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AND HOW TO PICK THE BEST PRODUCE. LOADED
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FROM MY FAMILY TO YOURS A HEALTHY AND HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON
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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 !!!
Cranberries have been a part of the American holiday scene for many years. Raw berries are pretty strung with popcorn to make old-fashioned garlands for the Christmas tree. They're also used during the Jewish high holy days to construct little houses used in the celebration of Succoth. And although a lot of people have become accustomed to using canned cranberry sauce, it's quick and easy to make a delicious sauce from whole fresh berries. People are also starting to discover how useful cranberries are beyond Thanksgiving and Christmas. These festive, very firm red berries add great flavor to a lot of foods.
Generally a half inch to an inch in diameter, cranberries are oval in shape, with a smooth, glossy, red to deep red skin, and contain tiny, soft, edible seeds. They are too tart for most people and require some sweetening.
Cranberries are a member of the health family (Encaceae), which also includes blueberries, loganberries, and huckleberries. Their natural habitat is a swamp or bog in temperate climates, such as Wisconsin, Cape Cod, and Long Island. Native Americans used cranberries for dyes, medicines, and food, including a dish made of cranberries and dried meat. The various Indians names for cranberries translate as "sour berries" but settlers called them crane berries, possibly because they were favored by cranes or because the plant and flower look like one of these elegant birds. By the nineteenth century, American sailors and loggers were using cranberries to make a drink to prevent scurvy.
Today cranberries are cultivated in shallow bogs that are flooded with water at appropriate times during the season. They are important crops in Massachusetts and New Jersey and are also cultivated in Wisconsin, Oregon, Washington State, British Columbia, and Quebec.
Fresh cranberries are available from September to January. They're usually packaged in twelve-ounce cello bags, which yield about three cups. Packaged cranberries are always sold in good condition unless there has been a problem with refrigeration. Their high acid content gives them a long shelf life.
Packaged unwashed fresh cranberries will stay fresh up to four weeks in the refrigerator. You can freeze unwashed berries in doubled, well-sealed plastic bags, and they'll keep for as long as a year. Rinse them briefly, pick out the stems and use directly in recipes without thawing - they collapse when thawed.
Wash well just before using, discarding the stems and any soft, wilted or bruised berries. Cranberries need to be sweetened with sugar, honey, maple syrup or other fruit juices. The high pectin content in cranberries makes them an ideal fruit for jellies or fruit chutney.
Besides the popular cooked sauce and jelly used to accompany poultry and meats, cranberries can be made into an equally delicious uncooked relish. Grind or mince one package of cleaned berries with the grated zest and chopped pulp of one orange. Mix with 3/4 to 1 cup of sugar, add cinnamon if desired, and let the mixture stand overnight in the refrigerator.
Cranberries are excellent mixed with apples or pears in pies and tarts. Apples are delicious stuffed with sweetened cranberry sauce, or try stuffing pears with cranberry sauce, sprinkling them with orange juice and cinnamon, and baking in a 325¡F oven for twenty minutes. Cranberry muffins are understandably popular, but your family will also enjoy cranberry nut loaf, cranberry upside-down cake, and cranberry cheesecake. Cranberry juice is delicious mixed with apple juice or lemonade, and cranberry sorbet is a refreshing treat.
Ninety percent of what you see in the stores marked "yams" is actually a variety of sweet potato. The true yam is a tuber that can get as large as 100 pounds and grows primarily in the tropical zones of Africa. The potato with the sweet orange-red flesh that grows in the American South was dubbed a yam years ago and the name stuck.
American sweet potatoes are members of the morning glory family. The rich orange-fleshed variety is harvested beginning in August; the fresh ones that show up on the market then have not been cured. The bulk of the crop is held in a heated, humidity-controlled environment for about a week. This "cures" the potato and converts much of its starch to dextrins and sugar. A cured sweet potato is actually much sweeter than an uncured one and is what usually shows up on the Thanksgiving table.
There are two other varieties of sweet potato that are much less frequently seen these days than the one that masquerades as a yam. The red sweet potato has a yellow flesh that's a bit sweeter than the white sweet potato, which has a white, more fibrous flesh. The red sweet potato has a dark, reddish skin and is in season about the same time as the yam type - starting in September. It keeps better than the white sweet potato, which has a very short season - usually the last couple of weeks in August.
