Caplan: So Good At Lifting Us Up. The Pundit reviews their friendship and professional relationship over the years, and concludes with this:
[T]he Pundit learned more from Frieda than she from me, so she was no mentee. But we think it explains something. How can you not love someone who, through decades and decades, was so good at lifting you up?

And isn’t that what her presence did for the whole industry? Remind us that we can be more inclusive, more successful and generous of heart. We shall not see her kind again.
posted by MonkeyToes (12 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
the ñ goes on "jalapeño", not on "habanero"
posted by sukeban at 12:23 PM on January 26

A copy-paste from one of the produce sites, sorry. Mod edit welcome!
posted by MonkeyToes at 12:30 PM on January 26 [2 favorites]

(Mods are free to delete my comments for brevity of course)
posted by sukeban at 12:31 PM on January 26

Gastropod had a great episode about Freida Caplan as well. Here. She sounds like she was a remarkable woman.

posted by suelac at 12:38 PM on January 26 [4 favorites]

Is there anything in this world more refreshing to eat than jicama?

posted by grandiloquiet at 1:31 PM on January 26 [3 favorites]

Is there anything in this world more refreshing to eat than jicama?

Perhaps not, but I would go easy on the sunchokes until you find out how well your GI tract deals with inulin. For me and some of my friends it spells severe intestinal cramping.

Anyway, very interesting to learn about and...

posted by sjswitzer at 2:24 PM on January 26


The Washington Post had a great article about Caplan just last fall. She sounded just fascinating and fabulous.
posted by jburka at 2:27 PM on January 26 [2 favorites]

posted by Rufous-headed Towhee heehee at 5:55 PM on January 26

I also learned about her from the Gastropod episode. She sounds like an incredible and tough lady.

posted by janell at 7:13 PM on January 26


And luckily for me, I am in the inulin is fine camp. Sunchokes are yum!
posted by inexorably_forward at 9:01 PM on January 26

You can eat most of my raw yacón then, lucky you!

(Goddamn on websearch to grab the accent I see it's been lampreyed onto by weightlosscapitalism.)
posted by away for regrooving at 10:47 PM on January 26


posted by desuetude at 7:50 AM on January 27

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