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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.
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We had so much fun and got such great cherries last week at Giant Farmers Market in Waldwick New Jersey I decided to return to the store and see about this weeks item Nectarines, and I wasn't disappointed.
Although summer in our area is loaded with different fruits,there are still some fruits out there well worth buying, and nectarines from California are among them.
I always talk about maturity as the key to getting the very best in most fruits and vegetables, and mid- summer is a great time for nectarines, as they’ve been on the tree longer and are juicy, ripe, and ready to eat.
When I was a kid, I would run to my father’s produce truck as he came back from the market and wait for him to open the doors so I could experience that warm sweet smell from the nectarines. Although I love peaches, nectarines – which aren’t simply fuzzless peaches – are a real treasure, and ripe nectarines have a taste that you never forget.
When something is in season and especially when the season is coming to an end, I want to get my fill of it. Though you’ll see nectarines most of the year, the ones in season from California, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania are fresh, have been on the tree longer, and have reached a full maturity which ensures that they’re going to be good.
So while summer is here , and before it comes to an end, don’t let it stop you from enjoying the summer sweetness that nectarines can deliver.
All summer fruits have their own life. While they’re available from June onward, the time for great nectarines is mid- summer. The best way to select a great nectarine is with your nose – a good ripe peach has a sweet scent, but you can smell the wonderful fragrance of a ripe nectarine a mile away.
Until about 1940, nectarines were small, drab, green fruits with very little red cheek. They were also fragile and had a short shelf life, so they weren’t popular. In 1942, however, the LeGrade variety appeared, named after the town in California where it was developed. More than a hundred different varieties have since been developed and nectarines are nearly equal to peaches as the most popular stone fruit. They’re certainly my favorite.
A lot of people think of the nectarine as a fuzzless peach, and it is related to peaches, almonds and plums, but the nectarine is a different fruit. Like its relatives, it came out of ancient China, but the flesh is meatier and juicier than that of most peaches. The fruit is also more fragile because it’s not protected by a fuzzy skin. For that reason, most growers won’t ship a really ripe nectarine, so in most instances you’ll need to let nectarines ripen at home for a couple of days before eating.
Nectarines from Florida and Georgia begin to appear on the market in May, but they tend to be green and hard. In June and July, California and Local Nectarines are good It’s in August and the first half of September that California nectarines are really superb.
If nectarines grow locally and you can get tree-ripened ones at your local farm stand during the summer, by all means buy them.
Imports from Chile and other Southern Hemisphere countries show up in January and February, but those that are shipped by boat aren’t the best. A few tree-ripened ones are shipped by air, and although they’re good, they’re very expensive.
To improve their shipping success, packers have been developing controlled atmosphere techniques through which nectarines are put in sealed containers with air that has a high nitrogen content, effectively putting the fruit to sleep and preventing the damage caused by chilling. If the technique is perfected, we may see the unthinkable happen – stone fruits like nectarines, peaches, and plums that are ripe, sweet, and juicy in the middle of winter.
SELECTION AND STORAGE
Look for unbruised, colorful fruit, although you may have to accept a bruise or two on really ripe nectarines. Avoid fruit that looks green or has a wrinkled or leathery-looking skin and choose medium-to-large nectarines; a gigantic one will be mealy and a very small one was probably picked too green.
Often your best bet will be to buy nectarines that are still firm, take them home, and let them ripen on the counter a day or two, until they have a little give and develop a wonderful fragrance. You can refrigerate a nectarine when it’s fully ripe, but only for a day or two. Longer refrigeration will rob the fruit of its juice and flavor.
Nectarines are excellent eaten out of hand, but there are other delicious ways to enjoy them too. Here are some great options that my wife, Bette, prepares for our household:
Cold weather will be here before we know it, so be sure to enjoy those last sweet tastes of summer that nectarines can provide.
It's easy to ripen firm peaches or nectarines. Simply place the fruit inside a paper bag, loosely close the top and keep it at room temperature for a day or two. As peaches and nectarines ripen they give off a natural hormone called ethylene. The paper bag traps the ethylene close to the fruit, while still allowing for the exchange of air into and out of the bag. Plastic bags will not work and can cause off-flavors in the fruit.
REMEMBER; NEVER PLACE FIRM PEACHES OR NECTARINES IN THE REFRIGERATOR. This can cause a type of damage called "internal breakdown." If you've ever had a dry or mealy peach, you've experienced "internal breakdown" and it's caused by storing fruit at the wrong temperatures. This can happen in your home refrigerator or at your grocer store. Once fruit is soft and gives to gentle palm pressure, it may be stored in the refrigerator for several days without damage. That's really all there is to it!
You know it’s the beginning of summer when you start to see cherries in the market.
As with many fruits and vegetables, supply and demand dictates prices and, with such a short season filled with unpredictable weather conditions and so much of our crop sold abroad (where buyers pay high prices), cherries can be expensive a lot of the time.
Back in the 1950s, when we first opened our family store, Napolitano’s Produce in Bergenfield, I remember that we sold cherries by the bag and box at reasonable prices.
Now don’t get me wrong – you’ll still see cherries on sale in the marketplace, where they’ll often be priced as “loss leaders,” selling for cost or just above cost to bring people into the store.