Avoid buying sweet potatoes in June and July, by then most of them have been stored for nearly a year. Uncured sweet potatoes start showing up on the market in late August; cured sweet potatoes arrive around the end of October. By Thanksgiving almost all that are on the market have been cured. The less common white and red sweet potatoes have a much shorter season at the end of the summer.
Look for bright-colored, un-bruised skin with no soft spots. Look at the ends of the potatoes, which should be firm. Most sweet potatoes have some fibrous roots on them; these are not a problem.
I LOVE A FAMILY BUSINESS, THAT'S WHAT I GREW UP IN, AND WHENEVER I GET A CHANCE TO GO TO A FAMILY RUN BUSINESS I JUMP AT THE CHANCE. TODAY'S SEGMENT ON YAMS AND CRANBERRIES FOR YOUR THANKSGIVING TABLE IS FROM A FAMILY RUN BUSINESS CALLED DE CICCO & SONS IN ARMONK, NEW YORK. STARTED IN 1972 IN A TINY STOREFRONT IN THE BRONX , THIS FAMILY RUN BUSINESS HAS GROWN TO SEVEN STORES WITH A REPUTATION OF ONLY THE HIGHEST QUALITY AND A WELL -CEMENTED REPUTATION OF BEING THE FOOD MARKET OF CHOICE.
"SO ENJOY AND FROM MY FAMILY TO YOURS A HEALTHY AND HAPPY THANKSGIVING"
A PRODUCE PETE STORY
YOU CAN SAY I OWE MY TELEVISION
CAREER TO BRUSSEL SPROUTS. WHEN I WAS
DOING A LOCAL TV PROGRAM, I WAS CALLED BY NBC TO INTERVIEW FOR A NEW
SHOW CALLED WEEKEND TODAY IN NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 1992, I REMEMBER IT
LIKE IT WAS YESTERDAY. THERE WERE SEVERAL PEOPLE UP FOR THE SPOT, I'M ITALIAN
AND FEEL MORE COMFORTABLE TALKING WITH MY HANDS, SO I DECIDED TO TAKE
ALONG SOMETHING TO DEMONSTRATE. I BROUGHT A STALK OF BRUSSEL SPROUTS,
GOT UP IN FRONT OF THE PRODUCERS AND SAID " HONEY, I SHRUNK THE CABBAGE,
I GOT A LAUGH AND THE WEEKEND JOB.
26 YEARS LATER I'M STILL HERE AND IT WAS THE BEST THING BESIDES BETTE AND MY KIDS THAT EVER HAPPENED TO ME. SO FROM MY FAMILY TO YOURS A
HAPPY AND HEALTHY THANKSGIVING
A lot of people think of Brussels sprouts as cute little cabbages but prefer not to eat them, usually because they've only had them mushy and overcooked. Brussels sprouts should be steamed or simmered very briefly, just until they're beyond the raw stage. That way they'll stay nice and green on the outside, they'll have a beautiful white color inside, and they'll be delicious. Trust me! Brussels sprouts are the newest member of the cabbage family - a mere two hundred years old - compared to head cabbage, which has been cultivated for thousands of years. They grow clustered on a thick stalk, although they are most often sold loose or packaged in pint cartons. In the fall you may see them fresh on the stem, especially at local farm stores. Buy them that way when you can. They're fresh, and they'll stay fresh a lot longer than cut sprouts. If you have room, you can put the whole stalk in the refrigerator, and the Brussels sprouts will keep a long time without wilting or yellowing.
Brussels sprouts are available most of the year, but they thrive in cold, damp weather and are best in the late fall and early spring. Brussels sprouts from California - the biggest producer - are available from October through March. High-quality sprouts are also grown on Long Island and in upper New York State; these are most likely to be on the market in the fall.
Look for fresh green sprouts that are free of wilt, yellowing, or spots. Buy them on the stalk when you can.
Cut Brussels sprouts will last up to a week in the refrigerator, even longer if they're still on the stem.
To cook, rinse the sprouts and remove any wilted or yellow leaves. Score the stem ends with a knife. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat, then add the sprouts and cook just until tender - about seven to ten minutes. To steam, place in a steamer basket over, but not touching boiling water, cover, and steam just until the sprouts are tender but still firm - al dente, as the Italians say - which will take about ten to fifteen minutes. Do not overcook! You should be able to pierce each sprout easily with a cooking fork. The very tiny sprouts are very sweet and good raw. Try adding them to a platter of crudites or to a green salad - they're delicious.
