Best if Used By 03/21/11
($) = Value Bargain
(P) = Peak of the Season
(F) = Flavor for Foodies
1. Green Grapes ($) (P)
This season’s crop of Green Seedless Grapes from Chile has been running a little behind schedule and supply has never completely caught up with demand. Still, this would be a good week to buy some for even the most prudent of grape consumers. Why? For the most-part quality, texture and flavor will be pleasing, and oh yeah, there will be lots of “green” themed St. Patty’s Day sales to take advantage of.
So, what should you look for in buying Green Seedless Grape right now? Here are three tips: First, check to make sure the bag or container they’re sold in is dry, not sticky and the Grapes are not leaking – a sign of old age. Next, check out the color. Straight up green could be sweet and fresh or it could be tart and fresh, greenish-yellow is likely to be extra sweet, but brown is bad. Finally, give a few Grapes a squeeze to test the firmness. The firmer the berry, their crunchier the Grape.
2. Green Cabbage: ($)
Do it! Buy some Cabbage this week while it is so cheap. I mean, sheesh! $.59, $39, $.29 per pound or less for Cabbage to go with all that Corned Beef Brisket supermarkets are promoting this week. Make an Irish meal… or not. Fresh, healthy food can be very affordable, especially when merchants are willing to sell it at break-even or a loss to get you into their store this week. But do farmers a favor and pay them a fair price the rest of the year.
3. Blueberries: ($)
Last call at the Chilean Blueberry bar. My quote “peak of the season is better than first and last of the season” is still valid here, however, if you’re a savvy berryhound you can find some nice deals on healthy, delicious Organic and Conventional Blueberries from Chile the next couple of weeks. Here’s what you do. Scope out your produce department for good prices on Blueberries. Pick up the package and inspect it thoroughly, looking for shriveled berries, leaking berries, berries stuck together or mold. If the package is free from those issues – buy and enjoy!
4. Maradol Papaya: (F)
A tropical treat that you’ll love or hate – Maradol Papaya – but you’ll never know until you try! Maradol Papaya, also called Caribbean or Caribbean Red Papaya, is available year-round from Mexico and Central America. Maradol’s are big, football big – 3 to 5lb each. The flavor is earthy, fruity, rich and tropical. The texture is creamy and smooth. Allow green ones to ripen at room temperature until the skin turns yellow-orange and is soft to gentle pressure. Halve, scoop out the slimy seeds, peel off the skin and cut into chunks. Serve it raw with a squeeze of lime, lemon or orange… and chili powder if you’re feeling adventurous.
Organic Pick of the Week:
5. Chards: (F)
Healthy and so flavorful! That’s Swiss Chard for ya, alright. Organic Red, Green and Rainbow Swiss Chard from Southern California and Florida are very nice right now. Late winter cool nights in those southern regions bring out sweetness in this cooking green that can be used in sautes, blanches, boils, omelets, frittatas and veggie lasagnas. Separate the leaves from the stems so they can be added to the cooking process later. Stems need longer to cook to become soft and release acid. Garlic, olive oil and a hot pan are Chard’s best friends. Did you know that Chard Greens are off the charts in Vitamin K and A, have lots of Vitamin C and are loaded with calcium?
Here’s to fresh!
The Produce Geek, Jonathan K. Steffy
Best if Used By 04/26/10
1. Tomatoes On-the-Vine
What is your favorite produce smell memory? That question was recently posed on Twitter and my immediate gut response was (in 140 characters or less, of course), “The smell of tomato vines brings back wonderful memories of working on the crop farm and roadside stand as a teenager.” I picked a lot of tomatoes back in the day, but those were fun times of hard work and on-the-job learning so I look back on them fondly. These days, when a new arrival of Tomatoes On-the-Vine comes in I love rub my fingers on the stems to smell how fresh they are and to let that aroma sweep me away in sentiment. Yea, I know… it’s a total produce geek move!
Right now, new crop Tomatoes On-the-Vine with fresh, thick, aromatic stems are coming into good volume in Canadian greenhouses. You may also find nice TOV’s (aka OTV’s, Stems, Clusters) from Mexico and USA at some supermarkets. Do On-the-Vines taste as good as homegrown garden tomatoes? Not exactly, but you will get your money’s worth in freshness, quality and even flavor.
2. Greenhouse Specialty Tomatoes
Do you want summertime, garden tomato taste right now? If you’re like me your homegrown tomatoes won’t be ready for a couple months, so here is a list of some interesting and delicious varieties now in season, grown under glass. If you find one of these, give ‘em a try and let us know what you think with a comment.
- Campari: The BEST tasting tomato available in April and May (some believe all year long). Max-sweetness plus fearless acidity makes Campari’s flat-out delicious!
- Kumato: Brown color inside and out. Earthy, rich flavor to compliment bitter greens or robust cheeses. Rosso Bruno is a similar variety.
- Heirlooms: Old seed varieties – pinks, greens, reds, yellows, striped -many with gnarled shapes and unique flavors, grown inside hot houses.
- Mini Heirlooms: Bite sized tomatoes with an array of colors, tastes and textures, sometimes called Gourmet Medley’s.
- Premium Grape & Cherry: High flavor Grape and Cherry Tomatoes, often sold on the vine in packages. Splendido, Champagne, One Sweet, MiMi Candy, Sun Drop, Bella Sweet, Mini Sensations, HydroBites and Bella Bites to name a few.
Nicely sweet and only mildly tart, juicy and priced cheaper than usual – that’s pretty much all you need to know this week about Conventional Blackberries from Mexico. Enjoy!
4. Pixie Tangerines
If you’re into Alternative Rock, then maybe you’ve heard about the influential Boston-based band, The Pixies, and their sweet tracks like “Where Is My Mind.” If you’re into Specialty Citrus, then maybe you’ve heard about the outstanding Ojai, CA-based mandarin, Pixie Tangerines, and their rockin’ flavor. Pixie Tangerines are peaking now and will be around into May. You’ll only find them at specialty retailers and progressive supermarkets. Small like Clementines, easy to peel with a balance of firm texture and sweet juiciness – Pixie Tangerines are a true seasonal treat!
5. Maradol Papaya
Ever see a long, massive Papaya in the produce section that’s shaped like a football with a knob on the end and wonder what made it different from regular ones? Those mamas are called Maradol or Caribbean Papayas, and they’re looking good right now from Mexico and Central America. Allow the fruit to ripen at room temperature until the skin turns from green to yellow-orange. Peel, scoop out the seeds, and enjoy the creamy red-orange flesh with a squeeze of lime juice – muy bueno!
The Produce Geek,
Jonathan K. Steffy