Leeks are in the same vegetable family as onions and garlic. They taste sweeter and milder than onions. Leeks are made up of elongated, white bulbs with broadening and darkening green leaves at their tops. The bulb comes to an end at a point, often with roots still attached. The bulbs and lighter green leaves are edible and can be eaten raw or cooked. The darker green leaves are much tougher and along with the roots, should be removed before eating or cooking. Leeks have never played as big a role in American cooking as they have in European – especially French cuisines, and that’s a shame. They look like enormous scallions and they are the sweetest and mildest of all the onions. Cream of leek soup is delicious (my mother made one I still remember vividly), and leeks also add a wonderful flavor to other soup stocks and stews. They are delicious braised and served almost as you’d serve asparagus. I love them.
SeasonBecause they’re grown in various parts of the country – California, Florida and Texas are major producers – leeks are available nearly year-round. They’re best and most plentiful from late fall until early spring.
SelectingLook for leeks with crisp, green tops. The lower two or three inches should be white. Avoid leeks that have soft spots or are yellowed or fibrous-looking. The smaller leeks are usually the most-tender.
StoringTrim the roots but don’t cut them off entirely, if you do, the leek will fall apart. Remove any limp or discolored leaves, trim the tops a little, and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Don’t leave unwrapped leeks near other foods. Like onions, they readily transmit their odor and flavor to milk and other foods in the refrigerator.
The challenge when cooking with leeks is that they are almost always dirty. When leeks are grown, soil is piled up around them, so that more of the leek is hidden from the sun, and therefore lighter in color and more tender.What produces a beautiful leek, a long pale body, also results in sand and dirt being lodged deep inside the leek.
Cut from opening to ends of greens:
Place leek on a cutting board. Insert the tip of a sharp knife about a 1/4-inch below the lowest opening in the leek
.Cut straight through, up to and through the green ends of the leek, leaving the pale part of the leek whole.
Fan open the leek and place under cold running water. Rinse out any dirt or sand. If the leek is especially dirty, you may want to make another similar cut through the leek to further be able to fan the leek open
Cut off dark green tops:
Cut off the dark green tops of the leek, reserving on the body of the leek as much of the dark green as you want. We like the taste (it's basically just a big onion green), so we typically keep about 2 to 3 inches or so of the dark green part with the body of the leeks. Discard the dark greens or save them to flavor soups or stews, or use for making stock.
Cut of the root end of the leeks
staying as close to the roots as possible. Cutting close to the roots will hold the leeks together when cooking them whole.
If you’re using them in soups, use the whole leek without trimming. If you’re serving leeks as a vegetable, trim the green ends, but save them for soup stock. The white lower portions are good sliced raw into salads. Leeks are especially sweet and delicious braised whole in water or chicken stock, then served warm with a bit of butter and seasonings or cold in a vinaigrette dressing
CHECK OUT BETTE'S LEEK AND POTATO SOUP AT BETTE'S RECIPES !!!
Click on Link below for Spring Leek 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
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 spaghettiSpaghetti 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 !!!
Click link below for Winter Squash Show
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
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. PREPARATION
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!
Click link below for Halloween Pumpkin Show
SMALLER IS SWEETER
In America, we think bigger is better, but here’s something that’s an exception to the rule — baby seedless grapes.When I was a young boy selling produce off the back of my father’s truck in north Jersey, all seedless grapes looked like baby grapes, small but really sweet. (So sweet, in fact, that my father and uncle were able to make delicious wine out of them — not that it was on my approved drinking list at the time)!As time went on, society started to buy with its eyes, not its taste buds, and began looking for grapes that had more size. Because these baby grapes were so small, they stopped being sent to market, but smart farmers knew how good they were and picked a few for their families and neighbors and all of a sudden there was a demand for them.I always say that in the end, consumers drive the sales, not the farmers or wholesalers, but the person with the shopping cart who walks in the store looking for a certain item. So farmers started sending them to market and people loved them. In fact, I recently offered some to one of my grandsons, who put up his nose and said they’re too small. I said “Jake, try them,” and once he did, he ate the entire 1-pound container in one sitting and said “Poppy, these are great!”The season for baby seedless grapes is late August until the end of September, so get them now while they’re available, and if you can’t find them in your store just ask your produce manager for them. Remember, you’re the boss!
BABY SEEDLESS GRAPES
A tradition takes place in California in the fall with the growing of baby seedless grapes from Thompson seedless grapes. This happens by letting the grapes grow naturally and not thinning them out. This process is usually initiated to make raisins, but over the past few years farmers have discovered that the fresh market for eating out-of-hand has come to enjoy the sweet, tender taste of these delicate grapes.I got hooked on these grapes years ago and find them to be one of the sweetest and best-eating grapes of the fall season. This is really a seasonal grape, usually only produced in the fall when the sun is still strong and the weather starts to turn cool. Treat them like you would any other seedless grape and enjoy them, but remember they’re full of sugar so they won’t last long … so eat them, don’t store them!
