A lot of people understand that fresh oranges are best in the winter, but not many people understand that different varieties have particular seasons. You'll have better luck coming home with good oranges if you learn which varieties are in season when and keep a simple guideline in mind when you're selecting them at the market. Oranges and all citrus fruit should be heavy in the hand for its size. This simple test and it's your most reliable guide for citrus fruit.
The two most familiar varieties are navel and Valencia oranges, which are very good, but if you limit yourself to them, you're missing out on some real treats. Navel California Oranges are considered by many to be the best oranges in the world for eating out of hand. They have a meaty flesh, their thick rinds are easy to peel, the segments separate easily, and they have no seeds. All navel oranges have a navel at the blossom end - an opening with a convoluted interior that looks, well, like a navel. Some have a very small navel; others have a larger one. If you're in doubt, inspect several in the bin. A quick poll will identify the variety. California navel oranges usually arrive around the second week of November and go through late spring. They're not that great at the extreme ends of the season. The earliest ones have less orange color and less sweetness. In February, March, and April, the peak months, California navels get very sweet. Late in the season they are likely to be dry, puffy, and expensive. Avoid them as summer comes on; look for summer fruits instead. It's not always safe to assume that a Florida orange is a Valencia juice orange and a California orange is a navel. Florida also grows navel oranges, which are on the market between late fall and the end of January. The Florida navel doesn't have as much color as the California variety. They come in all sizes - from tennis-ball to softball size. The rind will be bronze to light orange, with a richer orange color later in the season. Florida navels are, of course, seedless, but they have higher juice content and a thinner rind that's not as easy to peel as the California navels. Despite their relatively pale color, they're good oranges and very sweet. Here again, check the blossom end. If it's stamped Florida but has a navel, it's a navel orange.
Whatever the variety, look for oranges that are shiny and heavy in the hand. It's a primary rule for a number of fruits, but it's especially important for oranges. Check the scent - the orange should smell good. Except for Robinson tangerines, the rind should never feel puffy - that is, it shouldn't feel like there's any space between it and the flesh. There should be no spotting, no signs of shriveling, no white patches on the rind, and no fermented smell.
Tangerines are the most perishable of the oranges. They will keep a day or two at room temperature and up to a week in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. Other oranges can be kept out at room temperature for three or four days with little problem. Refrigerate them in a plastic bag or in the crisper drawer, and they'll keep well for one to two weeks. A CHRISTMAS STORY
As a child growing up I came from a very loving family, but to say the least we didn't have much, but there was always food on the table. Pop was a fruit peddler and mom did her best to stretch every dollar. The whole family worked hard and to tell you the truth I never really realized that we were poor. Come Christmas mom would always try to make it special for me and my younger brother David. she would wrap navel oranges ( exotic in my day) in foil and christmas paper and put them in our christmas stocking. I grew up in the north east and apples were plentiful, but oranges came from california and florida, and we didn't see them much, so this was a big treat for us. So in my mom's memory every year on the show I do California Navel Oranges at Christmas time and I wrap them in foil and christmas paper, as a tribute to this wonderful women, I called MOM.
MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAY TO ALL FROM MY FAMILY TO YOURS
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ANDY BOY BROCCOLI RABE
Broccoli rabe is a nonheading variety of broccoli that's also known as broccoletti di rape, brocoletto, rapini, choy sum, or Chinese flowering cabbage. It has long, thin, leafy stalks topped with small florets that look like tiny broccoli florets. The florets or flowers are quite delicate; the leaves slightly bitter.
Once highly prized by the Romans and cultivated all over the southern Mediterranean, broccoli rabe didn't appear in more northern areas of Europe until the sixteenth century, and didn't appear in North America until the 1920's, when Italian farmers brought it to the United States. For years broccoli rabe was favored mainly in the Italian and Asian communities here. In the old days broccoli rabe was a staple and sold for twenty-five cents a pound, maybe ten cents a pound. In my father's family broccoli rabe was used to flavor all kinds of filling dishes when meat was just too expensive. They'd have it with pasta, with potatoes--they'd even make broccoli rabe sandwiches! They had it so much that my father once swore he'd never eat it again. Now it's a yuppie food that shows up in trendy restaurants and fetches $2.99 a pound at the market.
Even though it's a little pricey now, broccoli rabe is still a great vegetable. It packs a wallop and has a bitter zest that gives a real lift to bland foods.
Broccoli rabe is most plentiful between late fall and early spring. It is grown in various places all over the continent, including Quebec, California, Arizona, and other states, so it's usually available year round, except for a couple of months in midsummer--usually June and July.
At the market you'll usually find broccoli rabe displayed in a refrigerator case sprinkled with ice because it wilts very easily. Choose firm, green, small stems with compact heads. Like broccoli, the flower buds that make up the florets should be tightly closed and dark green, not open or yellow. The Any Boy label is the top of the line when it comes to broccoli rabe and should be bought whenever
Store broccoli rabe in your refrigerator crisper unwashed, either wrapped in a wet towel or in a plastic bag. It will keep two or three days. For longer storage, blanch and freeze.
To prepare, rinse thoroughly in cold water, shake off, and cut off the bottoms of the stalks (they're too tough to eat). Broccoli rabe is much better cooked than raw. Raw, it's very bitter but has no other flavor. Even a light steaming brings out its distinctive taste. As a side vegetable, broccoli rabe yields only about one serving per pound because it cooks way down. You can cook it like broccoli, but whether you braise, saute, boil, or steam it, you only need to cook it for eight to ten minutes. Most Italians like broccoli rabe al dente--cooked about six minutes. You can steam it in water or chicken broth, or saute it with oil and garlic. Some people like it as a cold salad, steamed then cooled and dressed with oil, hot peppers, garlic, and other seasonings. For terrific potatoes, add steamed broccoli rabe to boiled potatoes and dress with olive oil and garlic. Broccoli rabe also makes a great sauce for pasta when steamed and combined with olive oil, garlic, and hot sausage.
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Move over Popeye to eat more kale. Gaining in popularity, kale is an amazing vegetable being recognized for its exceptional nutrient richness, health benefits, and delicious flavor.
Eating a variety of natural, unprocessed vegetables can do wonders for your health, but choosing super-nutritious kale on a regular basis may provide significant health benefits, including cancer protection and lowered cholesterol.
Kale, also known as borecole, is one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet. A leafy green, kale is available in curly, ornamental, or dinosaur varieties. It belongs to the Brassica family that includes cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, collards, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.
What makes kale so exceptional? Here is why it's a superstar vegetable -- and ways to work it into your diet.
KALE IS A NUTRITIONAL POWERHOUSE
One cup of chopped kale contains 33 calories and 9% of the daily value of calcium, 206% of vitamin A, 134% of vitamin C, and a whopping 684% of vitamin K. It is also a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus.
Kale’s health benefits are primarily linked to the high concentration and excellent source of antioxidant vitamins A, C, and K -- and sulphur-containing phytonutrients.
Carotenoids and flavonoids are the specific types of antioxidants associated with many of the anti-cancer health benefits. Kale is also rich in the eye-health promoting lutein and zeaxanthin compounds.
Beyond antioxidants, the fiber content of cruciferous kale binds bile acids and helps lower blood cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease, especially when kale is cooked instead of raw.
SUPER -RICH IN VITAMIN K
Eating a diet rich in the powerful antioxidant vitamin K can reduce the overall risk of developing or dying from cancer, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Vitamin K is abundant in kale but also found in parsley, spinach, collard greens, and animal products such as cheese.
Vitamin K is necessary for a wide variety of bodily functions, including normal blood clotting, antioxidant activity, and bone health.
But too much vitamin K can pose problems for some people. Anyone taking anticoagulants such as warfarin should avoid kale because the high level of vitamin K may interfere with the drugs. Consult your doctor before adding kale to your diet.
Kale might be a powerhouse of nutrients but is also contains oxalates, naturally occurring substances that can interfere with the absorption of calcium. Avoid eating calcium-rich foods like dairy at the same time as kale to prevent any problems.
SEASON / SELECTING
In summer, vegetable choices abound. But during the cooler months, there are fewer in-season choices -- with the exception of kale and other dark, leafy greens that thrive in cooler weather.
To find the freshest kale, look for firm, deeply colored leaves with hardy stems. Smaller leaves will be more tender and milder in flavor. Leaves range from dark green to purple to deep red in color.
Store kale, unwashed, in an air-tight zipped plastic bag for up to five days in the refrigerator.
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HISTORY : Satsuma mandarin may have originated in China but it was first reported in Japan more than 700 years ago where it is now the major cultivar grown. It was first introduced in the 1800's by early settlers to the state along the banks of the Mississippi River near New Orleans. The 'Owari' Satsuma arrived from Japan, first in 1876 and next in 1878. During the period 1908-1911, nearly a million budded trees from 1908 to 1911 for planting in the Gulf States. The first recorded introduction into the United States was in Florida by George R. Hall in 1876. The name "satsuma" is credited to the wife of a United States minister to Japan, General Van Valkenberg, who sent trees home in 1878 from Satsuma, the name of a former province, now Kagoshima Prefecture, on the southern tip of Kyushu Island, where it is believed to have originated.
Among the sunny-colored citrus fruits that brighten produce aisles during winter, satsumas hit peak season this month. Part of the mandarin orange family, which also includes tangerines and clementines, satsumas are one of the sweetest citrus varieties, with a meltingly tender texture. Their moderately thick skin peels off readily, and with easy-to-separate segments, they make convenient and healthful out-of-hand snacks.
Typically classified a mandarin, the mandarin is the big category, which contains all the zipper-skinned [easy-peel] fruits. They probably originated in northeast India but like most citrus fruits were cultivated in China and then brought to the west." Hence the name "mandarin." Satsumas, a Japanese variety named for a former province of that country, were developed in the 16th century and introduced to Florida in 1876. Today most American satsumas are grown in California, followed by coastal Louisiana and Alabama, where mild winters allow the fruit to flourish.
"Satsumas have that perfect balance of sweet and tart, with a rounded flavor and a great acid edge," and they just melt in your mouth."