I recall one time in the early 1960s, Pop got a sale on cherries and brought hundreds of 18-20-pound boxes of them into the store, where we stacked them up and sold them (today they’re sold to stores in 14-15 pound boxes and 9-10 pound boxes on imports in the winter).
It was a long time ago, but I think we charged $3.99 for an 18-20-pound box of cherries, which is hard to believe – you can’t necessarily even buy one pound of cherries for that now. But what’s cost as long as they’re good, right? That’s my way of thinking.
Big, red, crunchy, juicy, and loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, cherries have been one of my favorite fruits for as long as I can remember.
The season is short so load up and get your fill now before they’re gone. Look for them on sale if you can, and remember what I always say – if you eat right, you’ll live right.
SHORT SEASON BIG FLAVOR
Cherries have one big flaw – they have a very short season, not much more than weeks in most places.
Although cherries originated in the Middle East and have been cultivated for centuries in Europe and Asia, the U.S. remains the biggest producer, consumer and exporter of cherries.
Most sweet cherries are grown on the west coast, where Washington State is the biggest producer. Except for local crops, which aren’t shipped at all, the cherries you’ll typically see on the market have been shipped from California, Oregon and Washington state, with Idaho and British Columbia contributing to the supply.
The two most common cherry varieties are Lamberts and Bings.
Lamberts ripen earlier and are smaller and more tender than Bings. They range in color from deep pink to red, with a soft, somewhat watery flesh and a deep red or blackish-red juice.
They arrive from California in early June, with later harvests coming from Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.
Bings are big, dark, heart-shaped cherries with great flavor. They’re very firm, with a deep red to black skin, a white heart, and a bit of crunch when you bite into them. They last longer and ship better than Lamberts.
Royal Annes, also called Raniers and sometimes Napoleons, are also occasionally seen on the market.
This large, heart-shaped fruit is amber to yellow in color, with a red blush. It’s an excellent cherry with an intense flavor, juicy flesh, and a white heart. These cherries are more fragile, easily bruised, and have a shorter shelf life than Bings; many people shy away from them because of their color, but one taste and they’re hooked.
California cherries arrive in early June and are generally out of season by mid-June, with more northern crops gradually replacing them during the summer months, ending with cherries from British Columbia in early August.
That’s a total of seven or eight weeks, so if you like cherries and see some good-looking ones at the fruit stand, buy them, because the next time you look they may be gone.
Sweet cherries are also grown in the midwest and in northeastern states, but I don’t think their fruit compares to the size or flavor of western cherries.
The sweet cherries that show up in January are from Chile, and they continue to improve in flavor and texture.
SELECTION, STORAGE AND PREPARATION
Cherries won’t ripen or improve in flavor after they’re picked, so what you see is what you get.
They must be picked ripe and then they’ll last only a couple of days, so harvesting time is critical.
A ripe cherry is heavier in the hand, meatier, sweeter and juicier than an immature cherry. Cherries that are picked too soon are pale and tasteless, while those picked too ripe are soft and watery. The best time to pick them seems to be right before the birds start eating them – birds have an uncanny instinct for ripe cherries.
When selecting cherries, choose firm, large, bright-colored fruit.
Royal Annes should be bright and unblemished, while Bings should be as firm and dark as possible; pale red Bings are immature and won’t be especially sweet.
Also look at the stems – if the cherries have green stems, they’re fresh, and if the stem is missing, pass on these cherries because they’ve been off the tree too long.
They should also look clean and dry – never buy cherries that are soft, flabby, or sticky on the outside.
When cherries go bad, they start to lose their vibrant hue, develop a brownish color, and leak. Once a cherry starts leaking, the fermentation process will quickly make the whole box go bad.
I love eating cherries on their own, cut up into fruit or green salads, or blended into a variety of baked goods like muffins or cherry pie.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN WITH PRODUCE PETE
This weeks segment was filmed at a great store I found in Waldwick New Jersey, Giant Farmers Market. the cherries were good and priced right, I love to stop by these markets and look, it drives Bette crazy, she would rather be shopping at one of the malls .Enjoy your fill of what summer gives to us and enjoy these Bing Cherries, its a short season.
Click on link below for Cherry Show
Farms View Farm and Roadstand in Wayne , New Jersey is one of the last working farms in Northwest New Jersey. The Kuehm family dates back to 1894 when the property was purchased by the first of five generations that operate the farm in Wayne New Jersey. Farms View Roadstand has evolved from a picnic table on a side lawn many years ago to this farm stand with attached greenhouses. I love doing segments at family farms to show all of you where fresh fruits and vegetables get their start. Long days and hard work are what farming is all about. Today we are talking fresh corn in the studio, picked 5 am this morning at Farms View Farm. Please support your local Jersey Farmers, Fresh From the Farm Daily.
Americans seem to be the only people who understand the virtues of sweet corn on the cob. A native American grain related to wheat, barley, and rye, corn didn't reach Europe until the sixteenth century. It's still far more popular here than among Europeans, who continue to call corn by its proper name--maize.
Sweet corn is harvested young for use as a vegetable. Field corn is the variety that's dried and ground for meal, pressed for corn oil, or used as feed for livestock.