STANDARD SEEDLESS GRAPES
There are basically three types of seedless grapes — white, red, and black. California Pearlettes usually arrive in early May. They’re round, very light green, and have a firm and crisp texture. Look for grapes that have a golden yellow undertone because they’re sweeter; ones that are very green are extremely tart and will make your mouth pucker. Since the season is six to eight weeks long, it’s best to wait a week or two after they first arrive before you buy them.The familiar California Thompson seedless, another pale green grape, is among America’s favorites. Thompsons are larger, more oval than round, and have a sweeter taste and more tender skin and flesh than Pearlettes. Here, too, you should look for a grape that has a golden glow, which indicates ripeness. The Thompsons start coming in about a month after the Pearlettes and stay on the market a couple of months longer.White grapes from Chile start arriving in December and tend to have a more-raisiny look compared to California varieties. Some people pass them up because they think they’re overripe, but they’re not; their golden color is a sign that they’re good and sweet.Red seedless grapes, which arrive on the market after Thompsons, have become the most popular grapes around. A cross between the seeded Tokay and round seedless grapes, Red Flame varieties are firm and sweet with a very good, crisp texture. Ruby seedless types have a richer, deeper color than the Flame, but the grapes are smaller, with a shape like a Pearlette. They have a tougher skin and less flavor than Flames and are the last of the season for seedless grapes.Black Beauty is a newer variety of seedless grape with a relatively short season. It doesn’t have quite the flavor that the other varieties do, but the Chilean black seedless grapes are better than those from California. Domestic black grapes are available in June and July, while Black Beauties from Chile are available in mid-winter.Champagne grapes are probably the sweetest of all. These tiny red grapes are available virtually year-round because they’re cultivated everywhere, mainly for restaurant use. You’re most likely to find them in gourmet or specialty markets and are easiest to eat by putting a small branchful into your mouth, then pulling the stem out between your teeth to remove the grapes, sort of like eating an artichoke leaf.
SELECTION AND STORAGE
Look for plump, smooth grapes with good color. They should be firmly attached to a fresh-looking green stem, with no evidence of wrinkling or withering. There should be a dusty bloom on the skin of the grape itself, like the dusty bloom on blueberries, it’s a naturally occurring substance that helps protect the grapes and is a good indication of freshness. Green or white grapes will have a golden glow when they’re ripe, while red grapes will be a soft, rich red, and black grapes will have a deep, blue-black color.Grapes don’t ripen off the vine, so what you buy is what you get. They’re very delicate and need to be handled carefully. Refrigerate them dry in a plastic bag and never wash them until you’re ready to eat; moisture will make them deteriorate very quickly. Grapes will last up to a week if properly stored in the refrigerator, but it’s best to eat them as soon as possible.Following are some of my favorite tips for serving and enjoying grapes
:PETE'S TOP GRAPE PICKS
Grapes are great for out-of-hand eating or as a luncheon dessert, snack, or complement to wine and cheese.
Click link below for Baby Seedless Grape segment
New Jersey grows a variety of cantaloupe called the Athena melon (years ago, we called them muskmelons), which are usually sweet with very soft flesh and are highly perishable.
I remember in our produce store growing up, my father would bring in loads of them in the summer, and you could smell their sweet scent for miles, but unfortunately, they would only last a day or two before they went bad.
That’s why most stores today sell popular California cantaloupes, which are high in sugar content and are good keepers that usually last up to a week.
Like many other households today with just two people, both of whom work, my wife, Bette, and I shop once a week and rely on produce to keep for weeks. However, since produce is meant to be eaten, not stored, we now depend on farmers and stores to offer produce that will last longer. This means picking and buying the product greener and not as ripe, which I’m not crazy about, but it’s a sign of the times.
SEASONS AND VARIETIES
Great fragrance is the hallmark of a good ripe cantaloupe, and the warm, rich, sweet summer smell of melons is always the first thing that hits me. Inexpensive and highly popular, 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’re best between June and September, when the California crop is at its peak. I think California grows the best cantaloupes, followed by Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. From December through February, cantaloupes will be imported from Central America; these aren't as good as summer cantaloupes from the U.S., but over the last few years, their quality has improved, and their price has become more reasonable.
Almost all cantaloupes commercially grown in California are of the ‘Hale’s Best’ varieties. Several strains are on the market, and each of them has a few distinct characteristics. Other varieties include Hymark and Mission.
SELECTION AND STORAGE
Color and, more importantly, fragrance — not softness at the stem end — indicates ripeness. A cantaloupe with a golden color and a 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, eventually 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.
If the stem end is rough with portions of the stem remaining, the melon was harvested prematurely. A 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.
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 during the summer, there’s no excuse for taking home a green melon, as in-season melons should have been picked fully mature and ripe, with little or no green showing.
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.
I think melons have a better taste and 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 tightly fitting lid.
High in folate and vitamins A and C, cantaloupes are great eaten as is for breakfast or dessert or cut up with other melons and fruits in a salad. 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.
FARMS VIEW MUSKMELONS
This week we are back at Farm's View Farm in Wayne , New Jersey so here's a little more information on Muskmelons grown right here on the farm.