Because of their relatively similar size and appearance, satsumas are often confused with tangerines and clementines, all members of the mandarin orange family. The main difference is what lies inside the satsuma: particularly thin membranes filled to capacity with liquid, which mean less pulp and more of the prized juice.
SELECTION AND STORAGE:
One of the first mandarins to hit grocery store shelves in early winter, satsumas is best from October to February. Look for satsumas with firm, tight peels, with no hollow-feeling or dented spots; heavier ones are generally juicier. Seek fruit with fresh-looking, bright green twigs and leaves still attached; this signals careful picking (each stem must be clipped by hand), meticulous handling, and freshness, all indicators of high quality. Store at room temperature or, if you prefer, in the refrigerator (refrigeration may prolong storage but can dry them out). Fresh satsumas are most enjoyable, so use within four or five days.
Satsuma oranges are an excellent source of Vitamin C and a good source of fiber and folate.
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A fruit--oh yes, it's a fruit--but in the United States we treat the tomato like a vegetable. Thomas Jefferson grew tomatoes at Monticello back in 1781, but they didn't really start to become popular here until after the Civil War. Now the tomato is the third most popular vegetable in the United States--after potatoes and lettuce.
Once called the Peruvian apple, the tomato is a member of the nightshade family. It originated in South America, and our name for it comes from the ancient Nahuatl name tomatl. The French called it the love apple, and the Italians named it the golden apple because the first tomatoes were small yellow fruits. After the early Spanish explorers sent seeds to Naples, the Italians went crazy for tomatoes, and the rest--all the way down to pasta and pizza sauce--is history. A really good tomato is sweet, tender, juicy, and except for the yellow varieties, a deep rich red color. When you get one of those hard tomatoes that taste like cardboard, you've got one of the hybrids that started coming onto the market in the 1950's, when the businessmen and scientists got together and produced a tomato that could be shipped from one coasts to the other without bruising. Unfortunately, at the same time they also bred out all the flavor.
A great tomato is worth looking for. And the way you handle it at home is almost as important as what you choose in the first place. The three most important rules to remember about tomatoes are:
Refrigerating kills the flavor, the nutrients, and the texture. It just kills the tomato--period.
When grape tomatoes first hit the market in the late nineties, they were a novelty available only in specialty food stores. But it didn't take long for people to fall in love with these tiny, tasty treats. Grape tomatoes have a sweet flavor, a firm texture, and less juice, so there's no need to worry about any squirting when you bite into one. Averaging between one-half and three-quarters of an inch in length, they're perfect for popping whole into your mouth like candy, which is probably why kids adore them too. They're low in calories and high in vitamin C, potassium, antioxidants, and lycopene, so what's not to like? When buying, look for bright, shiny skin and firm flesh.
A grape tomato is a class of tomatoes originally believed to be of Southeast Asian origin, shaped similarly to the oblong plum tomatoes but having the small size and sweetness of cherry tomatoes. Grape tomatoes produce small and typically oblong fruits.
The most well-known and commercially significant variety, the "Santa F1" was introduced into the United States market in 1997 by grower Andrew Chu, who obtained the seeds from Taiwan's Known-You Seed Company. Procacci Brothers Sales Corporation (PBSC) in Philadelphia acquired global exclusivity of this fruit and has aggressively marketed it under its subsidiary Santa Sweets, Inc.
Because the grape tomato is a hybrid, seeds produced directly from the fruit cannot be used to grow more plants. Anyone interested in producing a grape tomato commercially must obtain seeds from the original hybrid strain. This is precisely what a grower from Florida did during the 1990s.
The life cycle of the plants is short in comparison to larger varieties, but the yield during that short period of production is usually ample. Some examples include cherry tomatoes and grape tomatoes. One of the best known varieties of tomato plants is the beefsteak tomato plant.
Available year-round they vary in price due to weather conditions. Supply and demand equals price and quality
We have all kinds of upscale restaurants, and there is a lot of interest in complicated cuisines, but sometimes it's the really simple things that give you the most pleasure. When I was a kid, I had to help my father sell produce out of the back of his truck. At lunchtime he'd stop at some little store and buy a loaf of Italian bread. Then we'd find a place where we could pull off to the side of the road. He'd put down a piece of cardboard for a cutting board, slice the bread, cut up a tomato and an onion, and make tomato sandwiches.
Sometimes when I come home from the store and I'm too bushed to prepare or even eat a full meal, I'll make myself a tomato sandwich. Food brings back memories. You can sit down with the most ordinary things on your mind and eat something good and it will bring back memories - things you haven't thought about in years. Even memories that might not start out being so good seem to improve as time goes by. At the time I hated peddling fruits and vegetables out of that truck with Pop, but now I wish I had the time to pull off to the side of the road they way we did then. We don't have the luxury of slowing down - everything is geared to working and being productive. Produce, produce, produce. Wouldn't I love to be able to take my son and go sit by the side of the road and have a tomato sandwich? With the perfect ripe red tomato and good bread, there's nothing' better.
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It seems hard to believe, but it wasn't so many years ago that red peppers were a rarity in the grocery store. You could find them only during a two- or three-week period each year, and you paid luxury prices for the privilege.
Now, of course, red peppers are available year-round, and if they're not dirt-cheap, they're certainly reasonable. For that, you can thank Israeli scientists.
In the past, red peppers were green bell peppers that had reached the final stages of maturity. As such, they were prone to a couple of notable shortcomings, not the least of which was that they had an extremely short season and shelf life. Their flavor was good, but their flesh was weak and prone to spoilage problems.
Today's red peppers, "bred to be red." They turn colors much earlier and, once picked, they stay firm and crisp much longer--up to two weeks. The trade-off is that the flavor is not the same. The new varieties are sweeter, without the earthy undertones of the old-time reds.
Le Rouge red peppers were introduced by Indio-based agricultural conglomerate Sun World International in 1983. The product of Israeli scientists at Ben Gurion University in Beersheba, Le Rouge is a cross of a regular blocky pepper with Bulgarian and cubanelle peppers.
"A blocky red bell is a green bell that is at the end of its life cycle. "Once picked, a blocky bell doesn't have a lot of shelf life. Le Rouge is bred to be red at peak maturity. That means you have another seven to 14 days of shelf life after it has been picked."
Red Peppers are green at first. Sweet peppers will mature to various colors with red being the most prominent color. The green pepper that we eat is the immature version. Like I said, most common varieties of bell peppers will turn from green to red, with other varieties turning yellow, purple, or even brown as the pepper matures. As peppers mature their sugar content increases. Some yellow varieties are the only color found in both immature and mature peppers. Red peppers have a real sweet flavor and green and yellow peppers have a mildly sweet, slightly spicy flavor.
Colored peppers are grown in open fields, greenhouses, and shade houses. The quality, size and profile of the pepper is much more consistent when grown in greenhouses and shade houses. The protected environment is more costly to set up but the final product is a much better pepper. When a pepper is field grown you run the risk of bad weather, decreasing yield and exposure to diseases.
Look for Red Peppers that are fresh, firm, bright in color, thick-fleshed with a bright green calyx (stem). Pick up the pepper and shake it. If you hear the seeds rattle inside, pass it by; that means the pepper is old. Soft, pliable, thin-fleshed with a pale color indicates the peppers are old as well.
Refrigerated in the crisper drawer, red peppers will keep for up to three or four days, but they will lose their crispness and turn limp in fairly short order. Left at room temperature, they'll lose their crunch in a matter of hours. Don't wash until you're ready to use them. Red peppers are low in calories, free of saturated fat, sodium free, cholesterol free, fat free, and high in antioxidant vitamin C. Red bell peppers are a versatile addition to any luncheon or dinner menu.
There are some really great deals on sweet red peppers available right now! Growers in Mexico are into their peak harvests fresh crop field-grown sweet red peppers. Sizing is big and prices are low compared to other times of year.
WHAT COLOR BELL PEPPER IS BETTER FOR YOU TO EAT ?
Choose red bell peppers for their high levels of antioxidant vitamins A and C which help protect cells from free radicals. One cup of chopped red peppers contains three times the minimum amount of vitamin C and nearly 100 percent of the vitamin A recommended for a typical 2,000 calorie-a-day diet. Green and yellow peppers fall short in vitamin A. All peppers are naturally fat free and low calorie, and they contain three grams of fiber per chopped cup, making them excellent snacks or mealtime fillers.
MY STORY , MOM AND HER STUFFED PEPPERS
When I was a youngster mom always made stuffed peppers, one of my favorite dishes, except for the anchovies, which was pop's favorite. She would put in black olives, bread crumbs, anchovies ( she would leave them out of mine), and meat if we were lucky and all her secret ingredients, boy I loved them. Now in those days they were made with green bell peppers or red bell peppers in the summertime , but mom she would make the stuffed peppers with what they called then, Italian Frying Peppers, now called Cubanelle Peppers. They were light green in color, with a very thin skin and not as harsh tasting as the green bell pepper which always gave me " AGITARE", an Italian - american slang word meaning to agitate, which it did giving me heartburn, indigestion, and an upset stomach. Starting in the mid 80's the RED LE ROUGE PEPPER starting hitting the stores, looking like a italian frying pepper but sweet. This made a great pepper for mom to use for stuffing. Now by then mom was getting on in years, so her stuffed peppers days was passed on to Bette, who took the reins and did a great job. It's funny and sad, moms gone a long time, but when I was thinking of what to do on this weeks show and I decided on RED LE ROUGE PEPPERS, mom's stuffed peppers came flowing out of me. Like I always say "FOOD AND MEMORIES,MEMORIES AND FOOD", they are just part of our being. Enjoy MOM and BETTE"S recipe, and I hope you have good memories that bring a smile or maybe a tear to your eye.
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Ever since I was a kid, I've always been a fan of football and Super Bowl Sunday. My father, not so much.
As an Italian immigrant, he worked hard at our family produce store in Bergenfield, N.J. and just couldn't understand the point of a bunch of guys throwing a ball around and getting piled on and shoved to the ground once they caught it.
I was a big kid in high school and I'll never forget one day when the football coach stopped me in the hallway and suggested I go out for the football team. I told him that I'd love to but that I had to work after school in my father's store, to which he said he'd call my father and tell him that I had my whole life to work.