Known as the "queen of garden vegetables", cauliflower is actually a densely packed head of tiny, unopened flower buds that form clusters called florets. Straight off the farm, cauliflower is enclosed by large, green, edible leaves. In the field these are bundled up around the head to keep it white. Left exposed to the sun, the head turns yellow. When you see cauliflower with the leaves on, it's been grown locally. Cello-pack cauliflower, usually shipped in from California, is what you see in the store 90 percent of the time.
Look for a good-sized cauliflower that is hard and heavy, with a touch of dew on the head. The florets should be compact and tightly packed. If florets have started to spread apart and the head looks very light and granular, that's called ricing, and it indicates changes in growing conditions. Ricing doesn't mean the cauliflower is spoiled, but it won't have quite the flavor or crispness of a firm, compact head. Riced cauliflower is a little softer and should be cooked for a shorter period.
Cauliflower must be refrigerated. Wrap it in plastic and store in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator, where it will keep for several days.
Cook whole heads in just an inch or two of water until fork-tender - no more than ten minutes. Broken into individual florets, cauliflower takes a little less time to cook. Cauliflower can be eaten raw, steamed or braised, or breaded and fried. It can be curried, served in a cream or cheese sauce, or sliced into vegetable salads, and it makes a terrific pickle
Click link below for Thanksgiving Veggies Show
Raspberries are an extraordinarily flavorful fruit with a tart-sweet, almost floral taste that can't be duplicated. A bramble fruit and cousin to the blackberry, raspberries ounce flourished wild in North America; now almost all are cultivated and available only in limited supplies. Unlike blackberries, which are relatively firm, raspberries are hollow and are therefore extremely fragile. The plants themselves have a low yield, and the berries frequently break when they're picked, further reducing the quantity that can be shipped fresh. Because of all these factors, in the winter raspberries can be as high as six or seven dollars a half-pint--and that's wholesale! At the height of the season, however, you can enjoy them at more reasonable prices, especially if they are local.
Ninety-nine percent of commercially cultivated raspberries are red, but there are also black and golden varieties. Black raspberries can be quite good, but golden raspberries are not as sweet or flavorful as the red. For my money, rose-red raspberries can't be beat. Although they're never inexpensive, try to enjoy them when they're in season. There is no finer berry.
Local Raspberries are most abundant during June, July, and August. The local raspberries are available for about three to four weeks during the summer; the exact month will depend upon your region. (Most cultivars do not thrive in the South.) Some farmers will grow two crops, with the first ripening in late June and early July, and the second in September or early October. This year Mexican raspberries will be priced reasonable from the beginning of November for about three weeks because of good supply.
Raspberries from California are available from summer through late fall, and also available in the late fall raspberries arrive from the Pacific Northwest and Mexico. Winter raspberries are available from Chile.
Look for local raspberries at roadside stands or farm markets in the summer months. If you find a farm that offers pick-your-own berries, don't pass them up. Like a ripe blackberry, a ripe raspberry will practically fall off the vine into you hand. Raspberries this time of year are great out of Mexico and California with a great sweet taste.
At the market select dry, firm fruits with excellent form and hollow centers. Avoid soft, wet or mildewed berries that seem to be stuck together, and fruit that is badly stained on the bottom pad of the container.
Always refrigerate, and use the same day of purchase if at all possible.
Rinse briefly in cold water just before serving. Raspberries are delicious fresh and whole as is or with a little cream. Fresh raspberries are also wonderful pureed, slightly sweetened, and used as a sauce for ice cream, custards, or other fruits. Freeze the puree for an elegant sorbet.
HOW WE GOT RASPBERRIES FROM THE BACK YARD TO THE STORES
“If you go back to the early 20th century, raspberries were picked and eaten fresh off the plant. You wouldn’t have found raspberries in a grocery store in the 1920s because the shipping, refrigeration, and all the things you need weren’t really there. If anyone was growing and selling raspberries locally, they were sold down the street at the local store for a month or two out of the year. They’d produce a few berries in the summer and that's all you'd get.
Beginning in the 1930s, a small group of plant breeders wanted to change that.
“There were some crosses made in the 1930s, but nothing worked and they couldn’t make it happen. “Someone was clever enough to keep these plants—there was a house that had these raspberries in the yard for many years. Then sometime in the 1970s, one of those varieties was resurrected from the yard and multiplied, starting an industry.