The Muskmelons taste is attributed to the combination of flavor, texture, and sweetness. Sugars are pumped into the fruit from the leaves as the fruit matures. Once harvested, the fruit receives no more sugar, though changes in flavor and texture will continue. Therefore, it is better to leave melons on the vine as long as possible, so they can reach peak sweetness and the best taste. Cantaloupes (Muskmelons) When cantaloupess are beginning to ripen they will turn color, from a dull grayish green to a buff-yellow. Cantaloupess also develop a netting over the skin as they mature. Cantaloupes are harvested by the degree of “slip,” or ease of detachment from the vine. A melon at full-slip is one that is fully mature and at peak flavor. At full-slip, the cantaloupe will detach easily from the vine, leaving a clean stem scar. “Locally Grown” melons are usually harvested at full-slip, which is why they usually taste better than melons shipped in from other production areas. Those melons are harvested at quarter or half-slip, which means part of the stem detached from the fruit, but part remains. Although not at full maturity or peak sugar content, these melons are firmer and remain in good condition when shipped long distances. Full-slip melons are softer and do not ship well. In the home garden, there is no reason to rush cantaloupe harvest. Wait for them to reach full-slip. So that's why if there is a farm stand by you take advantage of getting a ripe muskmelon/cantaloupe and enjoy this great taste of summer
Click on link below for Muskmelon Show
After cantaloupes and watermelons, probably the most familiar melons to Americans are honeydews, which are available in to the winter months. The rind is very smooth, greenish white to yellow in color, and the flesh is a cool lime green. An unripe honeydew is terrible, but a ripe one is probably the sweetest melon of all - and the prettiest. Honeydew is definitely one of my favorite melons. All too often it's difficult to find a ripe honeydew, but it's not difficult to pick out a ripe one. The rind will develop a golden color and will actually become sticky outside. Never be afraid of a honeydew that has developed a bit of brown freckling on the rind - that's where it's tacky with sugar. The other clue to a ripe honeydew is a sweet, heady aroma. People tend to check the stem end of the melon to see if it's soft, but that's not going to tell you a thing. Good aroma, color, freckles, and a sticky feel are the telltale signs of a sweet honeydew. In season, honeydews from California are the best. Unless you live in California, however, a ripe honeydew before August or after October is as rare as a blue moon. Because ripe ones are fragile and hard to ship, 99 percent of those you see most the year have been picked green, and they'll never ripen. From August through October, however, a new crop of honeydews is ripening in California, and they become ready so quickly the growers can't pick them fast enough. Lucky for you, because most of the honeydews end up staying on the vine until they're ripe and full of sugar. Honeydews from Arizona, Texas, and Mexico are in season at the same time, but in my opinion they range from decent (Arizona honeydews) to lackluster (those from Texas and Mexico). There are a couple of consistently good California brands you may want to watch for - Pony Boys and Sycamores.
Start looking in August, and you'll rarely be disappointed. So, you want to know how to tell if a honeydew melon is ripe, do you? Well, I don’t blame you. After all, there are few things better than a juicy honeydew, but an unripe one leaves a lot to be desired.
Farmers have to be careful when harvesting honeydew melons from the vine as this particular fruit will not ripen if it is picked too early. An immature honeydew melon will remain hard, bland, and, frankly, inedible, so it’s vital they are picked once they’ve moved over to maturity.The confusion between mature and immature melons comes about because mature honeydews can still be unripe. The difference is that a mature honeydew will begin to ripen if left to do its thing on your kitchen counter, whereas an immature one will never turn into the soft, luscious, juicy, tender fruit we all know and love.A nice ripe honeydew melon will give off certain clues, and these are what you are going to be looking out for before you take your knife out of its block and begin slicing open your delicious ball of goodness
When a honeydew melon is ripe and ready to eat it will have a sweet scent which simply screams out EAT ME! The longer the melon is left to ripen, the stronger the fruit’s fragrance becomes. LOOKS
Your melon should have next to no greenness once it has fully ripened, so keep an eye out for any green veins running across the rind (the outer skin of the fruit). A ripe honeydew will have lost its green tinge and moved over to a nice whitish yellow or golden hue. SOUND
Yes! Listen to your melons, people. As you probably know, honeydew melons have an abundance of seeds inside them and these begin to work their way loose from the flesh as the melon ripens. What has this got to do with your ears? Well, if you give a ripe melon a quick shake you’ll hear a faint rattling sound from within. Try it. It’s a cool trick. Another audio clue can be found when you drum a melon with your fingers. The resulting sound should be somewhat of a deep, dull thud if your honeydew is ready to eat.
Time to get touchy. When working out how to tell if a honeydew is ripe, this is often the first thing you’ll hear people talk about, and yet many people get it wrong. The key is to gently press the opposite end to where the stem was, commonly referred to as the blossom end in gardening circles. With a honeydew melon, ripe fruits will yield a little and then bounce straight back. The “give” you’re after is not too hard, not too soft. Think of Goldilocks when you’re pressing! Nicely ripened honeydews will also have a different feel to them than unripened melons. Run your fingers across the rind of a perfectly ripened fruit and you’ll feel fine ridges in the skin, whereas less ripe honeydews will be smoother.
Selecting a ripe honeydew melon is great if you’re going to eat it that day, but what about if you are planning on waiting a while? Well, as I’ve already mentioned, the key thing to avoid is an immature fruit. Providing the melon is mature, you can always ripen a honeydew melon at home.You can do all of the above tips in store to select the ripest, juiciest melons, but there are some other things to look out for as well when you’re buying a honeydew from a store or down at your local farmers market:
A good honeydew melon will almost feel too heavy for its size when you pick it up. Why? Because of all that glorious juice held within, that’s why! Selecting a nice heavy honeydew will ensure you get a lip-smackingly juicy fruit.
A mature honeydew will appear round and symmetrical when you look at it, with no weird lumps and bumps. Again, it’s a good idea to avoid greener fruits too.