The best sweet corn is an ear that's brought from the field straight to the pot. Years ago farmers would deliver corn to our market at three o'clock in the morning. My father would wake us, and we'd have to go down to the store to unload the corn--dozens of bags with fifty ears in each bag. There was a little stove at the back of the store, and my mother would put water on to boil, husk a bunch of ears, and cook corn for us right on the spot, which made this awful middle-of-the-night chore bearable. It was so fresh coming off the truck that to this day I don't think I've ever had corn as good.
Once corn is picked, its natural sugars start turning to starch. The process is slowed by refrigeration, but by the time corn is harvested and shipped form California or Florida to the rest of the country, as much as a week may have passed. The corn will be pretty good, but not as good as corn picked locally. People with vegetable gardens literally start boiling the water before the corn is picked so they can put it in the pot as fast as they can shuck it.
You can get white, yellow, or bicolor corn, and though lots of people have preferences, the color has little to do with the sweetness. The only thing that determines taste is how long it's been off the stalk. There are, however, two relatively new hybrids designed to make corn hold its sugar longer: sugar-enhanced varieties and the newer "supersweets." Sugar-enhanced varieties have good corn flavor and are excellent when corn is out of season and has to be shipped to market. The supersweets are very- very sweet in fact, many corn lovers think they have an artificial taste. For my money, old-fashioned sweet corn straight out of the field is still tops.
The best time to eat corn on the cob is middle to late summer. Corn is grown almost everywhere, and the best place to get it is at farm stands or produce markets where corn is delivered every day. We use to send someone up to Smith's Farm every morning at 6 A.M. to pick up corn from Wally, who had been supplying Napolitano's for more than forty years.
Look for a husk that's firm, fresh, and green-looking. Don't strip it; just look at the tassel or silk. On really fresh corn, the tassel will be pale and silky, with only a little brown at the top, where it's been discolored by the sun. Also try holding the ear in your hand: if it's warm, it's starting to turn to starch; if it's still cool, it's probably fresh. Although producers have fewer problems with worms now, don't worry if you spot a worm or two. The worms know what they're doing--they go after the sweetest ears. And since they usually eat right around the top, you can just break that part off.
The short answer is don't; just eat fresh corn right away. But if you must, store it in the refrigerator.
A lady came into my store years ago and said, "I cook corn so long it almost starts to pop, and it's still tough." I said, "That's because you're cooking it so long!" Never overcook fresh, sweet corn. It only needs a few minutes' cooking time. To boil it, bring the water to a boil before dropping in the shucked ears. If the ears are too long for the pot, don't cut them with a knife, which tends to crush the kernels; just break them in two with you hands. Let the water return to a boil, and boil hard for three to four minutes. Remove immediately and serve: don't let the corn stand in the water.
To microwave corn, shuck it, spread with butter if you wish, cover closely with plastic wrap or waxed paper, and microwave on full power (100 percent) about 2 1/2 minutes per ear.
Corn is also great cooked on the grill. To prepare, pull down the husks but don't detach them and remove the silks. Spread some butter and salt on the kernels, then pull the husks back up and twist closed. Grill the ears for about fifteen minutes, turning them often.
If you've got corn that's two or three days old, you can add it to soups or use it to make creamed corn, fritters, or spoon bread. Add it to seafood chowder or other soups, or make corn relish with it--there are plenty of ways to prepare it.
PRODUCE PETE SWEET CORN FUN FACTS
Corn was first grown by Native Americans more than 7,000 years ago in Central America.
Sweet corn leaves were used as chewing gum by Native Americans.
Corn is grown on every continent except Antarctica.
Corn plants typically grow 7 – 10 feet tall. Sweet corn plants are several feet shorter.
The tassel borne at the top of the stalk is the male part and the silk of the ear is the female part.
The tassel releases millions of grains of pollen, and some of them are caught by the silk.
There is one strand of silk for each kernel on a cob.
On average there are about 800 kernels on an ear of corn.
An ear of corn always has even number rows.
One acre of land can produce 14,000 pounds of sweet corn.
Depending upon the cultivar type, the crop may be ready for harvesting in 65-90 days.
Corn is cholesterol free.
It’s a good source of vitamin C and A, potassium, thiamine and fiber, and very high in antioxidants.
Corn is a 100% whole grain.
Corn is high in natural sugars/starches.
One average ear of yellow sweet corn equals 86 calories.
Sweet corn is a tasty and nutritious addition to any meal.
Click on the link below for New Jersey Corn Show
NEW JERSEY BLUEBERRIES
The blueberry is a Native American species with deep roots in America's history. By the time the Pilgrims arrived, the American Indians were already enjoying these juicy berries year round through very clever preservation techniques. They were dried in the sun, then added whole to soups, stews and meat; or crushed into a powder and rubbed into meat - perhaps the predecessor of today's trendy "spice rubs". The powder would also be combined with cornmeal, water and honey to make a pudding called Sautauthig. The Pilgrims learned to appreciate blueberries from the Indians, especially as it was the Indian's gift of blueberries which helped the new settlers make it through that first cold winter.
Blueberries also have a place in the annals of folk medicine. Their roots were brewed into a tea to help relax women during childbirth; their leaves steeped to make a blood purifier. Blueberry juice and syrup also cured coughs, according to tribal medicine men.
The blueberry is no youngster, botanist’s estimate it's been around for more than 13,000 years. However, it wasn't cultivated until the first quarter of this century.
