Eat This Now | April 11th, 2016

Campari Tomatoes Artichokes Blackberries Green Beans

Best if used by 4/26/16

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Campari Tomatoes

Peak Season    Best Flavor    Value Priced

A flavorful Tomato in April? You bet! Campari variety cocktail tomatoes are bigger than a Cherry Tomato, but smaller than a Roma. Their flavor is intense (in a good way) – sweet and acidic, much bolder than mild Cluster Tomatoes.

Campari Tomatoes are perfect for snacking, roasting, salads and for recipes like blender salsa, gazpacho, soups and bruschetta. They make a fantastic Caprese Salad when sliced and served with fresh mozzarella cheese, hydroponic basil and olive oil. I love to make a salad with wedged Campari Tomatoes, sliced Seedless Cucumbers and Sweet Onions tossed with Balsamic Salad Dressing.

Campari Tomatoes are grown in hydroponic greenhouses. Here in April harvests are abundant on Campari’s from greenhouse throughout North America and especially from the fresh crop in Canada. This is creating promotional opportunities on this premium variety for many stores, typically sold in 1lb clamshell containers. Hopefully, you can take advantage – Yum!

Campari Tomato Tips

  • Select Campari’s that have a bright red color and have healthy stems or calyxes, avoiding ones that appear wrinkled or wet.
  • While refrigerating Tomatoes may help them last longer, room temperature is highly recommended to help the fruit maintain its best flavor and texture.

A flavorful Tomato in April? You bet! Campari variety cocktail tomatoes are bigger than a Cherry Tomato, but smaller than a Roma.

Artichokes

Peak Season    Best Flavor

Ever make fresh Artichokes at home? Go for it. You can do it! April and May mark the peak season for fresh, classic Globe or Heirloom Artichokes from the Castroville, CA area – one of the most prolific Artichoke growing regions in the world.

The rest of Spring will be a fabulous time to find great tasting, high quality Artichokes.  Jumbo sizes will be prevalent during mid-April and medium to smaller sizing in May. You may also find "Sangria" Artichokes with vivid red to purple coloring on the petals thanks to high levels of anthocyanin, the antioxidant boosting flavanoid.

The heart and the flesh at the base of the petals of a cooked Artichoke have a mild vegetable flavor that is slightly nutty – perfect to add to casseroles, potato salads, dips and more!

Recipes: 21 beautiful and inspiring artichoke RECIPES from CookingLight.com can be found here.

  Artichoke How-To

Selecting

  • Select Artichokes that feel firm, have tight petals and have a fresh squeak when you squeeze them.
  • But handle carefully! Some Artichoke varieties have sharp thorns this time of year at the tip of the petals.

Preparing

  • Wash to remove outer natural waxy coating (which can taste bitter)
  • Trim ½” from base of stem, peel outer portion of the stem. Middle of stem is an extension of the edible “heart.” Or just remove stem completely.
  • Pull off small petals from stem plus small petals at the bottom of the Artichoke.
  • Optional: Snip the thorny tips of each petal with a scissors.
  • Cut ½”-1” off the top of the Artichoke
  • Optional: Rub cut areas with lemon juice or dip in lemon water to prevent browning/oxidation

Cooking

  • Boil: 25-45 minutes in salted water, submerged, cover with lid
  • Steam: 30-40 minutes, stem side up
  • Bake: 55-75 minutes, double wrapped in foil, stem side down, minced garlic/olive oil/balsamic vinegar drizzled between petals
  • Microwave: 15-20 minutes in ½” water in dish, dish covered with plastic wrap, garlic/olive oil/balsamic vinegar drizzled between petals.  Or buy artichokes now in a “Microwave Ready” pack which will steam 2 cleaned and prepped artichokes in 6-7 minutes.
  • Grill: use fully cooked Artichoke from one of the above methods, halve it, brush with oil, season with salt/pepper, grill 4-5 minutes per side

Eating

  • Pull flesh from the base of the petal with your teeth. Many people prefer to dip the petals in melted butter, olive oil, balsamic vinegar or garlic-seasoned mayonnaise
  • Remove the inedible, fibrous and fuzzy middle portion (the choke) with a spoon
  • Below the Choke is the Artichoke Heart, this part is the meatiest and can be cut up and added to pastas, soups, casseroles, dips, antipastos and more.

Artichokes Basics. How to Prepare, Cook, Eat fresh Artichokes.

