NBC's ' Produce Pete' sits down to talk about food access issues, the New York Green Cart Initiative and his own beginnings as a street vendor. He appears in the film THE APPLE PUSHERS (www.applepushers.com).
Pat and Produce Pete out for a fun day at Eden Garden Marketplace. Pat's getting better at picking fresh fruits and vegetables then i am.
Produce Pete and Hank inside the refrigerator at Katzman Produce at the Hunts Point Market in the Bronx talking vegetables.
!!! Links to shows also available at bottom of page for shows listed !!!
PLEASE CHECK OUT MY NEW BLOG RUNNING MONTHLY IN NEW JERSEY MONTHLY MAGAZINE ONLINE
09/26/19 RUTGERS UNIVERSITY GARDEN PARTY, 112 RYDERS LANE, NEW BRUNSWICK, N J
BOOK SIGNING AND FUNDRAISING EVENT TO SUPPORT INTERNSHIP PROGRAM GREAT FOOD, MUSIC AND AWARD PRESENTATION
10/06/19 RAMSEY FARMERS MARKET MAIN STREET TRAIN STATION, RAMSEY N.J. BOOK SIGNING, ,PICTURES, PRODUCE QUESTIONS ANSWERED BY PRODUCE PETE 10AM - 1 PM
10/13/19 RAMSEY FARMERS MARKET CHEF COMPETITION - COME MEET PRODUCE PETE AS HE JUDGES THE CHEF COMPETITION 11 AM
10/19/19 CHESTER NEW JERSEY 36TH ANNUAL HARVEST CELEBRATION
11 AM - 3 PM BOOK SIGNING, PICTURES, ALL PRODUCE QUESTIONS ANSWERED BY PRODUCE PETE
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ROMAINE HEARTS AND ROMAINE LETTUCE.
Romaine Hearts are the center leaves of Romaine lettuce Smaller, more yellow, and sweeter, these leaves have a delicious flavor and texture that is perfect for Caesar salads. Look for crisp-looking, un-wilted leaves free of dark spots or cracked ribs.
Not all lettuce is created equal, but if you start your meal with a salad made of romaine lettuce you will be sure to add not only a variety of textures and flavors to your meal but an enormous amount of nutritional value. Most of the domestic U.S. harvest of romaine lettuce and other salad greens comes from California and is available throughout the year.
Romaine is truly one of the world’s great Lettuces — nutritious, delicious and versatile. Romaine has medium-to-dark green, long, crisp leaves with firm white ribs almost to the tip of the leaf. As you reach the center, the Romaine heart leaves become smaller, more yellow and sweeter.
Sometimes referred to as Cos lettuce, Romaine boasts layers of crisp, elongated leaves which are supported by a distinctive rib that spans their length. The leaves range in color from deep green to red or bronze. With 5,000 years of history, this classic vegetable may be the oldest variety of cultivated lettuce. And for good reason! With a subtle sweet and sometimes nutty flavor, Romaine lettuce can be paired easily with most salad fixings. Most known for its staring role in the Caesar salad, this hearty lettuce has the spine to support even the creamiest of dressings. The core of a head of Romaine contains the smallest, crispiest, and most tender leaves, which are sold on their own as Romaine Hearts.
Romaine Hearts are the center leaves of Romaine lettuce. Smaller, more yellow, and sweeter, these leaves have a delicious flavor and texture that is perfect for Caesar salads. Look for crisp-looking, un-wilted leaves free of dark spots or cracked ribs. Avoid heads with any browning or discoloration. Romaine Hearts can stay in their plastic bags and go right into the crisper section, for five to seven days.
Lettuce is synonymous with salads as they are predominantly made from crispy green lettuce leaves. Most varieties of lettuce exude small amounts of a white, milky liquid when their leaves are broken. This "milk" gives lettuce its slightly bitter flavor and its scientific name, Lactuca sativa derived from the Latin word for milk.
ARE ROMAINE HEARTS GOOD FOR YOU
A dieter's dream, romaine lettuce has about 8 calories and 1-2 grams of carbohydrates per cup. Although it's low in fiber, it's high in minerals, such as calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and potassium. It's naturally low in sodium. Plus, romaine lettuce is packed with vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate.
Store unwashed, whole heads in the refrigerator, in a plastic bag to retain natural moisture and maximum nutrients. Romaine hearts and heads will keep for up to one week. To wash, rinse, never soak, before using and set to dry on a clean tea towel or give your Romaine a twirl in a salad spinner.
Do not store lettuce near bananas, apples or pears. These fruits release ethylene gas, which causes other fruits and vegetables, including lettuce, to ripen quicker
I myself, like to store in a paper bag, unwashed. I think they last longer
Please check out the Caesar Salad Recipe under Bette's Recipes
In America we think bigger is better, but here’s something that’s an exception to the rule — baby seedless grapes. When I was a young boy selling produce off the back of my father’s truck in North Jersey, all seedless grapes looked like baby grapes, small but really sweet. (So sweet, in fact, that my father and uncle were able to make delicious wine out of them — not that it was on my approved drinking list at the time) As time went on, society started to buy with its eyes, not its taste buds, and began looking for grapes that had more size. Because these baby grapes were so small, they stopped being sent to market, but smart farmers knew how good they were and picked a few for their families and neighbors and all of a sudden there was a demand for them. I always say that in the end, consumers drive the sales, not the farmers or wholesalers, but the person with the shopping cart who walks in the store looking for a certain item. So farmers started sending them to market and people loved them. In fact, I recently offered some to one of my grandsons, who put up his nose and said they’re too small. I said “Jake, try them,” and once he did, he ate the entire 1-pound container in one sitting and said “Poppy, these are great!”The season for baby seedless grapes is late August until the end of September, so get them now while they’re available, and if you can’t find them in your store just ask your produce manager for them. Remember, you’re the boss!!