Elizabeth White and Dr. Frederick V. Coville were the first to develop the hybrid for cultivated highbush blueberries by domesticating and improving wild highbush blueberry species. The result is a plump, juicy, sweet and easy-to-pick berry with color ranging from deep purple-blue to blue-black, highlighted by a silvery sheen called the "bloom".
Botanically speaking, the blueberry is part of a family that includes the flowering azalea, mountain laurel and heather - all plants that favor acid soil, plenty of water and a cool season. Once growers learned how to increase soil acidity, they were able to grow cultivated blueberries in 35 states and two provinces. Among the major cultivated blueberry producing regions are New Jersey in the East, Michigan and Indiana in the Mid West, and Oregon, Washington and British Columbia in the West. Blueberries are harvested in the South as well, with berries coming from North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas.
On average, cultivated blues represent more than half of all the blueberries produced in North America. Lowbush blues are also harvested, but mainly for use in processed foods.
Cultivated blueberries grow in clusters and don't all ripen at once. The berries at the bottom of the cluster can be ripe while the ones on top are still green. Fresh blueberries are picked by hand to gather the best quality fruit. Harvesting machines are also used to harvest blueberries, gently shaking each plant so only the ripe berries fall into the catching frame. Most of the machine harvested berries are immediately frozen for use year round.
Although fresh blueberries are available nearly eight months of the year from producers across the US and Canada, the peak season is from mid-June to mid-August when the majority of all North American blues are harvested. The earliest harvest is in the southern states and it progressively moves north and into Canada as the season continues.
And after the fresh season is over, cultivated blueberries can still be enjoyed year round, as frozen berries, and in processed foods.
Slightly less than half of all cultivated blueberries are shipped to the fresh market, while the balance of the berries are harvested to be frozen, pureed, concentrated, canned or dried to be used in a wide range of food products, including yogurt, pastries, muffins, baby food, ice cream and cereals.
Look for: fresh blueberries that are firm, dry, plump, smooth-skinned and relatively free from leaves and stems. Size is not an indicator of maturity but color is - berries should be deep purple-blue to blue-black; reddish berries aren't ripe, but may be used in cooking.
Stay away from: containers of berries with juice stains, which may be a sign that the berries are crushed and possibly moldy; soft, watery fruit that means the berries are overripe; dehydrated, wrinkled fruit that means the berries have been stored too long.
Fresh berries should be stored covered, in the refrigerator and washed just before using. Use within 10 days of purchase.
Dry-pack berries in poly bags or boxes can be found in the frozen food section of your supermarket. The frozen berries should feel loose, not clumped together.
Frozen blueberries are individually quick frozen so you can pull out a few or as many as needed.
Blueberries should be kept frozen and the unused portion returned to the freezer promptly. If not used immediately, cover and refrigerate thawed berries and use within three days.
Commercially frozen berries are washed before being frozen so washing again is not necessary. If you make your own frozen blueberries, wash just before using.
The secret to successful freezing is to use berries that are unwashed and completely dry before popping them into the freezer. Completely cover the blueberry containers with plastic wrap or a resealable plastic bag, or transfer berries to a plastic bag and seal airtight. Or, arrange dry berries in a single layer on a cookie sheet. When frozen, transfer berries to plastic bags or freezer containers.
Luscious, sweet blueberries have a nutrition profile fitting for our modern day. They are not only lowfat, but also a good source of both fiber and vitamin C. In fact, a one-cup serving of fresh blueberries will give you 5 grams of fiber, more than most fruits and vegetables and 15% of your daily value for vitamin C at a cost of only 80 calories.
When buying packaged goods that call themselves "blueberry", such as waffles and pancakes; cereals and cookies; muffin, cake and cookie baking mixes, be sure to read the ingredient label closely. Some products don't contain any real blueberries at all, but rather artificially flavored and colored bits or apple pieces, designed to simulate berries.
Blueberries may change color when cooked. Acids, such as lemon juice and vinegar, cause the blue pigment in the berries to turn reddish. Blueberries also contain a yellow pigment, which in an alkaline environment, such as a batter with too much baking soda, may give you greenish-blue berries.
To reduce the amount of color streaking, stir your blueberries in last (right from your freezer, if frozen) into your cake or muffin batter.
For pancakes and waffles, add the blueberries as soon as the batter has been poured on the griddle or waffle iron. This will make the pancakes prettier and they'll be easier to flip. If frozen blueberries are used, cooking time may have to be increased to be sure the berries are heated through.
MORE FROM PRODUCE PETE
Blueberries are an amiable berry-getting along well with a diverse crowd of foods and flavors. Though they can't be beat in all things sweet - such as cakes, puddings, muffins,pancakes, cookies, etc., don't forget, they're pretty impressive on the savory side, too. Their fresh, fruity flavor teams up perfectly with pork, chicken and game, and they're dynamite in fruit salsas and sauces accented with black or red pepper, thyme and mint.
Click link below for New Jersey Blueberry Show
Like most fruits, peaches originated in China and arrived in the United States via the Middle East and Europe. Tender, juicy and aromatic, peaches are thought of as a southern fruit, but California and New Jersey grow huge crops as well. In fact, any temperate area with a long enough growing season will produce peaches, and peaches grown in your area and picked fully ripe are usually your top choice. Of all the places they're grown, though, I think Georgia and the Carolinas still produce the best.