While the stem will likely have been removed from the fruit before it hit the supermarket shelves, looking at this part of the fruit can determine whether it was nicely matured on the vine or not. What you are looking for is a subtle dip around where the stem once was. Any remnants of the stem should be well hardened, dry, and free from any signs of mold.
Sit yourself down, I have some bad news for you.If you’ve been a little eager and cut into your honeydew too early, there isn’t much you can do to ripen it, unfortunately. However, all is not completely lost.Instead of wasting your unripe honeydew melon, try adding it to your daily green smoothie. Unripe melons are hard and pretty tasteless, but your blender will whizz them up and the other ingredients will mask the blandness.While it’s a poor substitute for a deliciously ripe honeydew, it’s a much better option than throwing it in the trash.However, if you’re melon is actually immature (rather than simply unripe) and therefore has no chance of ever ripening, take it back to the store and complain. Immature fruits do sometimes escape quality control, but the more we stand up for ourselves the greater the chance this will be improved upon.That’s it! Now you should be able to easily tell the difference between an unripe and a ripe honeydew melon. All that remains now is to slice one up and get stuck in.Happy eating!
ORANGE FLESH HONEYDEWS
Orange-fleshed honeydews are fairly new on the market. The rind has a more golden color that turns to orange as the melon ripens, so it's a bit easier to tell a mature one by looking at it. I don't think the orange-fleshed variety is quite as sweet as a regular honeydew that's mature and really ripe, but in the winter, when the orange-fleshed variety is shipped in from Chile and other growers south of the equator, it is a better melon and a better buy than any domestic honeydew you're likely to find.
Click on the link below for Honeydew 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.
STORINGThe short answer is don't; just eat fresh corn right away. But if you must, store it in the refrigerator.
A lady came into my store years ago and said, "I cook corn so long it almost starts to pop, and it's still tough." I said, "That's because you're cooking it so long!" Never overcook fresh, sweet corn. It only needs a few minutes' cooking time. To boil it, bring the water to a boil before dropping in the shucked ears. If the ears are too long for the pot, don't cut them with a knife, which tends to crush the kernels; just break them in two with you hands. Let the water return to a boil, and boil hard for three to four minutes. Remove immediately and serve: don't let the corn stand in the water.
To microwave corn, shuck it, spread with butter if you wish, cover closely with plastic wrap or waxed paper, and microwave on full power (100 percent) about 2 1/2 minutes per ear.
Corn is also great cooked on the grill. To prepare, pull down the husks but don't detach them and remove the silks. Spread some butter and salt on the kernels, then pull the husks back up and twist closed. Grill the ears for about fifteen minutes, turning them often.
If you've got corn that's two or three days old, you can add it to soups or use it to make creamed corn, fritters, or spoon bread. Add it to seafood chowder or other soups, or make corn relish with it--there are plenty of ways to prepare it.
PRODUCE PETE SWEET CORN FUN FACTS
Corn was first grown by Native Americans more than 7,000 years ago in Central America
.Sweet corn leaves were used as chewing gum by Native Americans.
Corn is grown on every continent except Antarctica.
Corn plants typically grow 7 – 10 feet tall.
Sweet corn plants are several feet shorter
.The tassel borne at the top of the stalk is the male part and the silk of the ear is the female part
.The tassel releases millions of grains of pollen, and some of them are caught by the silk
.There is one strand of silk for each kernel on a cob
.On average there are about 800 kernels on an ear of corn
.An ear of corn always has even number rows
.One acre of land can produce 14,000 pounds of sweet corn
.Depending upon the cultivar type, the crop may be ready for harvesting in 65-90 days.
Corn is cholesterol free.It’s a good source of vitamin C and A, potassium, thiamine and fiber, and very high in antioxidants
Corn is a 100% whole grain
.Corn is high in natural sugars/starches
.One average ear of yellow sweet corn equals 86 calories
.Sweet corn is a tasty and nutritious addition to any meal.
Click on the link below for New Jersey Corn Show
Great fragrance is the hallmark of a good ripe cantaloupe. In my younger days, when I had the store and I would come home from the market the smell from a crate or two of cantaloupes in the truck would fill the air, it didn't matter what other produce was in there. When I opened the door to unload, the warm, rich, sweet summer smell of melons is the first thing that hits me. Usually the least expensive and probably the most popular melons on the market, cantaloupes are sweet, fragrant, and juicy, with a pinkish orange to bright orange flesh. Grown primarily in California and other western states, cantaloupes are round, with a golden, tightly netted skin. Although good cantaloupes from the West are available from June through December, they are best between June and September. That's when the California crop is at its peak, and I think that state grows the best cantaloupes. Arizona is next, New Mexico and Texas also grow big cantaloupe crops.
Almost all cantaloupes commercially grown in California are of the Hale's Best group of varieties. Several strains are on the market, each with a few distinct characteristics. Other varieties include Hymark and Mission. California provides the bulk of supplies to the U.S. with Arizona and Texas also producing considerable amounts. U.S. availability begins in late April and the peak months are June through September. If the stem end is rough with portions of the stem remaining, the melon was harvested prematurely. Shriveled, flabby or badly bruised product signals poor quality. Also avoid melons with growth cracks, mottling or decay (mold or soft sunken spots on the surface). A mature cantaloupe will be well netted or webbed with a smoothly rounded, depressed scar at the stem end. When ready to eat, cantaloupe will take on a yellow background appearance, acquire an aroma and soften. Because cantaloupe is shipped in a firm state to avoid damage, it usually needs a few days at room temperature to soften and become juicier. To prevent bacteria on the melon netting from passing through to the flesh when cutting, follow these FDA rules:
The best time to buy western cantaloupes is between June and September, when the California melons are at their peak. During December, January, and February, we get cantaloupes imported from Central America. Although you'll occasionally get lucky and find a good one, most of these are both overpriced and lousy. In February, March, April and May we start to see Mexican cantaloupes. They aren't as good as summer cantaloupes from the States, but over the last few years the quality has improved and the price has become more reasonable.