BABY SEEDLESS GRAPES
A tradition takes place in California in the fall with the growing of baby seedless grapes from Thompson seedless grapes. This happens by letting the grapes grow naturally and not thinning them out. This process is usually initiated to make raisins, but over the past few years farmers have discovered that the fresh market for eating out-of-hand has come to enjoy the sweet, tender taste of these delicate grapes.I got hooked on these grapes years ago and find them to be one of the sweetest and best-eating grapes of the fall season. This is really a seasonal grape, usually only produced in the fall when the sun is still strong and the weather starts to turn cool. Treat them like you would any other seedless grape and enjoy them, but remember they’re full of sugar so they won’t last long … so eat them, don’t store them!
STANDARD SEEDLESS GRAPES
There are basically three types of seedless grapes — white, red, and black. California Pearlettes usually arrive in early May. They’re round, very light green, and have a firm and crisp texture. Look for grapes that have a golden yellow undertone because they’re sweeter; ones that are very green are extremely tart and will make your mouth pucker. Since the season is six to eight weeks long, it’s best to wait a week or two after they first arrive before you buy them.The familiar California Thompson seedless, another pale green grape, is among America’s favorites. Thompsons are larger, more oval than round, and have a sweeter taste and more tender skin and flesh than Pearlettes. Here, too, you should look for a grape that has a golden glow, which indicates ripeness. The Thompsons start coming in about a month after the Pearlettes and stay on the market a couple of months longer.White grapes from Chile start arriving in December and tend to have a more-raisiny look compared to California varieties. Some people pass them up because they think they’re overripe, but they’re not; their golden color is a sign that they’re good and sweet.Red seedless grapes, which arrive on the market after Thompsons, have become the most popular grapes around. A cross between the seeded Tokay and round seedless grapes, Red Flame varieties are firm and sweet with a very good, crisp texture. Ruby seedless types have a richer, deeper color than the Flame, but the grapes are smaller, with a shape like a Pearlette. They have a tougher skin and less flavor than Flames and are the last of the season for seedless grapes.Black Beauty is a newer variety of seedless grape with a relatively short season. It doesn’t have quite the flavor that the other varieties do, but the Chilean black seedless grapes are better than those from California. Domestic black grapes are available in June and July, while Black Beauties from Chile are available in mid-winter.Champagne grapes are probably the sweetest of all. These tiny red grapes are available virtually year-round because they’re cultivated everywhere, mainly for restaurant use. You’re most likely to find them in gourmet or specialty markets and are easiest to eat by putting a small branchful into your mouth, then pulling the stem out between your teeth to remove the grapes, sort of like eating an artichoke leaf.
SELECTION AND STORAGE
Look for plump, smooth grapes with good color. They should be firmly attached to a fresh-looking green stem, with no evidence of wrinkling or withering. There should be a dusty bloom on the skin of the grape itself, like the dusty bloom on blueberries, it’s a naturally occurring substance that helps protect the grapes and is a good indication of freshness. Green or white grapes will have a golden glow when they’re ripe, while red grapes will be a soft, rich red, and black grapes will have a deep, blue-black color.Grapes don’t ripen off the vine, so what you buy is what you get. They’re very delicate and need to be handled carefully. Refrigerate them dry in a plastic bag and never wash them until you’re ready to eat; moisture will make them deteriorate very quickly. Grapes will last up to a week if properly stored in the refrigerator, but it’s best to eat them as soon as possible.Following are some of my favorite tips for serving and enjoying grapes !!
PETE'S TOP GRAPE PICKS
Grapes are great for out-of-hand eating or as a luncheon dessert, snack, or complement to wine and cheese.
Click link below for Baby Seedless Grape
Well this week I'm back at one of my favorite farms in New Jersey, Donaldson's.
The Donaldson Family takes great pride in their farm and their heritage. They are dedicated to maintaining their reputation as a well-respected neighbor and business in the community. The Donaldson tradition of commitment to farming and to their community will continue with the next generation.
Seasonal visits to Donaldson Farms have become an annual tradition for families and friends, both in and far beyond the Hackettstown community. The visitors look forward to the beautiful scenery and the simple charm of spending the day outdoors. On fall weekends, the Farm Market has hosted up to 7,000 guests. Seasonal pick-your-own activities, festivals and agricultural education events welcome new and familiar faces.
Today I'm out in the field seeing how they grow there cucumbers in a different way, not on the ground but on trellises, which makes for a much better cucumber
NEW JERSEY CUCUMBERS
Though commonly thought to be a vegetable, the cucumber is actually a fruit.
The cucumber is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, along with squash and different kinds of melon. Cucumbers are high in water and low in calories, fat, cholesterol, and sodium.
They have a mild, refreshing taste and a high water content. They can be refreshing and pleasant to eat in hot weather and help prevent dehydration. It is eaten savory, but it is strictly a fruit.
Few foods are as cool as a cucumber. These low-calorie veggies contain many nutritional benefits, including hydrating properties and valuable nutrients.
There are hundreds of varieties of cucumber, and they come in dozens of colors, but the edible types are classified as being for either slicing or pickling, .Slicing cucumbers are cultivated to be eaten fresh, while pickling cucumbers are intended for the brine jar. Slicing cucumbers are usually larger and thicker-skinned than pickling ones.