Most of us have no idea how much fuzz peaches have to begin with. Even though they've still got fuzz on them, 90 percent of it has been removed by the time you buy peaches at the market. When I was a kid, New Jersey was about 60 per cent farmland. We bought peaches from a man named Francis Johnson, who had a peach farm four or five towns away from us in Ramsey. I used to go there with my father to pick up peaches for our stand. Although the packing barn was a big red barn, it made me think of a white castle. Peach fuzz covered the whole barn; it was all over the place, completely blanketing the rafters in white, and drifts of fuzz were piled high. Those years are long gone, but they are great memories of my youth and i wish i could go back again and enjoy those wonderful summer days.
The sizing system used for California peaches is derived from the original method of place packing tree fruit into layers deep in a wooden lug. Today this type of container is referred to as a two-layer, tray-packed or "panta-pak" box. Peach size designations are based on the number of pieces of fruit, which can be placed in this two-layer, tray-packed box. For example, there are 56 pieces of fruit in a two-layer, tray-packed box of size 56 peaches.
Through the years, the industry has developed a number of additional pack styles including loose-packed volume-fill boxes, consumer bags, single-layer trays and metric boxes. To accommodate every pack style, the sizing system used by the industry today is regulated according to the maximum number of nectarines in a 16-pound sample. Weigh-counts are set for each size designation and are regulated by the industry through third-party inspection at time of packing.
Approximate minimum diameters have been determined for each size designation, but the true standard of size is the weight-count sample. California peaches, regulated by federal marketing orders, have been inspected to ensure fruit meets minimum weight-counts for the designated size.
Shoulders - The bulge surrounding the stem basin. Shoulders become full and well rounded as the fruit matures on the tree.
Background Color - The yellow color on the skin of peaches and nectarines is the key to determining fruit ripeness. Look for bright yellow to orange colors with no hint of green to indicate a mature piece of fruit.
Blush - The red or bright orange blush on a peach or nectarine is caused by exposure of the fruit to sunlight. This lends a more appealing look to the fruit, but is NOT an indication of ripeness or maturity. Blush may cover anywhere from 10 percent to 100 percent of the fruit surface depending on variety.
Blossom End (tip) - The end opposite the stem. This is often the first part of the fruit to soften when ripe.
Suture - A structural line running from the stem to the blossom end of the fruit. The suture may develop as a cleft or a prominent bulge depending on variety.
Cheek - The sides of the fruit on either side of the suture. The cheeks of well- matured fruit should be plump.
Pit or Stone - The pit or stone (seed) supports the fruit as it hangs from the stem and provides the conduit for nutrients from the tree as the fruit grows. The flesh adheres to the pit in "clingstone" varieties and is easily separated from the pit in "freestone" varieties.
Flesh - The edible inside portion of a peach or nectarine. It can vary slightly in color, but traditional varieties normally have yellow or orange colored flesh. Some varieties may have a darker red flesh radiating from the pits as the fruit matures and ripens. "White flesh" varieties, as the name implies, will have a much paler, almost white appearance.
Once fruit is soft, it can be stored in the refrigerator for a week or more. Depending on the variety, ripe fruit will last for about a week in the refrigerator. But make sure it's ripe before you put it in. Again, an ordinary paper bag is all you need to get your tree fruit really ripe, every time.
Never leave fruit in a plastic bag. Keeping fruit in a plastic bag will hasten decay and can produce off-flavors.
Keep fruit away from the windowsill. Setting fruit on or near your window sill in direct sunlight can cause it to shrivel. High heat actually damages tree fruit.
How to peel peaches. Put them in boiling water for 10 seconds or until the skins split. Plunge them into ice water to cool and prevent cooking. The skins will slip right off.
How to prevent browning on the fruits' cut surfaces. Dip slices of fruit in a mixture of 1 cup water and 1 tablespoon lemon juice or simply squeeze fresh lemon juice over cut surfaces.
Peaches belong to the rose family.
It's easy to ripen firm peaches ,Simply place the fruit inside a paper bag, loosely close the top and keep it at room temperature for a day or two. As peaches ripen they give off a natural hormone called ethylene. The paper bag traps the ethylene close to the fruit, while still allowing for the exchange of air into and out of the bag. Plastic bags will not work and can cause off-flavors in the fruit.
REMEMBER; NEVER PLACE FIRM PEACHES IN THE REFRIGERATOR. This can cause a type of damage called "internal breakdown." If you've ever had a dry or mealy peach, you've experienced "internal breakdown" and it's caused by storing fruit at the wrong temperatures. This can happen in your home refrigerator or at your grocer store. Once fruit is soft and gives to gentle palm pressure, it may be stored in the refrigerator for several days without damage. That's really all there is to it!
Click link below for Southern Peach Show
Many people have never had a fresh fig, since so much of that perishable crop is dried rather than shipped fresh to the consumer.
The very best in the world, however, are often ones that are ripened on trees in the backyard.
I remember my wife Bette’s grandfather had a fig tree in his backyard that required loving care. By the time Bette and I started dating in the early 1960s, her grandfather was getting on in years and every fall, around October, I'd help him prepare the tree for winter.
The tree was probably 15 feet tall, but together we'd tie a rope near the top of its trunk, pull on the rope until the tree was bent in half, then lash it down and wrap the whole thing in old rugs and any plastic we could find to protect it from the winter weather.
