Local Yellow Peaches
Peak Season Best Flavor Value Priced
Local Peaches are like summer picked from a tree. A juicy-sweet Yellow-flesh Peach, ripened to perfection for the ultimate balance of sugars and acid is an amazing treat! Seek the best, the freshest, most cared for Peaches and enjoy – be it from the roadside stand, farm market, pick-your-own orchard or supermarket that supports local farmers. Summer Yellow Peaches are perfect for snacking out of hand and for using in baking, with cereal, shakes, smoothies salsas or salad recipes.
Early August through early September marks the heart of summer, the time when the very best of the season local Yellow Peaches varieties are harvested in states like Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and New York. Other regions in the South, Mid-West, Pacific Northwest and California are also in their peak seasons (though, admittedly, I am quite partial to my PA local). Red Haven, July Flame, Zee Fire, Zee Lady, Flavor Crest, Sun Crest… many of these Peaches are “free-stone” or “semi-free-stone” varieties where the flesh releases from the pit, making recipe preparation easier.
Looking for Certified Organic Peaches? They’re in peak season from Washington this month and tasting nice.
- Select Peaches that feel heavy and have no soft spots and no wrinkled skin. The amount of redness on the skin can vary from variety to variety and is not a true indicator of ripeness. Some varieties are simply more yellow-skinned than others. Greenish areas, however, on the skin are a sign of immaturity.
- Ripening: Yellow-flesh Peaches must ripen (soften) to allow the acidity to mellow and the sweetness to shine through creating a balanced sweet and tangy taste. Impatient? Have some Peaches that are too hard? Place them in a paper bag to speed up ripening.
- Store Peaches at room temperature to allow them to get to the softness you desire for your eating preference. Then, eat them immediately! Age, plus going in and out of refrigeration can cause the dreaded MUSHY-MEALY PEACH… Oh, no!
- Recipes? Check out this tasty-looking collection of Yellow Peach recipes.
- Pro Tip: Don’t put peaches in the “kill zone.” Storing Peaches at 36-50F degrees stops the ripening process (softening) and damages the fruit texture. Most home refrigerators run at 38-42F, so your kitchen counter is best
Recipe: Peach Melba MilkshakeInstructions: Blend the following ingredients in a blender until at the desired consistency.
- 4 scoops Vanilla Ice Cream
- 2 cups Milk
- 3 Yellow Peaches, pitted (skins optional)
- 1 heaping tsp Raspberry Preserves (or a handful of fresh Raspberries)
Kitchen Tricks for PeachesHow to Quickly Peel Peaches and Tomatoes for Recipes: Does that Peach Crisp or homemade Salsa recipe you want to make call for “peeled Peaches” or “Tomatoes with the Skins removed?” Here’s a method to speed up your prep time.
- Bring a pot of water to a simmer.
- Add fully ripe Peaches or Tomatoes to the hot water for 30 seconds. (Firm-ripe Peaches may require 1-3 minutes.)
- Remove the fruit from the hot water and cool it under running water or a bowl of ice water.
- When the fruit is cool enough to handle the skins should easily separate from the flesh by just pulling it with your fingers.
How to Control Fruit Flies in Your Kitchen: Here in the heart of summer, if you’re like me you probably have lots of summer produce on your kitchen counters and tables. And it doesn’t take long from some annoying and uninvited visitors to show up: Fruit Flies! Those little pests have a knack for finding the peach, nectarine, plum, tomato or pepper that is beginning to become over-ripe – and then they swarm, feed, grow in numbers and suddenly your kitchen feels like you’ve brought the compost pile inside! Yuck!
Here is a natural method for controlling fruit flies that my Mom recommended to me a couple of years ago. Where she learned it, I don’t know, but it works! It has kept my kitchen free from fruit flies on my Heirloom Tomatoes and Peaches that are ripening on the kitchen island. The sweet, ripe aroma of Cider Vinegar seems to attract the fruit flies into the jar. Then the acidity of the vinegar and mild viscosity added with the dish soap trap them in the liquid. Brilliant!
- Fill a small jar or cup halfway with Cider Vinegar
- Add a drop of dish soup
- Cover the jar with plastic stretch wrap
- Poke several small holes in the plastic wrap (about 1/8”, bigger than a toothpick, smaller than a pencil)
- Place the jar near your room temperature produce
Peak Season Best Flavor
What exactly are Heirloom Tomatoes?Most conventional, round Tomatoes have been hybrid-bred for consistency of size, shape, color, shelf-life and firmness – all so that they can safely make it through the supermarket supply channel and into your kitchen without getting soft or going bad. Heirlooms, on the other hand, are old and diverse varieties that have been around since WWII. Some have been passed down over the years by a family and others were created through natural cross-pollinations, still others were commercially produced by a seed company or university ag program ¾ of a century ago. With Heirloom varieties you can take seeds from this year’s fruit and plant it year after year and get the exact same tomato plant. Each Heirloom variety has its own special taste, texture, shape, size and color characteristics that make them unique and wonderful in their own way.
Heirloom Tomato Tips
- Soft Tomatoes? Straight-talk: Heirloom Tomatoes are soft to begin with – you should expect them to have a little give. Since they are not “bred” for shelf-life, do not expect a long shelf-life. Use them quickly. Handle them with care.