You are probably familiar with the phrase “cool as a cucumber”, which speaks directly to the soothing and cooling nature that cucumbers have when eaten. These fruits are grown mainly to be eaten fresh, and in India, you will often find sliced cucumbers being sold on sunny afternoons. They are usually cylindrical in shape and vary in length from about six to nine inches. However, the size of cucumbers varies according to a variety of cultivating factors as well.
The skin of the cucumbers can vary in color from green to white, and sometimes it may be smooth or ridged depending on the variety. Inside the cucumber skin, you will find pale green flesh that is thick yet aqueous and crispy at the same time. The interior core of cucumber has numerous, edible fleshy seeds. Cucumbers are 95.2 % water and
the inside of a cucumber can be 20 degrees F cooler than the temperature of its’ outside skin.
Fun Facts about Cucumbers
Very simple, the darker the cuke, the better - except for the kirby, which is naturally very pale. Cucumbers should be long and slender, stay away from the jumbo size as they will be mostly seeds. Avoid soft, withered-looking, or yellow cukes ( the belly of the cuke goes yellow first) which are more likely to be bitter.
The reason I like cucumbers right off the farm is that usually they are unwaxed, and all you need to do before eating, is rinse them under cold water. Waxed cucumbers are only coated with vegetable oil, which prevents them from drying out when they are shipped from other states.
The cucumber is a creeping vine that roots in the ground and grows up trellise or other supporting frames, wrapping around supports with thin, spiraling tendrils.The plant may also root in the ground and will sprawl along the ground if it does not have supports. The vine has large leaves that form a canopy over the fruits. Cucumbers that are grown on a trellise are so much better because they keep the fruit from yellowing, keep the fruit from being misshaped and easier for the farm hands to harvest.
Keep cucumbers in a plastic bag in the fridge for about a week. American Cucumbers from the grocery typically have a wax coating to retain moisture. English Cucumbers and cucumbers you may find at a farmer’s market do not, so these will lose moisture faster and should be wrapped in plastic wrap. You can also pickle the cucumbers, using either a shorter slicing or a pickling cucumber.
Click link below for Cucumber segment
This weeks segment on New Jersey Tomatoes was filmed at Donaldson's Farm in Hackettstown New Jersey, one of Produce Pete's favorite farms.
Donaldson Farms has been helping to keep the Hackettstown area green and healthy for over 100 years. There Northern New Jersey farm features hundreds of acres of fruits and vegetables, pumpkin picking, strawberry picking, farm education, group tours, private tours, birthday parties, corporate events and more.
Five Generations of Donaldson's Farming the Land
The Donaldson Family takes great pride in their farm and their heritage. They are dedicated to maintaining their reputation as a well-respected neighbor and business in the community. The Donaldson tradition of commitment to farming and to their community will continue with the next generation.
NEW JERSEY VINE RIPE TOMATOES
A fruit--oh yes, it's a fruit--but in the United States we treat the tomato like a vegetable. Thomas Jefferson grew tomatoes at Monticello back in 1781, but they didn't really start to become popular here until after the Civil War. Now the tomato is the third most popular vegetable in the United States--after potatoes and lettuce.Once called the Peruvian apple, the tomato is a member of the nightshade family. It originated in South America, and our name for it comes from the ancient Nahuatl name tomatl. The French called it the love apple, and the Italians named it the golden apple because the first tomatoes were small yellow fruits. After the early Spanish explorers sent seeds to Naples, the Italians went crazy for tomatoes, and the rest--all the way down to pasta and pizza sauce--is history. New Jersey Tomatoes have received a great deal of notoriety as being the best in the nation for their flavor, tenderness, and juiciness. All of that's certainly true. However, it's not because of unique weather or soil conditions. Flavor, tenderness, and juiciness, have more to do the selection of the variety, the special growing care, and how long they remain on the vine to ripen. Tomatoes are the most popular vegetable grown by New Jersey gardeners New Jersey tomatoes, planted as seedlings take 70-90 days to mature. The picking season depending on weather, can begin as early as mid-july and last until Mid October. Sometime in the 1950's, in response to demand from the large commercial farmers and shippers, tomato scientists and breeders developed hybrids, new cultivation techniques, shipping, and storage processes that became a boom to the tomato industry in being able to grow, ship and sell tomatoes in huge volumes across the country at a sizable profit. While the shipping of tomatoes across the country without bruising made tomatoes available to everyone in the country at an affordable price, it unfortunately resulted in the breeding of the flavor out of the commercially grown tomato. Despite the success with some niche markets,New Jersey farmers were only able to obtain seeds from the seed companies that favored varieties that produced higher yields for large commercial growers. Although the taste of the New Jersey grown tomato is far superior to the large commercially grown farms, many of these varieties of seeds were limited in taste and not optimum for the smaller niche farmers. In 1968, the Ramapo Tomato was developed at Rutgers University by Dr. Bernard Pollack. This tomato was a very tasty tomato that was ideally suited for east coast soil and weather conditions. The downfall was that the Ramapo variety, although superior in taste to the other varieties on the market, had limited demand, and virtually none from the large commercial farms. As a result of the low demand, the Ramapo seed soon disappeared from seed catalogs. However, in response to public outcry for the Ramapo tomato, in 2008, Rutgers University re introduced the Ramapo seed for commercial production for the small farm/garden market. This initial release of only 8,000 seed packets was aimed at the small, niche farms and the home gardener who were willing to take special care and cost in the growing of tomatoes to achieve the superior taste. A really good tomato is sweet, tender, juicy, and except for the yellow varieties, a deep rich red color. When you get one of those hard tomatoes that tastes like cardboard, you've got one of the hybrids that started coming onto the market in the 1950's, when the businessmen and scientists got together and produced a tomato that could be shipped from one coasts to the other without bruising. Unfortunately, at the same time they also bred out all the flavor. A great tomato is worth looking for. And the way you handle it at home is almost as important as what you choose in the first place. The three most important rules to remember about tomatoes are:
Refrigerating kills the flavor, the nutrients, and the texture. It just kills the tomato--period. Unless you live in a really cold climate, the best tomatoes you can buy will be at your local farm stand, when tomatoes are in season in your area. That's true for most produce, but it's doubly true for tomatoes. About half the tomatoes shipped and sold in the United States come from Florida. They are the ones you find in the store in the winter. They're hard, they're thick, they never turn red, and they have no taste. A few winter tomatoes come out of Mexico and California, as well as from Holland, Belgium, and Israel. There are also more and more hydroponic tomatoes on the market. I may be biased, but I think that in season the Jersey tomato is the best around--maybe because of the soil. The truth is any local tomato, picked ripe, is going to be good. In the summertime, in season, buy local tomatoes. Tomatoes come in scores of different varieties, colors, and markings--striped, purple, and even white--but these are found almost exclusively in season, from local sources like farm markets or markets that carry specialty produce. Again, if you want to see a wider variety where you shop, ask for what you want and help create a customer demand.
