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Eat This Now for the Week of 08/20/14

tomatoes

Eat This Now | August 20th, 2014

Roma TomatoesSweet Mini PeppersWhite PeachesTuscan CantaloupesThomcord GrapesKitchen Tip of the Week

best if used by 09/03/14

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The Local Harvest

August is all about the local harvest in my neck of the woods (PA) and I feel like I could survive the month on a steady diet of Yellow Peaches, Watermelon, Vine Ripe or Heirloom Tomatoes, and Sweet Corn. Mmm! But variety is the spice of life and there’s a wonderful variety to explore. So, here are some recommendations for the week…

Roma (Plum) Tomatoes

Peak Season    Best Flavor    Value Priced

There are Slicing Tomatoes for sandwiches. There are Snacking, Cocktail and Salad Tomatoes. And then… there are Roma Tomatoes.

What are Roma Tomatoes good for? Romas, also called Plum Tomatoes, are their own “use category,” ideal for cooking, sauces and salsas. They are smaller than round tomatoes and have an egg shape, and the varieties often grown during local summer season are elongated. Roma Tomatoes are meaty and have less gel inside than larger round varieties. This makes them ideal for dicing for use as an ingredient or topping.

Full-flavor. Here in August and into September, you’re likely find vine-ripened Roma Tomatoes grown in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. These Roma’s are slightly softer and redder in color than the ones you find in stores during the winter, and you can taste the difference – a rich, acidic Tomato flavor – making them perfect for homemade Tomato Sauce. Romas also wedge well to add to salads, can be stuffed and intensify with roasting. They’re also the best tomato for Pico De Gallo recipes.

Recipe: Produce Geek’s Easy Bean Salsa

  1. 1 can (15oz) drained and rinsed Black Beans (frijoles)
  2. 3 ears of boiled Sweet Corn knife-scraped from the cob (or 1 can drained Corn)
  3. 5 Roma Tomatoes, chopped
  4. 1 Jalapeno Pepper, seeds removed and diced
  5. 1/2 Jumbo Sweet Onion, chopped
  6. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin and red pepper flake to taste
  7. Stir and Enjoy!

Save the flavor! Do not refrigerate Tomatoes until after you cut them.

Sweet Mini Peppers

Peak Season    Best Flavor    Value Priced

Sweet Mini Peppers – You should totally try some! What are they? Sweet Mini Peppers are like the “Baby Carrots” of the Pepper category – convenient, healthy, snackable and fun! They do, in fact, taste sweet, plus they’re crunchy, bite-sized and delicious. Roast or grill them for a flavorful side dish. The peppers are one to four inches long and a mix of Red, Yellow and Orange colors. Inside there a very few seeds and membrane so you can basically hold the stem and chomp away. Sweet Mini Peppers from California, along with some local farms in other parts of the country, are in peak season during late August and September.

3 BEST things to do with Sweet Mini Peppers

  1. Raw for a crunchy, Vitamin C-rich snack – they’re quite sweet!
  2. Roast or grill with oil-salt-pepper for a savory side
  3. Stuff them with guacamole, hummus or seasoned cream cheese for a fun raw or cooked appetizer.

Recipe Ideas

Sweet Mini Peppers are in season from both small, local farms and from larger pepper growers in California during late August and early September.

 

White Peaches

Peak Season    Best Flavor

No waiting necessary. No guessing when the fruit is ripe. Why? You can eat White Peaches right away. White-flesh Peach varieties are low in acid so the natural sugar comes through in the flavor from the moment they are picked. Firm and crunchy fruit is still tasty! White Peaches will stay just as sweet but become chin-drippingly juicy when allowed to soften at room temperature until they give to a gentle squeeze.

Soft fruit growers in the San Joaquin Valley of California are now harvesting some of their best free-stone varieties of White Peaches here in August like Snow Jem and Pink Moon. Local White Peaches are also in season from Pennsylvania and New Jersey this month.

Tips

  • Use White Peaches in recipes the same way you would Yellow-flesh varieties, just know that there will be more straight-forward sweetness and less acidic balance.
  • Select White Peaches that have no greenish coloring in the white areas of the skin – a sign of under-ripe. Avoid White Peaches soft spots (bruises) or punctures, and avoid ones with wrinkled skin – a sign of over-ripe or dehydration.
  • Store White Peaches at room temperature, especially if they fruit did not come from a refrigerated display.
  • Ready to eat! White-flesh Peaches are low in acid so they taste sweet when firm and crunchy or when ripened to soft and juicy.

Some of the best free-stone varieties of White Peaches of the year are now in season. They taste sweet when hard and crunchy OR when soft and juicy.

 

Tuscan Cantaloupes

Peak Season    Best Flavor

I do love peak season Athena-style Cantaloupes from local farms during the summer, but as that season draws to a close I’m on the lookout for the next flavorful melon to enjoy. Right now I’m gravitating to Tuscan Cantaloupes. These melons have firm, yet smoothly textured flesh is juicy and quite sweet. That rich flavor is really exceptional!

Tuscan-style Cantaloupes, sometimes called “California Heirloom 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. The These are not cheapest Cantaloupes, but are some of the best for snacking, salads, desserts and appetizers. Peak season for Tuscan Cantaloupes from California continue 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.

Here are the 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.

Want flavor? Tuscan-style Cantaloupes from California have lots of it here in August!

Thomcord Grapes

Peak Season    Best Flavor

Do you love that classic flavor of Concord Grapes, but find the seeds and thick skins not so easy to snack on? Try Thomcord Grapes! They’re a round, thinner-skinned variety of Grape that features that rich, grape-juice or grape-jelly flavor of Concords plus the sugar levels and seedless characteristics of Thompsons. The flesh is deeply sweet and the chewable skins are just slightly tangy. Yum!

Organic and conventional Thomcord Grapes from California are in season for a short window of time during late August and into September. You might find local or regionally grown Thomcord Grapes at stores or farmer markets in the Northeast and Mid-West this time of year too. Select packs that are free from wet spots, collapsed or shriveled berries, or stickiness. Keep the grapes refrigerated and rinse with water just before eating them.

Thomcord Grapes give you the rich, old-fashioned flavor of Concords, but without the tough skins and seeds.

 

Kitchen Tip of the Week

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. Where she learned it, I don’t know, but it works!

  • 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

It has kept my kitchen free from fruit flies on my Heirloom Tomatoes and PA 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!

 

Buy smart. Shop healthy.

The Produce Geek, Jonathan K. Steffy

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