Best if Used By 04/22/14
Eat This Now for the week of April 8th, 2014 features
Artichokes, Mixed Mini Tomatoes, Green Beans, Seedless Watermelon, and Carrots
PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR | VALUE PRICED
Ever make fresh Artichokes at home? Go for it. You can do it! April and May mark the peak season for fresh, classic Globe or Heirloom Artichokes from the Castroville, CA area – one of the most prolific Artichoke growing regions in the world. This month will be a fabulous time to find great tasting, high quality Artichokes from small to jumbo sizes in produce departments. April and May is also the peak season for Baby Artichokes that can be cooked and eaten whole, petals and all.
- Select Artichokes that feel firm, have tight petals and have a fresh squeak when you squeeze them.
- But handle carefully! Artichokes have sharp thorns this time of year.
- Wash to remove outer natural waxy coating (which can taste bitter)
- Trim ½” from base of stem, peel outer portion of the stem. Middle of stem is an extension of the edible “heart.” Or just remove stem completely.
- Pull off small petals from stem plus small petals at the bottom of the Artichoke.
- Optional: Snip the thorny tips of each petal with a scissors.
- Cut ½”-1” off the top of the Artichoke
- Optional: Rub cut areas with lemon juice or dip in lemon water to prevent browning/oxidation
COOKING – Artichokes are fully cooked when a knife slides easily into the bottom (like cooking a potato)
- Boil: 25-45 minutes in salted water, submerged, cover with lid
- Steam: 30-40 minutes, stem side up
- Bake: 55-75 minutes, double wrapped in foil, stem side down, minced garlic/olive oil/balsamic vinegar drizzled between petals
- Microwave: 15-20 minutes in ½” water in dish, dish covered with plastic wrap, garlic/olive oil/balsamic vinegar drizzled between petals. Or buy artichokes now in a “Microwave Ready” pack which will steam 2 cleaned and prepped artichokes in 6-7 minutes.
- Grill: use fully cooked Artichoke from one of the above methods, halve it, brush with oil, season with salt/pepper, grill 4-5 minutes per side
- Pull flesh from the base of the petal with your teeth. Many people prefer to dip the petals in melted butter, olive oil, balsamic vinegar or garlic-seasoned mayonnaise
- Remove the inedible, fibrous and fuzzy middle portion (the choke) with a spoon
- Below the Choke is the Artichoke Heart, this part is the meatiest and can be cut up and added to pastas, soups, casseroles, dips, antipastos and more.
RECIPES, RESOURCES, VIDEOS:
- 21 beautiful and inspiring artichoke recipes from CookingLight.com can be found here.
- The experts at Ocean Mist Farms (where they grow more fresh artichokes in California than anyone else) have extremely helpful and professional videos for Artichoke beginners.
- Produce Geek VIDEO: Artichokes Basics. How to Prepare, Cook, Eat fresh Artichokes.
Mixed Mini Tomatoes
BEST FLAVOR | PEAK SEASON
Here’s a delicious and colorful product to keep an eye out for: Mixed Mini Tomatoes. 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 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 Mixed Mini Tomatoes. 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.
- Brand Names you might find on Mixed Mini Tomatoes include: “Gourmet Medley,” “Mini Mixers,” “KISS Tomatoes” and “Nature’s Flavor Medley.”
- Store Tomatoes at room temperature to keep their texture firm and flavor full. Never refrigerate your tomatoes.
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 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)
- Combine above vegetables in a mixing bowl
- Add 4 tbsp Olive Oil, 2 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar, pinch of coarse salt
- Toss to coat – serve immediately or refrigerate to chill
PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR | VALUE PRICED
Green Beans are shaping up to be an excellent green veggie choice for seasonal cooking and Easter dinners here in April. Spring plantings of Green Beans are peaking from farms in the Homestead, Florida area! Expect more affordable prices and nice quality.
RECIPE: Easy Steamed Green Beans with Italian Vinaigrette
This recipe can be made even easier with a microwaveable bag of fresh green beans!
- Trim the ends off 12-16oz of fresh Green Beans
- Wash the Green Beans in cold water
- Steam Beans over salted boiling water for 3-5 minutes
- Strain the Beans and put them in a large mixing bowl
- Toss the Beans gently in 3 tbps of creamy Italian-style vinaigrette
- Serve warm
- From bulk displays, select Green Beans that feel firm and snappy.
- Store them in a sealed bag or container in the refrigerator for up to a few days.
- Fresh Green Beans in microwave-able bags that are pre-washed and already have the ends trimmed have become quite popular as a time saver. Those beans are also coming from Florida farms right now.
PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR
I can’t believe I’m writing about Watermelons in April! The last few years, the early spring crop has been expensive and inconsistent in quality. But this year? This April the fresh crop Seedless Watermelons from both south Florida and Mexico have tasted fantastic! I’ve really been impressed by the sample melons I’ve eaten. So if you see some slices at the store on ice or whole Watermelons on display this April – go ahead and try them. I think you’ll be pleased.
There’s no magic to selecting a Watermelon, but thump away if you like. It’s up to the farmers and harvesters to pick them at the right time and for stores/distributors to inspect them well. Fortunately, things are off to a good start this season.
- Firm-shelled melons. The rind should be hard when you squeeze it.
- Mostly symmetrical melons that feel heavy (watermelons are 92% water)
- A creamy yellow spot underneath show it ripened in the sun (that’s the spot where it sat on the ground)
- Spongy melons that give to thumb pressure
- Flat, darkly discolored spots – a sign of bruising caused the flesh to be translucent inside near that area.
- Melons with washed-out color on the whole shell – an indicator of poor vine health
FOR FUN: Video: Selecting Watermelon – is there a secret method?
BEST FLAVOR | PEAK SEASON | VALUE PRICED
Spring salads, holiday cooking and snacking calls for some bright orange color and sweet flavor. Fresh, in season Organic and Conventional Carrots from both California and Georgia will do the trick. Bagged Whole Carrots, fresh Bunched Carrots with tops and Baby Peeled Carrots are priced reasonably and taste great!
RECIPE: Citrus-glazed Steamed Carrots
- Trim the tops and peel 1 bunch (about 1lb) of whole Carrots
- Steam the Carrots over boiling water for 7-8 minutes
- Sauté steamed Carrots in 2 tbsp butter over medium heat for 30 seconds
- Squeeze the juice of 1 orange and 1 lemon into the pan, continue sauté for 1-2 minutes
- Season with coarse salt and cracked black pepper to taste
What is in-season in Organic Produce right now? Find out HERE.
Eat in-season. Choose fresh. Enjoy good, wholesome food.
The Produce Geek, Jonathan K. Steffy