Jersey tomatoes are what my family built there business on. When I was a kid my father would go to the farms, buy up there tomatoes and we would peddle them door to door. As time went on and we opened our store in Bergenfield New Jersey, we built that business on crops that came right from the farm and the Jersey Tomato was the key to our success. We would sell 700-800 25 lb baskets of tomatoes , a week, straight off the farm, and the customers would come from miles away, for one reason only TASTE!!! Some 60 years later I still can't get that sweet tasting, vine ripe taste out of my mouth.
Depending on the local climate,are available from July through September, with the peak in late July and August
RIPENING AND STORING
Tomatoes are considered "vine ripe" by the industry if they have developed a little color "break"--that is, a small yellow or reddish patch of color on the skin or a starburst of yellow at the blossom end. If the tomato has a color break or the starburst, you'll be able to ripen it at home.
Don't ripen tomatoes on the windowsill. Never put them in the sun to ripen. Just put them out on the counter, stem end up, in a relatively cool place--not right next to the stove or the dishwasher. Put on a little Frank Sinatra music if you want them to ripen fast. If you want them to ripen faster--well, you can always put on the Stones. Never, ever refrigerate--not even after the tomato is ripe. If you've got too many ripe tomatoes, make a salad or a raw tomato sauce for pasta. Or make a cooked sauce, freeze it, and you'll have something nice for the winter.
We have all kinds of upscale restaurants, and there is a lot of interest in complicated cuisines, but sometimes it's the really simple things that give you the most pleasure. When I was a kid, I had to help my father sell produce out of the back of his truck. At lunchtime he'd stop at some little store and buy a loaf of Italian bread. Then we'd find a place where we could pull off to the side of the road. He'd put down a piece of cardboard for a cutting board, slice the bread, cut up a tomato and an onion, and make tomato sandwiches. Sometimes when I come home from work and I'm too bushed to prepare or even eat a full meal, I'll make myself a tomato sandwich. Food brings back memories. You can sit down with the most ordinary things on your mind and eat something good and it will bring back memories - things you haven't thought about in years. Even memories that might not start out being so good seem to improve as time goes by. At the time I hated peddling fruits and vegetables out of that truck with Pop, but now I wish I had the time to pull off to the side of the road they way we did then. We don't have the luxury of slowing down - everything is geared to working and being productive. Produce, produce, produce! Wouldn't I love to be able to take my son and go sit by the side of the road and have a tomato sandwich? With the perfect ripe red tomato and good bread, there's nothing better.
Click Link Below for New Jersey Toaato Show
Did you know that New Jersey grows about 66 percent of the world’s eggplants?It’s true! The majority of eggplant production is located in South Jersey, especially Gloucester, Cumberland, Salem and Atlantic counties, and smaller production sites are also located in Monmouth and Burlington counties.Production is mainly for wholesale shipment to the eastern U.S. and Canada, depending on the time of year. A small volume of eggplants is produced in the northern part of the state for roadside stands and farmers markets.Eggplants are harvested by hand one to two times a week depending on temperature. Because they need well-drained, sandy-loam soil to grow, New Jersey offers the perfect conditions for this purple plant. Ferrari Farms, R & R Flame Farms, and Scapellato Farms in South Jersey are huge eggplant growers and friends of mine. There eggplants in the field are a beautiful sight.When I was a young man running our produce store in Bergenfield, I would buy from my local farmer
s all summer long; I remember getting fresh peppers and eggplants picked that day at Binaghi Farm in Old Tappan, as well as at Smith Farms just over the border in New City, New York.Farmers like Wally Smith and Ronnie Binaghi were more than business partners to me and my family —they were friends and felt more like extended family.Fresh Jersey produce right off the farm is a treat that everyone should experience, so please support your local farmer, farm stand and local farmers markets all summer long.Ever since I was 4 selling produce off the back of my father’s truck, I’ve understood that the farmer is the backbone of America. Although my childhood was hard and my family worked seven days a week, I wouldn’t have traded my life growing up for anything; looking back, they were truly the best years of my life.
