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Eat This Now for the Week of 6/20/16

cherries

Eat This Now | June 20th, 2016

Dark Sweet Cherries Rainier Cherries Tuscan Cantaloupes Athena Cantaloupes Mini Seedless Cucumbers

Best if used by 7/4/16

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Dark Sweet Cherries

Peak Season    Best Flavor

It’s cherry season! Dark Sweet Cherries from the prime growing regions in the Pacific Northwest are now at their best. Mmm – classic deep cherry flavor is yours for the snacking!

This year the peak time of good flavor, good availability and reasonable pricing will be mid-June through early-July. There are plenty of Cherries in stores now and many retailers may offer advertised specials for Independence Day. Take advantage and enjoy a bowl of fresh, sweet and flavorful Dark Sweet Cherries! Maybe even freeze a bag or two.

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.
 

This year the peak time of good flavor, good availability and reasonable pricing will be mid-June through early-July.

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 do cost more than the Dark Sweet Cherry varieties, but I will say the Rainier Cherries I’ve eaten this season have been delicious! Try some before they’re out of season until next year.

 

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

Tuscan Cantaloupes

Peak Season    Best Flavor

A truly flavorful Cantaloupe is quite special for those of us who are Melon Lovers, but it can seem like an elusive search sometimes. Good news: there is a consistently delicious melon out there for you to look for this summer: USA grown, Tuscan-style Cantaloupes.

What is a Tuscan Cantaloupe? The firm, yet smoothly textured flesh is juicy and sweet on this premium variety with full cantaloupe flavor. Tuscan-style Cantaloupes can be identified by their deep, green colored ribs between straw colored netted skin. The rind of this melon variety is thin and the seed cavity is tight – giving you lots of melon flesh for the money.

Peak season for Tuscan Cantaloupes from Arizona and California is June through August. Store uncut Tuscan Cantaloupes at room temperature. The fruit will be sweet and ready to cut as soon as you buy it, but you can condition it to your liking.

3 stages of ripening for Tuscan-style Cantaloupes

  1. Dark green ribs = sweet!
  2. Light green ribs = very sweet!
  3. Straw colored webbing + fragrant aroma + almost no green ribs = Full-flavor, extra juicy sweetness.

When is a Tuscan Cantaloupe ripe?

Athena Cantaloupes

Peak Season    Best Flavor

Mmm… I love Cantaloupe. And “good” for me usually means Athena-style Cantaloupes! (Tuscans are good too.)  It’s the type of melon I grew up with, and that rich taste still brings back great memories of working on the farm. Athena’s are identifiable on the outside by the subtle ribs on the slightly oblong melon.

Sometimes Athena-style Melons are sold as “Eastern Cantaloupes” or “Musk Melons.” As they ripen, you can smell them! – a pleasing tropical aroma starts to become pronounced. Inside the flesh is softer than other traditional Western Cantaloupes. They’re quite juicy, pleasingly sweet and flavorful.

Athena-style Cantaloupes are in peak season from farms in Georgia and the Carolinas now through early July. Local Athena’s will peak in late July. Eastern ‘Lopes are not popular or available everywhere, mostly because their soft flesh and high sugar content translates into shorter shelf-life at the store and at home. But in my book, I’d take great flavor over shelf-life any day!

Athena Cantaloupe Tips

  • Selecting: Athena Cantaloupes with a straw color and plenty of webbing on the rind. Avoid Athena Cantaloupes with: holes, soft spots, sunken areas, large smooth spots, stems still attached the fruit or a squishy feel.
  • Ripening: Most Eastern ‘Lopes are ready to eat right away. But I typically store Athena Cantaloupes at room temperature until the fruit emits a sweet tropical aroma and the end opposite the stem gives just slightly to thumb pressure. Refrigerate after cutting.

The difference between Eastern ‘Lopes and traditional Western Cantaloupes.

Mini Seedless Cucumbers

Peak Season    Best Flavor    Value Priced

Ever try Seedless Mini Cucumbers? They’ve become quite popular with fresh veggie lovers and more readily available on produce department shelves in recent years. Why? You eat them whole! Sure you can cut the ends off if you want, but really – no prep other than a quick rinse in water is needed. The skins on these 4-5” Cukes are thin and less bitter than field Cucumbers. The mild flavor and crunch will be appreciated by the whole family. Plus, they’re a seedless, juicy, healthy and fun snack.

What are even smaller than Mini Seedless Cucumbers? CuteCumbers! CuteCumbers are a type of Mini Seedless Cucumber that’s also greenhouse grown, but these little snackers are about 3” long and extra crunchy. CuteCumbers are in peak season during Spring and early Summer.

Recipe: Mini Cucumber Parsley-Cream Cheese Stacks

Seedless Mini Cucumbers make cool stack-bite appetizers.

  1. Slice Seedless Mini Cucumbers into 1” segments
  2. Spoon a small dollop of whipped Cream Cheese onto one end
  3. Lightly season with coarse salt and cracked black pepper
  4. Chop a few sprigs of Parsley and sprinkle onto the cheese
 

Mini Cucumber Parsley-Cream Cheese Stacks

Buy smart. Shop healthy.

The Produce Geek, Jonathan K. Steffy

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