Organic Picks | March 30th, 2016

AsparagusRomaine HeartsLeaf LettuceBartlett Pears

Best if used by 04/12/16

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Organic Asparagus

Peak Season    Best Flavor    Value Priced

Spring and Asparagus just go together. These perennial plants sprout their flavorful stalks as soon as the weather begins to warm. Late March and early April will be the peak season for fresh Asparagus from certified organic farms in California. The spear sizes are medium to large in thickness – ideal for most all kinds of preparations.

Packed with flavor, packed with vitamins and nutrients, fresh Asparagus can make meals exciting in many ways. Bake it into casseroles. Blanch it before adding it to a fresh salad. Boil or steam it as a delicious green side dish, dressed simply with oil, butter, fresh herbs or a squeeze of lemon. Roast it in the oven with olive oil, balsamic or the juice from an orange.

Recipe: Sunny Citrus Asparagus

Asparagus cooked al dente, brightened with sweet Minneola Tangelo juice and spiced with some pepper. This is a simple way to bring out the best in Asparagus.

  1. 1 bunch (about 1lb) of Asparagus washed and ends trimmed
  2. Slice Asparagus spears into lengths of 2″, bias cut
  3. Add Asparagus salted boiling water in a medium deep pan
  4. Boil for only 2 minutes only then strain from water (up to 3 min. if spears are extra thick)
  5. Add par-boiled Asparagus in a mixing bowl with
  6. Juice squeezed from ½ of a Minneola Tangelo (our substitute Lemon for more acidity)
  7. 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  8. ½ tsp salt, cracked black pepper,
  9. Garlic powder, Red pepper flakes to taste

Here is a wonderful Asparagus Recipe collection from VegetarianTimes.com.

Sunny Citrus Asparagus

Kitchen Tip of the Week: How NOT to ruin fresh Asparagus and other FAQs

  • How do you choose it? Avoid Asparagus bunches that have an odor, wrinkled spears, spread open tips or soft tips. Look for a healthy green color, though a little purpling is not a problem.
  • How do you store it? I simply recommend wrapping a moist paper towel around the stem ends and storing the Asparagus in the refrigerator. Asparagus is highly perishable so use it within a few days of purchase.
  • Is the whole spear edible? Cut the tougher bottom portion of the spear off – usually the last 3/4″ to 1-1/2″ that is lighter in color. Or grab the bottom of the stem and the middle of the spear then bend – the Asparagus will snap where the fibrous portion ends.
  • Golden Rule for Cooking Asparagus: High Temperature, Short time. This will highlight the flavor without bringing on the mushiness. If you like mushy Asparagus (what! Seriously?), go ahead and cook it to death.
  • How do you cook it? The goal is to finish each of these cooking methods with a cooked piece of asparagus that still has some texture and has not gone completely limp.
    • Steam or blanch fresh Asparagus for 2 to 3 minutes at most.
    • Grill over high heat for 2 to 4 minutes after lightly coating the Asparagus in olive oil and seasoning with salt, pepper and garlic powder.
    • Roast in the oven at 400F lightly tossed in olive oil, balsamic vinegar and seasoned with salt and pepper for 12-18 min or until browned.
    • Pan-sear in 2 tbsp olive oil over high heat covered with a lid for 2 minutes, then uncover and flip allowing the other side to blacken for 1 minute.
    • Sauté in olive oil over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, covered.
    • Microwave in about 1/4 cup of water for 5 minutes in a tightly covered microwave-safe container.

 

Avoid Asparagus bunches that have an odor, wrinkled spears, spread open tips or soft tips. Look for a healthy green color, though a little purpling is not a problem.

Organic Romaine Hearts

Peak Season    Value Priced

Romaine Hearts rows are planted extra close together to help the Lettuce head grow tall and tight. The heads are cut at the base of the plant and outer leaves are trimmed off, they’re immediately packaged into the 3 pack sleeves or 6 count club packs out the field (there is no “romaine heart factory”), rushed to the cooler and shipped around the country. How fresh is that!

Organic Romaine Hearts are in a period of bumper harvests during early April from California. With all the extra supply, keep an eye out for advertised or in-store specials pricing where you shop. They are excellent for making crunchy salads or blending in with more tender bitter baby greens to add texture. Find creative ways to prepare Romaine Hearts here.