Color and, more important, fragrance - not softness at the stem end - indicates ripeness. A cantaloupe with golden color and ripe, sweet aroma is going to be a ripe, sweet melon. Don't push the stem end - if your neighbor presses a thumb there, and I press mine there, you're going to feel something soft even if the melon is grass green. For some reason, cantaloupes with tighter netting seem to have a firmer, crisper texture and cut better than those with the looser, more open netting. A cantaloupe on the green side will ripen if you leave it out at room temperature until any green undertones in the rind have turned golden and the melon has a rich smell. But in season, during the summer, there's no excuse for taking home a green melon. In-season melons should have been picked fully mature and fully ripe, with little or no green showing. I think melons taste better and have a better texture at room temperature, but if you like your melon chilled, refrigerate it right before you're going to eat it. Cut melons, of course, have to be refrigerated, but wrap them tightly in plastic to preserve moisture. If you don't want everything in your refrigerator to smell and taste like cantaloupes (and vice-versa), it's a good idea to put the melon in a heavy plastic or glass container with a tight-fitting lid. Cantaloupes are fine eaten as is for breakfast or dessert or cut up with other melons and fruits in a salad. Nutrient content descriptors for cantaloupes include: fat-free, saturated fat-free, very-low-sodium, cholesterol-free, high in vitamin A, high in vitamin C and a good source of folate (add 10% folate to label). Because cantaloupe is easy to cut, it can be used as an appetizer, in salads, as a breakfast plate garnish and in compotes and desserts.
A FEW FUN FACTS FROM PRODUCE PETE
– Cantaloupes are considered a luxury and are commonly given as a gift in Japan.– Cantaloupes were first brought to America by Christopher Columbus is 1492.– Did you know that “down under” in Australia they refer to cantaloupe as “ROCKMELON”? Makes sense to us – they kind of do look like rocks.– An average sized cantaloupe contains just 100 calories. Who knew something so sweet could be good for you?– Cantaloupes are the most popular melon in the United States. Try them freeze dried for an all natural, portable, healthy snack.– They are members of vine-crop family, including other melons, squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, and gourds. They have plenty of relatives – one big happy family.– Not only do they taste good, they also fight against lung and oral cavity cancers.– Because cantaloupes are high in Vitamin A, they help maintain good eye health. Vitamin A is essential for maintaining healthy mucus membrane and skin of your eye.– Cantaloupes protect you from UV rays. Forget the sunblock! Just joking, you should still definitely wear sunblock on top of adding more cantaloupe into your diet.– Cantaloupes also help fight infections due to being filled with Vitamin C.– Cantaloupes trailing vine can reach up to 5 feet in height.– Fruits develop after 90 days of planting. Don’t plant them if you’re craving one right away – you’re better off going to the grocery store.– Cantaloupes have many roles. They can be consumed fresh and as an ingredient in a fruit salad or used to create sorbets, smoothies and ice-creams. Even freeze dried, cantaloupes are a healthy snack.– The cantaloupe was first cultivated in the 1700s, in the Italian papal village of Cantalup. Now we know where they got the name from.These are just a few of our favorites! We hope you share these interesting cantaloupe fun facts with your family and friends, and try to incorporate cantaloupe in your diet if you haven’t already. They are super nutritious and packed with vitamins.
Serving Size: 1/4 Med. Cantaloupe (134g) Amount Per Serving Calories: 50 Calories from Fat 0 % of Daily Value Total Fat: 0g 0% Saturated Fat: 0g 0% Cholesterol: 0mg 0 % Sodium: 25mg 1 % Total Carbohydrate: 12g 4 % Dietary Fiber 1 g 4 % Sugars: 11g Protein: 1g Vitamin A: 100% Vitamin C 80% Calcium: 2% Iron 2 %
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000-calorie diet. Source: PMA's Labeling Facts
Click on link below for Cantaloupe 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. Enjoy!
Soon to be published research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that watermelon is as much as 60% higher in lycopenes than tomatoes. Lycopene is a pigment that gives the bright red color to tomatoes, watermelon, grapefruit and guava. Recent studies show the intake of lycopene is associated with reductions in several forms of cancer, including prostate, breast, lung and cancer of the uterus. The anti-cancer properties of lycopene appear to be due to its effectiveness as an antioxidant. Warm days and cool nights in the watermelon growing areas help increase lycopene content. The riper or redder the melon…..the more lycopene. In addition to lycopene, watermelons also contain other properties beneficial to the body, including citrulline, an amino acid compound, which helps flush out the kidneys.
Top 10 Watermelon Fun Facts
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
Peaches, nectarines are similar, but they aren't exactly the same. They're all part of same family, the Prunus family, a genus that's categorized by a hard shell that surrounds its seed in the center of the fruit. That hard shell and seed are often referred to as a stone, and the three fruits are all commonly called stone fruits.
