I love apple season. There are few things better than a good apple eaten out of hand. Whether the flesh is mild and sweet or tart and winey, when you bite into it, a fresh-picked apple will make a crisp cracking sound and you’ll get a spurt of juice. There’s a season for everything and the main season for American apples starts the last half of October. I’ve probably said this a thousand times, but our problem in the United States is that we try to buy produce out of season. Many varieties will keep well late into winter, but by summer most apples have been stored for seven or eight months. No wonder they are soft, mealy, and without juice. When peaches and melons come in, stay away from apples. Come back when there’s a snap in the air, and you’ll remember what makes apples so good. Apples are one of the most esteemed fruits in the northern Hemisphere in part because they’re so versatile. They’re delicious raw, baked, dried, or made into apple sauce. They make great pies, apple butter, apple jelly, chutney, cider, and cider vinegar, and they’re a welcome addition to dozens of other dishes. A member of the rose family, apples have been known since ancient times and were cultivated by the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. Many places grow wonderful apples now, but overall, the United States produces the finest apple crops in the world. The Northwest, the East Coast, and parts of the Midwest, regions where the seasons change, grow the best apples. They’re not a fruit for hot climates. Only a few of the thousands of varieties of apples grown today are mass marketed, but there are many more out there than Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and Macs. There are very old and very new varieties you may never have heard of. If you’re north of the Mason-Dixon Line, you’re going to find the best apples at local farm markets and stands, where they’re fresh-picked, and you’re likely to find great varieties you’d never see at the supermarket.
The vast majority of apples are picked from September through November and either sold immediately or put into cold storage, where some keep well – some don’t. The peak of the season for domestic varieties – when most stored apples still retain their snap – is generally over by December. A few will last through the early spring, but by March it’s hard even to find a good Winesap.
Selecting In most cases look for very firm, bright-colored fruit with no bruises and with the stem still on – a good indication that you’ve got an apple that’s not overripe. The apple should feel heavy in the hand for its size and have a good shine on it. A dull look usually means the fruit has been in storage too long, although some excellent varieties like Winesaps and eastern Golden Delicious have relatively rough skin with little or no sheen. As always, use your nose. An apple that smells great is going to taste great.
Honeycrisp: Sometimes the name of an apple says it all. Honeycrisp apples are honey sweet (with a touch of tart) and amazingly crisp, some say “explosively crisp.” It’s easy to see why this new variety continues to grow in popularity since its 1991 introduction in Minnesota. Supplies are limited for now but more Honeycrisp trees are being planted every year.
Empire: With the popular Red Delicious and McIntosh for parents, Empire apples were destined to be a hit. It’s a sweet-tart combination that’s great for everything. The New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva Introduced this new variety in 1966.
McIntosh: Nothing evokes Fall better than the aromatic fragrance of McIntosh apples. People have enjoyed this apple since 1811 when John McIntosh discovered the first seedling. McIntosh apples grow particularly well in New York’s cool climate!
Macoun: Want a perfect no-fat dessert that will satisfy your sweet tooth? Macoun may just be your apple, but, hurry, these special apples are only available in the Fall. Macoun was developed at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva in 1932. It’s named for a famous Canadian fruit breeder.
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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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