Melissa's – the world's most exotic grocery store

Your big holiday shindig is just a few days away, and you can’t find Asian pears to save your life. As for thick-skinned Hubbard squash, forget about it. ’Tis the season for tough luck finding any healthy fresh produce, let alone rare and wonderful kinds. You need to go where top-end chefs, go—to Melissa’s, since 1984 the country’s largest distributor of specialty produce. If the thought of more than 1,000 varieties of fruits (care for a “Buddha’s hand”?) and vegetables in a 280,000-square-foot warehouse sounds daunting, don’t worry. All you need to do is go online, to an alphabetized database with categories such as Fruit (Fresh), Herbs and Spices, and Organic Items—even a section devoted exclusively to What’s In Season. Click and you’ll find Armenian cucumbers, black-eyed peas and—yes—that Hubbard squash, each listed with its country of origin, suggested uses, and tips for storage and handling. Melissa’s also publishes nutrition facts, in case you were wondering how many calories those Hungarian wax peppers pack (eight each, to be exact) and an online magazine in which pro chefs give lessons on what to do with all that fancy produce. Melissa’s not only solves your cooking problems but allows you to send a box of oranges to your sister in snowy Maine—an act of true love.

Make ’Em Sweat

Melissa’s sells Bhut jolokia peppers. A chile native to India, it has officially made the Guinness Book of World Records as the hottest pepper in the world. Now you can try them at home—at your own risk.