Peaches have skin with a soft fuzz. The skin is often removed before eating or using in a recipe because of the fuzz, but it's completely edible. Peaches are sweet and juicy when ripe. They're used in baked goods, salads, salsas, sauces, smoothies, jams, jellies and of course, eaten fresh, as is.
Nectarines are almost genetically identical to peaches. There is only one gene that separates them, and that gene determines whether the skin has fuzz on it or not. The taste of a nectarine is very similar to that of a peach, and it's often difficult to tell them apart by taste alone.
They're used in baked goods, salads, salsas, sauces, smoothies, jams, jellies and of course, eaten fresh, as is.
Clearly, the two fruits can be used for the same purposes, but can they be swapped out in any recipe without making a difference?
Because peaches and nectarines are so closely related, they are easily interchangeable in recipes. So go ahead and use the nectarines in the peach salsa recipe if you want, or use a peach jam recipe to make nectarine jam without any other changes.
WHITE PEACHES AND WHITE NECTARINES
White peaches and nectarines are not newfangled or genetically modified. They’re grown around the world, but until 20 years ago were mostly a niche fruit popular with home growers. In America, they date back to the colonies. Especially popular in the 1800s was a white peach called the Belle of Georgia, which still exists today. It was so sweet, it was considered dessert quality. White peaches and nectarines were typically fragile and not suited for shipping.
In 1968, white peaches and nectarines fetched premium prices, due in part to the great care required in their handling and shipping. The time was right to rekindle white-fleshed varieties in the U.S. and develop fruit that could tolerate shipping. Big changes in American food culture often have to do with the development of new transportation and refrigeration technology.
The key description of white-fleshed stone fruit is that they are “sub-acid.” Now, sub-acid sounds like some underground band and not like something you should put in your mouth. But it’s simply the old acid/alkaline principle. The less (sub) acid, the sweeter the fruit. This can be a boom to people seeking less acid in their diet. White peaches and nectarines come in an array of complex flavors and aromas, tending toward the more delicate with sweet honey and vanilla overtones. Not necessarily snow white, their flesh is usually pearl with some rose at the pit—thereby inspiring the bevy of beautiful names.
Some summer white peach varieties fruiting on the East Coast are Snow Giant, Manon, and Raritan Rose.
White peaches and nectarines have several characteristics that set them apart from their yellow counterparts. They have a delicate white flesh and an incredibly sweet taste due to their low acid levels. Acid is what gives yellow peaches and nectarines their slightly tangy flavor. As yellow varieties ripen, some of this acid dissipates, leaving a nice balance of sugar and acid. Because white peaches and nectarines have very low acid, they have the same sweet flavor whether you eat them crisp like an apple or wait for them to become soft and juicy.
White peaches are commonly a darker, redder cheeked fruit whose background color is a soft, creamy white. These too are sweet, juicy treats. The white peaches, contrary to the yellow peaches, will not have that "bite" - that tangy, acidic counterpoint to the sweetness of the peach juices. Conversely, if you are mixing peaches with a more acidic yogurt - plain yogurt, or a mildly acidic vanilla, you may find you prefer white peaches in these instances.
Once a rarity, white nectarines have become popular in the last 10 years. But most modern varieties are what plant breeders call sub-acid--they taste simply sweet. But get an old-fashioned farmers market variety like a Snow Queen or a Stanwick and you've got one of the most amazing fruits of late spring, intensely sweet but with enough acidity to be interesting and layers of flowery peach flavor. The best white nectarines tend to come early in the summer harvest cycle.
White peaches are available from late April through mid-October. White nectarines are available from mid May through September.
Low fat; saturated fat free; sodium free; cholesterol free; good source of vitamin C
SELECTION AND STORAGE
The amount of red color on the skin is not an indication of ripeness and can vary greatly from variety to variety. Look for a creamy white background color with no green. Storage at home depends on how you prefer to eat them and how ripe they were when you bought them. The temperature of home refrigerators can actually damage the eating quality of firm peaches and nectarines, turning them dry and mushy. If you prefer them crisp, purchase firm fruit and consume them within a day or two. If you like them soft and juicy, leave them out at room temperature (not in a plastic bag) until they reach that stage – then refrigerate. The fruit will remain at that stage and can be refrigerated for around a week. . Soft, ripe fruit can be refrigerated without damaging the eating quality. They're ripe when they give slightly to the touch and are extremely fragrant. The best varieties of white-fleshed nectarines do tend to be cosmetically challenged, prone to scabbing and cracking, so don't let the appearance put you off.
HOW TO SELECT THE SWEETEST NECTARINES:
The “sugar spots” – This is an indication the fruit is so loaded with sugar, it’s essentially crystallizing on the skin.
■ Lower acid levels mean that white peaches are a great choice for those with sensitive stomachs.
■ White peaches are more delicate than yellow peaches. They also tend to ripen faster.
■ The sweet flavor of white peaches makes this specialty fruit a standout in recipes
. WHITE NECTARINES:
White nectarines have a smooth skin and are creamy-white on the inside with a red-over-white exterior. Just like their yellow counterparts, white nectarines are very closely related to peaches. The only difference? A gene that causes fuzz is not present in nectarines like it is in peaches. White nectarines also have a more delicate flavor than yellow nectarines. White nectarines are super-sweet, with low acid levels.
■ Lower acid levels mean that white nectarines are a great choice for those with sensitive stomachs.