Being an inexperienced young man at the time, I would go into the house after we wrapped the tree and tell Bette that it was going to die. She, however, would assure me that every year since she was a baby her grandfather would do this and the tree would be perfect come springtime.
“Sure it will,” I always said, disbelieving.
Pretty soon, spring would come, and we'd remove the rugs and plastic and untie the tree.
“See, Bette -- the tree is still bent in half,” I’d tell her, to which she’d always say “just give it time.”
And boy was she right. The tree would gradually straighten up and the growing season would progress. Come summer, the figs on that tree were incredible, big and sweet as honey.
Her grandfather was amazing and could grow anything, so I learned a great lesson -- never doubt him or Bette. More than 55 years later, I still don't doubt her and I still listen – well, sometimes!
THE FACTS ON FIGS
Fresh figs can be round, flat, oval, or elongated, with a white, green, purple, or black skin depending on the variety. The flesh, which ranges in color from yellowish-white to a deep reddish pink, has a very delicate flavor and soft texture.
Figs are one of the most fragile fresh fruits you'll find at your produce store and must be handled with extreme care by both shippers and consumers.
Although there are some seedless varieties, most figs are full of tiny crunchy seeds that are eaten along with the flesh. The three most popular figs on the market are the sac-like Breba, the flat green Kadota, and the round black Mission fig, so-called because it was first cultivated by monks in California. Of these three, I think the Mission is the best of all.
Historians argue about whether the Greeks sent figs to Egypt and beyond or whether figs traveled the other way. Regardless, figs are grown extensively in India and are also cultivated in Iran, Turkey, Greece and Sicily.
I may be biased, but I think that Sicilian figs are especially wonderful.
In the U.S., figs are grown in many home gardens as far north as New York, but almost all of the fresh figs on the market here are grown in California, with a smaller crop from Texas that’s primarily sold to canneries.
California figs, which are in season from June to September, are packed individually in separate compartments within cardboard or wooden boxes, then shipped by air to the rest of the country to protect their delicate flesh.
Because they're so perishable and hard to handle, they tend to be one of the more expensive items you'll find at the produce market.
SELECTION AND STORAGE
Because packers handle them so carefully, figs usually arrive at the market in good shape, but avoid figs with brown or grayish spots on the skin, as these indicate that the fruit has started to ferment.
If the fruit doesn't show signs of fermentation or damage, it will almost certainly be good. Firm fruit can be ripened at home at room temperature, but even firm fruit must be handled with great care.
Perfectly ripe figs are soft to the touch and secrete a sweet sap from the opening at the blossom end. At this stage, they're extremely fragile and perishable and need to be handled very gently and eaten right away.
If you must store them, lay them on a paper towel, cover them with plastic wrap, and store them in the refrigerator for no more than three days.
A ripe, fresh fig is delicious simply eaten out of hand. You can eat the skin or nibble the flesh from the skin.
Figs can also be poached with sugar, used in baking, or made into jam or preserves.
Fresh figs help retain the freshness and moisture of items they’re combined with and are often used to help extend the shelf life of cakes and baked goods without chemicals or preservatives.
Figs mixed with olive oil, rosemary and garlic make an excellent spread for focaccia bread, while figs and rosemary make a great stuffing for pork chops, chicken and dumplings. Grilled figs on skewers basted with brandy are simply delicious.
In place of melon, try wrapping fig halves in prosciutto, an appetizer that Bette and her family have made for years using a tasty recipe sourced from the great Long Island chef Ina Garten.
PRODUCE PETE FUN FIG FACTS
Fig trees have no blossoms on their branches. The blossom is inside of the fruit! Many tiny flowers produce the crunchy little edible seeds that give figs their unique texture.
Click on link below for Mission Fig Show
Great fragrance is the hallmark of a good ripe cantaloupe. In my younger days, when I had the store and I would come home from the market the smell from a crate or two of cantaloupes in the truck would fill the air, it didn't matter what other produce was in there. When I opened the door to unload, the warm, rich, sweet summer smell of melons is the first thing that hits me. Usually the least expensive and probably the most popular melons on the market, cantaloupes are sweet, fragrant, and juicy, with a pinkish orange to bright orange flesh. Grown primarily in California and other western states, cantaloupes are round, with a golden, tightly netted skin.
Although good cantaloupes from the West are available from June through December, they are best between June and September. That's when the California crop is at its peak, and I think that state grows the best cantaloupes. Arizona is next, New Mexico and Texas also grow big cantaloupe crops.
Almost all cantaloupes commercially grown in California are of the Hale's Best group of varieties. Several strains are on the market, each with a few distinct characteristics. Other varieties include Hymark and Mission.
California provides the bulk of supplies to the U.S. with Arizona and Texas also producing considerable amounts. U.S. availability begins in late April and the peak months are June through September.
If the stem end is rough with portions of the stem remaining, the melon was harvested prematurely. Shriveled, flabby or badly bruised product signals poor quality. Also avoid melons with growth cracks, mottling or decay (mold or soft sunken spots on the surface). A mature cantaloupe will be well netted or webbed with a smoothly rounded, depressed scar at the stem end.
When ready to eat, cantaloupe will take on a yellow background appearance, acquire an aroma and soften. Because cantaloupe is shipped in a firm state to avoid damage, it usually needs a few days at room temperature to soften and become juicier.
