Because of the contacts he has made over the past 44 years, Don Carmichael, owner of Carmichael’s Produce in Bixby, said the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic likely hasn’t hurt him as much as many others in the produce business.

“Stuff has been hard to get, but I know so many people, I haven’t had too much trouble getting what I need,” he said recently. “Anything I can get my hands on this year I can sell.”

He said shortages of produce came early in the pandemic when shoppers cleared grocery store shelves of a lot of canned fruits and vegetables.

“What happened was when all the stuff was gone, the big canning companies went into Florida, Georgia and Alabama and bought up all they could,” Carmichael said. “Then they took it up north and canned it.”

Though Oklahoma farms, including Carmichael’s, 14800 S. Memorial Drive, turn out beautiful fruits and veggies, it still isn’t enough to meet demand.

“We had to bring in extra sweet corn for the Bixby Corn Festival this year,” he said. “It started at $41 a bushel and went up to $59 a bushel.”

The bins weren’t all full when we took a tour of Carmichael’s retail market recently, but it still offered a nice selection of watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew melons, pickling cucumbers, zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, okra, triple-sweet bi-color corn, green beans and baby red potatoes, to name a few.

“Most of our tomatoes are coming from Arkansas now, and we get some more from Tennessee and Kentucky, and they’re all real nice,” Carmichael said.

Carmichael was looking forward to harvesting his fields of watermelon and cantaloupe. If they aren’t available today, he said they should be ready in a few more days.

“All crops are running two to three weeks behind because of the wet spring,” he said. “We couldn’t plant where we wanted to. We have 35 acres of watermelon, but it’s 10 acres here, 2 or 3 acres there. This crop might run through the first frost, though.”

Talk of watermelon reminded Carmichael of when he was a boy in the 1950s, when his father and uncle would sell corn at the old Trenton Market near Admiral Boulevard and Trenton Avenue.

His father had been a cook in the Army for 14 years and later owned two cafes in Bixby. Selling corn was a side business.

“We sold corn across from Jim Lamb, who had watermelon in tubs with big blocks of ice in water,” Carmichael said. “When we got into watermelons about 30 years ago, we had an old milk tank for watermelons. It had a drain plug and worked real good, but it got so cold you couldn’t hold your arm in it. You’re not allowed to put watermelon in water like that anymore.”

With the loss of those watermelon stands, another practice has gone by the wayside. Men with sharp knives would “plug” — slice out a small piece for inspection — the melons for you. If you didn’t like the looks, the plug was replaced and the melon went back into the tub.

Carmichael said he thinks the pandemic actually has increased sales in some ways.

“We sold a lot of plants this year to new gardeners who were stuck at home,” he said. “Also, people are staying at home and cooking a little more.”

It’s no secret that fruits and vegetables can contribute to a healthful diet. Following are some of the produce likely to be common in markets through August and their nutritional benefits, according to healthline.com.

WATERMELON

Watermelon consists mostly of water (91%) and carbs (7.5%) and provides almost no protein or fat and is very low in calories.

Among nutrients found in watermelon are vitamin C., potassium, copper, vitamin B5 and vitamin A. It is loaded with citurlline and lycopene, two powerful plant compounds linked to lower blood pressure, improved metabolic health and decreased muscle soreness after exercise. It’s packed with water, making it excellent for maintaining good hydration.

ZUCCHINI

Zucchini occurs in several varieties, which range in color from deep yellow to dark green.

Zucchini has been used in folk medicine to treat colds, aches and various health conditions. However, not all of its uses are backed by science.

Zucchini is rich in antioxidants, several vitamins, including vitamin A and vitamin C, minerals and other beneficial plant compounds. These may benefit your eyes, skin and heart, as well as offer some protection against certain types of cancer.

BELL PEPPERS

Bell peppers, also known as sweet peppers or capsicums, are incredibly nutritious. They contain antioxidants called carotenoids that may reduce inflammation, decrease cancer risk and protect cholesterol and fats from oxidative damage.

It provides 93% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for vitamin A and a whopping 317% of the RDI for vitamin C.

Green, orange and yellow bell peppers have similar nutrient profiles.

CUCUMBERS

Cucumbers are low in carbs and very refreshing. Although cucumbers aren’t high in vitamins or minerals, they contain a compound called cucurbitacin E, which may have beneficial effects on health.

