Eat This Now | March 23rd, 2015

Cluster TomatoesCampari TomatoesCalifornia StrawberriesBaby Bella Mushrooms

Best if used by 03/31/15

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Cluster Tomatoes

Peak Season    Value Priced

Fresh is a beautiful thing! And right now fresh, new crop Cluster Tomatoes are beginning their peak season harvests in the greenhouses of Ontario, Canada and New York. Those plants will be trained up wires to 20 feet in the air as the season continues. The fruit (yes, Tomatoes are scientifically a fruit) is firm and plump – and gorgeous. The vines are stout and healthy, and if you give those stems a sniff you ought to get a delightful whiff of tomato plant. When you can see the little yellow hairs on the stems – you know it is fresh! Since the fruit can still draw on water and nutrients left in the vine, the greener and thicker, the better.

What about the flavor? Expect a mild tomato taste and juicy flesh. If you are expecting the flavor to compare to homegrown, summer field tomatoes you will be disappointed. But for use around the kitchen? They’ll do the trick here in Spring! Plus, prices are dropping and retailers will be promoting Cluster Tomatoes on ad. Their size makes Cluster Tomatoes ideal for salad use, and for cooking since the heat intensifies the flavor.

Cluster Tomato Tips

  • Some stores are still handling On-the-Vine Tomatoes from Mexico which are cheap but at the tail end of their season and fruit quality. For the freshest best product from the healthiest plants here in Spring, look for “product of USA” or “product of Canada” on the stickers.
  • Nicknames: Cluster Tomatoes are often called: Stem Tomatoes, On-the-Vine Tomatoes, TOVs or Vine Tomatoes.
  • Select Cluster Tomatoes with healthy, aromatic green vines and even color on the Tomatoes.  Avoid Tomatoes with wrinkled skin, punctured areas, black spots or that feel soft and squishy.
  • Store Tomatoes at room temperature since they tend to lose flavor and become mushy in texture when held below 55 F. As in… Don’t refrigerate!

Recipe: Tomato & Basil Frittata

Cooking brings out the flavor intensity of the tomatoes and fresh basil brightens the taste in this egg casserole that can be enjoyed for breakfast, brunch or even dinner.

  1. Pre-heat oven to 450F
  2. Whisk 12 eggs in a mixing bowl, seasoning beaten eggs with ½ tsp coarse salt and black pepper
  3. Dice ½ an Onion finely and stir it into the eggs
  4. Slice 3 Cluster Tomatoes into thin rounds, discarding the very top and bottom cuts
  5. De-stem a large handful of fresh Basil leaves (I prefer living/hydroponic basil, when it is not in season locally or from my garden)
  6. Lightly coat a 13”x9” glass dish with cooking spray
  7. Layer the tomato slices evenly in 3 rows in the pan, then add the basil leaves
  8. Cover Tomatoes and Basil with 8oz of shredded Mozzarella Cheese (or use fresh Mozzarella to be fancy)
  9. Evenly drop ¼ cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  10. Slowly pour Egg/Onion over the vegetables and cheese
  11. Bake at 450F for 20 minutes or until the Frittata sets and begins to brown slightly (it will rise ½” to 1” during cooking)
  12. Allow Frittata to cool 10 minutes before cutting it and serving


Fresh crop Cluster Tomatoes are in season from greenhouses in Canada and New York. Healthy vines = healthy fruit.

Recipe: Tomato & Basil Frittata


Campari Tomatoes

Peak Season    Best Flavor    Value Priced

A flavorful Tomato in March and April? You bet! The Campari variety is 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.

Campari Tomatoes are grown in hydroponic greenhouses. Here in late March and April harvests are abundant at greenhouses in Texas and Mexico on Campari’s, plus Canada hothouses are beginning to pick fresh crop Campari’s too. 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.

Campari Tomatoes are a full-flavor eating experience. A balance of sweet and acidic!

California Strawberries

Peak Season    Best Flavor    Value Priced

Add Strawberries to your shopping list! Harvests of the early spring crop of California Strawberries in now in full swing. Wohoo! Snacking, smoothies, salads, breakfasts, desserts – the possibilities are so fun!  Everyone loves fresh Strawberries.

