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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 !!!
GUEST SPEAKER AT THE COMPREHENSIVE BEHAVIORAL HEALTHCARE'S CULINARY ADVENTURE ON JUNE 4TH, 2018. TRULY A NIGHT TO REMEMBER FOR A GREAT CAUSE
CBHCare Foundations CULINARY ADVENTURE MONDAY JUNE 4,2018
THE VENETIAN, GARFIELD N.J.
JOIN NBC NEW YORK'S "PRODUCE PETE" IN SUPPORTING MENTAL HEALTH PROGRAMS AND SERVICES!!!
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.
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
PRODUCE PETE TRAVELS
While traveling around usually with Bette in the car i love to stop at roadside stands and different farm markets, quite frankly this drives Bette nuts, she would rather be out shopping for shoes. I come across a lot of real interesting markets and this weeks market is one of them. Rock Farmers Market in Glen Rock , a small residential town, in New Jersey was quite a find, produce packed high and very reasonable prices, what more would you ask for. My father always used to say "Let the People Eat" and that's what this market and what Napolitano's Produce did for over 55 years. So I decided to do my show this week on Seedless Watermelons from there, hope you enjoy and if you are in the area stop by Rock Farmers Market, you won't be disappointed.
The secret of the sweetness is the South East Georgia soil. and thanks in part to a span of cold weather in December volume should be down, but quality thanks to a burst of heat in early April should be good.
Harvest of Vidalia onions, which usually starts in late April, is a little late this year so you should start to see them in your stores right about now.
Vidalia Sweet Onions are a yellow granex hybrid known for their sweet, mild flavor. This unique Georgia - grown onion, known as "The World's Sweetie" receives its mild flavor from the sandy, low-sulfur soil, and the mild, temperature found only in the 20-county production area of Southern Georgia. A fresh Vidalia onion has a light golden-brown skin and white interior. Its shape is rounded on the bottom and somewhat flat on the top or stem end. Vidalia’s mature and are harvested from late April through mid-June. A true Sweet Onion is what we call a spring onion - early dug - after the onion is picked and put in storage it starts to get hot. By using controlled atmosphere storage, which is cold storage, it keeps the onion from turning hot somewhat. The Vidalia Onions are the Georgia State Vegetable, and about 70% are distributed through grocery stores with the other 30% through roadside stands and mail-order businesses.
The region grown is the most important factor in determining sweetness. The sulfites in the onions are the things that give you the heat and make your eyes tear. By keeping cool, the sugar stays in the onions and the sulfites take longer to take hold.
Vidalia onions have always been a favorite of mine, but the most important thing to remember is buy them early in the season. You will still see Vidalia’s in the stores late into the summer and you will pay a premium price for them, well to tell you the truth they are not worth it. As the season goes on the onion will get hotter, and even though they call them Vidalia’s the sugar in the onion has turned to sulfites and are hot not sweet. To me there is nothing better then a sweet onion, and a couple of slices of a red juicy tomato. So enjoy your Vidalia’s and please remember, BUY THEM EARLY.
A LITTLE MORE ABOUT THE 2018 VIDALIA ONION CROP
The 2018 Vidalia onion crop looks to be a strong one with normal volume, growers say. ( Courtesy Vidalia Onion Committee )
Vidalia onion growers say they expect normal volumes, good quality and a usual start to their deal this year.
“The crop looks good,” said Bob Stafford, interim director of the Vidalia Onion Committee.
“It’s not going to be a bumper crop, but it will be a normal crop.”
Growers got a New Year’s jolt when a freeze gripped the region and produced 2-3 inches of snow over most of the district in early January.
“The snow didn’t bother it, but some of them (the plants) were frozen.
They probably lost 10% to 15%, but we did get the right amount of heat units we need, so we’re very happy with our quality. We’re going to have a good marketable crop.”
Last year, the Vidalia district shipped 5.7 million 40-pound units of sweet onions, compared to 5.3 million in 2016.
They always shoot for 5 million, so they are going to shoot for somewhere around that 5- to 5.5-million range.
The January cold was a bit of a concern, but February and March compensated, said Delbert Bland, president of Glennville, Ga.-based Bland Farms LLC.
“We have about 9% plant loss on 2,500 acres, and that’s not out of the ordinary,” he said. “It could be better, but it’s not devastating. We actually plant 89,000 plants per acre. That’s not that much, when you get down to it.”
The first shipments should go out in mid-April, which would be a normal start, Bland said.