Eggplants got their name because eggplants used to come in only one color--white. Hanging from the plant, they looked like eggs. The problem was that when they were shipped, they tended to bruise and scar easily. So the hybridizers went to work to develop an eggplant that wouldn't scar and in the process widened the variety. The eggplant is a member of the nightshade family. We're almost positive it originally came from India and spread to Europe by way of Africa. Italians were growing it by the fourteenth century, but you'll find that eggplant doesn't figure in northern Italian cuisine as it does in southern. That's because it needs heat to grow--heat and considerable irrigation. From Europe eggplants spread to the Americas and were being cultivated in Brazil by the mid 1600's. In some places the eggplant is known as the "mad apple"--from mala insana, meaning "bad egg" or "bad apple." Legend has it that an Indian traveler ate some raw eggplant, had a fit, and people thought the eggplant had poisoned him. Some people still think eggplants are poisonous. Early in the growing season, eggplants produce beautiful star-shaped blue-violet flowers. The eggplant is the berry that forms after the flower drops.
The most commonly available eggplant is a deep purple that's almost black. These range in size anywhere from four ounces to 1 1/2 pounds. The original white eggplant is now very trendy. It is generally smaller than the purple variety, and a lot of people say it's more-tender, but I don't really see any difference. It's more expensive than the purple kind because it's not cultivated as widely. All the varieties are good, but I'm particularly fond of the Spanish eggplant, which has purple and white stripes. These seem to be a little heavier in texture and taste.
Baby or Italian eggplants have long been popular on the East Coast; they're available in the summer months, with the peak in July through September. In sunnier climates they're available year round, but the supplies may be limited. Other varieties are generally available year round.
Round, oval, or pear-shaped, eggplants may be white, purple or striped. The flesh is firm and creamy white, with a lot of edible white seeds in the center. Baby or Italian eggplants are smaller, with a thinner skin. When choosing an eggplant, look for firm, shiny fruit that's heavy in the hand for its size. The top should be green and fresh-looking; a green cap with little spikes around the stems a sure tip that the eggplant is fresh. Next, look at the blossom end. If it has a round mark, it's a male. If the mark is oval--slightly elongated--it's a female. The females are firmer and have fewer seeds. The fewer seeds the eggplant has, the less bitter it will be. Now hold the eggplant in your hand. If it's large but feels light, it will be pulpy. Press the flesh gently with your thumb. If it leaves an indentation, pass that eggplant by. Unless you're making gumbroit, the eggplant should be firm, with no wrinkling or soft spots. If it's the purple variety, it should be smooth and shiny, not dull.
Store at room temperatures on the cool side, or wrap loosely and store in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. A firm eggplant will keep for several days.
Eggplant has a slightly bitter taste, especially when mature. To get rid of it, peel the eggplant (the skin is likely to be both bitter and a little tough), then slice it, sprinkle with salt, and allow it to drain in a colander for up to half an hour. In addition to purging the bitter juices, salting eggplant also helps keep it from absorbing oil when you sauté or fry it.You can bread and fry eggplant or use it in dozens of different vegetable dishes. It's a good, filling substitute for meat in a vegetarian meal. Like my father, I love gumbroit, but my favorite dish is actually eggplant Parmesan, which my wife, Betty, makes with alternate layers of eggplant and zucchini. She also makes a wonderful eggplant rollatini--sliced eggplant rolled and filled and served with a tomato sauce.
When my father was a youngster, one of his favorite dishes was gumbroit, which is sort of like ratatouille, made with eggplant, squash, tomatoes, and other vegetables. Clean-out-the-refrigerator time. Everyone raved about Nonna's gumbroit. My mother was Irish, but she was the best Italian cook there ever was. Basically, it was my father's mother who taught her how to cook. There were only three things in the world that would make Mom angry: if you talked about her husband, if you talked about her children, or if you talked about her cooking. Whenever my mother made gumbroit, Pop would say, "That's good, but not as good as my mother's." It drove Mom crazy. She made it just the way Nonna taught her. For a long time she tried to figure out what she could be doing wrong. Pop was the twentieth of twenty children and the spoiled baby of the family. He was a very picky eater. My mother knew that. She also knew that with such a big family, my grandmother used to save money by buying fruits and vegetables that had spots or bruises on them. And when they were running their own store, Nonna would take home the stuff that the customers wouldn't buy. It finally dawned on Mom that this was what she was doing wrong. The spotted vegetables Nonna used were absolutely dead ripe. So Mom went down to the store, picked out all the spotted eggplants and squashes and tomatoes, and took them home to make gumbroit. My father absolutely loved it! The problem with most Americans is that they buy with their eyes. Sure, there are things you need to look for when you're buying fresh produce, but just because something looks perfect, it won't necessarily taste good. A winter tomato can be perfectly round and uniformly colored, but it's not going to taste like anything. As often as not your other senses--especially your nose--are going to tell you as much about fruits and vegetables as your eyes will.
Check out Bette's Eggplant Rollatini Recipe on Bette's Recipes
Click link below for eggplant Show
Farms View Farm and Roadstand in Wayne , New Jersey is one of the last working farms in Northwest New Jersey. The Kuehm family dates back to 1894 when the property was purchased by the first of five generations that operate the farm in Wayne New Jersey. Farms View Roadstand has evolved from a picnic table on a side lawn many years ago to this farm stand with attached greenhouses. I love doing segments at family farms to show all of you where fresh fruits and vegetables get their start. Long days and hard work are what farming is all about. Today we are talking fresh corn right from the farm, picked 5 am this morning at Farms View Farm.
Please support your local Jersey Farmers, Fresh From the Farm Daily.