I already knew what Pop's answer would be, but I told him to knock himself out anyway and gave him the store phone number.
Sure enough, a couple of days later the football coach informed me that he'd called Pop and that after asking him about my playing football, Pop asked him how much was he going to pay me.
That was Pop for you, born in a different country with a different set of rules. Back then, I thought he was always wrong, but you know what they say — the older you get, the smarter your parents get.
Pop's long gone and so are his way of life, his values and his willingness to work hard seven days a week, but boy do I miss him and those days. Pop, I hope you can try to enjoy the Super Bowl and eat plenty of avocados!
DID YOU KNOW ?
- Though people think that avocado sales peak on holidays like the Fourth of July or Cinco de Mayo, avocados actually experience their greatest demand on Super Bowl Sunday.
- In fact, Americans are expected to eat some 200 million pounds of avocados (about 400 million individual avocados) in the run-up to and on this year's Super Bowl Sunday, up from 2017
- This total would be enough to fill a football field end zone more than 53 feet deep with avocados — 10 feet over the goal posts!
- While many consider them a delicious but fattening treat, avocados contain healthy unsaturated fat, are loaded with vitamins A, C and E as well as beneficial antioxidants, and have one of the highest fiber contents of any fruit or vegetable.
Above the equator, the avocado fruit blooms between February and May but is harvested year-round. Unlike most fruits, avocados don't have to be picked at certain times and can remain on the tree quite a while.
Like pears, avocados ripen only after they're picked and the firm fruits ship well. Patented in 1935 by postman Randolph Hass, California's dark green-to-purplish black Hass avocado has since become the most popular variety in the U.S. and accounts for the vast majority of California's crop.
This time of year, however, 80 % of the avocados available here hail from Mexico, a 100% increase from a decade ago.
When selecting, choose an avocado free of scars and wrinkles and don't squeeze the fruit or you'll bruise it. If the avocado is ripe, the stem will pull right out, but the best strategy is to buy avocados when they're still a bit green and firm and then ripen them at home by simply leaving them out on the counter for a few days.
To hasten the ripening process, put avocados in a paper bag or a drawer (some people think they ripen best wrapped in foil), and don't refrigerate avocados, as they can turn to mush in as little as a day.
Finally, avocado flesh exposed to the air will darken very quickly. Some people think that leaving the pit in with the avocado meat prevents discoloration, but the primary factor in preventing discoloration is keeping air away from the flesh, so wrap a cut avocado in plastic, refrigerate it, and use it as soon as possible.
Peeled and sliced avocados should be sprinkled with lemon or lime juice to retard discoloration, and the citric acid will also bring out the flavor.
To peel, cut the avocado lengthwise around the pit and then rotate the two halves in opposite directions. You can easily scoop the flesh out of the shell of a ripe avocado with a spoon, but in many cases the avocado will peel like a banana — just turn it over on the cut side and pull off the skin with your fingers.
Avocados are great with a sprinkle of lemon or lime juice and salt. Mashed avocado is, of course, the primary ingredient in guacamole, and when you make it be sure to leave the pit in with the guacamole to keep it from turning brown; the pit is very effective in this application.
Avocado is also delicious served with slices of ripe red tomato or cut into slivers and added to tossed green salads.
For a pretty salad plate, cut avocados in half lengthwise, leaving skins on, and remove the pits; arrange on a bed of lettuce and fill the centers with crab, tuna, or chicken salad, garnishing with fresh raw vegetables and serving with bread if desired.
An avocado puréed with a little lemon juice, salt, other seasonings, and a dab of olive oil, makes a great creamy salad dressing for lettuce or other greens.
Avocados are also good on sandwiches — any combination of avocado, bacon, lettuce, tomato, turkey, or chicken makes a great sandwich.
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You've probably seen them in the produce section, but how are "long stem" strawberries any different from the normal quart of strawberries that you typically buy for 3 or 4 bucks? Boasting a deliciously red, plump body with a firm, long stem, these strawberries are perfect for, chocolate dipping, gift-giving, or simply creating a pretty presentation. Long stem strawberries are, as the name implies, the plumpest, firmest strawberries of the bunch, adorned with a fancy long stem... the same fancy long stem that is typically trimmed from strawberries before they hit the produce section. This nice little accessory makes it extremely easy to dip them in chocolate, roll them around in pretty toppings, or dangle them in front of the eyes of your loved ones.
Long stem strawberries are available year-round, however they’re particularly popular in the winter months, because they make the perfect gift for the holidays and especially Valentine’s Day (alongside a bouquet of long stem roses, obviously). Let it be clear, there is nothing different about the biology of a long stem strawberry versus a no-stem one, other than the fact that long stem berries are harvested with the intention of maintaining the structure and integrity of the stem the berry grows on in nature. If you’re buying berries with the intention of dipping and garnishing them, you can always opt for a quick shortcut and simply pierce your regulary strawberries with a toothpick, allowing for a more easily maneuvered dipping experience.
If there is any such thing as an all-American fruit, it's strawberries. They're our most popular dessert fruit. In most places local strawberries have a very short season. You can, of course, buy them year round, but like a lot of good things, the best strawberries are still the ones you get locally during those few brief weeks that they're in season. The first refrigerated shipment of strawberries in this country was made in 1843, when 40,000 quarts were shipped out of Cincinnati. That's a lot of strawberries. But in 1992, California shipped more than 5,160,000 quarts every day. More than 300,000 acres of strawberries are now cultivated worldwide - half of them in the United States. California is the biggest producer, and I think it grows the best commercially produced strawberries. We also get strawberries from Florida, New Zealand, Argentina, and Chile. Mexico and Guatemala also grow them, but I don't think they have much flavor.
Although there a different strawberry strains, there are three basic types: wild strawberries (often called fraises des bois), commercially grown hybrids, and local strawberries. I put locals into a separate category because, compared to strawberries grown and shipped from California and Florida, local strawberries - picked ripe by hand and sold close to home - taste totally different. For hundreds of year’s wild strawberries were the only ones available. They're most frequently found in alfalfa and clover fields, where they seem to grow best. Very tiny, with a tart, delicate flavor, wild strawberries show up in late June in most places. Although wild strawberries are native to the Americas, most commercially grown berries are produced from hybrids first developed in France, where wild strawberries imported from Virginia were planted next to yellow Chilean strawberries. These varieties cross-pollinated to produce a sweet red berry several times larger than its wild cousin. A local strawberry is simply any strawberry grown and sold not far from where you are. They're ripened right on the plant and picked by hand. Vine-ripened berries are darker and sweeter than shipped berries, but they're very, very fragile. Local strawberries are picked early every morning, when the dew is still on them. The whole season lasts only about three weeks - usually from mid-June to early July. But too much rain in June can ruin the entire crop. One year there were heavy rains in our part of New Jersey during strawberry season, and we had strawberries for only two days! So when those ripe local berries appear at your market, grab 'em. Commercial cultivars are bred to be firmer and heartier than most varieties so that they'll stand up to shipping. And, of course, they're shipped under refrigeration, which is an absolute necessity. Strawberries are an exception to my no-refrigeration rule. They must be refrigerated. Right now the top-of-the-line commercially grown strawberry is the Driscoll Stern. It's the great big one with the stem cut long. It looks spectacular and is good for desserts like chocolate fondue. But I still look for small berries: I think they have the best flavor.
When you're selecting strawberries, look for bright, deep red, glossy berries with fresh green caps, leaves, and stems. They should also be dry. Look at the bottom of the box: there should be no red stains or seepage showing. And, of course, stay away from berries that have turned dull and bluish. They're goners.
Rule 1: Refrigerate Rule 2: Refrigerate Rule 3: Refrigerate Strawberries, like most other berries, won't ripen any further once they're pulled from the vine. Nothing you can do at home will make a green berry ripen. And once the berry cap is pulled, it will deteriorate very quickly. You can hold ripe strawberries in the refrigerator a day or two and still have pretty good berries, but the best thing to do is to eat strawberries the same day you buy them.
Just as important: store the strawberries untouched. Never, ever wash or remove the strawberry cap until you're ready to eat the berry. Then just wash the berries with a gentle spray of cool water and remove the caps after the berries have drained. The no-touch rule also holds if you're planning to freeze the berries. Just pop them into a plastic bag and put them into the freezer unwashed and uncapped. Rinse briefly and remove the caps only when you're ready to serve.
Wild Strawberries: early June, where available Local Strawberries: in most areas, mid-June and early July California Strawberries: January through November, with peak in March through May Florida Strawberries: December through May, with peak in March and April Imports: from New Zealand and Chile, November through April; from Mexico and Guatemala, early spring
STRAWBERRY FUN FACTS
Click on Link below for Stem Strawberry 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.
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 mangoTo 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!
KENT MANGO STORY Kents tend to be softer when ripe than other round varietals seen in the USA. They can also be a bit more wrinkly when ripe, often a deterrent to the end user, so education is very important in their merchandising. It also tends to be more juicy or succulent in comparison to the Tommy Atkins or the Haden, probably an attribution of their yellow mango roots, which are often more juicy. These extremely succulent, juicy mangoes have a deep golden flesh when ripe, much more so than any other mango. They tend to be on the large size spectrum, and in terms of skin, they often exhibit slight red, yellows and eventually golden and orange blush tones. They have white speckles, as the Haden, but as the Kents ripen their speckles become more predominant.The Kent cultivar has certainly been passed around the world; it is the predominant mango produced in Ecuador and Peru for export to the USA, and one of the main cultivar produced in South Africa (another leading world mango exporter) and it’s the prized import mango in France and other European countries. Originating from Florida in the 1940's, Kents are ideal mangos for juicing and drying. FLAVOR: Sweet and rich TEXTURE: Juicy, tender flesh with limited fibers COLOR: Dark green and often has a dark red blush over a small portion of the mango SHAPE: Large oval shape RIPENING CUES: Kents have yellow undertones or dots that cover more of the mango as it ripens. Squeeze gently to judge ripeness. PRIMARY SOURCE COUNTRIES: Mexico, Ecuador, Peru PEAK AVAILABILITY: January, February, June to Aug, and December What are Kent variety Mangos like? Featuring a mostly dark green skin with small patches of red blush, Kent Mangos have gold to orange flesh that is both sweet and rich, and is less fibrous and less stringy than the Tommy Atkins.