“Last year we were earlier than that, but April 15-20 is probably about average over the last 10 years,” he said.
The Georgia Department of Agriculture has set April 20 as the official pack date for Vidalia onions this season.
The crop will transition into storage around July 1, and supplies likely will be available through Labor Day, growers say.
The January chill had some growers shaking, but the crop emerged in good shape.
“The crop has rebounded nicely to this point,” he said, noting he expected a “normal” crop.
“Quality is very nice at this point in the fields, with early varieties showing normal yields and mid- to late-season varieties showing a stand loss. We do expect these later onions to produce less yield than normal.”
The Vidalia District produced record crop yields in 2016 and 2017, but growers aren’t expecting a repeat in 2018.
“All things considered, we see this year’s crop being back to normal.
“The early varieties look good, with the mid-to late season varieties showing a stand loss from the cold weather. As of mid-March, it’s simply too early to tell at this point how those will yield.”
Growers hesitated to forecast market conditions for 2018.
“It’s a commodity, so it’s based off the supply
“The good thing about Vidalia is people know our time period, and they know there’s not a lot of competition during that time.”
TEN FUN FACTS ABOUT VIDALIA ONIONS
Click Link below for Vidalia Onion Show!!
Some of the best memories of my childhood are of picking blackberries from a wild patch near a neighbor's yard in Tenafly, New Jersey--a patch now long gone. A bramble and a member of the rose family, blackberries will grow like weeds in the right climate, and in more rural areas they can still sometimes be seen growing bay the side of the road. What we get on the market are cultivated varieties. Although they're grown in almost every state, the biggest crops come from the Pacific Northwest, Michigan, and New Jersey. The greater part of the crop is sold to processors for jams and jellies, but you'll find fresh blackberries at roadside stands, farm markets, and good produce stores during the summer, usually in half-pint boxes.
Blackberries are available from May until September, with the peak usually in June and July. Winter berries are imported from Chile.
A blackberry on the vine ripens from green to purple to black; a ripe one is just about jet black and will almost fall off the vine with a gentle touch. If you pick them yourself, look for the blackest berries you can find. If you have to tug at them to get them off the vine, they aren't really ripe.
Blackberries are usually marketed by the half pint. The container is usually cardboard, so check the bottom for stains. If it's badly stained, pass it by. Avoid berries that are very soft or wet, show signs of mildew, or seem to be stuck together in the container.
Since they're not hollow, blackberries will keep a little longer than raspberries, but you want to use them within two days of purchase or picking. Don't keep 'em--eat 'em!
Like all berries, blackberries should be refrigerated unwashed. Spread them out on a tray or in a shallow basket so that they're not packed on top of each other.
Rinse the berries quickly in cold water right before you're ready to serve. Never wash any berry until you're ready to eat it. Blackberries are delicious eaten as is, with cream and sugar, or added to other sliced fresh fruits such as peaches. They make intensely flavored pies and jams.
A MESSAGE FROM PRODUCE PETE ABOUT SEASONS FINEST BLACKBERRIES
It's been my pleasure each week for the past 26 years plus to bring you what I think is the best of the best in what produce is available. One thing that has not changed is 3 things that make this possible, in season, good tasting, and that it’s available for you to purchase. Well this week, in season and good is right, but available, a little hard this might be!! My reasoning for talking about Seasons Finest blackberries is, with the 1000 or so emails I get every week, this week 2 stood out - "where are those great blackberries you talked about last year at this time." I know it's only 2 emails, but think about it, with all that people have on their minds, they still remembered the blackberries; why because they were great tasting. This Mexican variety of blackberries under the Driscoll Seasons Finest label is only available through them, you have heard me tell you thousands of times, look at the product not the label but in this case take my word, if you can find them buy them, they are great. Only available for the next 3 weeks (short season 5-6 weeks). They will be gone by the end of May. They are a little pricey compared to the regular blackberries you see in the store, but once you have tried them you will be hooked.
A LITTLE MORE PRODUCE PETE INFORMATION ON BLACKBERRIES AND ALL BERRIES.
Keep your berries refrigerated at home, as maintaining a cool temperature is the key to the longevity of the berry. Do not wash berries prior to refrigeration. Simply rinse your berries in cool running water prior to serving.