Americans seem to be the only people who understand the virtues of sweet corn on the cob. A native American grain related to wheat, barley, and rye, corn didn't reach Europe until the sixteenth century. It's still far more popular here than among Europeans, who continue to call corn by its proper name--maize. Sweet corn is harvested young for use as a vegetable. Field corn is the variety that's dried and ground for meal, pressed for corn oil, or used as feed for livestock. The best sweet corn is an ear that's brought from the field straight to the pot. Years ago farmers would deliver corn to our market at three o'clock in the morning. My father would wake us, and we'd have to go down to the store to unload the corn--dozens of bags with fifty ears in each bag. There was a little stove at the back of the store, and my mother would put water on to boil, husk a bunch of ears, and cook corn for us right on the spot, which made this awful middle-of-the-night chore bearable. It was so fresh coming off the truck that to this day I don't think I've ever had corn as good. Once corn is picked, its natural sugars start turning to starch. The process is slowed by refrigeration, but by the time corn is harvested and shipped form California or Florida to the rest of the country, as much as a week may have passed. The corn will be pretty good, but not as good as corn picked locally. People with vegetable gardens literally start boiling the water before the corn is picked so they can put it in the pot as fast as they can shuck it.
You can get white, yellow, or bicolor corn, and though lots of people have preferences, the color has little to do with the sweetness. The only thing that determines taste is how long it's been off the stalk. There are, however, two relatively new hybrids designed to make corn hold its sugar longer: sugar-enhanced varieties and the newer "supersweets." Sugar-enhanced varieties have good corn flavor and are excellent when corn is out of season and has to be shipped to market. The supersweets are very- very sweet in fact, many corn lovers think they have an artificial taste. For my money, old-fashioned sweet corn straight out of the field is still tops.
The best time to eat corn on the cob is middle to late summer. Corn is grown almost everywhere, and the best place to get it is at farm stands or produce markets where corn is delivered every day. We use to send someone up to Smith's Farm every morning at 6 A.M. to pick up corn from Wally, who had been supplying Napolitano's for more than forty years.
Look for a husk that's firm, fresh, and green-looking. Don't strip it; just look at the tassel or silk. On really fresh corn, the tassel will be pale and silky, with only a little brown at the top, where it's been discolored by the sun. Also try holding the ear in your hand: if it's warm, it's starting to turn to starch; if it's still cool, it's probably fresh. Although producers have fewer problems with worms now, don't worry if you spot a worm or two. The worms know what they're doing--they go after the sweetest ears. And since they usually eat right around the top, you can just break that part off. STORINGThe short answer is don't; just eat fresh corn right away. But if you must, store it in the refrigerator.
A lady came into my store years ago and said, "I cook corn so long it almost starts to pop, and it's still tough." I said, "That's because you're cooking it so long!" Never overcook fresh, sweet corn. It only needs a few minutes' cooking time. To boil it, bring the water to a boil before dropping in the shucked ears. If the ears are too long for the pot, don't cut them with a knife, which tends to crush the kernels; just break them in two with you hands. Let the water return to a boil, and boil hard for three to four minutes. Remove immediately and serve: don't let the corn stand in the water. To microwave corn, shuck it, spread with butter if you wish, cover closely with plastic wrap or waxed paper, and microwave on full power (100 percent) about 2 1/2 minutes per ear. Corn is also great cooked on the grill. To prepare, pull down the husks but don't detach them and remove the silks. Spread some butter and salt on the kernels, then pull the husks back up and twist closed. Grill the ears for about fifteen minutes, turning them often. If you've got corn that's two or three days old, you can add it to soups or use it to make creamed corn, fritters, or spoon bread. Add it to seafood chowder or other soups, or make corn relish with it--there are plenty of ways to prepare it.
CORN MAKES BUTTER TASTE BETTER
PRODUCE PETE SWEET CORN FUN FACTS
Corn was first grown by Native Americans more than 7,000 years ago in Central America
.Sweet corn leaves were used as chewing gum by Native Americans
.Corn is grown on every continent except Antarctica.
Corn plants typically grow 7 – 10 feet tall. Sweet corn plants are several feet shorter.
The tassel borne at the top of the stalk is the male part and the silk of the ear is the female part
.The tassel releases millions of grains of pollen, and some of them are caught by the silk.
There is one strand of silk for each kernel on a cob
.On average there are about 800 kernels on an ear of corn
.An ear of corn always has even number rows
.One acre of land can produce 14,000 pounds of sweet corn.
Depending upon the cultivar type, the crop may be ready for harvesting in 65-90 days
.Corn is cholesterol free.It’s a good source of vitamin C and A, potassium, thiamine and fiber, and very high in antioxidants
.Corn is a 100% whole grain
.Corn is high in natural sugars/starches.One average ear of yellow sweet corn equals 86 calories.
Sweet corn is a tasty and nutritious addition to any meal.
Click on the link below for New Jersey Corn Show
Great fragrance is the hallmark of a good ripe cantaloupe. In my younger days, when I had the store and I would come home from the market the smell from a crate or two of cantaloupes in the truck would fill the air, it didn't matter what other produce was in there. When I opened the door to unload, the warm, rich, sweet summer smell of melons is the first thing that hits me. Usually the least expensive and probably the most popular melons on the market, cantaloupes are sweet, fragrant, and juicy, with a pinkish orange to bright orange flesh. Grown primarily in California and other western states, cantaloupes are round, with a golden, tightly netted skin. Although good cantaloupes from the West are available from June through December, they are best between June and September. That's when the California crop is at its peak, and I think that state grows the best cantaloupes. Arizona is next, New Mexico and Texas also grow big cantaloupe crops.
ORIGAMI CANTALOUPE VARIETY
Origami cantaloupes have the signature rough, tannish, netted skin of other cantaloupe varieties and range in size from 8 to 12 centimeters in diameter. Unlike other cantaloupes the Origami cantaloupe is prized for its thin rind and smaller seed cavity thus giving it more edible flesh. The orange flesh is succulent, juicy and sweet. When ripe the Origami cantaloupe has one of the strongest floral musky aromas of any cantaloupe. For best flavor pick cantaloupes that have a full slip, raised netting and a sweet aroma.