■ A smooth and fuzz-less flesh means that white nectarines are very delicate and highly susceptible to bruising.
■The history of the nectarine is unclear in the U.S. Some say the USDA introduced the fruit in 1906, while newspaper references have the fruit growing in New York prior to the Revolutionary War.
■Nectarines still naturally occur as bud mutations on peach trees.
HOW TO CHOOSE:
Select white-fleshed peaches and nectarines as you would any other stone fruit: They’re ripe when they give slightly to the touch and are extremely fragrant. The best varieties of white-fleshed nectarines do tend to be cosmetically challenged, prone to scabbing and cracking, so don’t let the appearance put you off.
HOW TO STORE:
If the peaches or nectarines are a little too firm, leave them at room temperature for a day or two, and they’ll finish ripening. When ripe, they should be stored in the refrigerator, unless you’re going to eat them quickly.
Click on link below for White Peach and Nectarine show
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.
ABOUT NECTARINESAll 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.
SEASONALITYNectarines 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 STORAGELook 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.
PREPARATIONNectarines 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!
Click link below for Nectarine Show
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
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
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
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 !1
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 Showhttps://www.nbcnewyork.com/on-air/as-seen-on/Produce-Pete-Fresh-Mission-Figs_New-York-485737402.html
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
Some of the best memories of my childhood are of picking blackberries from a wild patch near a neighbor's yard in Tenafly, New Jersey--a patch now long gone. A bramble and a member of the rose family, blackberries will grow like weeds in the right climate, and in more rural areas they can still sometimes be seen growing bay the side of the road. What we get on the market are cultivated varieties. Although they're grown in almost every state, the biggest crops come from the Pacific Northwest, Michigan, and New Jersey. The greater part of the crop is sold to processors for jams and jellies, but you'll find fresh blackberries at roadside stands, farm markets, and good produce stores during the summer, usually in half-pint boxes.
Blackberries are available from May until September, with the peak usually in June and July. Winter berries are imported from Chile.
A blackberry on the vine ripens from green to purple to black; a ripe one is just about jet black and will almost fall off the vine with a gentle touch. If you pick them yourself, look for the blackest berries you can find. If you have to tug at them to get them off the vine, they aren't really ripe. Blackberries are usually marketed by the half pint. The container is usually cardboard, so check the bottom for stains. If it's badly stained, pass it by. Avoid berries that are very soft or wet, show signs of mildew, or seem to be stuck together in the container.
Since they're not hollow, blackberries will keep a little longer than raspberries, but you want to use them within two days of purchase or picking. Don't keep 'em--eat 'em! Like all berries, blackberries should be refrigerated unwashed. Spread them out on a tray or in a shallow basket so that they're not packed on top of each other.
Rinse the berries quickly in cold water right before you're ready to serve. Never wash any berry until you're ready to eat it. Blackberries are delicious eaten as is, with cream and sugar, or added to other sliced fresh fruits such as peaches. They make intensely flavored pies and jams.
A MESSAGE FROM PRODUCE PETE ABOUT SEASONS FINEST BLACKBERRIES
It's been my pleasure each week for the past 26 years plus to bring you what I think is the best of the best in what produce is available. One thing that has not changed is 3 things that make this possible, in season, good tasting, and that it’s available for you to purchase. Well this week, in season and good is right, but available, a little hard this might be!! My reasoning for talking about Seasons Finest blackberries is, with the 1000 or so emails I get every week, this week 2 stood out - "where are those great blackberries you talked about last year at this time." I know it's only 2 emails, but think about it, with all that people have on their minds, they still remembered the blackberries; why because they were great tasting. This Mexican variety of blackberries under the Driscoll Seasons Finest label is only available through them, you have heard me tell you thousands of times, look at the product not the label but in this case take my word, if you can find them buy them, they are great. Only available for the next 3 weeks (short season 5-6 weeks). They will be gone by the end of May. They are a little pricey compared to the regular blackberries you see in the store, but once you have tried them you will be hooked.
A LITTLE MORE PRODUCE PETE INFORMATION ON BLACKBERRIES AND ALL BERRIES. Keep your berries refrigerated at home, as maintaining a cool temperature is the key to the longevity of the berry. Do not wash berries prior to refrigeration. Simply rinse your berries in cool running water prior to serving.Blueberries: 10 – 14 days after purchaseStrawberries: 3 – 7 days after purchaseRaspberries: 2 – 3 days after purchaseBlackberries: 2 – 3 days after purchaseCranberries: 4 – 8 weeks after purchase
Available in fancy or gourmet fruit stores. Try,Sickles Market Little Silver, N.J., De Cicco's and Sons, Stew Leonard’s, Citarella's, Manhattan Fruit Exchange , so good luck and I hope you have a great eating experience.
Click link below for Blackberry Show
When I see a mango, I think of my father, Pete. He loved mangoes and had no problem eating them, but he could never stand next to a mango tree because he would break out in hives. Something on the tree while they were growing triggered that response. I guess we’ll never know!
America’s awareness of mangoes has definitely been on the rise. I’ve lectured about different fruits and vegetables at schools for a long time and years ago, when I’d hold up a mango and ask the kids what it was, most would say an apple. But all that’s changed now based on the number of American children hailing from different parts of the world, as well as because of the mango’s increasing popularity.