Blueberries: 10 – 14 days after purchase
Strawberries: 3 – 7 days after purchase
Raspberries: 2 – 3 days after purchase
Blackberries: 2 – 3 days after purchase
Cranberries: 4 – 8 weeks after purchase
Available in fancy or gourmet fruit stores. Try,
Sickles Market Little Silver, N.J., De Cicco's and Sons, Stew Leonard’s, Citarella's, Manhattan Fruit Exchange , so good luck and I hope you have a great eating experience.
Click link below for Blackberry Show
When I see a mango, I think of my father, Pete. He loved mangoes and had no problem eating them, but he could never stand next to a mango tree because he would break out in hives. Something on the tree while they were growing triggered that response. I guess we’ll never know!
America’s awareness of mangoes has definitely been on the rise. I’ve lectured about different fruits and vegetables at schools for a long time and years ago, when I’d hold up a mango and ask the kids what it was, most would say an apple. But all that’s changed now based on the number of American children hailing from different parts of the world, as well as because of the mango’s increasing popularity.
By far my favorite kind is the Haitian mango — it’s not necessarily pretty to look at, flat and elongated and all kidney-shaped and green, but taste-wise it’s great. Though available most of the year, its peak season is from late April to July, so get ready to see them in stores and bring home a bunch. When you buy them, they’ll probably be on the green side, so leave them out on the counter until they get a little golden color and have that great sweet smell they’re known for. Bright orange inside and less stringy than regular mangoes, they’re a great treat with a super sweet taste!
ORIGINS AND BENEFITS
The mango originated in Southeast Asia, where it’s been grown for over 4,000 years, and since then has spread to many tropical and subtropical settings where the climate is conducive to the mango’s success. Mango trees are evergreens that will grow to 60 feet tall and require hot, dry periods to set and produce a good crop. Today there are over 1,000 different varieties of mangoes throughout the world. In India, the mango tree plays a sacred role as a symbol of love, and some also believe that the mango tree can grant wishes.
A comfort food, mangoes really can make you feel better. Rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, mangoes contain an enzyme with stomach-soothing properties similar to the papain found in papayas, which acts as a digestive aid. Mangoes are high in fiber and are also an excellent source of vitamins A and C, as well as potassium and beta carotene.
SELECTION AND STORAGE
Handle a mango very gently, as it bruises easily. Pick it up and gently press your thumb against the flesh — it should have a little give and a really sweet smell. A very ripe mango will often have some black speckling outside; don’t worry about that or about a little bruising, but avoid mangoes that are black all over, as they’re beyond the point of no return. I think mangoes that weigh a pound to a pound and a half have the sweetest taste.
Always use your nose when you’re choosing mangoes — 99percent of the time, a mango that smells wonderful tastes wonderful. If the stem end smells sour or acidic, reject it. If a mango is firm and green, it won’t have any smell, but if it looks good, bring it home and ripen it yourself.
Leave a firm, unripe mango out on the counter for a few days until it colors, develops a sweet aroma, and “gives” when you press it very gently. But never refrigerate a mango. If you must have it chilled, you can put it in the refrigerator for a few minutes, but I think mangoes taste best at room temperature. In any event, storing a mango below 50 degrees for any length of time will take the flavor out.
Mangoes are great simply peeled and eaten as is or with a squeeze of lime juice (but don’t eat the peel — it’s bitter). Unlike many fruits, they’re slow to discolor when they’re sliced, which helps them make and retain a nice presentation. They make a beautiful tropical salad sliced with pineapple chunks, kiwi, papaya, banana, or just about any tropical fruit; I like to add a little squeeze of lime and some shredded coconut, too. For a refreshing and very nutritious tropical drink, purée some sliced mango with banana, pineapple and a squeeze of lime and enjoy!
Because mangoes have a large and nonfreestanding stone right in the center of the fruit that’s difficult to remove, people always ask me how to cut and eat a mango. Following, I’ve shared the results of my years of experience to help you get greater access to this fantastic fruit. Hope this makes it easier for you to enjoy this burst of sunshine!
HOW TO EAT A MANGO
To deal with the pit in the center, take two lengthwise cuts on either side of where you figure the pit is; if it’s a flattish mango, turn it up so a narrow side is facing you. The pit is large but fairly flat, so make the cuts no more than half an inch on either side of an imaginary center line. You’ll have three slices, the center one with the pit in it.
Now take the two outside slices and score the flesh with the tip of a knife, getting as close to the skin as you can without breaking it. Hold the scored slice in two hands and gently push up from the skin side, which will pop inside out. The segments of mango will separate and can easily be scooped off the skin with a spoon or butter knife. Add a sprinkle of lime juice if you like.
