Eat This Now | June 30th, 2015

New Jersey BlueberriesGreen Seedless GrapesApricotsDark Sweet CherriesRainier Cherries

Best if used by 07/08/15

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New Jersey Blueberries

Peak Season    Best Flavor    Value Priced

Great-tasting Jersey Blues are at their best – flavor, quality and price – now through mid-July. Get some at their peak! If you grew up within a ½ day’s drive of the Garden State, you can probably recall the sweet taste of a plump New Jersey Blueberry during early summer. Maybe you remember your grandma’s blueberry pie, blueberry milkshakes with mom, or dad’s blueberry pancakes. Make some food memories this week with a Superfood grown close to home – Jersey Blues.

There was quite a bit of rain here in the Hammonton, NJ area this past weekend and more expected for early July, but the harvests have continued around the weather. Hopefully, the rain impact in limited. There are great eating Blueberries in season from the Pacific Northwest too. Organic Blueberries from New Jersey, Oregon and Washington are in peak season through mid-July as well.

Blueberry Tips

  • Select fresh Blueberries by inspecting the top and bottom of the package to avoid shriveled, smashed-together or wet berries.
  • Look for packs free from light purple or green berries. Those are immature and will taste sour.
  • Seek out Blueberries with the silver, powdery “bloom” on them. Bloom is a naturally occurring wax that forms a protective layer on the fruit while it is growing and is a tell-tale sign of freshness!
  • Store the fruit cold in the fridge, try to use in within a few days of purchase. Wait to wash them until just before using.
  • For recipes 5oz = 1 cup, and a Pint container of Blueberries has about 11-12oz in it, or just over 2 cups.

How to Freeze: Want to capture the best pricing and best tasting fruit for later? Freeze peak season Blueberries right in the package you bought them in. Be sure they’re completely dry (you can rinse them before use later), place the pack(s) right into a reseal-able plastic bag and freeze. They keep well in the freezer for up to six months and are a convenient way to have healthy, peak season flavor Blueberries handy for baking or to use in smoothies and shakes later in the year.

Recipe Ideas

 

Seek out Blueberries with the silver, powdery “bloom” on them. Bloom is a naturally occurring wax that forms a protective layer on the fruit while it is growing and is a tell-tale sign of freshness!

Recipe: Blueberry Buckle

This is a favorite dessert at my house during blueberry season, perfect served with a glass of milk, dip of ice cream or dollop of whipped cream.
Buckle:

  • ¾ Cup Sugar
  • ½ Cup Shortening
  • 1 Egg
  • 2 & ½ Cups Flour
  • 2 & ½ tsp Baking Powder
  • ¼ tsp Salt
  • ½ Cup Milk

Topping:

  • 1 and ½ Pints Fresh Blueberries (about 18oz)
  • ¾ Cup Sugar
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • ¼ Cup Unsalted Butter (cubed)

Directions:

  1. Preheat Oven to 350
  2. Cream the Sugar & Shortening
  3. Beat in the Egg
  4. In separate bowl combine Flour, Baking Powder & Salt
  5. Alternate adding dry mix and milk to batter
  6. Spread in greased 8×8 pan
  7. Top with Fresh Blueberries
  8. Combine Topping Sugar, Cinnamon and Butter
  9. Sprinkle Topping Mixture over Blueberries and Bake 45-50 minutes

 

Green Seedless Grapes

Peak Season    Best Flavor    Value Priced

Organic and conventional Green Seedless Grapes from Mexico and Southern California have been in season for over a month, but the fruit in stores now through Independence Day is likely to be some of the best tasting so far this year. These Green Grapes still have a nice crispness and the sweetness will have you snacking on more than you expected!

Fun Ideas

  • Frozen Grapes. Wash, remove from the stem, then freeze the fresh Grapes for snack your school-age kids (and you) will love to chill out with. “In Summer!” [insert Olaf reference for your kids here]
  • Candied Grapes. Turn your Green Grapes into a version of Sour Patch Kids!
  • Recipes with Green Grapes? Search Pinterest here for some visual inspiration.

Grape Tips

  • Look for Grapes with stems that are still green at the thickest parts and have most of the fruit still attached to the vines.
  • Lift up the bag or container and look at it from all sides. Avoid bags that are wet and sticky – a sign that some of the Grapes are going bad – or have berries with splits or cracks.
  • Select Grapes that feel firm to a gentle squeeze. Firm Grapes are crunchy Grapes!
  • Keep your Grapes refrigerated until you’re about ready to eat them, since they lose their crunch much quicker at room temperature.
  • Wash Grapes with a cold water rinse just before serving them.
  • Look for Grapes with stems that are still green at the thickest parts and have most of the fruit still attached to the vines.