The amount of redness on the skin is not an indicator of sweetness or ripeness with the Kent variety Mango. These Mangos do not give much in the way of visual clues to when they are ripe, so judge by the softness when you squeeze them. Ripen Mangos at room temperature.
Squeeze Gently to Test Ripeness on Kent variety Mangos
Have you ever wondered where grapefruit got its name? Our best guess is that the name comes from the way grapefruit grows--in clusters just like grapes, sometimes as many as twenty-five fruits in a cluster hanging from a tree. Hybrid grapefruit are wonderfully different from the original grapefruit, which can still be found occasionally n Oriental markets. Called pomelos or shadocks, these tend to be larger than grapefruit, with rough, puffy, thick rinds and lots of seeds. In most cases they're also quite sour and have very little juice. For my money, today's hybrid grapefruit is a vast improvement. Grapefruit are grown in many parts of the world, but the United States is the main producer and consumer. Florida produces 75 percent of the domestic crop, with Texas a distant second, followed by California and Arizona. Grapefruit was introduced to Florida in the early 1800's. For a hundred years it was sold chiefly to tourists as a curiosity. Not until the turn of the century were the first limited supplies shipped to northern cities. Grapefruit are now shipped to all parts of the United States and Canada, as well as to Europe and the Near and Far East. Florida grapefruit are grown in two areas: in central Florida and in the Indian River area on the eastern coast, where the soil and climate are perfect for grapefruit. The Indian River valley runs parallel to the Gulf Stream and the warm ocean current shields the groves from temperature changes and spares them from frost even when groves much farther south are damaged. There is a difference between California and Florida grapefruit. Florida grapefruit have a thinner rind and are sweeter and less pulpy than the California varieties. California grapefruit, which are in the stores in late summer and fall, are easier to peel and segment, but their flavor is only fair--the flesh just isn't as heavy with sweet juice as the Florida fruit. Grapefruit with a clear yellow rind are called goldens; those with some bronzing are bronzes, and those with heavy bronzing are called russets. Flesh color runs from yellow-white to pink to nearly red. Although their colors vary, there's not much difference in their flavor and juiciness. Those qualities are determined by the lateness of the season, the specific variety, and how the fruit has been handled. Duncans and orchids--old top-of- the-line varieties--are juicy and sweet; they are excellent for segmenting and make a great juice. The Duncans now grown only in limited supplies and sold to canneries and processors, but a descendant of the Duncan--the Marsh seedless--has taken its place. It's not quite as juicy as the Duncan, but it has a fine flavor and texture. From the Marsh seedless, hybridizers have developed a pink Marsh, and from that a darker pink strain called the Ruby Red, a very good grapefruit now primarily grown in Texas. The large Marsh rubies from Florida are now called Star Rubies, and they're probably the sweetest of all--great for segmenting, juicing, or eating with a spoon. Red grapefruit has twenty-five times more vitamin A than Golden, but otherwise they are almost nutritionally equal.
Grapefruit are available year round, but the best fruit--from Florida and Texas--are found between November and June, with the peak starting around Christmas and continuing through April. Small early golden and pink grapefruit are the first to show up on the market in October. They're very juicy but not as sweet as they are later in the season. Don't be afraid to buy a small grapefruit; even in the fall they make good juice, and as the season progresses into winter and early spring, the smaller varieties get sweeter even as they maintain their high juice content. Whether they're large or small, the Florida and Texas crops improve in quality from October to December and are at their sweetest and juiciest in late winter and early spring. In late July, California and Arizona grapefruit start to arrive and continue through October, but at best they're only pretty good--not as high in quality as the fruit from Florida and Texas. During the midsummer months, grapefruit also become pretty costly. Here again the old rule of thumb applies the higher the price, the lower the quality. In the summer months, forgo that breakfast grapefruit and replace it with seasonal berries and fruits.
Look for smooth, thin-skinned fruits that are either round or slightly flattened at each end. Like other citrus fruits, grapefruit should be firm, shiny, and heavy in the hand for its size. Fruit that's heavy for its size promises the most juice, and because grapefruits are almost three-quarters liquid, juiciness always means flavor. Avoid coarse, rough looking, or puffy fruit or any that has a puffy or protruding end, which indicates that the fruit is dry and flavorless.
Leave grapefruit on the counter if you're going to consume it in less than a week; for longer storage, refrigerate.
FLORIDA GRAPEFRUIT FORCAST
The forecast for all-grapefruit production is unchanged at 4.65 million boxes, down 40% than last seasons production , and is the least recorded since the 1918-1919 season. Florida's groves are experiencing continued difficulty with volume because of the effects of Hurricane Irma.
TEXAS GRAPEFRUIT IN PEAK PRODUCTION
Consumption is on the rise, higher then last year even for Texas fruit, due to the supply shortage due to Hurricane Irma in Florida. Peak sweetness will continue until March. Weather has been cooperative to this point in the season, and volume is moving nicely. Quality is good, with grapefruit size slightly above average due to the rains in October. Prices are higher due to demand, you know what i always told you , Supply and Demand equals Price.
Grapefruit is great on its own, but if you want to sweeten a particularly tart fruit, sprinkle the halves with a little brown or whit sugar and a dot of butter and put them in a shallow baking dish under the broiler for a minute or two, until the tops glaze and start to bubble. Peeled and sectioned grapefruit is excellent in a salad of mixed mild and bitter greens with a light dressing.
Click on link for Grapefruit show!!!
The wearing of the green is nearly upon us, and so the season of green beer, bagels and milkshakes has begun. While there’s nothing particularly Irish about shamrock-shaped cookies or green-frosted cupcakes, you might be surprised to learn that the traditional St. Paddy’s meal—corned beef and cabbage—is no more authentic. Like many aspects of St. Patrick’s Day, the dish came about when Irish-Americans transformed and reinterpreted a tradition imported from the Emerald Isle.
The first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place not in Dublin but in New York City, in 1762. Over the next 100 years, Irish immigration to the United States exploded. The new wave of immigrants brought their own food traditions, including soda bread and Irish stew. Pork was the preferred meat, since it was cheap in Ireland and ubiquitous on the dinner table. The favored cut was Irish bacon, a lean, smoked pork loin similar to Canadian bacon. But in the United States, pork was prohibitively expensive for most newly arrived Irish families, so they began cooking beef—the staple meat in the American diet—instead.
So how did pork and potatoes become corned beef and cabbage? Irish immigrants to America lived alongside other “undesirable” European ethnic groups that often faced discrimination in their new home, including Jews and Italians. Members of the Irish working class in New York City frequented Jewish delis and lunch carts, and it was there that they first tasted corned beef. Cured and cooked much like Irish bacon, it was seen as a tasty and cheaper alternative to pork. And while potatoes were certainly available in the United States, cabbage offered a more cost-effective alternative to cash-strapped Irish families. Cooked in the same pot, the spiced, salty beef flavored the plain cabbage, creating a simple, hearty dish that couldn’t be easier to prepare.
After taking off among New York City’s Irish community, corned beef and cabbage found fans across the country. It was the perfect dish for everyone from harried housewives to busy cooks on trains and in cafeterias—cheap, easy to cook and hard to overcook. It was even served alongside mock turtle coup at President Lincoln’s inauguration dinner in 1862.
Far from being as Irish as a shamrock field, this St. Patrick’s Day classic is as American as apple pie. Growing up in an Italian household with an Irish mother, Corned beef and cabbage was a must on St Patty's day even though my pop wanted to put tomato sauce on it. Actually my pop got to like it and in later years when he retired he would dress up in green and take his motorcycle, pickup the nuns's at my sister Lu Anne school and ride them in the St Patrick's Day Parade. I guess the old saying everyone is Irish on St Patty's day is true.
The Cabbage Story
One of the least expensive and most available of all vegetables, cabbage is a food staple in Europe and northern Africa and has been around for more than four thousand years. Long associated with boarding-house cooking and lingering smells, cabbage has been reinstated as one of the members of the important crucifer family--vegetables that contain important anticancer nutrients.
The problem with cabbage is the usual one most people overcook it. When it's cooked quickly and evenly, cabbage s a mild, sweet flavor and a pleasing texture, eaten raw, it has a spicier flavor and crunchy texture.
The difference between green and white cabbage is that the green comes straight in from the field, while the white has been blanched. In upper New York State, for example, growers cut the heads and then bury them in trenches to blanch the leaves and protect the heads from freezing. This method gives us cabbage all winter long. Many people think cabbage with a touch of frost on it is sweeter too.
Savoy cabbage has puckered, wrinkly leaves and forms a looser head. Red cabbage is a different variety altogether. Both are good simmered in vinegar and allowed to cool overnight, then served as a side dish with veal or pork.
Available year round at reasonable prices.
Select hard, round heads with crisp outer leaves that are free of rust or yellowing. Red cabbage and Savoy cabbage should be crisp and brightly colored. None of them should show black edges or other signs of rot.
Refrigerate in a plastic bag or in the crisper drawer. Cabbage will keep well for weeks. If the outer leaves turn yellow or dry out, just peel them off. The cabbage underneath will still be good.
Pull off and rinse the green outer leaves for stuffing. The head may be cut into wedges for steaming, sliced thin for sautéing, shredded raw and mixed with salad greens, or made into coleslaw. For a tasty winter salad, shred cabbage together with apples and carrots, then add raisins and nuts and toss with a dressing. Cabbage is excellent added to stir-fries, pickled, made into sauerkraut, or cooked and served with corned beef, smoked pork, or German sausage.