As for the slice with the pit, you can discard it if you have the willpower, but I personally find the flesh around the pit to be the tastiest part. All I can say is that the best way to eat it is to remove the strip of skin around it, pick it up with your fingers, stand over the sink, and enjoy!
HAITIAN MANGOES DOMINATE THE NEW YORK MARKETS
The most popular mangoes in New York are Haitian. There are everywhere, unlike the Dominican banilejo mango, which can be mainly found in upper Manhattan and the Bronx
In Haiti almost half of the fruit rots before reaching the market, partly because of the poor condition of rural roads and partly because of the mismanagement of trees and the mangoes harvested.
In addition, most producers of Haitian mangoes have less than a dozen trees, from which they don't get more than $1,500 dollars per season. Productivity tends to be low because small farmers lack training to properly take care of their trees, harvest, and transport the fruit properly.
As a result, nearly 40 percent of the fruit that reaches the packing plants is rejected. Besides Haitian and Dominican mangoes, the New York market also sells Mexicans mangoes, which have a high consumption in that community and are usually eaten with salt and spices.
There are said to be over 100 varieties of mangos grown in Haiti. This fact even gave birth to the moniker of Haiti being known as “Mango Land”. The most sought after variety is the Francique ( the haitian). It is large and fleshy and well-known in the business as the best Caribbean variety. It is the King of the mangos grown in Haiti.
Everywhere in Haiti, you will see women sitting on the side of the roads selling mangos, their baskets piled high with several varieties in different stages of ripening. To some, “a mango is a mango,” but to people of this country; this could not be further from the truth. Everyone has their personal favorite and they will argue the values, flavors, and tastes to defend their choice.
Spring is a great time of year when everything bursts forth and comes alive, including a whole new crop of fruits and vegetables. Hope you embrace the season by enjoying all of the bounty our country has to offer. From my table to yours, wishing you good eating and the best of health.
Click the link below for haitian mango show!!
I think arugula (ah-roo-goo-lah) is my favorite salad green. While this Italian favorite hasn't been discovered in all parts of the country yet, its popularity is growing. In New York City's Little Italy, you'll see people growing arugula in tiny backyard plots and even in pots on windowsills. Few self-respecting Italian cooks will go without it for long.
Also known as rocket or rocket salad in Great Britain and the United states, rucola in Italy, and roquette in France, arugula originated in the Mediterranean and was introduced to North America by Italian immigrants. It's another ancient cultivar-the Romans thought eating it would bring them good luck. It is now cultivated worldwide and is in such demand from restaurants that it is now grown world-wide and in greenhouses.
Arugula has fine, smooth, dark green leaves that are notched toward the bottom of the stem. A member of the mustard family and closely related to radishes, it has a sharp, spicy flavor that is somewhat similar to watercress, if it has no bite, it isn't fresh. The peppery taste actually gets hotter in the field as the weather gets hotter.
Available year round, arugula is most plentiful in the fall and spring, because it is a cool weather vegetable.
Always buy arugula with the roots still attached. It will lose its zip and flavor fast enough with them on-and even faster with them off. Look for bright, tender, fresh-looking leaves with no signs of yellowing or dark spots. They should not be at all limp.
Because the flavor and texture fade very fast, use arugula as soon as possible after purchasing. If you have to keep it a day or two, don't wash it or remove the roots-just sprinkle with a little water, wrap in paper towels or a clean cloth towel, put in a plastic bag, and refrigerate. Remove the roots and wash only when you're ready to use it. Arugula tends to be very sandy, so wash it well, as you would spinach.
Arugula makes a terrific salad all by itself, dressed with a little vinegar, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. It also adds a wonderful tart, peppery taste mixed into a saled of milder lettuces and greens. I think it's great on sandwiches, especially tomato sandwiches.
Arugula is delicious added raw to pasta with a little garlic and oil-the hot pasta steams is just enough. Or you can sauté some minced garlic in olive oil, then toss in a bunch of arugula, sauté briefly, and pour over cooked pasta. The oil will pick up the flavor of the arugula. Be careful not to overcook arugula or it will lose its characteristic peppery flavor.
Arugula can also be frozen or dried and used as an herb. When it's dried, it loses some of its bite, but not all of it, as it tends to do when it's overcooked.
NEW JERSEY DANDELIONS
The spring planting season has barely begun and already some growers in the southern part of the state have wrapped up their harvest of the first crop of the year: dandelion.
