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Eat This Now for the Week of 5/12/16

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Eat This Now | May 12th, 2016

Vidalia Sweet Onions Greenhouse Snacking Tomatoes Blueberries Spinach

Best if used by 5/20/16

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Vidalia Sweet Onions

Peak Season    Best Flavor    Value Priced

Woohoo! Grilling season can officially begin now that Vidalia Sweet Onions are in season!

There’s something about grilling and Sweet Onions that just fits. Grilled on kabobs with other veggies, grilled for topping your burger, even grilled as a thick slab that is topped with cheese for a vegetarian sandwich – the Grilled-Onion Cheese “burger.” Grilling and sautéing mellows the intensity of Sweet Onions and lets their sweetness shine through in a balanced way with their natural savoriness.

Raw Vidalia Sweet Onions are great even if they don’t make it to the grill. Vidalia Sweet Onions are excellent on salads and in sandwiches. Why? There is lots of flavor without the full pungency of Yellow Onions that burns your nose and makes your eyes water. Now don’t get me wrong… it’s still an onion and there will be some “bite” to the taste.

This year’s Vidalia crop is a banner one – big sizing and fantastic quality. Fresh Vidalia Sweet Onions will remain in peak season through July and retailers will promoted them frequently. What makes these “Vidalia” onions special? Vidalia Sweet Onions are from the rich soils of Georgia in and around Vidalia County where conditions are superb for growing mild, saucer-shaped Sweet Onions. The timing of the crop coincides perfectly with picnic and grilling season during late Spring and early Summer for those of us on the East Coast.

Vidalia Sweet Onion Tips

  • Select Sweet Onions that are free from soft spots. Yes, the outer skin will flake off and may look ugly, but that is what a fresh-crop Sweet Onion is like.
  • Use Vidalias within a week of purchase so they don’t spoil. Since the Vidalias in April and May are a “fresh onion” (not allowed to cure and form a tough outer skin layer) they will not hold up as long in your pantry as a regular Yellow Onion.
  • Find helpful info and tons of recipes here at VidaliaOnion.org
 

Scrambled Eggs served with Grilled seasoned Vidalia Sweet Onion and topped with fresh Cilantro.

 

Grilling mellows the bite and brings out the sweetness in Vidalia Sweet Onions.

Greenhouse Snacking Tomatoes

Peak Season    Best Flavor

Here’s a delicious and colorful product to keep an eye out for during late Spring: Greenhouse-grown Snacking Tomatoes.

Snacking Tomatoes are bite-sized varieties that are so delicious you can eat them whole by themselves or to add to salads.  My personal favorites right now are Tomato-X, Zima and Cabernet Estate Reserve.

Greenhouse growers in the Leamington/Kingsville area of Ontario – about an hour away from Detroit over the Canadian border, on the northern shore of Lake Erie where hydroponic vegetable production is a major industry – are now harvesting their peak season Greenhouse Snacking Tomatoes and packing some incredible mixed packs.

Each variety, with its own unique flavor profile, is grown and picked separately, then is combined when to form a beautiful medley in the package. They’re a blend of robust-earthy brown, candy-sweet gold and yellow, tangy pink and sweet-acidic red Cherry, Grape and Cocktail Tomato varieties, many of which are heirloom-style. Mixed Mini Tomatoes are great for snacking out of hand, topping salads or roasting.

Greenhouse Snacking Tomatoes types in season for late Spring

  • Gold Mini Tomatoes: very sweet taste and mild acidity: brands like Zima, Sun Bliss Gold Grape, Sunbursts
  • Red Mini Tomatoes: sweet, flavorful, elongated: brands like Sun Drop Red Grape, Angel Sweet Grape, Heavenly Villagio Marzano (Mini San Marzano with rich, classic flavor), Tomato X (red/brown variety with incredible sweetness, acidity and flavor)
  • Cherry Tomatoes: acidic and lightly sweet, plump and round: brands Cherry No.9, Sweet Cherry, Glorys, Cabernet Estate Reserve (brown type with robust taste)
  • Mixed Mini Tomatoes: blends of gold, red and brown grape, cherry or cocktail types in one pack: brands like Blended Flavours, Wild Wonders, True Rebel Mix

Recipe: Greenhouse Rainbow Salad

This colorful salad is good on its own or would be excellent over Baby Spinach or added to Macaroni for a Pasta Salad.