Results from studies suggest it has anticancer and anti-inflammatory properties and may protect brain health.

TOMATOES

Tomatoes have a number of impressive health benefits.

They are low in digestible carbs and are a good source of vitamins A, C and K. In addition, they’re high in potassium, which can help reduce blood pressure and decrease stroke risk.

EGGPLANT

Eggplant is not high in most vitamins or minerals, but animal research suggests eggplant may help lower cholesterol and improve other markers of heart health.

It also contains an antioxidant known as nasunin in the purple pigment of its skin. Researchers have reported that nasunin helps reduce free radicals and may protect brain health.

CANTALOUPE

The humble cantaloupe may not get as much respect as other fruits, but it should.

This tasty melon is packed with nutrients. Studies suggest that orange-flesh melons like cantaloupe have the same amount of beta-carotene as carrots.

Beta-carotene is a type of carotenoid. Carotenoids are pigments that give fruits and vegetables their bright colors. Once eaten, beta-carotene is either converted into vitamin A or acts as a powerful antioxidant to help fight free radicals that attack cells in your body.

According to the USDA, 1 cup of balled cantaloupe contains more than 100% of the recommended daily value (DV) of vitamin C.

CORN

Corn is a starchy vegetable and cereal grain that has been eaten all over the world for centuries. It’s rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals.

However, the health benefits of corn are controversial. While it contains beneficial nutrients, it can also spike blood sugar levels. In addition, the crop is often genetically modified.

Corn is rich in fiber and plant compounds that may aid digestive and eye health.

STRAWBERRIES

Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C and manganese and also contain decent amounts of folate (vitamin B9) and potassium.

Strawberries are rich in antioxidants and plant compounds, which may have benefits for heart health and blood sugar control.

The health benefits include reduced cholesterol, blood pressure, inflammation and oxidative stress.

OKRA

Okra is a flowering plant known for its edible seed pods. Sometimes referred to as “lady’s finger,” okra comes in two colors — red and green. Both varieties taste the same, and the red one turns green when cooked.

Though it’s not one of the most common foods, okra is rich in magnesium, folate, fiber, antioxidants and vitamins C, K1 and A.

CHERRIES

Cherries not only are delicious, but they are also packed with vitamins, minerals and plant compounds with powerful health effects.

Eating them may improve sleep, boost heart health and speed recovery after exercise.

CHILI PEPPERS

Chili peppers are members of the nightshade family, related to bell peppers and tomatoes. Many varieties of chili peppers exist, such as cayenne and jalapeño.

Capsaicin is the main bioactive plant compound in chili peppers, responsible for their unique, pungent taste and many of their health benefits. They are rich in vitamins, minerals and unique plant compounds.

These include capsaicin, the substance that causes your mouth to burn. Capsaicin is linked to several health benefits, as well as adverse effects. On one hand, it may help promote weight loss and relieve pain when consumed regularly. On the other hand, it causes a burning sensation, which is unpleasant for many people and is linked to digestive upset.

GREEN BEANS

Green beans contain no cholesterol. Although your body needs some cholesterol for healthy cell growth, too much is bad for you.

One cup of raw green beans has 2.7g of fiber, and boiled green beans have 4g of fiber, some of it soluble fiber. Soluble fiber may help lower LDL, so-called bad cholesterol, and total cholesterol levels. It may also support heart health by lowering blood pressure and reducing inflammation. Green beans are naturally low in sodium.

POTATOES

Potatoes are high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and resistant starch.

However, fried potatoes may also come with some potential negative effects, including weight gain, especially when consumed in large amounts. Ultimately, portion size and cooking methods have a major influence on the health effects of potatoes.

Potatoes are a good source of antioxidants, including specific types, such as flavonoids, carotenoids and phenolic acids. One study compared the antioxidant activities of white and colored potatoes and found that colored potatoes were the most effective at neutralizing free radicals.

PEACHES

Peaches are rich in many vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant compounds.

They easily are incorporated into a variety of dishes and may offer impressive health benefits, including healthier skin, fewer allergy symptoms, improved digestion and heart health.


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Scott Cherry 918-581-8463

scott.cherry@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @ScottCherryTW

Scene Writer

Scott is in his second tour of duty with the Tulsa World. He was a sports writer during his first stop. Since returning to the World in 1992, he has been the food writer and now restaurant critic and wine columnist. Phone: 918-581-8463