South jersey farmers say demand for dandelion greens is in decline, and fewer farmers are growing the plant. Farmers plant there dandelion crop in the fall. The dandelions go dormant during the winter and start to grow again in March.Dandelion's are commonly described as a garden nuisance, but the key is to pick the dandelion greens before the yellow flower appears. The younger greens are most tender.
The leafy greens tagged "dandelion" that are found at market usually are chicory hybrids, such as the San Pasquale and Catalogna varieties. Also called cultivated dandelion, dandelion chicory, or summer dandelion, these greens, unlike true dandelion, grow upright instead of low to the ground, have longer leaves that can measure 12 to 14 inches, and bear tiny blue instead of yellow flowers.
True dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, is seeded in the fall, overwintered, and harvested in early spring before it flowers. The chicories, Cichorium intybus, are seeded at this time of year for harvest from June through frost. Sometimes growers will label them "pissenlit," which is French for the old English name for the vegetable, "pissabed," which speaks to its diuretic properties. The name dandelion, too, is from the French -- "dent de lion," which means "lion's tooth," and refers to the look of the plant's serrated leaves.
True dandelion is hard to harvest because "it doesn't get very big as far as the leaves are concerned.Summer dandelion is easier to grow. "It's an annual crop instead of an overwintered crop and the seed is much easier to get. "There are more people growing the cultivated than the true dandelion."
Many, like Peter Scapellato of Scapellato Farms in Vineland, switched from cultivating the spring dandelion that his immigrant grandfather, Sebastiano Scapellato, had planted a half century ago, to summer dandelion as demand for the more traditional green dropped. "All the Italians, when they came from Italy, brought their ways with them, and that's one of the things they brought," said Scapellato.
From a business standpoint, however, dandelion offered only "a short window," he noted -- about a month before the plants start to flower and turn too bitter to eat. "The sales slowed on it,and who wants to take the time to clean it.
Prized since ancient times for its medicinal properties, dandelion -- both spring and summer types -- is exceptionally rich in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. And though often considered a weed, the dandelion is actually a vegetable. Dandelions can be made into a coffee substitute from roasted dandelion root, barley, rye, chicory and beets. "Eighty percent of what we call weeds are plants that were brought here as food and medicine from overseas.
Dandelions can be treated just like spinach in most dishes. The youngest, most tender spring dandelion are ideal in salads. The old -school italians will like to eat it on its own. More assertive tasting dandelion works well as a stuffing in pasta and even sausage. The thing with dandelion is you need to make sure you take the bitterness away. Garlic and olive oil work wonderfully to mellow out the bitterness. As a side dish, dandelion can be adapted to many styles of cooking.
Dandelions are a generational thing, the old folks love it, the younger generation don't know about it.
Getting people to enjoy these bitter greens isn't always easy, they spit it out , or they love it, it all depends on your age. The Italian immigrants who settled in South jersey, decades ago and became farmers, grew the dandelions for dishes that they enjoyed in Italy, amd even turned the dandelions into wine. Wagons and carts filled with dandelions were once common at the produce auctions some 60 years ago
As long as your lawn is free of dangerous weed killers and pesticides, you can keep your wild dandelion population in check by harvesting them. The younger leaves are more tender and a little more bitter than the older leaves. Young dandelion leaves (cultivated or wild) are excellent raw in salads, where they add a refreshingly tangy, slightly bitter flavor. Although the leaves are not as peppery, dandelions can be substituted for arugula in many salads.
Dandelion Greens are in season from March to December
Click link below for Arugula and Dandelion show.
Once known as the fruit of kings, for many years, pineapples were available only to natives of the tropics and to wealthy Europeans. Despite the fact that the pineapples were available only to natives of the tropics and to wealthy Europeans. Despite the fact that the pineapple has become a familiar item in U.S. markets, it's still a true exotic. For one thing, it is a member of the bromeliad family, in which edible fruits are rare. A pineapple starts out as a stalk of a hundred or more flowers that shoots up from a plant about three feet tall. Each flower develops a fruit that forms one of the scales on the outside of the pineapple. The more scales or marks on a pineapple, the stronger the tropical taste will be. A pineapple with fewer and larger scales will have a milder but sweeter flavor and more juice.
It was probably the Guarani Indians who took pineapples on sea voyages as provisions and to prevent scurvy, thus spreading the plants from their native Paraguay throughout South and Central America. Columbus called the fruit piña when he found it in 1493--piña because he thought it looked like a pinecone--and from that we got the name.