Lift up the bag or container and look at it from all sides. Avoid bags that are wet and sticky – a sign that some of the Grapes are going bad – or have berries with splits or cracks.

Apricots

Peak Season    Best Flavor

Fresh Apricots with their velvety-fuzzed skins are prized for their distinctive tasting orange flesh that ranges from slightly tangy to richly sweet. Apricots have a texture that is slightly less juicy than a plum, but the rich flavor always intensifies when baked or dehydrated. When Apricots are running sweet, I love ‘em as a satisfying, high fiber snack. My preferred way to eat them is after the fruit as softened for a couple of days at room temperature.

Some of the most beautiful looking and best tasting organic and conventional Apricots of the year are now in season from Washington where tree fruit growers there are picking large varieties with rosy-red skin blush. Orange-skin Apricot varieties continue to be in season from California too.

Apricot Tips

  • Select Apricots without cuts, punctures or large bruises. The fruit should be free from green color (a sign of under-ripe) and wrinkled skin (a sign of over-ripe).
  • Red blush on the skin varies from variety to variety. Apricots do not get redder after being picked.
  • Store fresh Apricots in the refrigerator until you’re ready to eat them. Be gentle! It is a tender fruit.
  • If you want the fruit a little softer, set your Apricots on the counter for a day or two at room temperature.
  • Here are some delicious-looking Apricot recipes to explore.

 

Select Apricots without cuts, punctures or large bruises. The fruit should be free from green color (a sign of under-ripe) and wrinkled skin (a sign of over-ripe).

Dark Sweet Cherries

Peak Season

Cherry alert! Each Cherry season is different, and this year, the best price/availability/flavor combination is shaping up to be now through early July. There are plenty of Cherries in stores and many retailers are offering low-priced ads for Independence Day. Take advantage and enjoy a bowl of fresh, sweet and flavorful Dark Sweet Cherries! Maybe even freeze a bag or two. What happens after this week remains to be seen since Pacific Northwest cherry growers are faced with a heat wave that is impacting their harvests and may shorten the season.

Cherry Tips

  • Selecting: Carefully inspect all sides of the Cherry packages to avoid wetness or splits. If the Cherries are in a bag, give a couple a gentle squeeze – you’ll want them to feel firm, no spongy.
  • Storage: Keep Cherries cold in the fridge and use them within a few days of purchase for the best texture. Rinse Cherries just before use and put whatever you don’t eat back in the refrigerator.
  • Sticker-shock? Even during peak season, even on sale Cherries can surprise you at the register, so buy smart. Remember, small (almost empty-looking) cherry bags weigh about 1.25lb and the average random-weight bag on display weighs about 2.2lb. Bagged Cherries are sold by the pound, so do the math or check a scale to know about what you’re going to pay in total.

Beyond Snacking

  • Freezing: Peak season Cherries can be washed, then frozen with the stems still on in plastic bags with the air removed, then thawed in the refrigerator up to three months later for a convenient snack.
  • Canning: Into preserving the season’s best? Check out this great site dedicated to stone fruit canning.
  • Recipes Ideas: From desserts to salads to drinks, find in-season Cherry Recipe inspiration here.
  • Health & Nutrition: Learn how Cherries may impact Inflammation, Alzheimer’s Disease, Diabetes and Cancer here.

 

Selecting: Carefully inspect all sides of the Cherry packages to avoid wetness or splits. If the Cherries are in a bag, give a couple a gentle squeeze – you’ll want them to feel firm, no spongy.

Rainier Cherries

Peak Season    Best Flavor

I consider Rainier Cherries to be one of the gourmet candies of the fruit world. They’re like an irresistible produce delicacy. Rainiers (aka Gold Cherries) are so plump, juicy and sweet that I have a hard time with self-control when it’s just me and a bowl full of them.

So, what’s the big deal? Rainier Cherries are super-sweet, juicy and bursting with bright flavor. This type of sweet cherry is characterized by yellow flesh, high sugar content and gold skin blushed with patches of bright red. The amount of redness is not an indicator of sweetness. Rainier Cherries are in peak season from the mountain slopes and valleys of eastern Washington now through early July. They’re more expensive, but I will say the Rainier Cherries I’ve eaten this season have had firmer texture and a sweeter taste than the Dark Sweet Cherries. It is really hot in the Cherry growing regions of the Pacific Northwest, so get some Rainier Cherries before the season ends early and they’re gone until next year.

 

Rainier Cherries are in peak season from the mountain slopes and valleys of eastern Washington now through early July.

Buy smart. Shop healthy.

The Produce Geek, Jonathan K. Steffy

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