Best if Used By 12/17/13
Eat This Now for the week of December 10th, 2013 features Pomegranates, Navel Oranges, Cherry Tomatoes, Pink Lady Apples and Kumquats
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Last call for fresh Pomegranates! Fresh Pomegranate season in California is winding down for this year, making December the last time until next fall to enjoy this fresh, domestically grown fruit. The delicious prize inside a fresh Pomegranate is the juicy, sweet, bold flavored arils (seeds encapsulated with sacs of juice). You eat the arils whole. These arils are fantastic by themselves as a flavorful snack – juicy, sweet, a little tangy then crunchy. The taste is somewhere between concord grape juice and cranberry juice on the sugar to acid scale, but deliciously unique, robust. Pomegranate arils can also be used to top a salad, in yogurt parfaits, with desserts or cocktails, and of course for juicing. Here are some recipe ideas for any course.
TIPS & NOTES:
Select fresh Pomegranates that are firm and heavy, a sign of juice content.
Late season Pomegranates typically have dark red skin color and can tend to look “beat up” – though they’ll be good inside
Scarring on the skin really has no impact on the internal quality of the fruit.
Store Pomegranates in the fridge for best shelf-life, but they’ll last for a week or so on the counter too as an interesting, decorative centerpiece.
Super-food Pomegranates are an ancient fruit but have been in the news lately for their health benefits.
The juice on the Pomegranate Arils has all three polyphenols – tannins, anthocyanins, ellagic acid.
But how do you get at those arils?
HOW TO OPEN A POMEGRANATE:
If you decide to hack open a fresh Pomegranate on a cutting board and then pry the membranes apart, get ready to clean up your crime scene – I mean, kitchen. There will be juice splattering on your cutting surface and surrounding area, and likely on you. There are better ways…
- You’ll need a knife, large bowl of water and a colander.
- Slice the crown off the top.
- Score the skin making 4 cuts from top to bottom.
- Open the Pomegranate over the bowl of water.
- Pull the arils from membranes under water to keep the splatter to a minimum.
- The arils sink and the membranes float – strain and you’re done.
Deseeder Tap method:
One of my favorite kitchen gadgets is the “60 Second Pomegranate Deseeder” I came across this product a few years ago. This archive video shows me testing it. I still use this thing… because it works!
- Halve the fruit.
- Put it face down on the deseeder grate and tap (or slap) out the arils with a heavy utensil onto a plate. Voila.
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There’s nothing quite like a sweet and juicy Navel Orange from California. What a satisfying, classic snack! No seeds. Bright orange skin that is not too difficult to peel, section and share. Healthy too! It is an easy to love flavor during the cold months that whisks your taste buds away to the sunny citrus groves of the San Joaquin Valley in California.
“California? Wait, wasn’t there freezing weather this past week in California?” Yes, indeed there were several nights of temperatures in the high 20s (F). But there were plenty of Oranges already harvested and since Navels have a thicker skin and high sugar content they can handle a short freeze. Still, there may be some damage to the late Winter crop that is yet to be assessed. In the meantime – enjoy this juicy in-season fruit!
In season Organic and Conventional California Navel Oranges are beginning to taste their juicy, flavorful best – a balance of sweetness and acidity. The flavor will get even sweeter over the next two months. Expect sale pricing on loose or bagged Navels where you shop in the coming weeks. Find the juiciest ones by selecting Navels that are heavy for their size. Speaking of size, big to small, all Navels are tasting good right now so go with whatever type is best for your snacking preferences.
Florida grown Navel Oranges have not looked great this year – yellow-gold skin that shows some greening and plenty of scars. The flavor on Florida Navels was average in November, but has improved in December to a mellow sweet taste.
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Spot deal alert. Tomato growers in central and southern Florida are now into their peak season harvests of Grape Tomatoes and Cherry Tomatoes from their winter crop. The weather has been beautiful for tomato growing so far and yields are plentiful. Cherry Tomatoes larger in size, more acidic and less sweet than bite-sized Grape Tomatoes, though their flavor during winter can still kinda weak for snacking and salads. That’s why I recommend Oven Roasting to intensify the taste. If you find them on sale try some new recipes like making blender salsa this month while they’re value priced.
Pink Lady Apples (Cripps Pink)
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Not everyone likes a sweet apple. And even, sweet-apple-lovers need to mix things up every now and then. Typically, tart Apple fans have gravitated towards the green-skinned Granny Smith variety, but I direct them to Pink Lady Apples. They’ve got a bright cheek-rosy skin, dense, crisp flesh and honey sweetness under the bold, sharp, tart flavor.
Pink Lady Apples and their non-branded version, Cripps Pink, are a premium variety than often commands a premium price, but for about 20-50 cents more per pound. The crop is harvested from the trees in late fall at orchards in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest, so the winter months are considered peak season. They’re definitely worth a try for healthy snacking and juicing, plus Pink Lady and Cripps Pink are ideal for baking recipes where you want the apple to hold some shape and texture!
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Funny name. Serious flavor. These mini, bite-sized citrus fruits have sour-sweet flesh with edible skins. You eat them whole – skin and all. Kumquats provide a rush of sweet-tart zippiness. It’s intense! I like to call ‘em nature’s Sour Patch Kids or natural “Citrus Altoids.” Florida Kumquats are in season during December, so keep an eye out for them. They’re good for snacking, garnishing, chopping into to relishes and halving for flavoring Ginger Ale, Lemon-lime Soda or cocktails.
Eat in-season. Choose fresh. Enjoy good food.
The Produce Geek, Jonathan K. Steffy