Eat This Now | December 17th, 2014

Navel OrangesCherry TomatoesSnow PeasBlackberriesRomaine Hearts

Best if used by 12/24/14

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Navel Oranges

Peak Season    Best Flavor    Value Priced

There’s nothing quite like a sweet and juicy Navel Orange from California. What a satisfying snack! No seeds. Bright orange skin that is not too difficult to peel or wedge, section and share. Healthy too, with immune-system-boosting Vitamin C and hunger-curbing fiber! It is an easy to love flavor during the cold months that whisks your taste buds away to the sunny citrus groves of the San Joaquin Valley in California.

Even in an era of easy-peel Mandarins – gift boxes of Clementines, coupons and TV ads for Halos and Cuties in Happy Meals at McDonald’s – there’s still a place the classic, a bright and citrusy Navel Orange, especially in peak season. Yes, you’ll need a peeler or a knife – but sometimes it is good to slow down with your fruit.

Now that the season is going full tilt California grown Organic and Conventional Navel Oranges are beginning to taste their juicy, flavorful best – a balance of sweetness and acidity. The flavor will get even sweeter as the season progresses – now through April. Expect sale pricing on loose or bagged Navels where you shop in the coming weeks.

Navel Orange Tips

  • Find the juiciest ones by selecting Navels that are heavy for their size.
  • Speaking of size, big to small, all Navels are tasting good right now so go with whatever type is best for your snacking preferences.
  • Select Navel Oranges that are free from soft spots, mold or sunken areas.
  • Store Navel Oranges at room temperature for up to a few days or in the fridge for up to two weeks.

What about Florida Navel Oranges?

Florida grown Navel Oranges are available this December but have not been plentiful this season due to less acreage in production and the damaging. The flavor on Florida Navels was average in November, but has improved in December to a mellow sweet taste. The skin appearance on the Florida fruit is lighter orange and may show scars.

Simple Winter Pleasure = a perfectly sweet and juicy, seedless California Navel Orange!


Cherry Tomatoes

Peak Season    Value Priced

Spot deal alert. Tomato growers in central and southern Florida are now into their peak season harvests of Grape Tomatoes and Cherry Tomatoes from their early winter crop. The weather has been nice for tomato growing so far and yields are plentiful. Cherry Tomatoes are larger in size, more acidic and have a more classic “tomato” flavor than bite-sized Grape Tomatoes which are sweeter.  That said, winter crop Cherry Tomatoes tend to be weaker in the flavor than their summertime counterparts. That’s why I recommend Oven Roasting to intensify the taste. If you find them on sale try some new recipes like making blender salsa this month while they’re value priced.

Recipe: Roasted Cherry Tomato and Raw Zucchini Ribbons Pesto Pasta

  1. Using a mandolin or cheese grater, shred 2 Zucchini into pasta-like ribbons
  2. Rinse 2 pints of whole Cherry Tomatoes (or Grape Tomatoes)
  3. Toss Tomatoes in 2 tbsp Olive Oil and ½ tsp Coarse Salt and Cracked Black Pepper
  4. Spread evenly on a baking tray
  5. Roast at 400 F for 10-12 minutes
  6. While Tomatoes are roasting add boil 8oz of Whole Wheat Angel Hair Pasta until al dente
  7. In a large mixing bowl combine the following with tongs then serve
    • Cooked Pasta
    • 4oz prepared (or homemade) Garlic Pesto
    • The raw Zucchini Ribbons
    • The roasted Cherry Tomatoes
    • ½ tsp Red Pepper Flakes


Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Brussels Sprouts with Spaghetti.

Snow Peas

Peak Season    Value Priced

Thin, tender yet crisp, mild yet tasty – fresh Snow Peas are a delicious vegetable that can be enjoyed in many ways. Raw Snow Peas can be added to salads for texture and crunch, or for snacking and dipping. Other than rinsing, no preparation is needed before eating or cooking Snow Peas since you eat the entire pea – pod, peas and all. Steam or stir-fry Snow Peas as a side dish, or add them to other cooking vegetables for an Asian-inspired blend.

Now is a fantastic time to enjoy peak season Snow Peas from growing regions in Central America, especially Guatemala. Abundant supplies are driving prices down to about as low as they get at wholesale, so keep an eye out for specials where you shop through December.

Snow Pea Tips

  • Select Snow Peas that are dry, vibrant green in color and not flabby.
  • Store them in the crisper of your fridge, ideally in a plastic bag.
  • So easy! My favorite way to enjoy Snow Peas is to stir-fry them for just a few minutes in a little hot oil; seasoned with garlic powder, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes; cooked until the Snow Peas are hot and seared, but not limp. Simple. But Awesome!
  • Here is a collection of Snow Pea Recipes on Pinterest to inspire your meal planning!

Snow Peas are thin versus Sugar Snap Peas which are plump.

Snow Peas stir-fried with garlic and crushed red pepper, served with Red Quinoa.


Peak Season    Best Flavor    Value Priced

There are a few peaks to Blackberry production throughout the year from various parts of North America, and right now is one of them. Blackberries from Mexico are in a period of big harvests which means lower prices or advertised specials at the store. Cool!  Add them to your cereal, yogurt and smoothies, or just enjoy them as a snack!

How will they taste? Here in mid-December, the fresh Blackberries I’ve been sampling have been plump, lightly sweet with a mild flavor, less tangy than some times of the year.

Blackberry Tips

  • Select Blackberries that are free from wet, leaking or moldy spots in the pack. Look for berries that are totally black in color (no light red or pink cells on the fruit).
  • Store them in the fridge and try to use them within a few days of purchase to get the most out of your purchase. Blackberries are delicate and the sweetest ripest soft berries don’t last long.
  • Always rinse your Blackberries just before use.
  • Recipes? In addition to snacking, making smoothies and topping your cereal or yogurt. Here are some Blackberry recipe ideas.
  • Nutrition? Learn more about Blackberry nutritional benefits here.

Expect flavorful, affordable Blackberries this December. (Breakfast just cheered!)

Romaine Hearts

Peak Season    Value Priced

Romaine Hearts rows are planted extra close together to help the Lettuce head grow tall and tight. The heads are cut at the base of the plant and outer leaves are trimmed off, they’re immediately packaged into the 3 pack sleeves or 6 count club packs out the field (there is no “romaine heart factory”), rushed to the cooler and shipped around the country. How fresh is that!

From the irrigated fields of southern Arizona and northern Mexico, Romaine Hearts are in a period of bumper harvests this December. With all the extra supply, keep an eye out for advertised or in-store specials pricing where you shop. They are excellent for making crunchy salads or blending in with more tender bitter baby greens to add texture. Find creative ways to prepare Romaine Hearts here.

Crisp, chopped Romaine Heart salad. Bang for the salad buck.

Buy smart. Shop healthy.

The Produce Geek, Jonathan K. Steffy

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