The hybrid we know today first appeared around 1700, when the Dutch improved the fruit by crossbreeding. They sold cuttings of the plant to the English, who raised them as hothouse plants. It wasn't until the nineteenth century that canned pineapple began to come out of Hawaii. If you wanted a fresh Hawaiian pineapple, you had to go there to get one. Picked ripe, as the Hawaiian variety has to be, a fresh pineapple simply could not survive the long journey by ship. It was only when air transport became available that fresh Hawaiian pineapple began to arrive in mainland markets.
There are two main varieties of pineapples: Red Spanish and Cayenne. The Red Spanish is the most commonly available. It is a deep orange color, with white to yellow meat and a crown of hard, spiky leaves on top. A recently developed "thornless" variety has a softer, smoother leaf crown that makes the pineapple easier to handle. Red Spanish pineapples are grown in Honduras, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and elsewhere in Central America.
The Cayenne pineapple is the Hawaiian variety. The scales on a ripe Cayenne tend to be a lighter yellow, the leaves have a smoother edge, and the pineapple itself is much larger and more elongated than the Red Spanish. The flesh is deep yellow.
There are three other less- common varieties. One, called Sugarloaf, is a heavy, round variety with a pointed top that's cultivated in Mexico and Venezuela. Sugarloaf is another big pineapple that can reach ten pounds. Finally, the sweetest pineapples I have ever eaten come from Africa's Ivory Coast. They show up here only rarely--I've had them only two or three times in all the years I've been in the business. If you ever come across them--most likely n June, July, or August--Buy some.
Of the pineapples readily available here, to my taste the Cayenne is by far the best, although it can be two or three times as expensive as the Red Spanish. It is sweeter and juicier than the Red Spanish, which is picked greener because it's shipped by boat instead of by air. If you're in the islands where they're grown, by all means buy and eat Red Spanish pineapples--they'll have been picked ripe and they'll be excellent. If you see a Red Spanish in the States that looks and smells good, it's going to be pretty good too. For consistent quality and sweetness, however, Cayennes are your best bet. The tag "Jet Fresh" tells you the pineapple is a Hawaiian Cayenne picked ripe and flown in. The Dole and Del Monte labels also indicate a Cayenne pineapple, although they may not be Hawaiian. Cayennes are now being cultivated in Honduras and Costa Rica by both companies. They're a little more expensive than the Red Spanish but cheaper than those from Hawaii.
For Hawaiian pineapples, the peak season generally comes in April and May, but they're available year round. Caribbean pineapples have two seasons: December through February and August through September.
Many people think that if you can easily pull a leaf out of the crown, the pineapple is ripe, but this test doesn't tell you anything useful. Like tomatoes, pineapples are considered mature when they develop a little color break. If a pineapple at the market looks green, take a look at the base. If it has begun to turn a little orange or red there, you'll be able to ripen it at home. If there is no break, the pineapple was picked too green. It will have a woody texture and will never be very sweet.
The pineapple should be very firm, never soft or spongy, with no bruises or soft spots. If you find a good-looking pineapple
at your market and you're going to use it right away, ask your produce manager to cut it in half to make sure it's not discolored inside. Reject it if it is.
Finally, use your nose. If the pineapple has a good aroma, it's ripe. If you can't smell much of anything, it needs to be ripened. If it has a fermented smell, don't buy it!
To ripen a pineapple, stand it upside down on the counter. That's right, stand it on the leaf end. This makes the sugar flow toward the top and keeps the pineapple from fermenting at the bottom. Let it ripen for a few days. When it develops a golden color and smells good, it's ripe.
Peeled pineapple should be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated. If it's not wrapped well, a pineapple will absorb other food odors in you refrigerator.
A lot of supermarkets have a machine that will cut and core your pineapple for you, but it wastes up to 35 percent of the fruit. Pineapples are not that difficult to cut. Just twist off the leaves, lay the pineapple on its side, and slice it like a loaf of bread. Then peel and core each slice. I just cut off the peel and eat the slices with my fingers--around the core, like an apple. That's my favorite recipe for ripe pineapple! If you want to serve the pineapple chilled, I suggest that you chill it whole, then slice and peel after it is cold.
A LITTLE MORE FUN INFORMATION ON PINEAPPLES
It takes almost 3 years for a single pineapple to reach maturation.