“In the 1970s, breeding started at Driscoll’s and it was very hard—one failure after another. Raspberry plants were such a difficult crop to commercialize and the older varieties were so delicate. But Miles Reiter had a vision and he just kept at it, and finally we had some breakthroughs in the 1990s. Miles said that the goal was to make these raspberries so good, you can’t help but eat them before you get them to the fridge.”
Maravilla variety was an outlier—a total needle in the haystack. It’s a beautiful, glossy berry. It doesn’t mold, it doesn’t darken. It’s got a pretty good fruit size, and the yields are pretty good on the plant—it’s a very healthy plant. Maravilla raspberries aren’t too sweet, aren’t too sour, and have a consistent flavor. All of these great traits about the famous raspberry lead Driscoll to the next question. Are Driscoll Raspberries Genetically Modified ??
No, we're not doing GMO at all, "It's all very natural, what we do. It's all old fashioned. It's plant breeding, like people did with wheat two thousand years ago. It's the same thing.”
“Persistence—and you just have to be steady. Wins are going to be slow and take time. I think that’s true with just about everything we do, really. You have to steadily work at what you want to improve and don’t expect something in a month. Give yourself years, maybe, or decades.”
The hidden potential for Driscoll’s raspberries is enormous—that’s part of what makes this fun, is you just don’t know what’s around the next corner.
Click on to the link below for Raspberry Segment
Known as the divine food in Japan because it's sweet, the persimmon is an orange to
orange-red fruit about the size of an apple, with four prominent, large, papery leaves at the crown. It
has a very thin, smooth, delicate skin that bruises if not handled with care. The persimmon is one of
the sweetest of all fruits when it's ripe.
Although there are hundreds of varieties, only two principal types are well known here are
Hachiya and Fuyu. The Hachiya, which is incredibly sweet when ripe, is full of mouth-puckering
tannic acid when it's not. The Fuyu, a newer variety, has had the tannic acid bred out.
Hachiya are bright, heart shaped, and orange-red inside and out. They have an exotic taste
but can only be eaten fully ripe, when the tannic acid dissipated--a stage don't reach until they are
very soft. The black seeds in the center are edible, but they can be discarded, along with the skin,
which retains tannic acid longer than the flesh and usually isn't eaten unless the fruit is very soft.
Fuyus sometimes called fujis or marus, look like brilliant orange tomatoes or apples. This new
variety is unusual because it can be eaten either soft or while it's still quite firm. Fuyus have a few
large brown seeds what should be discarded.
Hachiyas are the misunderstood fruit of winter: although they are sweet and wonderful when
baked into cakes and puddings, many people are afraid to eat them because they are truly awful
when immature. A firm Hachiya is extraordinarily astringent and inedible. I admit that taking a bite out of one is sort of like eating an unripe bitter walnut while suddenly having all the moisture sucked out of your cheeks and tongue. But there’s a very simple way to avoid this: don’t eat Hachiyas until they’re ripe
Like Fuyus, Hachiyas range in color from light orange to a reddish sunset. They are easy to
distinguish from Fuyus, however, because while the Fuyu looks like an orange tomato, the Hachiya is
shaped like a large acorn. Hachiyas are lovely in both appearance and taste, just not at the same
time. While they are outwardly attractive when unripe, they only become appealing once the skin
starts to shrivel over the soft ripened fruit. Yet while Hachiyas may not be pretty when they’re ready to be eaten, they are luscious when added to cakes and steamed puddings.
The two most prevalent varieties at the markets right now are Fuyu and Hachiya persimmons.
Fuyu are the squat-shaped persimmons which are eaten while still hard and crisp. Perfect
chopped into a salad, or eaten like an apple, they are a very different texture and experience from
their distant cousin the Hachiya.
Hachiya are more elongated and need some time to go quite soft before they are ready to eat.
Fully ripe, they should feel squishy like a water balloon or over-ripe tomato. Be patient, if you attempt
to eat one before it has softened, it can be unpalatably astringent (or "furry" tasting) as Hachiyas
contain very high levels of soluble tannins . In other words, they can leave a nasty taste in your mouth.