 

Organic Leaf Lettuce

Peak Season

Fresh, vibrantly colored – burgundy and green – Red Leaf and Green Leaf Lettuces are great for starting salads and ideal for topping sandwiches because the large leaves pull apart easily from the head. The mild-flavored broad leaves are tender enough to be foldable yet crisp enough feel freshly crisp to the bite when stacked. One of my simple-pleasure favorites is to pile Leaf Lettuce about an inch high on thick-cut wheat toast slathered with Dijon Mustard and a slice or two of Swiss Cheese.

Red and Green Leaf Lettuces, and especially Romaine, do have more phytonutrients than lighter colored Iceberg Lettuce (head lettuce). The darker the green and the darker the red – the better, since dark color is an indication of beta-carotene levels.

Here in late March and early April Organic Red and Green Leaf Lettuces are in steady supply from Florida. The leaves have vibrant color and sturdier structure than other times of the year. California growers are also harvesting Organic Red and Green Leaf Lettuces.

Leaf Lettuce Tips

  • Leaf Lettuce lasts longer when kept cold and moist.
  • Store Leaf Lettuce wrapped in damp paper towels in a plastic bag (ideally perforated) in the vegetable crisper of your fridge for up to a week.
  • If the head of Leaf Lettuce looks a little wilted – trim the stem base and soak the Lettuce in tepid water, allowing the cells to draw up some water. Remove any damaged or discolored outer leaves.
  • Wash Leaf Lettuce in cold water before using and dry the leaves in a salad spinner or pat them dry with a paper towel.

Red and Green Leaf Lettuces, and especially Romaine, do have more phytonutrients than lighter colored Iceberg Lettuce (head lettuce). The darker the green and the darker the red – the better, since dark color is an indication of beta-carotene levels.

Organic Bartlett Pears

Peak Season

Late winter here in the US means late summer in the Patagonia region of Argentina where the harvest are underway on fresh crop Organic Bartlett Pears and Organic Red Bartlett Pears.

Green or Yellow? Bartlett Pears are crunchy and lightly “fresh-sweet” when their skin is green. But eating a firm, crunchy Bartlett that’s still green in color is missing the point for me. Bring on the succulence! Allow Bartletts to ripen at room temperature until the skin turns yellow for a soft, sticky-sweet and juicy eating pear.

3 Shades of a Bartlett: Ripen Pears at Room Temperature

  1. Green: Hard and crunchy texture with a tart-sweet taste. This is the ripeness for stage for someone who is without a napkin, is hungry enough or impatient enough to eat a Pear that will taste much better in a day or two.
  2. Yellow-Green: Nicely sweet, classic pear flavor and succulent flesh. This is for typical lunch room eating.
  3. Full Yellow: The chin-dripper! Extra juicy, richly-ripe and sticky-sweet! Yes, Bartletts do not stay at the full yellow stage for long before going bad AND the tender skin will likely show scars and bruises from handling. Be gentle.

More Bartlett Pear Tips

  • Not ready to use them? Store green Bartletts in the fridge to slow the ripening process.
  • Into juicing? Make green juices with Bartlett Pears that are still hard and green so that your juice doesn’t become cloudy or grainy.
  • Have some over-ripe Bartletts that you won’t be able to snack on before they go bad? Blend them! Bartlett Pears add intense sweetness and a pear-spiced flavor to vegetable smoothie blends.

Juice Recipe: Pear-fict Mint Green Juice

Juice the following ingredients in a juice extractor.

  1. 2-3oz Baby Spinach and Baby Kale mix
  2. 1 Greenhouse Cucumber (or two medium field cucumbers)
  3. 1 bunch fresh Mint
  4. 1 Lime, partially peeled
  5. 1” piece of fresh Ginger
  6. 2-3 Green Bartlett Pears, firm or firm-ripe

Green or Yellow? Bartlett Pears are crunchy and lightly “fresh-sweet” when their skin is green. Allow Bartletts to ripen at room temperature until the skin turns yellow for a soft, sticky-sweet and juicy eating pear.

Pear-fict Mint Green Juice

Buy smart. Shop healthy.

The Produce Geek, Jonathan K. Steffy

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