Which makes the price tag a bit more understandable.
Pineapple plants have really pretty flowers.
The pineapple plant’s flowers — which can vary from lavender to bright red — produce berries that actually coalesce together around the fruit’s core. So the pineapple fruit itself is actually a bunch of “fruitlets” fused together.
Once harvested, pineapples don’t continue to ripen.
That means that every single pineapple in the grocery store is as ripe as it will ever be so don’t buy one and save it for a week, thinking it will ripen. The difference in colors is mostly based on where the pineapples were grown so a green pineapple can be just as sweet and delicious as a golden brown one.
Although the fruit originated in South America, the majority of the world’s pineapples now come from Southeast Asia.
Namely the Philippines and Thailand. For the freshest pineapples in the U.S., look for Costa Rica- or Hawaii-grown pineapples.
Click link below for Golden Pineapple Show
Spring Tomatoes That Taste Good
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.
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, 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.
In the winter I think Canada beats out the rest, with hydroponics a close second. Canada tomatoes are grown in greenhouses, picked ripe, and then shipped by truck. For that reason they're a little more expensive. If you have to have a good tomato in the dead of winter, choose one from Canada, Hydroponics grown in the U.S. are also excellent.
Mexican tomatoes are a little better than most of the other winter varieties here because they're usually picked by hand and are a little riper when they come off the vine. Most tomatoes in the U.S. are shipped green because ripe tomatoes are just too fragile for machine picking.
California tomatoes, which usually arrive in the late spring, have a thick wall and are very solid inside. A lot of people like them because they're easy to slice, but I don't think they're any better than Florida tomatoes. They look better and ripen more easily, but they're very dry.
Don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with a Florida tomato in Florida. Or a California tomato in California. The problem isn't the source--it's that the tomatoes are picked green, gassed with ethylene to make them turn more or less red, then refrigerated and shipped. Even if the tomatoes are picked ripe, they're refrigerated before they're shipped, and that's the final insult.
STEM GRAPE , TOMATOES ON THE VINE, CHERRY TOMATOES
The grape and cherry tomatoes with the stems still attached are your best bet. With the stems still attached, this will let the cherry or grape tomato still receive the nutrients from the stem and make the tomato sweeter. They are always about 50 per cent sweeter than your regular tomato. This also makes it possible to pick the tomatoes when they are deep red in color and fully matured. When picked fully matured, the taste is always much better.
Like all tomatoes you never want to refrigerate these because they will lose their flavor and texture.
In the winter and early spring, it is very hard to find a good tasting tomato. This is probably the best tasting of all the tomatoes this time of year. These stem tomatoes are tomatoes you can pick by just smelling them. They have a fresh, sweet smell that tomatoes from years ago had.
Stem tomatoes, like all tomatoes, are a fruit. You should not wash or remove the stem until you are ready to use. Also, never ripen on the window sill or sun. Just leave out on the counter and never, never, never, refrigerate!
When selecting, look for a good red color. Avoid those that look orange in color. Check to see if the stems are still attached, if the stem are missing or tomatoes are off the stems, chances are those tomatoes have been sitting around too long.
A great tomato is worth looking for, and the way you handle them at home is almost as important as the way you choose them. The sweetness from the grape, cherry stem tomato is due to the high sugar to acid ratio.
Like other tomatoes, local cherry tomatoes, picked ripe, are going to be the best. Look for small ones. One local variety, called Tiny Tim, is not much bigger than your fingernail, and it's as sweet as sugar.
In the winter cherry tomatoes from Israel again are your best bet. Picked ripe, they're very small and very sweet. The Canadians have also produced a "baby tomato" that's a little smaller than a golf ball. It has excellent flavor too. Your next best bet is Mexican cherry tomatoes, which again are picked a little later and a little riper. I don't recommend cherry tomatoes from California. They tend to be too watery and mushy.
When choosing cherry tomatoes, look for a good red color--avoid those that look orange. Also check to see if the stems are still on. If the stems are missing, chances are those tomatoes have been sitting around too long.
Campari is a variety of tomato noted for its juiciness, high sugar level, low acidity, and lack of mealiness. Camparis are deep red and larger than a cherry tomato but smaller and rounder than a plum tomato
They are originally from Europe; the European seed variety has been used to introduce them to North America beginning in 1996.
Tomatoes come in scores of different varieties, colors, and markings--striped, purple, 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.