Once ripe, my favorite way to eat a Hachiya persimmon is to cut off the top where the leaves
are, and just dig in with a spoon, like a natural-made jelly cup. The texture will be gooey, sweet, and
Before you eat a Hachiya, make sure it is soft and squishy as you need to wait for the fruit's
tannins to break down before the pulp loses its astringency and takes on a sweet and sugary flavor.
The mature fruit has jellylike texture, which may make them seem unappealing. To coax Hachiyas
into ripening, just set them out on your counter for a few days to over a week, depending on how firm
they are. If you're in a hurry, you can freeze a partially ripe Hachiya for at least 24 hours and then
defrost it, which helps soften and sweeten the fruit.
Persimmons are available nearly year-round. California persimmons are available from
September to November, with the bulk harvested in October. Fuyus from Japan and Israel are usually
shipped between November and January. Brazilian persimmons are on the market between February
and April, those from New Zealand from March to May, and those from Chile from April to May.
Avoid persimmons with greenish or yellow skins and those that show cracks or splits. The four
leaves should still be attached to the stem end.
A Hachiya in good condition will often need to be ripened at home. Leave it out on the counter
at room temperature or hasten the process by putting it into a paper bag with a banana or apple. The ethylene gas from the other fruit will help the persimmon ripen. A fully ripe Hachiya will be slightly wrinkled or have a few brown spots. At this very soft stage, almost like a firm jelly, it's at a peak of perfection and should be eaten immediately.
Refrigerate or eat Fuyus while they're still fairly firm--about like a ripe pear. Once persimmons
are ripe, refrigerate them as soon as possible.
Persimmons can be blanched to remove the skin easily. Just dip in boiling water for a few
seconds, then plunge in cold water. Or simply wash before eating. Pluck or cut out the top leaves. A
ripe Hachiya can be halved or quartered and the flesh scooped out with a spoon. A Fuyu can be
eaten out of hand, like an apple, and the firm flesh makes it a good addition to fruit salad.
A soft ripe persimmon can be wrapped whole in plastic or foil and eaten partly frozen like a
sorbet. The flesh can also be pureed with a little lemon juice and used as a topping for ice cream or
as a filling for layer cakes and crepes.
Because they are readily available during the early winter, persimmons are a good addition to
holiday fare and make a wonderfully colorful decoration when arranged and allowed to ripen in a fruit bowl or Christmas basket.
Click link below for Persimmon Segment
I love apple season. There are few things better than a good apple eaten out of hand. Whether the flesh is mild and sweet or tart and winey, when you bite into it, a fresh-picked apple will make a crisp cracking sound and you’ll get a spurt of juice. There’s a season for everything and the main season for American apples starts the last half of October. I’ve probably said this a thousand times, but our problem in the United States is that we try to buy produce out of season. Many varieties will keep well late into winter, but by summer most apples have been stored for seven or eight months. No wonder they are soft, mealy, and without juice. When peaches and melons come in, stay away from apples. Come back when there’s a snap in the air, and you’ll remember what makes apples so good. Apples are one of the most esteemed fruits in the northern Hemisphere in part because they’re so versatile. They’re delicious raw, baked, dried, or made into apple sauce. They make great pies, apple butter, apple jelly, chutney, cider, and cider vinegar, and they’re a welcome addition to dozens of other dishes. A member of the rose family, apples have been known since ancient times and were cultivated by the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. Many places grow wonderful apples now, but overall, the United States produces the finest apple crops in the world. The Northwest, the East Coast, and parts of the Midwest, regions where the seasons change, grow the best apples. They’re not a fruit for hot climates. Only a few of the thousands of varieties of apples grown today are mass marketed, but there are many more out there than Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and Macs. There are very old and very new varieties you may never have heard of. If you’re north of the Mason-Dixon Line, you’re going to find the best apples at local farm markets and stands, where they’re fresh-picked, and you’re likely to find great varieties you’d never see at the supermarket.
The vast majority of apples are picked from September through November and either sold immediately or put into cold storage, where some keep well – some don’t. The peak of the season for domestic varieties – when most stored apples still retain their snap – is generally over by December. A few will last through the early spring, but by March it’s hard even to find a good Winesap.
In most cases look for very firm, bright-colored fruit with no bruises and with the stem still on – a good indication that you’ve got an apple that’s not overripe. The apple should feel heavy in the hand for its size and have a good shine on it. A dull look usually means the fruit has been in storage too long, although some excellent varieties like Winesaps and eastern Golden Delicious have relatively rough skin with little or no sheen. As always, use your nose. An apple that smells great is going to taste great.