Almost all cantaloupes commercially grown in California are of the Hale's Best group of varieties. Several strains are on the market, each with a few distinct characteristics. Other varieties include Hymark and Mission. California provides the bulk of supplies to the U.S. with Arizona and Texas also producing considerable amounts. U.S. availability begins in late April and the peak months are June through September. If the stem end is rough with portions of the stem remaining, the melon was harvested prematurely. Shriveled, flabby or badly bruised product signals poor quality. Also avoid melons with growth cracks, mottling or decay (mold or soft sunken spots on the surface). A mature cantaloupe will be well netted or webbed with a smoothly rounded, depressed scar at the stem end. When ready to eat, cantaloupe will take on a yellow background appearance, acquire an aroma and soften. Because cantaloupe is shipped in a firm state to avoid damage, it usually needs a few days at room temperature to soften and become juicier. To prevent bacteria on the melon netting from passing through to the flesh when cutting, follow these FDA rules:
The best time to buy western cantaloupes is between June and September, when the California melons are at their peak. During December, January, and February, we get cantaloupes imported from Central America. Although you'll occasionally get lucky and find a good one, most of these are both overpriced and lousy. In February, March, April and May we start to see Mexican cantaloupes. They aren't as good as summer cantaloupes from the States, but over the last few years the quality has improved and the price has become more reasonable.
Color and, more important, fragrance - not softness at the stem end - indicates ripeness. A cantaloupe with golden color and ripe, sweet aroma is going to be a ripe, sweet melon. Don't push the stem end - if your neighbor presses a thumb there, and I press mine there, you're going to feel something soft even if the melon is grass green. For some reason, cantaloupes with tighter netting seem to have a firmer, crisper texture and cut better than those with the looser, more open netting. A cantaloupe on the green side will ripen if you leave it out at room temperature until any green undertones in the rind have turned golden and the melon has a rich smell. But in season, during the summer, there's no excuse for taking home a green melon. In-season melons should have been picked fully mature and fully ripe, with little or no green showing. I think melons taste better and have a better texture at room temperature, but if you like your melon chilled, refrigerate it right before you're going to eat it. Cut melons, of course, have to be refrigerated, but wrap them tightly in plastic to preserve moisture. If you don't want everything in your refrigerator to smell and taste like cantaloupes (and vice-versa), it's a good idea to put the melon in a heavy plastic or glass container with a tight-fitting lid. Cantaloupes are fine eaten as is for breakfast or dessert or cut up with other melons and fruits in a salad. Nutrient content descriptors for cantaloupes include: fat-free, saturated fat-free, very-low-sodium, cholesterol-free, high in vitamin A, high in vitamin C and a good source of folate (add 10% folate to label). Because cantaloupe is easy to cut, it can be used as an appetizer, in salads, as a breakfast plate garnish and in compotes and desserts.
A FEW FUN FACTS FROM PRODUCE PETE
– Cantaloupes are considered a luxury and are commonly given as a gift in Japan.– Cantaloupes were first brought to America by Christopher Columbus is 1492.– Did you know that “down under” in Australia they refer to cantaloupe as “ROCKMELON”? Makes sense to us – they kind of do look like rocks.– An average sized cantaloupe contains just 100 calories. Who knew something so sweet could be good for you?– Cantaloupes are the most popular melon in the United States. Try them freeze dried for an all natural, portable, healthy snack.– They are members of vine-crop family, including other melons, squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, and gourds. They have plenty of relatives – one big happy family.– Not only do they taste good, they also fight against lung and oral cavity cancers.– Because cantaloupes are high in Vitamin A, they help maintain good eye health. Vitamin A is essential for maintaining healthy mucus membrane and skin of your eye.– Cantaloupes protect you from UV rays. Forget the sunblock! Just joking, you should still definitely wear sunblock on top of adding more cantaloupe into your diet.– Cantaloupes also help fight infections due to being filled with Vitamin C.– Cantaloupes trailing vine can reach up to 5 feet in height.– Fruits develop after 90 days of planting. Don’t plant them if you’re craving one right away – you’re better off going to the grocery store.– Cantaloupes have many roles. They can be consumed fresh and as an ingredient in a fruit salad or used to create sorbets, smoothies and ice-creams. Even freeze dried, cantaloupes are a healthy snack.– The cantaloupe was first cultivated in the 1700s, in the Italian papal village of Cantalup. Now we know where they got the name from.These are just a few of our favorites! We hope you share these interesting cantaloupe fun facts with your family and friends, and try to incorporate cantaloupe in your diet if you haven’t already. They are super nutritious and packed with vitamins.
Serving Size: 1/4 Med. Cantaloupe (134g) Amount Per Serving Calories: 50 Calories from Fat 0 % of Daily Value Total Fat: 0g 0% Saturated Fat: 0g 0% Cholesterol: 0mg 0 % Sodium: 25mg 1 % Total Carbohydrate: 12g 4 % Dietary Fiber 1 g 4 % Sugars: 11g Protein: 1g Vitamin A: 100% Vitamin C 80% Calcium: 2% Iron 2 % *Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000-calorie diet. Source: PMA's Labeling Facts
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Watermelon to me brings back memories of my childhood which, of course, was a very long time ago. Years ago we used to peddle door to door - the time when the supermarkets came to you. Now in those days we used to have what we called straight loads, which most of the time were watermelons. Watermelons sold then mostly whole, never cut, except if you plugged it. Plugging is when you make a triangle cut into the watermelon, then you pull out the triangle cut to see if the watermelon is ripe. Red, juicy, with a thin rind is what you're looking for. Back then, everybody bought whole melons because they had big families. As the seedless variety began to get more popular, the cutting of watermelon also became the thing to do. Now watermelons are mostly sold by the piece. Summertime or year-round - there is nothing better than a good ripe watermelon. It didn't happen overnight or over the span of a few growing seasons. It took years and years to get rid of those seeds. Yet the result is somewhat truly amazing to behold, and even more amazing to taste. The seedless watermelon is sweeter and crunchier, with a nice thin rind. You ought to see all the ways people try to test whether watermelon is ripe. They thump them. They twist the stem to see if it will twist back. I've seen people balance straw on a melon to see if the straw will rotate. People have even brought buckets of water into the store to see if a melon will float. Everybody has some magical way to see if a watermelon is ripe, but there's one simple, sure way to tell. Look at the stem end: if the stem is shrunken and shriveled, the melon is ripe.