Click on the link for St Paddy's Day Cabbage Show
ESCAROLE AND CHICORY
Escarole and chicory are two varieties of basically the same plant, but they have different shapes and uses. Although they are not true lettuces, they are in the same broad family--Asteraceae--and their leafy heads are usually found alongside lettuces at the market. Chicory, sometimes called curly endive, is simply called endive in Europe, and although it's related, it's not the same thing as Belgian endive. Chicory is a wild-looking, spreading head, with long, slender, very curly notched leaves. Escarole leaves are a bit broader and flatter than chicory leaves and have a smoother edge. The outer leaves are a fairly dark green but get paler toward the inside of the head. The heart is nearly white and has a semisweet flavor.Both escarole and chicory are zesty, bitter greens. Chicory is almost always used raw, while escarole can be used cooked or raw. Escarole is very popular among Italians. One of my all-time favorite dishes is a simple combination of escarole, beans, and seasonings. When I was a kid, we got to choose whatever we wanted for our birthday dinners. My brother David would choose steak or leg of lamb, but no matter what, I always chose escarole and beans. Mom said she loved to feed me because I was the cheap date in the family. Escarole is less bitter than other chicories and the level of bitterness varies throughout the head, with the inner, lighter-colored leaves being less bitter then the outer, darker leaves
Available year round from Florida and California during the winter and spring months, in May and June buy locally.
Escarole: Look for green outer leaves with a white to yellow center. The butt end should be white to light brown. The leaves should be free of wilt and decay. For a salad, the inner , lighter-colored leaves are a good choice, the outer green leaves are good for cooked dishes.
Chicory: Exactly the same as escarole, but the outer leaves should be very crispy and sharp. Chicory is mostly eaten raw, never cooked.
Store escarole and chicory as you would lettuce. Both keep reasonably well--up to a week--when properly refrigerated.
Escarole provides more vitamins and minerals by weight than common iceberg lettuce. Escarole is low in calories and high in vitamin A, fiber, calcium, iron, and vitamin C. A serving of 1/6 of a medium head (about 86 grams) has 15 calories, 3 g carbohydrates (all fiber), 1 g protein, and provides 35 percent of the RDA of Vitamin A, 10 percent vitamin C, 4 percent calcium and iron.Compared to iceberg lettuce, escarole has two to three times more of each of those nutrients for the same weight and provides much more vitamin A and fiber than radicchio.Adding escarole to soup will add fiber as well as the other nutrients, in addition to providing some color when using the dark green leaves.
Curly endive contains significant amounts of Vitamin A and Vitamin K as well as some Vitamin C. Additionally, it contains phosphorus, potassium and dietary fiber with the darker green leaves offering more nutrients than the white leaves.
Both escarole and chicory can be sandy, so wash the leaves well before using. The outer leaves of escarole, which are relatively bitter, are the ones to use for cooking. They're excellent in my favorite dish and delicious added to soups, cooked with noodles, or mixed with lettuce to top Mexican dishes like tacos and burritos. The sweeter inner leaves are very good in salads.Chicory is a zesty, attractive addition to other greens, including bitter greens, for salad.
If you've ever had the experience of drinking chicory coffee ( and chances are, you were in New Orleans when you drank it ), you might've had to wonder just exactly what chicory even is. For the record, chicory is a pretty flowering plant , sometimes called Curly Endive, and great for salads. The secret is underneath the plant, it's root, and that's what gets roasted and ground to be coffee.
Click link for show on escarole and chickory
According to the Dictionary the word artisan means , a worker who practices a trade or handicraft , a person that makes a high-quality or distinctive product usually by hand or using traditional methods, which is what the term must mean in relationship to lettuce, the leaves are not plucked from it's root and the lettuce stays in it's natural cluster like form, non-processed, hence the name Artisan lettuce.
In 2006, one of T&A growers was handed a handful of seeds that Bob Antle had received from a friend in Europe. Curious as to what they would be, the seeds were planted. Unlike other lettuces available at the grocery store, what grew wasn’t a spring mix or a baby lettuce. What grew were full grown, petite red and green varieties of specialty lettuces: Gem, Tango, and Oak. And so the story of Artisan Lettuce began. They began to develop the seeds in the United States. Through trial and error, we learned and mastered the art of growing six unique seed varieties side by side. Today, this program is called Artisan Lettuce and is still grown side by side, cut, packed, and shipped at the same time from the field. The three varieties they came up with are gem, tango,and oak. There are red and green versions of each. The gem is sweet, the tango is bitter, and the oak is on the bland side. Mix them all together and you have a wonderful, flavorful salad. It takes about 60-85 days, on average to grow. They plant the red and green Artisian Lettuce varieties side by side in the same field.
Each package of Artisan Lettuces contains four heads from the six varieties of Artisan Lettuce that they grow. Green or red, ruffled or scalloped, each variety has a distinct, complementary flavor. Mix them together or try them individually.
A fresher alternative to processed lettuce blends, Artisan Lettuces last longer in your fridge. Leave the heads whole in the stay-fresh package until ready to use. You’ll be amazed at how many days of freshness you’ll enjoy!The longtime problem with pre-mixed salads is the high spoilage rate. The mixture of lettuce varieties always means that some leaves decay before others, forcing us to either pick out the slimy ones from the remaining crisp leaves. With the Artisian pack because they are tightly packed whole heads of red and green lettuces they have a much longer shelf life.
Like must salads the health lies in the nutritional facts, and Artisan Lettuce is loaded with Vitamin A, numerous B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium,manganese, iron,potassium, copper, phosphorous, just a few of the nutritional treasures found in lettuce.
SELECTING Because they come in a clear container, check top and bottom of container for dark red or green slime on lettuces. a sign that they will deteriorate quickly. The red variety usually goes bad faster then the green but like i said because these lettuces are mature and are whole heads they should be fine. There also should be no pink color on the ribs, which indicates the lettuce has had too much rain and will rot quickly in your refrigerator.
Most beneficial to consumers, when properly stored, the clear containers contribute to the lettuces' refrigerated shelf life of more than two weeks.
I LOVE THIS PRODUCT, IT'S GREAT TO SEE FARMERS THAT GROW SOME COLORFUL, FLAVORFUL LETTUCES AND PICK THEM SMALL AND AT THEIR PEAK FRESHNESS IN THE FIELD !!!
Click on link for Artisan Lettuces Show
In the Southern Hemisphere, a good part of the dinner is this cooking banana, which is served not for dessert but as a main dish. In the tropics and subtropics, it’s treated like a staple – fried, baked, boiled, grilled, or combined with other fruits and vegetables.Imported from Central America, the plantain is often ignored here because people judge it as if it were a banana and decide it’s either too-green, too black, or too large. Don’t let its looks deceive you. Unless a plantain is rock hard, moldy, or practically liquid, chances are it is good. For each stage of ripeness, the plantain has a different taste and different cooking requirements.When the peel is green to yellow, plantains are bland and starchy and can be cooked like potatoes. As the peel changes from yellow to black, the plantain gradually changes its character from vegetable to fruit, developing greater sweetness and a banana aroma but holding its firm shape, even after cooking. Unlike a banana, a black plantain is merely ripe. Take the greener ones home and let them ripen. At room temperature, they’ll ripen slowly to the stage you want.
Like bananas, plantains are imported year-round.
You can usually find plantains at all stages of ripeness. Because they’re firmer, a ripe plantain is less likely to be bruised than a banana, but you don’t want it mushy. A black plantain should still feel firm. Avoid plantains that are cracked or moldy.
Plantains last a long time at room temperature, gradually ripening and changing color. When a plantain is black, it should still feel as firm as a firm banana. If it’s still very hard, throw it out. Even when it’s ripe, a plantain keeps well. It can be refrigerated if you wish, and unlike a banana it can also be frozen. To freeze, peel the plantain first and wrap tightly in plastic.
A LITTLE MORE ABOUT PLANTAINS
Plantains contain more starch and less sugar than dessert bananas, therefore they are usually cooked or otherwise processed before being eaten. They are always cooked or fried when eaten green. At this stage, the pulp is hard and the peel often so stiff that it has to be cut with a knife to be removed.Mature, yellow plantains can be peeled like typical dessert bananas; the pulp is softer than in immature, green fruit and some of the starch has been converted to sugar. They can be eaten raw, but are not as flavourful as dessert bananas, so are usually cooked. When mature, yellow plantains are fried, they tend to caramelize, turning a golden-brown color. They can also be boiled, baked, microwaved or grilled over charcoal, either peeled or unpeeled.Plantains are a staple food in the tropical regions of the world, ranking as the tenth most important staple food in the world. As a staple, plantains are treated in much the same way as potatoes and with a similar neutral flavour and texture when the unripe fruit is cooked by steaming, boiling or frying.Since they fruit all year round, plantains are a reliable all-season staple food, particularly in developing countries with inadequate food storage, preservation and transportation technologies. In Africa, plantains and bananas provide more than 25 percent of the carbohydrate requirements for over 70 million people.
STEAMED, BROILED, GRILLED, BAKED OR FRIED
In countries in Central America and the Caribbean, such as Cuba, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, Puerto Rico, Haiti, and Jamaica, the plantain is either simply fried, boiled or made into plantain soup. In Kerala, an Indian state, ripe plantain is steamed, a popular breakfast dish.In Ghana of West Africa, boiled plantain is eaten with kontomire stew, cabbage stew or fante-fante (fish) stew. The boiled plantain can be mixed with groundnut paste, pepper, onion and palm oil to make eto, which is eaten with avocado. Ripe plantains can also be fried and eaten with black eyed beans cooked in palm oil – a popular breakfast dish. Kelewele, a Ghanaian snack, is spiced ripe plantain deep fried in palm oil or vegetable oil.In Nigeria, plantain is eaten boiled, fried or roasted; boli – roasted plantain – is usually eaten with palm oil or groundnut. In Guatemala, ripe plantains are eaten boiled, fried, or in a special combination where they are boiled, mashed and then stuffed with sweetened black beans. Afterwards, they are deep fried in sunflower or corn oil. The dish is called rellenitos de plátano and is served as a dessert. In Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba, it can also be mashed after it has been fried and be made a mofongo, or fried and made into tostones, tajadas, or platanutres, or it can be boiled or stuffed. Tostones, also known as patacones are a popular staple in many South American countries, including Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela.