To prevent bacteria on the melon netting from passing through to the flesh when cutting, follow these FDA rules:
The best time to buy western cantaloupes is between June and September, when the California melons are at their peak. During December, January, and February, we get cantaloupes imported from Central America. Although you'll occasionally get lucky and find a good one, most of these are both overpriced and lousy. In February, March, April and May we start to see Mexican cantaloupes. They aren't as good as summer cantaloupes from the States, but over the last few years the quality has improved and the price has become more reasonable.
Color and, more important, fragrance - not softness at the stem end - indicates ripeness. A cantaloupe with golden color and ripe, sweet aroma is going to be a ripe, sweet melon. Don't push the stem end - if your neighbor presses a thumb there, and I press mine there, you're going to feel something soft even if the melon is grass green. For some reason, cantaloupes with tighter netting seem to have a firmer, crisper texture and cut better than those with the looser, more open netting.
A cantaloupe on the green side will ripen if you leave it out at room temperature until any green undertones in the rind have turned golden and the melon has a rich smell. But in season, during the summer, there's no excuse for taking home a green melon. In-season melons should have been picked fully mature and fully ripe, with little or no green showing.
I think melons taste better and have a better texture at room temperature, but if you like your melon chilled, refrigerate it right before you're going to eat it. Cut melons, of course, have to be refrigerated, but wrap them tightly in plastic to preserve moisture. If you don't want everything in your refrigerator to smell and taste like cantaloupes (and vice-versa), it's a good idea to put the melon in a heavy plastic or glass container with a tight-fitting lid.
Cantaloupes are fine eaten as is for breakfast or dessert or cut up with other melons and fruits in a salad.
Nutrient content descriptors for cantaloupes include: fat-free, saturated fat-free, very-low-sodium, cholesterol-free, high in vitamin A, high in vitamin C and a good source of folate (add 10% folate to label).
Because cantaloupe is easy to cut, it can be used as an appetizer, in salads, as a breakfast plate garnish and in compotes and desserts.
A FEW FUN FACTS FROM PRODUCE PETE
– Cantaloupes are considered a luxury and are commonly given as a gift in Japan.
– Cantaloupes were first brought to America by Christopher Columbus is 1492.
– Did you know that “down under” in Australia they refer to cantaloupe as “ROCKMELON”? Makes sense to us – they kind of do look like rocks.
– An average sized cantaloupe contains just 100 calories. Who knew something so sweet could be good for you?
– Cantaloupes are the most popular melon in the United States. Try them freeze dried for an all natural, portable, healthy snack.
– They are members of vine-crop family, including other melons, squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, and gourds. They have plenty of relatives – one big happy family.
– Not only do they taste good, they also fight against lung and oral cavity cancers.
– Because cantaloupes are high in Vitamin A, they help maintain good eye health. Vitamin A is essential for maintaining healthy mucus membrane and skin of your eye.
– Cantaloupes protect you from UV rays. Forget the sunblock! Just joking, you should still definitely wear sunblock on top of adding more cantaloupe into your diet.
– Cantaloupes also help fight infections due to being filled with Vitamin C.
– Cantaloupes trailing vine can reach up to 5 feet in height.
– Fruits develop after 90 days of planting. Don’t plant them if you’re craving one right away – you’re better off going to the grocery store.
– Cantaloupes have many roles. They can be consumed fresh and as an ingredient in a fruit salad or used to create sorbets, smoothies and ice-creams. Even freeze dried, cantaloupes are a healthy snack.
– The cantaloupe was first cultivated in the 1700s, in the Italian papal village of Cantalup. Now we know where they got the name from.
These are just a few of our favorites! We hope you share these interesting cantaloupe fun facts with your family and friends, and try to incorporate cantaloupe in your diet if you haven’t already. They are super nutritious and packed with vitamins.
Serving Size: 1/4 Med. Cantaloupe (134g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 50 Calories from Fat 0
% of Daily Value
Total Fat: 0g 0%
Saturated Fat: 0g 0%
Cholesterol: 0mg 0 %
Sodium: 25mg 1 %
Total Carbohydrate: 12g 4 %
Dietary Fiber 1 g 4 %
Vitamin A: 100% Vitamin C 80%
Calcium: 2% Iron 2 %
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000-calorie diet.