HERE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE VARIETIES
Sometimes the name of an apple says it all. Honeycrisp apples are honey sweet (with a touch of tart) and amazingly crisp, some say “explosively crisp.” It’s easy to see why this new variety continues to grow in popularity since its 1991 introduction in Minnesota. Supplies are limited for now but more Honeycrisp trees are being planted every year.
With the popular Red Delicious and McIntosh for parents, Empire apples were destined to be a hit. It’s a sweet-tart combination that’s great for everything. The New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva Introduced this new variety in 1966.
Nothing evokes Fall better than the aromatic fragrance of McIntosh apples. People have enjoyed this apple since 1811 when John McIntosh discovered the first seedling. McIntosh apples grow particularly well in New York’s cool climate!
Want a perfect no-fat dessert that will satisfy your sweet tooth? Macoun may just be your apple, but, hurry, these special apples are only available in the Fall. Macoun was developed at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva in 1932. It’s named for a famous Canadian fruit breeder.
Ever hear that Golden Delicious is the yellow cousin of the popular Red Delicious apple? Actually, they are related in name only, but this honey sweet apple is a special treat all on its own.
Excellent for eating, salads, and sauces
Picture a fresh fruit cup featuring beautiful, snow-white apples. It’s likely made with Cortland, the very best salad apple. This great, all-purpose apple was developed at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva in 1898.
Sweet, with a hint of tartness
Excellent for eating, salads, sauces, pies and baking
Cortland apples are wonderful for kabobs, fruit plates and garnishes because they don't turn brown quickly when cut.
The Stayman-Winesap is a cross between a Stayman apple and a Winesap apple. The combination of the two strains produces an apple of exceptional eating quality.
The Stayman-Winesap’s firm yellow flesh; crisp, coarse texture; and its tart, rich wine-like taste makes it memorable. Some say it smells like cinnamon. Stayman-Winesap’s thick skin maintains sufficient moisture within the flesh to keep the apple crispy to the bite and flavorful to the taste.
The late maturing Stayman-Winesaps keep well and can last until spring if properly stored or placed in a fruit cellar. This multi-purpose apple is excellent when eaten fresh, or used in pies, desserts, applesauce, and cider.
A TRIP TO DONALDSON'S FARM
One of my favorite farms in New Jersey, Donaldson's Farm is located in Hackettstown, N.J.
I filmed some segments for NBC over the years at this farm and especially love this farm in the fall when the apple orchard and the pumpkins are in season. A family run farm it's a great place to take your family for a day trip and enjoy what made america great, FARMING. The apples for today's segment are from Donaldson's and boy are they great, juicy, crunchy, and a great taste of fall. Enjoy the fall weather and please support your
Click link below for Apple Show
There’s perhaps nothing more iconic in New Jersey during the month of October than corn mazes, hay rides and especially pumpkins.
Heading out to a farm with the family to pick pumpkins or enjoy a hay ride is a great fall tradition that shouldn’t be missed; for a list of pumpkin farms in your area, visit www.pumpkinpatchesandmore.org.
Since October is one of my favorite months of the year, I thought I’d share some fun facts about pumpkins and Halloween:
SELECTION AND STORAGE
When picking any kind of pumpkin, select one without bruises or soft spots. It may be greenish in color, but left whole in a cool spot — not refrigerated — it will ripen and turn orange. Always select a pumpkin with a nice green stem (I always say that a pumpkin without a stem is like a Christmas tree without a star on top), but never handle a pumpkin by its stem because it can break off easily.
Some people use Jack-o’-lantern pumpkins for cooking, but these were developed specifically to be oversized and thin-walled, with a huge seed pocket and a relatively small proportion of flesh. By contrast, the smaller sugar pumpkins, or pie pumpkins, will give you more meat for cooking purposes and often a better flavor and texture. Sugar pumpkins make an especially delicious pumpkin soup. For another interesting application, buy an extra sugar pumpkin, clean out the cavity, and use it as a tureen.
If you can find it, I suggest using a variety called cheese pumpkins for pies. They’re medium-to-large-sized pumpkins with very flattened shapes, a light tan shell and orange flesh. Found most readily at farm stands and throughout New England, cheese pumpkins make delicious pies, while regular pumpkins — particularly sugar and especially Jack-o’-lantern varieties — sometimes make a stringy filling.