The greener the plantain, the harder it is to peel. A black plantain will peel like a banana, other stages are unpredictable. For greener plantains, cut off both ends, then score the skin lengthwise in several places to make peeling easier.Experience will teach you what degree of ripeness is best for your purposes, but generally, a green or greenish plantain will be very hard and starchy, with little banana flavor and no sweetness. They require a fairly long cooking time and, like potatoes, can be boiled or mashed. They are excellent sliced thin and fried like potato chips, or cut into chunks, boiled, and added to salty or spicy soups and stews.Yellow-ripe plantains can be prepared in the same ways, but they will have a lovely creamy texture and a light banana scent when they’re cooked. They are much more-tender than green plantains but much firmer than bananas. You can rinse them, cut into fairly thick cross sections, boil until tender, then peel the chunks and serve them as a side dish. If you plan to add them to soups, stews, or vegetable mixtures, peel them first.Half-ripe plantains are also excellent grilled. Cuban cooks peel the plantains, cut them on the diagonal, and grill them slowly over a low fire with a little oil or melted butter. Turn and brush them with additional oil or butter until they are tender and creamy inside.Black-ripe plantains are superb cooked any way you would cook a ripe banana. They’re delicious sautéed and will cook for a longer time than bananas without falling apart, permitting full development of their flavor and aroma. They’ll also absorb the flavors of whatever seasonings you use.
Click on link below for Plantain Show
Along with the date, the coconut is an indispensable member of the Palmaceae family, plants of utmost importance to hundreds of millions of people throughout the tropical areas of the world. The coconut palm has provided food, drink, oil, sugar, fuel, housing, and even clothing materials for thousands of years. It probably originated in Southeast Asia, but because coconuts (which are actually huge seeds) can stay afloat for weeks at sea, the plant spread to the islands of the Indian Ocean, throughout the Pacific, and finally to the West Coast of the Americas. Coconuts were introduced to the Caribbean and to tropical areas of the Atlantic coast in the sixteenth century.
Coconuts are very large fruits encased in elongated green husks. Inside is the fibrous brown nut familiar to most Americans. A coconut takes about a year to mature, but it can be enjoyed at several stages of development. In the tropics, coconuts are consumed at early stages. At six months they contain milky liquid and a thin interior coating of meat that is extremely nutritious and so tender it can be eaten with a spoon. As the coconut matures, the milk is gradually absorbed by the meat.
The mature coconut is what is exported. The green husk is usually removed to expose the hard, dark brown, fibrous shell. Inside, the nutty-tasting white flesh is covered by a paper-thin brown peel.
Available year round but most plentiful from October to January.
When buying a coconut, look for a heavy one. Shake it and listen for a sloshing sound--the coconut should still contain some milk. There are three "eyes" or indentations fairly close together on the shell, this is where it's softest and thinnest. There should be no sign of moisture near the eyes nor any smell of fermentation--check the coconut eyes with your nose.
Coconuts keep at room temperature for three or four weeks or more. They'll last for weeks in the refrigerator, but the milk will eventually dry up. Once opened, a coconut must be wrapped and refrigerated, and it will only keep two or three days. To store longer, you can grate it, then either freeze it or dehydrate it and store tightly covered.
Here is an easy way to open a coconut, drive a screwdriver or nail into the eyes
and drain the liquid, which can be chilled and added to fruit juice, then place the whole coconut in the oven at 250ᵒ to 325ᵒF and roast about fifteen minutes. This will make the shell easier to crack and cause the flesh to shrink away from the shell slightly. Remove from the oven and tap the shell with a hammer, it will break easily and the flesh should be easy to remove. If the flesh clings to the shell, return the pieces to the oven for five to ten more minutes.
You can eat the flesh with the thin brown skin on--I think it's good that way--or you can peel it. Grated coconut can sprinkled over fruit salad or ice cream, added to granola, or made into macaroons, coconut cake, or cream pie. Use it in curries or tropical drinks. I love to add it to my cereal in the morning.
Coconut milk is used in a number of cuisines, including Thai and Indian. You can make coconut milk by grating the flesh by hand or using a food processor. Combine the grated meat with three or four cups of water, bring to a boil, and let it simmer a few minutes, stirring constantly. Allow to cool and strain it through a cheesecloth, squeezing the cloth to wring out all the milk. Discard the solids and store the milk in the refrigerator or freezer. Coconut milk makes a terrific rice pudding, and it can be added to the filling for coconut pie. It's a key ingredient in tropical drinks like the coconut (coconut milk and rum) and pina colada (pineapple juice, coconut milk, and rum).
FIVE HEALTHY FACTS ABOUT COCONUTS
1.Coconuts grow from sandy beaches with lots of rain and sun. Often they are found near the ocean and can handle a lot of salt in the air.
2. Coconuts are considered a type of nut but actually are the seeds of the coconut palm tree.
3. The “meat” of one coconut has 13g of protein; whereas the milk is light and low in sugar with only .5g per tablespoon. The two compliment each other very well.
4. Coconut oil is an effective moisturizer for skin and hair of all ages. It has a valuable amount of the antioxidant vitamin E, which can protect your skin and hair from the elements.
5. Coconuts support the development of strong, hearty bones and teeth by improving the body’s ability to absorb calcium and magnesium.
COCONUTS VARY IN FLAVOR AND USE DEPENDING ON THEIR AGE
They can be eaten from seven months old to twelve months
The Ripening Process
At just 6 months old, coconuts are usable for drinking.
Young coconuts like this contain only water (no meat).
At 7 months old, thin "jellymeat" begins to build on the inside shell.
(as this happens the water gets sweeter)
As the coconut ripen, the water will continue to sweeten & the meat will keep thickening.
At 8 months delicate "spoonmeat" is forms.
At 9 months the meat begins to firm up into "rubbermeat"
Each month the fat content of the meat increases.
At 10 months the meat conatins enough fat to make milk.
The sweet water is transforming into fat.
For that reason the coconut is no longer full of water and when you shake it, you hear water sloshing around inside
Thats why these coconuts are called "shakers"
A few months later the nuts will turn brown & fall naturally from the tree.
These are the fully mature seeds of the coconut!
Brown coconuts are the richest in fat and are used to make creme and oils.
Scroll up to Produce Pete Shows. Past and Present for Coconut Show or click link below!!
In late summer, we’d sell plum tomatoes to people who would make and jar sauce for the winter. Some households would take 100 bushels at a time, and the same went for wine grapes, which usually came into season at the end of September.I remember going up and down the cellar stairs of family homes carrying hundreds of cases of wine grapes, which they would use to make their homemade wine. Of all the different varieties of these grapes, my favorite was always the muscatel grapes – they came in 40-45 pound boxes and always had bees circling around the boxes because the grapes were so ripe and sweet.I sure hated all those bees buzzing around my head all the time, but the reward of being able to eat those grapes was well worth it.Sadly, those days are long gone, but thanks to production in Chile, I can get that great taste back. Beginning in the first week of March and lasting through the second week of May, seedless pink Muscatel grapes are available and they taste just like they look, very sweet and delicate – and look Ma, no bees! I love to cover what I think is the very best in produce and you’re in for a real treat because these grapes are my favorite. So enjoy and buy plenty (or ask for them if you don’t see them in the store), because the season is short!
WHAT TO KNOW
The characteristic trait of the Muscat grape is its sweet, musky, floral flavor. In addition to being eaten fresh out of hand and dried to make Muscatel raisins, true Muscat grapes are used to make a popular variety of fragrant wines.The Muscat family of grapes is among the oldest known and evidence of Muscat wine has been found in a tomb in Turkey dated back to the seventh century B.C.While their colors can vary from golden to black, all of the varieties share a distinctive floral aroma and Muscat wine is claimed to be the only type that shares the aroma of the grape from which it was made.Today’s seedless Muscat grapes – all 200 varieties of them! -- have the same distinctive Muscat flavor without those pesky seeds, and they’re best served at or close to room temperature for maximum enjoyment. The varying color of these grapes (which ranges from greenish to bronze, pink, and light red) has nothing to do with their very sweet and gentle perfumed taste – that’s derived from their high Brix content, or the natural sugar level of this specialty variety.One obstacle to consumer adoption of these grapes has been visual -- when they’re presented in plastic packaging, Muscats look brownish, and consumers may prefer the more traditional brighter green, red, and purple-colored grapes. In fact, their packaged color is something of an illusion; on a white plate, Muscats present an appealing golden color.Muscat raisins are praised as larger and more flavorful than raisins made from conventional seedless grapes and are available over the internet from providers like Sunmaid and Bella Viva Orchards.
SELECTION, STORAGE AND PREPARATION
Look for plump, smooth grapes with good color that are firmly attached to a fresh-looking green stem, with no evidence of wrinkling or withering. There should be a dusty bloom on the skin of the grape itself; much like that found on blueberries, this dusty bloom is a naturally-occurring substance that helps protect the grapes and is a good indication of freshness.Green or white grapes will have a golden glow when they’re ripe, while red grapes will be a soft, rich red, and black grapes will have a deep, blue-black color.As for storage, grapes don’t ripen off the vine, so what you buy is what you get. They’re very delicate and need to be handled carefully, so it’s best to refrigerate them dry in a plastic bag. And like many other fruits, never wash them until you’re ready to eat them, as moisture will make them deteriorate very quickly. Grapes will last up to a week when properly stored in the refrigerator, but it’s best (and most enjoyable) to eat them as soon as possible.Muscatel grapes are delicious tossed in green or fruit salads, paired with cheese, frozen for a twist on ice cubes and added to lemonade or sparkling wine, made into sorbet, or simply enjoyed raw as a juicy snack.
A LITTLE MORE ABOUT GRANDMA'S PINK SEEDLESS MUSCATEL GRAPES
The weather in Chile has provided ideal growing conditions, especially when compared to 2017's less-than-perfect weather, creating an optimal environment for Muscatel GrapesIt has been a normal spring and a very good summer - hot days and cool nights, which promotes quality, coloring and edibility.This years harvest looks like higher Brixx ( sugar levels) which will produce richer flavor and aroma.Unlike other varieties that depend on spray additives to produce red color, Pink Muscatel Grapes get there color from natural weather. The real uniqueness of this grape is the exotic perfumed sweet flavor that comes from an exact type color, when the grape hits it's full Brixx and is ready to be harvested. Maturity is the key and the Pink Muscatel grape, is picked at full maturity for a great tasting flavor.
