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Eat This Now for the Week of 8/5/16

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Eat This Now | August 5th, 2016

Yellow Peaches Red Seedless Grapes Sweet Corn Athena-style Cantaloupes Vine Ripe Tomatoes

Best if used by 8/19/16

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Yellow Peaches (Regional)

Peak Season Best Flavor Value Priced

What’s your all-time favorite fruit? That’s a question I’m commonly asked when people learn that I’m the “Produce Geek.” Year after year, I ponder my answer and come back to the same conclusion: Yellow Peaches. Not just any peaches – summertime peaches allowed to ripen on the tree from small orchards in Lancaster or Berks County, PA during August… the kind that drip juice down your chin when you take a bite, causing you to slurp, and with fuzz that reminds your lips that this is a really fresh, intensely flavored piece of fruit. My daughter now shares this love of the pursuit of the perfect peach.

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. My best eating experiences have always been with Yellow Peaches that have never been refrigerated and give slightly to a gentle squeeze in the palm of my hand.

Summer Yellow Peaches are perfect for snacking 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 what’s most local to me). Red Haven, 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.

Peach Tips

  • 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!
  • Pro Tip: Don’t put peaches in the “kill zone.” Storing Peaches at 36-50F degrees stops the ripening process (softening) but also damages the fruit texture. Professional growers store freshly harvested Peaches at 34F to allow them to ship the product. However, most home refrigerators run at 38-42F, so your kitchen counter is best. Buy from room temperature displays and keep the fruit on your counter until it has the ideal softness.
  • Recipes? Check out this tasty-looking collection of Yellow Peach recipes.

 

Kitchen Tricks for Peaches

How 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.

  1. Bring a pot of water to a simmer.
  2. Add fully ripe Peaches or Tomatoes to the hot water for 30 seconds. (Firm-ripe Peaches may require 1-3 minutes.)
  3. Remove the fruit from the hot water and cool it under running water or a bowl of ice water.
  4. 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!

  1. Fill a small jar or cup halfway with Cider Vinegar
  2. Add a drop of dish soup
  3. Cover the jar with plastic stretch wrap
  4. Poke several small holes in the plastic wrap (about 1/8”, bigger than a toothpick, smaller than a pencil)
  5. Place the jar near your room temperature produce

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.

 

Hot Water trick to Quickly Peel Peaches and Tomatoes for Recipes

 

Control Fruit Flies in Your Kitchen with this Easy Trick

Red Seedless Grapes

Peak Season Best Flavor Value Priced

Seedless Grapes from California are in peak season now through October. Green ones I’ve tried recently have been good, but my kids and I have particularly been enjoying the Reds. What an awesome snack! The crunchy and sweet Red Flame variety is prominent here in early August. Red Flames are smallish and round, but so tasty! Other delicious Red Seedless Grape varieties are coming into peak season to like – Red Fire, Scarlett Royal and more. Stay tuned for more fresh Grape updates this summer.

Grape Tips

  • Select Grapes that feel firm to a gentle squeeze. Old grapes get soft. Soft grapes aren’t as fun to eat.
  • Choose Grapes by lifting up the bag or container and look at it from all sides.
  • Seek 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. Go ahead… ask the produce clerk for a sample grape or two. Tasting is believing!
  • Avoid bags that are wet and sticky – a sign that some of the Grapes are going bad – or have berries with splits or cracks.
  • Store Grapes refrigerated until you’re about ready to eat them, since they lose their crunch much quicker at room temperature.
  • Rinse Grapes with cold water just before serving them to remove field dust and dirt. Most bags, pouches and clamshell containers that Grapes are sold in these days also serve as colanders.
 

Seek 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.

Sweet Corn (Regional)

Peak Season Best Flavor Value Priced

Summer is for Sweet Corn… Corn grown near you and consumed shortly after harvest.

Peak season for Sweet Corn from local farms is here in earnest in the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast and Mid-West regions and will continue through the rest of the summer. Many growers are now picking their super-sweet varieties daily. In my neck of the woods, Lancaster County, PA grown White and Bi-Color Corn is tasting fantastic – explosively juicy and bursting with sweetness – I can eat it raw!

Sweet, flavorful, juicy, and yeah, you can eat it with your hands – nice features for a veggie. Corn-on-the-Cob is pretty much required eating at picnics, parties and BBQ’s – and nobody is really complaining about that, right? Oh, some may complain about getting kernel skins stuck in their teeth, but that usually doesn’t stop them from enjoying it. Maybe you can keep toothpicks handy for them. If you want to go beyond picnic food, here are some cool Sweet Corn recipes to try.