Aside from early summer locally grown Strawberries from your garden, or ones sold along a roadside stand or at a farmers market (which taste amazing)… premium spring-crop Strawberries from California are some of the biggest, tastiest and solidly textured ones you can get. And my favorite, intensely flavored Organic Strawberries, are in season now too from California. With this better quality fruit, keep an eye out for both advertised specials here in early April and leading up to Easter.

Strawberry Buying Tips

  • Look for plump, red berries with healthy looking, green caps. Avoid Strawberries with sunken areas or evidence of mold.
  • Inspect the packages from all sides, avoiding containers with wet spots on the berries or bottoms of the containers.
  • Keep them cold in the fridge, but they’ll have better taste and texture if you use them within a couple days.
  • Wash Strawberries under cold water just before hulling the tops and serving them.

Strawberry Tips


  • Look for plump, red berries with healthy looking, green caps. Seek out California grown Strawberries here in Spring.
  • At the store, inspect the packages from all sides, avoiding containers with wet spots on the berries or bottoms of the containers.

At Home

  • Keep them cold in the fridge, but they’ll have better taste and texture if you use them within a couple days.
  • Wash Strawberries under cold water just before use.


Juicing vs Blending

Don’t use strawberries in a juice extractor – it’s almost a waste of fruit since you get very little juice from those soft red berries in the process. Firm-textured, high juice content, low glycemic index fruits like apples and pears are much better than berries in juicer recipes to add liquid volume and sweetness to vegetable blends.

Blending, on the other hand, is a fantastic way to enjoy the full flavor of strawberries mixed with other ingredients, plus you get the benefits of the berries’ fiber and anti-oxidants. Adding those tired looking strawberries you forgot about in the fridge in a smoothie is a fantastic way to avoid waste and feel good. If you have some berries you know you won’t be able to eat while they’re still fresh – freeze them! Frozen berries allow you to use less ice in your smoothie blends.


***Florida Strawberries and Mexican Strawberries are almost finished for the season and the tired plants are yielding weaker fruit. If Florida or Mexico berries are all that is available at the store where you shop, use what you purchase right away since the fruit will likely have little to no shelf life.

Baby Bella (Crimini) Mushrooms

Best Flavor    Value Priced

Baby Bellas, also called Crimini Mushrooms, have light brown caps and white stems, and are the size of regular White Mushrooms. They are almost like a Portabella Mushroom that has not fully matured and opened up its gills. The more the Baby Bella tops open to the more robustly flavorful they are.

Ideal for adding a rich flavor to pastas, pizzas, salads and stir-fry’s – Baby Bella Mushrooms are a popular, healthy and versatile choice for your recipes. They can be eaten raw or cooked, and are most typically sliced vertically – from cap to stem.  Sautéing for 7 minutes or less helps to preserve their nutrient content.  Perhaps you could try Baby Bella Mushrooms in a Meatless Monday recipe, sauté them with garlic and oil, or slice them for a salad.

Storage: Store Mushrooms in the refrigerator in the container they were purchased in. For best freshness, use Mushrooms within a 1-3 days of purchase.

Cleaning: Mushrooms are picked from the composted soil they grow in and packed right away. Dirt is simply part of the equation. So, what is the best way to clean them? It is important to know that Mushrooms are porous and soak up water easily. That doesn’t mean you can’t use water at all. A quick rinse in a colander before use will get much of the dirt off, but there still may be some to buff off with a paper towel. Soft-brush Mushroom cleaning tools actually exist, but I’ve never used one. Wiping with a dry or slightly damp paper towel is still my preferred method. Don’t peel them since it’s way too tedious and you end up peeling away flavor.

Recipe Ideas: Discover Crimini Recipe Ideas on Pinterest

Since they’re grown inside, Mushrooms are always in season. Here in my home state of Pennsylvania in towns like Blandon, Temple and Kenneth Square there are more mushrooms grown than anywhere else in North America.

Buy smart. Shop healthy.

The Produce Geek, Jonathan K. Steffy

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