Source: PMA's Labeling Facts
Click on link below for Cantaloupe Show
WELL FINALLY ITS HERE , WARM WEATHER. IT SEEMS LIKE IT WOULD NEVER COME. THE FIRST OF THE SUMMER FRUITS IS ALWAYS THE APRICOT, WHEN I SEE THEM IN THE SUPERMARKETS OR AT YOUR GREEN GROCERS , I KNOW THE REST OF THE SUMMER FRUITS IS NOT FAR BEHIND. WHEN I WAS YOUNG AND POP HAD THE STORE, PEOPLE WOULD ALWAYS COME IN LOOKING FOR PEACHES, PLUMS, NECTARINES AFTER A LONG WINTER. IN THOSE DAYS IN THE WINTER NO SUMMER FRUIT WAS EVER AVAILABLE, NOT LIKE TODAY WHEN FRUIT COMES FROM AROUND THE WORLD, NOW PLEASE LISTEN, I SAID ITS AVAILABLE, BUT I DIDN'T SAY IT WAS ANY GOOD. THE OFF SHORE FRUIT HAS TO BE PICKED TO GREEN TO WITHSTAND THE LONG TRIP HERE, FRUIT WILL GET RIPER, SOAFTER BUT NEVER SWEETER, IT HAS TO HAVE MATURITY IN IT WHEN IT IS PICKED, SO THAT'S WHY IN THE WINTER FRUIT IS ONLY SO SO. POP WOULD ALWAYS TELL THE CUSTOMERS TOO EARLY, WHAT'S YOUR HURRY, WHEN YOU SEE GOOD SWEET APRICOTS THE REST WILL FOLLOW. GOOD THINGS ARE WORTH WAITING FOR, IF YOU WANT THE FRUIT TO TASTE LIKE A LIME, WE SELL LIMES TO. WHERE HE CAME FROM IN ITALY THE FRUIT WAS ALWAYS GOOD BECAUSE THEY WAITED FOR THE SEASONS AND IT WAS GROWN LOCAL. I LEARNED A VALUABLE LESSON FROM HIM, ALWAYS BUY IN SEASON AND WHEN THE SEASON IS IN WAIT A WEEK AND AT THE END OF THE SEASON STOP BUYING TO GET THE BEST. HIS WAYS MAYBE ARE OLD FASHION NOW BUT THEY STILL WORK.
When apricots arrive in the store, I know that summer has finally arrived and all the other hot weather fruits are not far behind. A good apricot is small, round, delicate, and glows with golden color. About the size of a plum and similar in appearance to a very small peach, a ripe apricot is sweet, fragrant, richly colored, and extremely fragile. It is also one of the richest sources of beta carotene (vitamin A) Apricots are delicious and low in calories eaten out of hand, they're also great poached with a little sugar, turned into jam or fillings for layer cakes, made into tarts, dried or glaceed.
Although apricots from China were introduced to Europe by Alexander the Great, they apparently disappeared at some point during the Roman Empire. Some say that the Moors reintroduced them when they conquered Spain, but apricots definitely reappeared during the Crusades. And it's certain that Franciscan friars brought them to California, which still grows the bulk of the crop in the United States. Although we get a few out of Idaho, I think those from California are the best. They're surpassed in flavor only by apricots from Morocco, where weather and soil conditions produce wonderful apricots. The trouble is, they're so fragile they must be picked hard and shipped under refrigeration and often don't ripen properly. Too many times in and out of the refrigerator, and an apricot becomes dry and woody. If you see great-looking apricots from Morocco, try them, but your safest bet is the California apricot, mainly because it travels a shorter distance.
California apricots are at their peak from May through August. Later in the fall, apricots from Idaho appear. Winter fruit from Chile, Australia, and New Zealand are not worth buying, simply because they've been picked too green (which means they will be very hard, very woody). Australian apricots are fine in Australia, but not here.
Since apricots will ripen off the tree, in many instances it is your best bet to buy firm fruit and take it home to ripen. Firm apricots should be gold, with no traces of green. A good ripe one will be a rich allover gold, often with a red blush, and the flesh will be soft. Avoid wrinkled apricots, which are old.
Because they are so tender, ripe apricots will often show small bruises or soft spots. Don't let that worry you, as it is usually a sign that the fruit is ripe and sweet (but don't select fruit that is bruised all over--something that can happen in a self-service market where dozens of people may have squeezed the life out of the fruit). Although Napolitano's was self-service, we tried to keep the apricots near the check-out counter so that we can help our customers with them. Do yourself and your neighbors a favor, and handle apricots and other fragile fruit very carefully.
Leave hard apricots on the counter in a warm place for as long as five or six days to ripen, until very gold in color and soft to the touch. A ripe apricot may be refrigerated, but not for more than a day or two. Like peaches, apricots dry out fairly quickly in the refrigerator.
A fresh ripe apricot is a sublime treat. But this fragrant fruit is also delicious gently poached, or try the Apricot Mousse featured in Bette's Recipes
Click on link below for Apricot Show
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.
Click link below for Seedless Watermelon Show
Managed and operated a family owned farm/produce business for retail, wholesale, and fruit baskets. Pete has been in the produce business his whole life, and started out selling produce off the back of a truck at auctions and at his parents' roadside stand. Pete's family has been in business since 1953 at the same location in Bergenfield, New Jersey. From 1971 - 1997 Pete owned and operated this family "seasonal" business that includes at Christmas - Christmas trees, wreaths, and fruit baskets. During Easter we sell various plants, gourmet baskets and fruit baskets - Mother's Day - plants, fresh cut flowers, fruit baskets. At Halloween - pumpkins, corn stalks, etc. The produce store is open between April and December with retail, wholesale, and fruit baskets.
In January 1998 he turned over the business to his son Peter Charles making him the 3rd generation to own Napolitano's Produce. In April of 2006, Napolitano's Produce closed it's doors after 53 years, a sad day but everything comes to an end. I would like to thank all the faithful customers who shopped my family store over the past 53 years. It was a privilege serving you. In June 2000 - he started as a Fruit & Vegetable Buyer for S. Katzman Produce at Hunts Point Market, Bronx, New York.Pete comes from a large family with his father being the 20th child - "That's why we are in the food business".