WHERE TO FIND THEM!!
Sickles Market, Little Silver, N J Citarella's, NY and Long Island All Shoprite Supermarkets Eataly NYC Kings Supermarkets Caputo's Markets 2 Guys from Brooklyn The Orchard Berry Fresh Farms Ave Z North Shore Market Place
Just ask your local market to bring them in, remember you are the boss, and ENJOY
Click link below for Pink Muscatel Show
Spring Tomatoes That Taste Good
A fruit--oh yes, it's a fruit--but in the United States we treat the tomato like a vegetable. Thomas Jefferson grew tomatoes at Monticello back in 1781, but they didn't really start to become popular here until after the Civil War. Now the tomato is the third most popular vegetable in the United States--after potatoes and lettuce.Once called the Peruvian apple, the tomato is a member of the nightshade family. It originated in South America, and our name for it comes from the ancient Nahuatl name tomatl. The French called it the love apple, and the Italians named it the golden apple because the first tomatoes were small yellow fruits. After the early Spanish explorers sent seeds to Naples, the Italians went crazy for tomatoes, and the rest--all the way down to pasta and pizza sauce--is history.A really good tomato is sweet, tender, juicy, and except for the yellow varieties, a deep rich red color. When you get one of those hard tomatoes that tastes like cardboard, you've got one of the hybrids that started coming onto the market in the 1950's, when the businessmen and scientists got together and produced a tomato that could be shipped from one coasts to the other without bruising. Unfortunately, at the same time they also bred out all the flavor.A great tomato is worth looking for. And the way you handle it at home is almost as important as what you choose in the first place. The three most important rules to remember about tomatoes are:
Refrigerating kills the flavor, the nutrients, the texture. It just kills the tomato--period.Unless you live in a really cold climate, the best tomatoes you can buy will be at your local farm stand, when tomatoes are in season in your area. That's true for most produce, but it's doubly true for tomatoes. About half the tomatoes shipped and sold in the United States come from Florida. They are the ones you find in the store in the winter. They're hard, they're thick, they never turn red, and they have no taste. A few winter tomatoes come out of Mexico and California, as well as from Holland, Belgium, and Israel. There are also more and more hydroponic tomatoes on the market.
I may be biased, but I think that in season the Jersey tomato is the best around--maybe because of the soil. The truth is, any local tomato, picked ripe, is going to be good. In the summertime, in season, buy local tomatoes.In the winter I think Canada beats out the rest, with hydroponics a close second. Canada tomatoes are grown in greenhouses, picked ripe, and then shipped by truck. For that reason they're a little more expensive. If you have to have a good tomato in the dead of winter, choose one from Canada, Hydroponics grown in the U.S. are also excellent.Mexican tomatoes are a little better than most of the other winter varieties here because they're usually picked by hand and are a little riper when they come off the vine. Most tomatoes in the U.S. are shipped green because ripe tomatoes are just too fragile for machine picking.California tomatoes, which usually arrive in the late spring, have a thick wall and are very solid inside. A lot of people like them because they're easy to slice, but I don't think they're any better than Florida tomatoes. They look better and ripen more easily, but they're very dry.Don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with a Florida tomato in Florida. Or a California tomato in California. The problem isn't the source--it's that the tomatoes are picked green, gassed with ethylene to make them turn more or less red, then refrigerated and shipped. Even if the tomatoes are picked ripe, they're refrigerated before they're shipped, and that's the final insult.
STEM GRAPE , TOMATOES ON THE VINE, CHERRY TOMATOES
The grape and cherry tomatoes with the stems still attached are your best bet. With the stems still attached, this will let the cherry or grape tomato still receive the nutrients from the stem and make the tomato sweeter. They are always about 50 per cent sweeter than your regular tomato. This also makes it possible to pick the tomatoes when they are deep red in color and fully matured. When picked fully matured, the taste is always much better. Like all tomatoes you never want to refrigerate these because they will lose their flavor and texture. In the winter and early spring, it is very hard to find a good tasting tomato. This is probably the best tasting of all the tomatoes this time of year. These stem tomatoes are tomatoes you can pick by just smelling them. They have a fresh, sweet smell that tomatoes from years ago had. Stem tomatoes, like all tomatoes, are a fruit. You should not wash or remove the stem until you are ready to use. Also, never ripen on the window sill or sun. Just leave out on the counter and never, never, never, refrigerate!When selecting, look for a good red color. Avoid those that look orange in color. Check to see if the stems are still attached, if the stem are missing or tomatoes are off the stems, chances are those tomatoes have been sitting around too long.A great tomato is worth looking for, and the way you handle them at home is almost as important as the way you choose them. The sweetness from the grape, cherry stem tomato is due to the high sugar to acid ratio.
Like other tomatoes, local cherry tomatoes, picked ripe, are going to be the best. Look for small ones. One local variety, called Tiny Tim, is not much bigger than your fingernail, and it's as sweet as sugar.In the winter cherry tomatoes from Israel again are your best bet. Picked ripe, they're very small and very sweet. The Canadians have also produced a "baby tomato" that's a little smaller than a golf ball. It has excellent flavor too. Your next best bet is Mexican cherry tomatoes, which again are picked a little later and a little riper. I don't recommend cherry tomatoes from California. They tend to be too watery and mushy.When choosing cherry tomatoes, look for a good red color--avoid those that look orange. Also check to see if the stems are still on. If the stems are missing, chances are those tomatoes have been sitting around too long.
Campari is a variety of tomato noted for its juiciness, high sugar level, low acidity, and lack of mealiness. Camparis are deep red and larger than a cherry tomato but smaller and rounder than a plum tomatoThey are originally from Europe; the European seed variety has been used to introduce them to North America beginning in 1996. OTHER VARIETIESTomatoes come in scores of different varieties, colors, and markings--striped, purple, even white--but these are found almost exclusively in season, from local sources like farm markets or markets that carry specialty produce. Again, if you want to see a wider variety where you shop, ask for what you want and help create a customer demand.
Local Tomatoes: Depending on the local climate, from July through September, with the peak in late July and AugustFlorida Tomatoes: October to July, with the peak from December through MayCalifornia Tomatoes: May to December, with the peak from June through OctoberImports: Usually year round, with the peak usually from January through April
RIPENING AND STORING
Tomatoes are considered "vine ripe" by the industry if they have developed a little color "break"--that is, a small yellow or reddish patch of color on the skin or a starburst of yellow at the blossom end. If the tomato has a color break or the starburst, you'll be able to ripen it at home.Don't ripen tomatoes on the windowsill. Never put them in the sun to ripen. Just put them out on the counter, stem end up, in a relatively cool place--not right next to the stove or the dishwasher. Put on a little Frank Sinatra music if you want them to ripen fast. If you want them to ripen faster--well, you can always put on the Stones. Never, ever refrigerate--not even after the tomato is ripe. If you've got too many ripe tomatoes, make a salad or a raw tomato sauce for pasta. Or make a cooked sauce, freeze it, and you'll have something nice for the winter.
We have all kinds of upscale restaurants, and there is a lot of interest in complicated cuisines, but sometimes it's the really simple things that give you the most pleasure. When I was a kid, I had to help my father sell produce out of the back of his truck. At lunchtime he'd stop at some little store and buy a loaf of Italian bread. Then we'd find a place where we could pull off to the side of the road. He'd put down a piece of cardboard for a cutting board, slice the bread, cut up a tomato and an onion, and make tomato sandwiches.Sometimes when I come home from the store and I'm too bushed to prepare or even eat a full meal, I'll make myself a tomato sandwich. Food brings back memories. You can sit down with the most ordinary things on your mind and eat something good and it will bring back memories - things you haven't thought about in years. Even memories that might not start out being so good seem to improve as time goes by. At the time I hated peddling fruits and vegetables out of that truck with Pop, but now I wish I had the time to pull off to the side of the road they way we did then. We don't have the luxury of slowing down - everything is geared to working and being productive. Produce, produce, produce. Wouldn't I love to be able to take my son and go sit by the side of the road and have a tomato sandwich? With the perfect ripe red tomato and good bread, there's nothing' better. Click link below for Spring Tomatoes that taste good
Once known as the fruit of kings, for many years, pineapples were available only to natives of the tropics and to wealthy Europeans. Despite the fact that the pineapples were available only to natives of the tropics and to wealthy Europeans. Despite the fact that the pineapple has become a familiar item in U.S. markets, it's still a true exotic. For one thing, it is a member of the bromeliad family, in which edible fruits are rare. A pineapple starts out as a stalk of a hundred or more flowers that shoots up from a plant about three feet tall. Each flower develops a fruit that forms one of the scales on the outside of the pineapple. The more scales or marks on a pineapple, the stronger the tropical taste will be. A pineapple with fewer and larger scales will have a milder but sweeter flavor and more juice.It was probably the Guarani Indians who took pineapples on sea voyages as provisions and to prevent scurvy, thus spreading the plants from their native Paraguay throughout South and Central America. Columbus called the fruit piña when he found it in 1493--piña because he thought it looked like a pinecone--and from that we got the name. The hybrid we know today first appeared around 1700, when the Dutch improved the fruit by crossbreeding. They sold cuttings of the plant to the English, who raised them as hothouse plants. It wasn't until the nineteenth century that canned pineapple began to come out of Hawaii. If you wanted a fresh Hawaiian pineapple, you had to go there to get one. Picked ripe, as the Hawaiian variety has to be, a fresh pineapple simply could not survive the long journey by ship. It was only when air transport became available that fresh Hawaiian pineapple began to arrive in mainland markets.