By far my favorite kind is the Haitian mango — it’s not necessarily pretty to look at, flat and elongated and all kidney-shaped and green, but taste-wise it’s great. Though available most of the year, its peak season is from late April to July, so get ready to see them in stores and bring home a bunch. When you buy them, they’ll probably be on the green side, so leave them out on the counter until they get a little golden color and have that great sweet smell they’re known for. Bright orange inside and less stringy than regular mangoes, they’re a great treat with a super sweet taste!
ORIGINS AND BENEFITS
The mango originated in Southeast Asia, where it’s been grown for over 4,000 years, and since then has spread to many tropical and subtropical settings where the climate is conducive to the mango’s success. Mango trees are evergreens that will grow to 60 feet tall and require hot, dry periods to set and produce a good crop. Today there are over 1,000 different varieties of mangoes throughout the world. In India, the mango tree plays a sacred role as a symbol of love, and some also believe that the mango tree can grant wishes.
A comfort food, mangoes really can make you feel better. Rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, mangoes contain an enzyme with stomach-soothing properties similar to the papain found in papayas, which acts as a digestive aid. Mangoes are high in fiber and are also an excellent source of vitamins A and C, as well as potassium and beta carotene.
SELECTION AND STORAGE
Handle a mango very gently, as it bruises easily. Pick it up and gently press your thumb against the flesh — it should have a little give and a really sweet smell. A very ripe mango will often have some black speckling outside; don’t worry about that or about a little bruising, but avoid mangoes that are black all over, as they’re beyond the point of no return. I think mangoes that weigh a pound to a pound and a half have the sweetest taste.
Always use your nose when you’re choosing mangoes — 99percent of the time, a mango that smells wonderful tastes wonderful. If the stem end smells sour or acidic, reject it. If a mango is firm and green, it won’t have any smell, but if it looks good, bring it home and ripen it yourself.
Leave a firm, unripe mango out on the counter for a few days until it colors, develops a sweet aroma, and “gives” when you press it very gently. But never refrigerate a mango. If you must have it chilled, you can put it in the refrigerator for a few minutes, but I think mangoes taste best at room temperature. In any event, storing a mango below 50 degrees for any length of time will take the flavor out.
Mangoes are great simply peeled and eaten as is or with a squeeze of lime juice (but don’t eat the peel — it’s bitter). Unlike many fruits, they’re slow to discolor when they’re sliced, which helps them make and retain a nice presentation. They make a beautiful tropical salad sliced with pineapple chunks, kiwi, papaya, banana, or just about any tropical fruit; I like to add a little squeeze of lime and some shredded coconut, too. For a refreshing and very nutritious tropical drink, purée some sliced mango with banana, pineapple and a squeeze of lime and enjoy!
Because mangoes have a large and nonfreestanding stone right in the center of the fruit that’s difficult to remove, people always ask me how to cut and eat a mango. Following, I’ve shared the results of my years of experience to help you get greater access to this fantastic fruit. Hope this makes it easier for you to enjoy this burst of sunshine!
HOW TO EAT A MANGO
To deal with the pit in the center, take two lengthwise cuts on either side of where you figure the pit is; if it’s a flattish mango, turn it up so a narrow side is facing you. The pit is large but fairly flat, so make the cuts no more than half an inch on either side of an imaginary center line. You’ll have three slices, the center one with the pit in it.
Now take the two outside slices and score the flesh with the tip of a knife, getting as close to the skin as you can without breaking it. Hold the scored slice in two hands and gently push up from the skin side, which will pop inside out. The segments of mango will separate and can easily be scooped off the skin with a spoon or butter knife. Add a sprinkle of lime juice if you like.
As for the slice with the pit, you can discard it if you have the willpower, but I personally find the flesh around the pit to be the tastiest part. All I can say is that the best way to eat it is to remove the strip of skin around it, pick it up with your fingers, stand over the sink, and enjoy!
HAITIAN MANGOES DOMINATE THE NEW YORK MARKETS The most popular mangoes in New York are Haitian. There are everywhere, unlike the Dominican banilejo mango, which can be mainly found in upper Manhattan and the Bronx
In Haiti almost half of the fruit rots before reaching the market, partly because of the poor condition of rural roads and partly because of the mismanagement of trees and the mangoes harvested.
In addition, most producers of Haitian mangoes have less than a dozen trees, from which they don't get more than $1,500 dollars per season. Productivity tends to be low because small farmers lack training to properly take care of their trees, harvest, and transport the fruit properly.
As a result, nearly 40 percent of the fruit that reaches the packing plants is rejected. Besides Haitian and Dominican mangoes, the New York market also sells Mexicans mangoes, which have a high consumption in that community and are usually eaten with salt and spices.
There are said to be over 100 varieties of mangos grown in Haiti. This fact even gave birth to the moniker of Haiti being known as “Mango Land”. The most sought after variety is the Francique ( the haitian). It is large and fleshy and well-known in the business as the best Caribbean variety. It is the King of the mangos grown in Haiti.
Everywhere in Haiti, you will see women sitting on the side of the roads selling mangos, their baskets piled high with several varieties in different stages of ripening. To some, “a mango is a mango,” but to people of this country; this could not be further from the truth. Everyone has their personal favorite and they will argue the values, flavors, and tastes to defend their choice.
Spring is a great time of year when everything bursts forth and comes alive, including a whole new crop of fruits and vegetables. Hope you embrace the season by enjoying all of the bounty our country has to offer. From my table to yours, wishing you good eating and the best of health.
Click the link below for haitian mango show!!