DECORATING JACK-O LANTERNS
Instead of cutting and hollowing out a pumpkin for your Jack-o’-lantern, here’s a way to decorate pumpkins that’s different and colorful: Leave them intact and create a face using fresh vegetables. My mother used to decorate our pumpkins this way because it preserved the pumpkin, which she could then use in cooking after Halloween was over. Depending on what you use, you can give the pumpkins a wide range of personalities. I’ll never forget how my mother would use a carrot or parsnip to make a long, witchy nose, red peppers for lips, radishes for eyes, and string beans for eyelashes. Then she’d slice potatoes to make ears and make “hair” out of fennel tops. The result was unusual and very striking.
My wife, Bette, who’s quite artistic, picked up a lot of kitchen techniques from my mother, and she’s decorated pumpkins for my NBC segments that were really something to see.
Thought the Americans were the first to carve the orange fruit into freaky figures? Think again. Like most American folklore, this spooky ritual comes from our European ancestors. We’re a country of immigrants, so most of our traditions originate from outside the U.S.—and jack o’ lanterns are no different. The practice dates back to a centuries-old Irish myth about a man named “Stingy Jack.”
According to the legend, Jack was a devious fellow who outsmarted the devil time and time again. Jack,was the town drunk but had a clever side,and so he met the devil one fateful night. The duo shared a drink and, too cheap to pay for his booze, Jack convinced Satan to morph into a coin that he could use to pay for their beverages. As soon as he did, Jack put the coin in his pocket next to a silver cross. The devil was unable to change back into his original form, and Jack held him that way until Satan agreed not to take his soul. Sneaky!
Next, the shifty swindler convinced the devil to climb up a tree to steal a piece of fruit. He quickly carved the sign of the cross into the tree bark. Again, the devil couldn’t come down until he agreed not to bother Jack for another 10 years.
Shortly after his meeting with the devil, Jack died. As legend goes, God would not accept Jack into heaven and sent him down to visit the devil in hell. But the devil kept his promise. He wouldn’t let Jack into hell, either, and imprisoned him to an even darker fate. The devil sent Jack into the dark night to roam the world for eternity, with only a coal to light his way. Jack lit the coal, put it in a hollowed-out turnip and has been drifting through the world, scaring children ever since.
Townsfolk began to refer to this figure as “Jack of the lantern,” and shortly thereafter “Jack o’ lantern.” People began to carve their own lanterns out of turnips, beets, potatoes and eventually pumpkins in hopes of warding away any ghostly spirits.
Over time, the tradition reached American shores by way of mouth, and immigrants from various countries took their own approach to the ancient tradition. A chiefly American fruit, the pumpkin became our own adaptation of this European tradition, and it’s now a symbol of Halloween. As years went by, the spooky history behind this family tradition has been lost. So now carving pumpkins is synonymous with family and fun instead of spooky spirits.
This October, when you reach for a warm glass of cider and a carving knife, remember the spirit of Stingy Jack, and spook your friends and family with this ghostly tale!
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From acorn to turban, winter squash are some of the most delicious and versatile ingredients of the season. Unlike summer squash, these are harvested in autumn when they are hard and ripe, and most varieties can be stored and enjoyed for use through the winter.
Cutting a winter squash can present an interesting challenge.
Years ago on WNBC, I did a segment on winter squash. I put on a pair of goggles and heavy gloves and pulled a chain saw from under the counter.
It was a joke, but not too far off the mark. The problem is that the shell is very hard, the squash tends to roll, and the blade of a knife tends to slip off the smooth skin.
To avoid consumers from having to deal with this hassle at home, green grocers and supermarkets have increasingly offered more and more cut-up fruits and vegetables, though the price for this service can cost as much as triple that of an uncut item.
Coming from humble post-WWII beginnings like our family did, I remember my mom always cutting and preparing produce herself, and I encourage consumers to consider taking on this worthy challenge. As the fall weather starts to bring on a chill in the air, we look for something hearty, so here are a few of my favorite winter squashes.
Acorn squash is small in size, typically weighing between one and two pounds, with orange-yellow flesh and thick, dark green and orange skin.
The flavor of Acorn squash has a mild, subtly sweet and nutty flavor. The skin is also edible.