There are two main varieties of pineapples: Red Spanish and Cayenne. The Red Spanish is the most commonly available. It is a deep orange color, with white to yellow meat and a crown of hard, spiky leaves on top. A recently developed "thornless" variety has a softer, smoother leaf crown that makes the pineapple easier to handle. Red Spanish pineapples are grown in Honduras, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and elsewhere in Central America. The Cayenne pineapple is the Hawaiian variety. The scales on a ripe Cayenne tend to be a lighter yellow, the leaves have a smoother edge, and the pineapple itself is much larger and more elongated than the Red Spanish. The flesh is deep yellow. There are three other less- common varieties. One, called Sugarloaf, is a heavy, round variety with a pointed top that's cultivated in Mexico and Venezuela. Sugarloaf is another big pineapple that can reach ten pounds. Finally, the sweetest pineapples I have ever eaten come from Africa's Ivory Coast. They show up here only rarely--I've had them only two or three times in all the years I've been in the business. If you ever come across them--most likely n June, July, or August--Buy some. Of the pineapples readily available here, to my taste the Cayenne is by far the best, although it can be two or three times as expensive as the Red Spanish. It is sweeter and juicier than the Red Spanish, which is picked greener because it's shipped by boat instead of by air. If you're in the islands where they're grown, by all means buy and eat Red Spanish pineapples--they'll have been picked ripe and they'll be excellent. If you see a Red Spanish in the States that looks and smells good, it's going to be pretty good too. For consistent quality and sweetness, however, Cayennes are your best bet. The tag "Jet Fresh" tells you the pineapple is a Hawaiian Cayenne picked ripe and flown in. The Dole and Del Monte labels also indicate a Cayenne pineapple, although they may not be Hawaiian. Cayennes are now being cultivated in Honduras and Costa Rica by both companies. They're a little more expensive than the Red Spanish but cheaper than those from Hawaii.
For Hawaiian pineapples, the peak season generally comes in April and May, but they're available year round. Caribbean pineapples have two seasons: December through February and August through September.
Many people think that if you can easily pull a leaf out of the crown, the pineapple is ripe, but this test doesn't tell you anything useful. Like tomatoes, pineapples are considered mature when they develop a little color break. If a pineapple at the market looks green, take a look at the base. If it has begun to turn a little orange or red there, you'll be able to ripen it at home. If there is no break, the pineapple was picked too green. It will have a woody texture and will never be very sweet. The pineapple should be very firm, never soft or spongy, with no bruises or soft spots. If you find a good-looking pineapple at your market and you're going to use it right away, ask your produce manager to cut it in half to make sure it's not discolored inside. Reject it if it is. Finally, use your nose. If the pineapple has a good aroma, it's ripe. If you can't smell much of anything, it needs to be ripened. If it has a fermented smell, don't buy it!
To ripen a pineapple, stand it upside down on the counter. That's right, stand it on the leaf end. This makes the sugar flow toward the top and keeps the pineapple from fermenting at the bottom. Let it ripen for a few days. When it develops a golden color and smells good, it's ripe. Peeled pineapple should be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated. If it's not wrapped well, a pineapple will absorb other food odors in you refrigerator. A lot of supermarkets have a machine that will cut and core your pineapple for you, but it wastes up to 35 percent of the fruit. Pineapples are not that difficult to cut. Just twist off the leaves, lay the pineapple on its side, and slice it like a loaf of bread. Then peel and core each slice. I just cut off the peel and eat the slices with my fingers--around the core, like an apple. That's my favorite recipe for ripe pineapple! If you want to serve the pineapple chilled, I suggest that you chill it whole, then slice and peel after it is cold.
A LITTLE MORE FUN INFORMATION ON PINEAPPLES
It takes almost 3 years for a single pineapple to reach maturation. Which makes the price tag a bit more understandable.
Pineapple plants have really pretty flowers. The pineapple plant’s flowers — which can vary from lavender to bright red — produce berries that actually coalesce together around the fruit’s core. So the pineapple fruit itself is actually a bunch of “fruitlets” fused together.
Once harvested, pineapples don’t continue to ripen. That means that every single pineapple in the grocery store is as ripe as it will ever be so don’t buy one and save it for a week, thinking it will ripen. The difference in colors is mostly based on where the pineapples were grown so a green pineapple can be just as sweet and delicious as a golden brown one. Although the fruit originated in South America, the majority of the world’s pineapples now come from Southeast Asia. Namely the Philippines and Thailand. For the freshest pineapples in the U.S., look for Costa Rica- or Hawaii-grown pineapples.
Pineapple NutritionPineapples contain bromelain, an enzyme that may help arthritis pain by easing inflammation. They are also a good source of vitamin C, which helps your immune system.
Click link below for Golden Pineapple Show
I think arugula (ah-roo-goo-lah) is my favorite salad green. While this Italian favorite hasn't been discovered in all parts of the country yet, its popularity is growing. In New York City's Little Italy, you'll see people growing arugula in tiny backyard plots and even in pots on windowsills. Few self-respecting Italian cooks will go without it for long. Also known as rocket or rocket salad in Great Britain and the United states, rucola in Italy, and roquette in France, arugula originated in the Mediterranean and was introduced to North America by Italian immigrants. It's another ancient cultivar-the Romans thought eating it would bring them good luck. It is now cultivated worldwide and is in such demand from restaurants that it is now grown world-wide and in greenhouses. Arugula has fine, smooth, dark green leaves that are notched toward the bottom of the stem. A member of the mustard family and closely related to radishes, it has a sharp, spicy flavor that is somewhat similar to watercress, if it has no bite, it isn't fresh. The peppery taste actually gets hotter in the field as the weather gets hotter.
Available year round, arugula is most plentiful in the fall and spring, because it is a cool weather vegetable.
Always buy arugula with the roots still attached. It will lose its zip and flavor fast enough with them on-and even faster with them off. Look for bright, tender, fresh-looking leaves with no signs of yellowing or dark spots. They should not be at all limp.
Because the flavor and texture fade very fast, use arugula as soon as possible after purchasing. If you have to keep it a day or two, don't wash it or remove the roots-just sprinkle with a little water, wrap in paper towels or a clean cloth towel, put in a plastic bag, and refrigerate. Remove the roots and wash only when you're ready to use it. Arugula tends to be very sandy, so wash it well, as you would spinach.
Arugula makes a terrific salad all by itself, dressed with a little vinegar, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. It also adds a wonderful tart, peppery taste mixed into a saled of milder lettuces and greens. I think it's great on sandwiches, especially tomato sandwiches. Arugula is delicious added raw to pasta with a little garlic and oil-the hot pasta steams is just enough. Or you can sauté some minced garlic in olive oil, then toss in a bunch of arugula, sauté briefly, and pour over cooked pasta. The oil will pick up the flavor of the arugula. Be careful not to overcook arugula or it will lose its characteristic peppery flavor. Arugula can also be frozen or dried and used as an herb. When it's dried, it loses some of its bite, but not all of it, as it tends to do when it's overcooked.
NEW JERSEY DANDELIONS
The spring planting season has barely begun and already some growers in the southern part of the state have wrapped up their harvest of the first crop of the year: dandelion.South jersey farmers say demand for dandelion greens is in decline, and fewer farmers are growing the plant. Farmers plant there dandelion crop in the fall. The dandelions go dormant during the winter and start to grow again in March.Dandelion's are commonly described as a garden nuisance, but the key is to pick the dandelion greens before the yellow flower appears. The younger greens are most tender. The leafy greens tagged "dandelion" that are found at market usually are chicory hybrids, such as the San Pasquale and Catalogna varieties. Also called cultivated dandelion, dandelion chicory, or summer dandelion, these greens, unlike true dandelion, grow upright instead of low to the ground, have longer leaves that can measure 12 to 14 inches, and bear tiny blue instead of yellow flowers.True dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, is seeded in the fall, overwintered, and harvested in early spring before it flowers. The chicories, Cichorium intybus, are seeded at this time of year for harvest from June through frost. Sometimes growers will label them "pissenlit," which is French for the old English name for the vegetable, "pissabed," which speaks to its diuretic properties. The name dandelion, too, is from the French -- "dent de lion," which means "lion's tooth," and refers to the look of the plant's serrated leaves. True dandelion is hard to harvest because "it doesn't get very big as far as the leaves are concerned.Summer dandelion is easier to grow. "It's an annual crop instead of an overwintered crop and the seed is much easier to get. "There are more people growing the cultivated than the true dandelion."Many, like Peter Scapellato of Scapellato Farms in Vineland, switched from cultivating the spring dandelion that his immigrant grandfather, Sebastiano Scapellato, had planted a half century ago, to summer dandelion as demand for the more traditional green dropped. "All the Italians, when they came from Italy, brought their ways with them, and that's one of the things they brought," said Scapellato.From a business standpoint, however, dandelion offered only "a short window," he noted -- about a month before the plants start to flower and turn too bitter to eat. "The sales slowed on it,and who wants to take the time to clean it. Prized since ancient times for its medicinal properties, dandelion -- both spring and summer types -- is exceptionally rich in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. And though often considered a weed, the dandelion is actually a vegetable. Dandelions can be made into a coffee substitute from roasted dandelion root, barley, rye, chicory and beets. "Eighty percent of what we call weeds are plants that were brought here as food and medicine from overseas. Dandelions can be treated just like spinach in most dishes. The youngest, most tender spring dandelion are ideal in salads. The old -school italians will like to eat it on its own. More assertive tasting dandelion works well as a stuffing in pasta and even sausage. The thing with dandelion is you need to make sure you take the bitterness away. Garlic and olive oil work wonderfully to mellow out the bitterness. As a side dish, dandelion can be adapted to many styles of cooking. Dandelions are a generational thing, the old folks love it, the younger generation don't know about it.Getting people to enjoy these bitter greens isn't always easy, they spit it out , or they love it, it all depends on your age. The Italian immigrants who settled in South jersey, decades ago and became farmers, grew the dandelions for dishes that they enjoyed in Italy, amd even turned the dandelions into wine. Wagons and carts filled with dandelions were once common at the produce auctions some 60 years agoAs long as your lawn is free of dangerous weed killers and pesticides, you can keep your wild dandelion population in check by harvesting them. The younger leaves are more tender and a little more bitter than the older leaves. Young dandelion leaves (cultivated or wild) are excellent raw in salads, where they add a refreshingly tangy, slightly bitter flavor. Although the leaves are not as peppery, dandelions can be substituted for arugula in many salads.
Dandelion Greens are in season from March to December
Click link below for Arugula and Dandelion show.