 

Preparing Artichokes: wash, trim stem, snip thorns, cut top, rub lemon on cut areas to prevent browning.

 

Cooking Artichokes: Boil in salted water for 25-45 minutes, covered. Knife will slide easily into base when fully cooked.

 

Eating Artichokes: Pull flesh from petals with your teeth. Remove choke. Cut up the Artichoke Heart portion at the bottom for eating or use in recipes.

Blackberries

Peak Season    Best Flavor    Value Priced

Fresh Blackberry consumption continues to grow in the US thanks to better availability, their health properties of this berry and the fruit smoothie boom. But how about Blackberries for snacking… when the eat sweet and juicy, and dare I say: irresistible?

There are a few peaks to Blackberry production throughout the year from various parts of North America when there are plentiful enough harvests to keep prices kind for your wallet, plus the eating quality is tasty enough to please your taste buds.

April and May is one of those times with fresh Blackberries from Mexico where growers are picking some of their better tasting late season fruit – tangy and sweet. Some brands of Blackberries have exceptional sweetness right now! (More on that below). Enjoy fresh Blackberries while the fruit is tasting good. Keep an eye out for advertised and in-store specials especially May.

So, what about those exceptional Blackberries?

Driscoll's is a major grower of berries and they are known for having quality Blackberries with nice flavor for much of the year sold in their yellow label packs. Here in April and May though, Driscoll's is shipping some of their proprietary variety Blackberries that are bred for big size, dark color, plump texture and impressive sweetness. This special fruit is being sold as Driscoll's "Season's Finest" Blackberries in packs with a purple label. I've been snacking on a pack a day this week! The berries are so sweet and free from the tanginess typical in even peak seasons fruit. I hope you find these and try them for yourself.

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, avoiding ones with too many light red or pink cells on the fruit.
  • Store fresh Blackberries in the refrigerator and use of freeze them within a few days of purchase.
  • Blackberries are delicate and the sweetest, ripest, soft berries don’t last long. Eat them soon after purchase.

April and May is one of those times with fresh Blackberries from Mexico where growers are picking some of their better tasting late season fruit – tangy and sweet.

Green Beans

Peak Season    Value Priced

Fresh Green Beans are one of my top recommendations for any-day-April side dishes. Spring plantings of Green Beans are in a period of steady harvests from farms in Florida. Expect more affordable prices and nice quality.

Best tip? Don't cook the beans to death.
Steam, boil, microwave or stir-fry Green Beans until they are just tender to bring out their best flavor and texture. Over-cooked string beans that are limp and mushy can only be saved by butter…lots and lots of melted butter.

Need a break from bean casseroles? Not all recipes for fresh Green Beans need to be served warm. Cold Green Bean salads use the blanching method (boil for 3 minutes then immediately cool them in an ice-water bowl) to keep the beans firm and bright green. Here’s a cool and crunchy, creamy yet light recipe to try!

Recipe: Creamy-Cool Green Bean and Tomato Salad

  1. Wash and trim the ends of 1lb fresh Green Beans
  2. Blanch Beans for 3 minutes in boiling salted water
  3. Shock the Beans in a bowl of ice water or by running them under cold water
  4. Add 1 tbsp Olive Oil and ½ cup Sour Cream to a large mixing bowl
  5. Season above to taste with salt, pepper and Italian herb mix – stir these into a dressing
  6. Chop 1 bunch Scallions
  7. Slice 2 Salad Tomatoes (like On-the-Vine tomatoes or Campari cocktail tomatoes) into small wedges
  8. Gently stir in Green Beans, Tomato and Scallions with tongs until coated
  9. Refrigerate salad for 1 hour to allow flavors to combine
  10. Serve cold over by itself as a side, or over torn Romaine leaves for a meal-salad

Green Bean Tips

  • From bulk displays, select Green Beans that feel firm and snappy.
  • Store them in a sealed bag or container in the refrigerator for up to a few days.
  • Fresh Green Beans in microwave-able bags that are pre-washed and already have the ends trimmed have become quite popular as a time saver.
  • Need some Recipe Inspiration? Find green bean recipes on Pinterest here.

Best tip? Don’t cook the beans to death. Steam, boil, microwave or stir-fry Green Beans until they are just tender to bring out their best flavor and texture. Over-cooked string beans that are limp and mushy can only be saved by butter… lots and lots of melted butter.

Buy smart. Shop healthy.

The Produce Geek, Jonathan K. Steffy

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