  1. Combine the following prepped vegetables in a large mixing bowl
    • 1 pack of Mixed Mini Tomatoes, largest ones halved
    • 1 Hothouse Seedless Cucumber- quartered length-wise, cut into ½” wide pieces
    • 1 Sweet Red Bell Pepper, sliced into bite sized 1” strips
    • 1/3 of a Sweet Onion, sliced thinly into 1” strips
    • Handful fresh Italian Parsley (Flat-Leaf Parsley), roughly chopped (fresh Basil would also work well)
  2. Add 4 tbsp Olive Oil, 2 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar, pinch of coarse salt
  3. Toss to coat – serve immediately or refrigerate to chill

Store Tomatoes at room temperature to keep their texture firm and flavor full. Refrigerating may help them last longer, but the cold tends to soften the fruit and dull the taste.

Blueberries

Peak Season    Best Flavor    Value Priced

Fresh, spring crop Organic and Conventional Blueberries are in peak season from Florida, Georgia and California! Now through July will be the best time of the year to enjoy domestically grown Blueberries at their best. Stay tuned for more updates on the crop as the growing season moves northward in the US – when local harvests start, it’s flavor and pricing.

Expect plump, flavorful, sweet and just lightly tangy berries that are large in size. Plus, prices are coming down as the harvest volume comes on, so look for advertised and in store specials during May, June and July. Whether you’re a fan of Blueberries for health, snacking, baking or flavor reasons – it’s your time to enjoy! I love to much on them by the handful eat them on cereal or blend them into smoothies.

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

 

Expect plump, flavorful, sweet and just lightly tangy berries that are large in size. Plus, prices are coming down as the harvest volume comes on, so look for advertised and in store specials during May, June and July.

Spinach

Peak Season

Curly-leaf Spinach (not to confused with Baby Spinach) is crisp and flavorful – ideal torn for hearty salads, piled on sandwiches and wraps, and of course for cooking – quiche, lasagna, sautéed recipes and more! Loaded with vitamins and nutrients, it’s also excellent for green juice blends. Fresh Spinach that is full size, the kind sold on the wet veg case of the produce department in bunches with the stem, is in season right now from both large farms in California and local farms in New Jersey and other areas throughout the Mid-Atlantic! The NJ Spinach is more of a “savoy” variety with dark-green leaves that are curlier than what is typically grown in California.

Spinach Tips

  • Select Bunched Spinach that is free from slimy or yellow leaves.
  • Store it in the crisper of your fridge wrapped in a damp paper towel or in a plastic bag.
  • Wash thoroughly! Be sure to carefully rinse bunched Spinach with cold water to remove sand and dirt since the product is picked and packed right in the field.
  • Pat it or spin it dry before use in tossed salads so the dressing clings and salad stays airy. No drying is needed after washing if you’ll be using it in cooking or juicing.

Recipe: Greek Spinach & Mint Salad

Hearty-textured local Spinach, brightness from fresh Mint and rich tanginess from the Feta make this salad a delight!

  1. Wash ½ bunch of Curly Spinach
  2. Cut off the stems
  3. Stack the leaves, slice into thick ribbons, split ribbons
  4. Wash a handful of fresh Mint
  5. Remove stems from Mint leaves, chop leaves finely
  6. Toss Spinach and Mint with 3 tbsp Greek dressing
  7. Top salad with 2 tbsp crumbled Feta cheese and ½ Vidalia Sweet Onion, sliced

Wash thoroughly! Be sure to carefully rinse bunched Spinach with cold water to remove sand and dirt since the product is picked and packed right in the field.

Buy smart. Shop healthy.

The Produce Geek, Jonathan K. Steffy

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