African in origin, watermelons are actually edible gourds in the same family as cucumbers and squash. The top three producers in the United States are Florida, Texas, and California, with Florida providing up to 90 percent of those we get on the East Coast. There are many varieties, many different shapes and sizes - a few with yellow flesh, most of them with red. Some people avoid watermelons because they're so big but a lot of small varieties have been developed that are terrific, and most markets sell large melons cut into halves or quarters. The average weight of a watermelon is five to thirty pounds, with some varieties as small as two pounds.
Seventy-five percent of the crop is produced in June, July, and August, but watermelons are available year round - imported from Mexico and Central America in the hard winter months, although in December and January they're very expensive and in limited supply. As with most fruits, you should buy watermelons when the domestic crop is in season.
Although a seedless watermelon will ripen after it's picked, if you want it ripe when you buy it, look for a stem that's shrunken and discolored. If the stem is missing, the watermelon is too ripe; it will be mealy and dark and not taste fresh. If the stem is green - the watermelon is too green and not ripe. The skin should be dull, not shiny. Slap the melon and listen for a hollow thump. A yellow belly or the underside of the watermelon usually indicates the fruit is ripe. Cut melons are usually more expensive per pound than those bought whole, but they may be a better buy because you see exactly what you're getting. The blossom end of the watermelon is usually the ripest and therefore the sweetest part. If you're buying a cut melon, look for the blossom end. Make sure the flesh is dark red and firm.
Store a whole seedless watermelon in a cool place, not in direct sunlight. Don't refrigerate it unless it's cut or you want to chill it a few hours before serving.
Slice and serve or combine chunks or balls with other fruits for fruit salad; serve in the watermelon shell. Puree seedless watermelon for a delicious drink or freeze the puree to make ice pops or sorbet. Enjoy!
Soon to be published research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that watermelon is as much as 60% higher in lycopenes than tomatoes. Lycopene is a pigment that gives the bright red color to tomatoes, watermelon, grapefruit and guava. Recent studies show the intake of lycopene is associated with reductions in several forms of cancer, including prostate, breast, lung and cancer of the uterus. The anti-cancer properties of lycopene appear to be due to its effectiveness as an antioxidant. Warm days and cool nights in the watermelon growing areas help increase lycopene content. The riper or redder the melon…..the more lycopene. In addition to lycopene, watermelons also contain other properties beneficial to the body, including citrulline, an amino acid compound, which helps flush out the kidneys.
Top 10 Watermelon Fun Facts
The story of how Napolitano's Produce in Bergenfield NJ got it's start, has to do with watermelons. My father was always in the produce business but really didn't care much for it, you know it was never his choice , it was what the family did. Now from time to time he would do other jobs, a butcher, truck driver, bar owner, and a bus driver. well it just so happened that he was driving a bus for Red and Tan Line in northern New Jersey, when my Mom came to him and said, Pete, I was getting gas at a service station in Bergenfield and I noticed that next to him was an empty lot and I thought , that would make a perfect spot for me to sell some watermelons off one of your trucks. Mom was always thinking of how to bring extra money in the household, those days were pretty lean, and she was a woman ahead of her times. So being a good husband he bought her a load of watermelons, parked her on the corner by the gas station and went about driving the bus. To his surprise, but not her's, she sold the whole load that day. Now being such a good husband, he bought her two loads the next day, she sold all of them and he stopped driving the bus, and Napolitano's Produce was born.
So when people always say to me, your father had a great business, I always thank them with a little smile, if it wasn't for mom , who knows what would have been.
ENJOY YOUR SUMMER !!
Click link below for PRODUCE PETE STEVE CARELL WATERMELON SHOW
Click the link for watermelon show
Managed and operated a family owned farm/produce business for retail, wholesale, and fruit baskets. Pete has been in the produce business his whole life, and started out selling produce off the back of a truck at auctions and at his parents' roadside stand. Pete's family has been in business since 1953 at the same location in Bergenfield, New Jersey. From 1971 - 1997 Pete owned and operated this family "seasonal" business that includes at Christmas - Christmas trees, wreaths, and fruit baskets. During Easter we sell various plants, gourmet baskets and fruit baskets - Mother's Day - plants, fresh cut flowers, fruit baskets. At Halloween - pumpkins, corn stalks, etc. The produce store is open between April and December with retail, wholesale, and fruit baskets.
In January 1998 he turned over the business to his son Peter Charles making him the 3rd generation to own Napolitano's Produce. In April of 2006, Napolitano's Produce closed it's doors after 53 years, a sad day but everything comes to an end. I would like to thank all the faithful customers who shopped my family store over the past 53 years. It was a privilege serving you. In June 2000 - he started as a Fruit & Vegetable Buyer for S. Katzman Produce at Hunts Point Market, Bronx, New York.Pete comes from a large family with his father being the 20th child - "That's why we are in the food business".