Like most varieties of winter squash, acorn squash is really versatile. It can be baked, roasted, steamed, sautéed, or even cooked in the microwave
This pear-shaped squash has a smooth, cream-colored exterior with bright orange flesh and comparatively few seeds
The flavor is the sweetest variety of winter squash.
Butternut squash is extremely versatile. It's perfect for roasting and sautéing, or making a smooth purée or soup.
Also known as sweet potato squash, this small cylindrical squash has thin cream- to yellow-colored skin with green stripes, and orange-yellow flesh. Delicatas are smaller than most winter squash, so they're quite easy to prepare and cook.
Delicata has creamy flesh with a mild flavor akin to sweet potatoes.
The skin on this small squash is edible, so don't worry about cutting it off. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds, then you can either bake it as is, or cut it into slices which can be roasted, sautéed, or steamed. Delicata squash is also ideal for stuffing
Hubbard squash is one of the largest varieties of winter squash. It has a hard, firm exterior that can range in color from deep green to gray or blue.
Hubbard squash has a rich, sweet pumpkin flavor.
While the hard exterior is generally discarded, the sweet orange flesh can be substituted for any other variety of winter squash. It's ideal for both cooking and baking, and is especially great for making pie.
Spaghetti squash has a cylindrical shape with a firm exterior that ranges in color from pale cream to bright yellow. When you cook the squash, the moist flesh develops strands that resemble spaghetti
Spaghetti squash doesn't actually taste like spaghetti. It has a tender, chewy, fragile texture, and a very mild flavor. Unlike other winter squash varieties, it lacks sweetness.
Roast or steam it, then scrape out the strands. Top with marinara, pesto, or mix in other veggies, and eat it as you would spaghetti
SWEET DUMPLING SQUASH
This small yellow squash, with bright orange to dark green striations, may be the cutest of the bunch
The flesh is starchy and sweet, with a flavor that's reminiscent of corn.
The small, single-serving size of this squash makes it ideal for stuffing and roasting.
This large, decorative squash has an irregular turban shape with a dull-looking, bumpy exterior that can range in color from mottled green to orange and yellow.
This large squash has a very mild, nutty flavor.
Turban squash is most often used as a decoration, though you can use it in recipes in just about any way you use butternut, acorn, or other winter squash. Hollowed out, it makes a beautiful soup tureen.
SELECTION AND STORAGE
All squashes should have a solid, heavy feel; a squash that feels light for its size may be soft and dehydrated inside. The hard shell of a winter squash should be undamaged, but the skin, unlike that of summer squashes, should be dull, which indicates that the squash was picked when fully mature. Make sure the stem is still attached, as a missing stem indicates that the squash has been in storage too long.
Never refrigerate squash unless it’s been cut, then wrap it in plastic and store it for only a day or two before using. The smaller the winter squash, the shorter its shelf life. Acorn squash, for example, should be used within two to three weeks of purchase. Some of the larger varieties of winter squash will remain sweet and tasty for as long as six or seven months if kept in a dry, cool (but not cold) place, out of direct sunlight.
PREPARING WINTER SQUASH
A kitchen saw or even a small saw will make short work of it, but another reasonably simple way to cut into a winter squash is to look for the area on the squash that has indentations or ribs. Lay the squash so that it’s steady, insert the point of a sturdy knife in a crease, give the handle a couple of taps with a hammer to start the cut, and then proceed as if you were cutting a watermelon, being extremely careful. Remove the seeds before cooking.
Smaller winter squash like acorn squash are best baked. Cut them in half, brush them with butter, sprinkle them with brown sugar, and bake them for about thirty minutes or until tender.
Very large squashes like butternut squash can be peeled, cut into chunks, and boiled for 10 to 20 minutes or until tender; the chunks can then be puréed or mashed and prepared as you would make mashed potatoes.
Spaghetti squash is best when it’s baked whole in a moderately hot oven for 1 to 1½ hours, depending on the size of the squash.
Pierce the squash in two or three places before baking to release the steam. After it’s done, cut it in half and use a fork to remove the flesh, which looks and handles like spaghetti. You can toss it with marinara sauce or top it with butter or cheese. Many people also like to eat spaghetti squash cold with a vinaigrette.
Winter squash is delicious added to soups and stews or sliced, battered and fried. Remember to pre-cook it in water until the flesh is tender-crisp before frying.
DID YOU KNOW ???
Enjoy these Winter Squashes and check out Bette's Recipies !!!
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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 farmers 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.
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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".