Local Tomatoes: Depending on the local climate, from July through September, with the peak in late July and August
Florida Tomatoes: October to July, with the peak from December through May
California Tomatoes: May to December, with the peak from June through October
Imports: Usually year round, with the peak usually from January through April
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 the store 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 Spring Tomatoes that taste good
In late summer, we’d sell plum tomatoes to people who would make and jar sauce for the winter. Some households would take 100 bushels at a time, and the same went for wine grapes, which usually came into season at the end of September.
I remember going up and down the cellar stairs of family homes carrying hundreds of cases of wine grapes, which they would use to make their homemade wine. Of all the different varieties of these grapes, my favorite was always the muscatel grapes – they came in 40-45 pound boxes and always had bees circling around the boxes because the grapes were so ripe and sweet.
I sure hated all those bees buzzing around my head all the time, but the reward of being able to eat those grapes was well worth it.
Sadly, those days are long gone, but thanks to production in Chile, I can get that great taste back. Beginning in the first week of March and lasting through the second week of May, seedless pink Muscatel grapes are available and they taste just like they look, very sweet and delicate – and look Ma, no bees!
I love to cover what I think is the very best in produce and you’re in for a real treat because these grapes are my favorite. So enjoy and buy plenty (or ask for them if you don’t see them in the store), because the season is short!
WHAT TO KNOW
The characteristic trait of the Muscat grape is its sweet, musky, floral flavor. In addition to being eaten fresh out of hand and dried to make Muscatel raisins, true Muscat grapes are used to make a popular variety of fragrant wines.
The Muscat family of grapes is among the oldest known and evidence of Muscat wine has been found in a tomb in Turkey dated back to the seventh century B.C.
While their colors can vary from golden to black, all of the varieties share a distinctive floral aroma and Muscat wine is claimed to be the only type that shares the aroma of the grape from which it was made.
Today’s seedless Muscat grapes – all 200 varieties of them! -- have the same distinctive Muscat flavor without those pesky seeds, and they’re best served at or close to room temperature for maximum enjoyment. The varying color of these grapes (which ranges from greenish to bronze, pink, and light red) has nothing to do with their very sweet and gentle perfumed taste – that’s derived from their high Brix content, or the natural sugar level of this specialty variety.
One obstacle to consumer adoption of these grapes has been visual -- when they’re presented in plastic packaging, Muscats look brownish, and consumers may prefer the more traditional brighter green, red, and purple-colored grapes. In fact, their packaged color is something of an illusion; on a white plate, Muscats present an appealing golden color.
Muscat raisins are praised as larger and more flavorful than raisins made from conventional seedless grapes and are available over the internet from providers like Sunmaid and Bella Viva Orchards.
SELECTION, STORAGE AND PREPARATION
Look for plump, smooth grapes with good color that are 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; much like that found on blueberries, this dusty bloom is 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.
As for storage, 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, so it’s best to refrigerate them dry in a plastic bag. And like many other fruits, never wash them until you’re ready to eat them, as moisture will make them deteriorate very quickly. Grapes will last up to a week when properly stored in the refrigerator, but it’s best (and most enjoyable) to eat them as soon as possible.
Muscatel grapes are delicious tossed in green or fruit salads, paired with cheese, frozen for a twist on ice cubes and added to lemonade or sparkling wine, made into sorbet, or simply enjoyed raw as a juicy snack.
A LITTLE MORE ABOUT GRANDMA'S PINK SEEDLESS MUSCATEL GRAPES
The weather in Chile has provided ideal growing conditions, especially when compared to 2017's less-than-perfect weather, creating an optimal environment for Muscatel Grapes
It has been a normal spring and a very good summer - hot days and cool nights, which promotes quality, coloring and edibility.
This years harvest looks like higher Brixx ( sugar levels) which will produce richer flavor and aroma.
Unlike other varieties that depend on spray additives to produce red color, Pink Muscatel Grapes get there color from natural weather. The real uniqueness of this grape is the exotic perfumed sweet flavor that comes from an exact type color, when the grape hits it's full Brixx and is ready to be harvested. Maturity is the key and the Pink Muscatel grape, is picked at full maturity for a great tasting flavor.
WHERE TO FIND THEM!!
Sickles Market, Little Silver, N J
Citarella's, NY and Long Island
All Shoprite Supermarkets
2 Guys from Brooklyn
Berry Fresh Farms
North Shore Market Place
Just ask your local market to bring them in, remember you are the boss, and ENJOY
Click link below for Pink Muscatel 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".