Corn Tips

  • Selecting: Choose Sweet Corn that feels full up and down the cob and has green husks.
  • Storage: Sweet Corn will last in your fridge for about a week when stored in a plastic bag, but will dehydrate and lose flavor every day it sits – so try to use it right away.
  • Boil: Over-cooking is the #1 MISTAKE people make with Sweet Corn, since it can lead to toughness and less flavor. 3-4 minutes in boiling water is really all it takes for perfectly tender Locally grown Sweet Corn on the Cob.
  • Microwave: Microwave on high in the husk for 4-6 minutes. If fresh corn is already husked, wrap in a damp paper towel and microwave on high for about 5 minutes.
  • Grill: Pre-heat Grill to high. Remove loose outer leaves of Sweet Corn but leave it in the husk. Rinse the husks with water to add some moisture. Grill for 8-11 minutes, flipping 1-2 times. Remove from heat and husk it just before serving. This method adds a smoky flavor to your corn and makes removing the silk so much easier!

Peak season for Sweet Corn from local farms is here in earnest in the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast and Mid-West regions and will continue through the rest of the summer. Many growers are now picking their super-sweet varieties daily.

Athena-style Cantaloupes (Regional)

Peak Season Best Flavor Value Priced

A local Athena Cantaloupe, the type of melon I grew up with, with its rich taste and fragrance still bring back great memories of working on a farm in Lancaster County, PA as a teenager each summer – picking, sorting, counting and selling Athena Cantaloupes.

Athena-type varieties, also called Mush Melons, Musk Melons or Eastern Melons, are identifiable on the outside by the subtle ribs on the slightly oblong melon. 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 with extra juiciness and a sweet, rich melon flavor. Athena-style Cantaloupes are now into their peak season harvests at the many small farms Mennonite and Amish farms in my area – southeaster PA – as well as from other produce farms in the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast and Mid-West.

Now through the mid-August will be the very best time of the year to enjoy these melons at the peak of their flavor and quality. Athena-style Cantaloupes 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

  • Select 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 Local Cantaloupes are picked fully ripe and 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.

Now through the mid-August will be the very best time of the year to enjoy these melons at the peak of their flavor and quality.

Vine Ripe Tomatoes (Regional)

Peak Season Best Flavor Value Priced

That time of year when you have a good-old-fashioned Tomato Sandwich like every other day of the week …maybe even more? It’s here!

Slightly acidic, slightly sweet – thick, meaty and perfect for slicing – it’s Vine Ripe Tomato time! Tomatoes that TASTE like… like, well, Tomatoes. What a concept! Slice away friends, because peak season is rockin’ for local Vine Ripe Tomatoes from my favorite growing regions: Southern New Jersey and Central Pennsylvania. In fact, here in late July and August much of the country is harvesting their own local Vine Ripe Tomatoes – be it from vegetable farms or backyard gardens.

Why is it that Tomatoes are often more flavorful at your favorite supermarket, produce market or stand during the height of summer? Two things: Vine Ripening. Great Varieties.

Here’s the deal. Tomatoes soften as they ripen and the longer growers leave them on the vine to become ripe, the less time they have to ship them to stores and the less time stores have to sell them without many of the Tomatoes going bad. So during most of the year a large percentage of Tomatoes are picked at maturity, but are still green and hard to allow for long shelf life needed to over-come shipping time and distance. Those are technically referred to as “Mature Greens” even though the product is sometimes sold as “Vine Ripe” once the fruit ages and colors up to close to red. Time, warmth and ethylene gas ripen the Mature Greens to a dark pink to red color, but the fruit is still firm and lacks flavor.

True Vine Ripened Tomatoes grown outside in rich soil fields, on the other hand, are picked from the vine when the Tomato is almost light red in color and quickly turn dark red. Vine Ripes are delicate and have shorter shelf life, but man, is the flavor worth it! And for even bigger, bolder flavors try Heirloom Tomatoes this August.

Vine Ripe Tomato Tips

  • Do Not Refrigerate Your Tomatoes (unless you’ve sliced them) because temperatures under the mid-50s can make for poor texture and blunt the flavor. Room temperature, like on your counter out of direct sunlight, seems to work best.
  • Select Vine Ripe Tomatoes with a vibrant red color that are free from wrinkling, black spotting, water blisters (translucent area of skin) or unhealed splits. Scars, healed splits or leaf stains on the skin will not impact your eating experience.  The fruit can feel lightly firm to lightly soft, but avoid spongy feeling tomatoes.

Anatomy of a Summer Tomato Sandwich

  1. Thick slices of Vine Ripe Red Tomatoes or Heirloom Tomatoes (slicer varieties)
  2. Salt and Pepper
  3. More Mayonnaise than you would normal slather on a sandwich
  4. Bread. (Soft Potato Rolls or Thick-cut Toasted Bread are my favorites)

*Optional Tomato Sandwich Bling: Cheese – Cheddar or Cooper Sharp are winners; and Dijon Mustard for the other piece of bread not covered with Mayonnaise

Anatomy of a Summer Tomato Sandwich

Buy smart. Shop healthy.

The Produce Geek, Jonathan K. Steffy

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