- Appearance? Oh, and they’re ugly by most normal standards, …but the flavor, whether sweet, earthy, bold, tangy or bold – is always beautiful!
- Price? Since Heirlooms are not bred or hybridized for maximum production or disease resistance – yields are typically smaller and they cost more to grow. That is part of why you can expect to pay more. What is flavor worth to you?
- Selection: Select Heirloom Tomatoes that are free from punctures, water blisters or large decay spots. Avoid Heirloom Tomatoes with open flesh splits or cracks that have not healed over into a scar. Otherwise, buy them and eat them!
- Storage: Store Heirloom Tomatoes at room temperature out of direct sunlight. Do not refrigerate Tomatoes since it blunts flavor and makes them soft.
Red Seedless Grapes
Peak Season Best Flavor Value Priced
Speaking of summer and grapes – my kids have been rocking out to this catchy tune on some recent road trips. I’ll admit I like it too. One listen, and they’re craving fresh Grapes to snack on. Song: Grapes by Andrew & Polly.
- Select Grapes that feel firm to a gentle squeeze. Lift up the bag or container and look at it from all sides.
- Look for Grapes with stems that are still green at the thickest parts and appear to still have life in them.
- Choose packs that have most of the berries still on the vine.
- Avoid bags that are wet and sticky – a sign that some of the Grapes are going bad – or have berries with splits or cracks.
- Go ahead… ask the produce clerk for a sample grape or two. Tasting is believing!
- 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.
Peak Season Best Flavor
Chili Pepper GuideHere’s a rundown for some of what you may find at the farm market or in your favorite produce department, ranked from most mild to most hot:
- Cubanelle: aka Frying Peppers, crooked-cone shaped, lime green, thin-walled and mild – great for stuffing, frying, grilling and roasting
- Banana: sweet, yellow-green – make sure they’re sweet banana instead of hot yellow wax
- Poblano: sometimes called Pasilla, dark green, wide-flat cone shape, just a little spicy, great for Tex-Mex, roasting, grilling and stuffing like in my favorite Poblano recipe: Chile Rellenos!
- Anaheim and Hatch: green, red when mature, mild to medium heat, ideal in Southwest cooking and salsa, awesome for roasting. New Mexico Hatch Chili Peppers are similar – the quintessential roasting chili.
- Long Hots: long, slender, crooked, dark green, medium heat but hot when you get to the seeds they pack some slow, sweat inducing burn. When allowed to ripen on the plant longer Long Hots turn red and become sweeter, but still have full hotness.
- Hungarian Wax: sometimes called Yellow Wax Peppers, long lime-yellow color, crisp, brightly spicy, ideal for pickling in sliced rings to top salads and sandwiches. Can be roasted or stuffed too,Eastern-European-style. Don’t confuse them with mild Cubanelle or sweet Banana Peppers that look similar.
- Jalapeno: small, dark green, immediately spicy; perfect for salsa, pico de gallo and kicking anything up a notch; smoke them and Jalapenos become… Chipotle. “Easy Jalapeno Poppers” recipe via InspiredTaste.net.
- Serrano: like Jalapenos except lighter green, thinner and 2-3x Hotter
- Scotch Bonnet and Habanero: Holy Cow! you better know what you are doing with these green, red or orange little gnarled-cone shaped mega-hot peppers – Watch out!
HOT to Mild (Top image, Left to Right) Orange Habanero, Serrano, Jalapeno, Long Hot, Poblano, Banana Pepper (or wait.. is that one a Hot Hungarian Wax Pepper!)
Hot Pepper basics
Peak Season Value Priced
Here in early August, Cauliflower is in peak season from farms in Quebec, Canada as well as from the Salinas Valley of California. Keep an eye out for affordable ads or in-store specials on conventional Cauliflower since there is an abundant supply right now.
- Select Organic Cauliflower that looks fresh and has no soft or slimy spots or excessive black spots. But don’t get too worried if you see small brown spot on a few florets here and there – those discolored spots are easy to trim off with a knife when you are cutting up the head.
- Store Cauliflower in the refrigerator and rinse in water before cutting.
- Slice Cauliflower into planks with the core intact so it holds together when you throw it on the grill. Or trim the short stems off the core to make traditional florets to eat raw or use in recipes.
Recipe: BBQ Cauliflower SteaksGrilled Cauliflower will give you flavorful experience like never before with this cruciferous veggie!
- Pre-heat your grill on high.
- Trim the green leaves from the base of a washed Cauliflower head, trim the base of the stem too
- Place the head of Cauliflower stem down and make two (or more) 1” thick center cut plank slices with the core left in to hold the florets to it – totally grill-able like a steak.
- Brush the Cauliflower Steaks with Olive Oil on both sides then season them with salt and a generous dusting of your favorite BBQ rub or seasoning on both sides. (I used Penzy’s BBQ 3000 seasoning blend)
- Grill for about 4 minutes on each side over high heat, grill lid down. The “steaks” are done when they can just be pierced with a fork yet still have some texture.
- Garnish with finely chopped fresh Parsley and Basil.