Organic Picks | July 29th, 2015

Champagne GrapesCucumbersPluotsMixed Cherry Tomato MedleyShishito Peppers

Best if used by 08/05/15

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Organic Champagne Grapes

Peak Season    Best Flavor

Here’s a fun thing to try during mid-summer: Organic Champagne Grapes! Wait, wine grapes? Really? Nope, these are not the famous wine grapes from the Champagne region of France used to make the celebratory bubbly.” Organic Champagne Grapes are actually miniature-sized Seedless Grapes that grow in tight clusters on tender, thin stems. They’re the ultimate dessert grape – intensely sweet and flavorful. The name comes from the “tiny bubbles,” I suppose, and the fact that they were photographed with a glass of Champagne at some point.

Organic Champagne Grapes taste rich and deeply sweet with a hint of tanginess underneath. Try a pack of these this August just for fun. Rinse them, grab some scissors to snip them into bite-sized clusters and enjoy the reaction from friends and family.

How do you eat them? I enjoy eating them by grabbing the thick base of the stem on a cluster, biting down on the whole bunch, and then pulling the main stem from between my teeth. Sure, you might get a few mini-stems in with the grapes but they’re so tender you hardly notice them as you chew.


Organic Cucumbers

Peak Season

Organic Cucumbers are now in season from local organic farms throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. With a cool, crunchy texture, Organic Cucumbers are great for salads, snacking and dipping. Doesn’t a Quick Pickled Cucumber Salad sound tangy, crisp and refreshing? Excellent for juicing, Cucumbers have anti-inflammatory and detoxifying properties (so I hear, but I’m not a nutritionist), plus they add plenty of liquid volume to juice blends.

Cucumber Tips

  • Peel or No Peal? The bitter taste some people dislike in regular salad-type Cucumbers is found in the skin. For a more mild flavor, peel off some or all of the skin. For more nutrient content, leave the skins of Organic Cucumbers on.
  • Selecting? Choose Cucumbers that feel firm and have no sunken areas.
  • Wax? Organic Cucumbers, grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, are not waxed to extend their shelf life so try to use them within a few days of purchase.

Juicing Recipe: Cucumber-Peach Summer Green Juice

Juicing the following ingredients in a juice extractor in this order for a refreshing, energizing juice.

  1. 3-4 stalks Green Kale
  2. 1 Organic Cucumber, semi-peeled or all skin on
  3. 2 Peaches, pitted
  4. 1 Lime, semi-peeled
  5. 1 handful fresh Mint
  6. 2 tart-sweet Apples (like Pink Lady)

Refreshing and energizing Cucumber-Peach Summer Green Juice


Organic Pluots (Plumcots)

Peak Season    Best Flavor

Looking to upgrade your Plums?  Try Pluots, also called Plumcots: Part Plum. Part Apricot. All delicious! (…at least more often than not.) They’re great for snacking, salsas, salads and more!

Mid-summer varieties of Organic Pluots are plentiful during late July and August from certified organic orchards California’s sunny San Joaquin Valley. Growers and plant breeders work tirelessly to come up with the best new varieties of Pluots that are super sweet, juicy and flavorful. They come in many flesh and skin colors – from yellow to ruby flesh – from speckled skin to bright red. And Pluot varieties have cool names like the Dapple Dandy and Flavor King. Even if you don’t like regular Plums, you owe it to your taste buds to try some Organic Pluots!

Fun fact: What is that powder-like film on the skin? It’s called “bloom” and it is a natural, protective wax that forms on the fruit as it grows. When you rub up Plum or Pluot it gets it’s shine from the bloom.

Even if you don’t like regular Plums, you owe it to your taste buds to try some Organic Pluots!


Organic Mixed Cherry Tomato Medley

Peak Season    Best Flavor

Here’s a seasonal product full of flavor to keep an eye out for: Organic Mixed Cherry Tomato Medley, also called Organic Rainbow Cherry Tomatoes. They’re a blend of robust-earthy brown, candy-sweet gold and yellow, tangy pink and sweet-acidic red Cherry, Grape and Cocktail Tomato varieties, many of which are from heirloom-type seeds. These bite-sized Tomatoes are great for snacking out of hand, topping salads or roasting.

Color and flavor abound with Organic Rainbow Cherry Tomatoes, a medley of Cherry Tomato varieties that are grown separately in open field soil at Lady Moon’s organic fields in Chambersburg, PA, for example, then blended when packed in 1 pint containers. You may not find them just anywhere – but if you do, I highly recommend giving it a try! And if you can’t find this specialty item, don’t worry, Organic Red Cherry Tomatoes for cooking and Organic Grape Tomatoes for snacking are delicious and plentiful from local farms right now too.

Recipe: Cajun Cherry Tomatoes over Quinoa

  1. Steam 2 cups of Quinoa according to package directions
  2. While Quinoa is simmering add ½ teaspoon Cajun Seasoning or Rub
  3. Toss 1 pint of Organic Mix Cherry Tomato Medley in bowl with 1-2 tsp olive oil
  4. Season with 1 teaspoon Cajun Seasoning or Rub – re-toss to coat
  5. Place Cherry Tomatoes on grilling skewers
  6. Grill over high heat for 3-5 minutes, flipping once
  7. Serve grilled tomatoes over Quinoa

(No Grill handy? Raining? Roast the Cherry Tomatoes inside at 450F for 10 minutes on a baking tray.)

Organic Mixed Cherry Tomato Medley packs are in season from local farms in the Mid-Atlantic like Lady Moon Farms in Pennsylvania.

Cajun-seasoned Organic Rainbow Cherry Tomatoes over Quinoa.

Organic Shishito Peppers

Peak Season    Best Flavor

There’s a pepper variety that really burst onto the culinary scene over the past 18 months called Shishito Peppers. Last year I saw them the menus of trendy restaurants and high-end bars in both New York and Los Angeles. And once I tried them myself, I was hooked! I tend to eat them compulsively like they were French Fries or Salted Edamame, ordering another round for the table or making another plate-full at home.

Shishito’s are a bite-sized, thin-walled Pepper that is consumed cooked and primarily featured as a tasty side dish or appetizer. They have a savory “Green Pepper” flavor and when they’re cooked you eat them whole, leaving only the stem between your fingertips. Here’s the thing: 1 in 10, sometimes 1 in 20, are spicier than the others – not as hot as a Jalapeno, but just enough to keep things interesting.

Here’s what to do with Shishito Peppers at home. It’s quite easy!

Recipe: Shishito Peppers easy appetizer

  1. Rinse and dry the Shishito Peppers
  2. Sear them in a hot pan over medium-high heat with 2-3 tbsp oil plus salt and black pepper to taste, tossing until the peppers are blistered
  3. Serve hot

Shishito Pepper Cooking Tips

  • Cooking time? The more blistered-the better, in my opinion.
  • Want restaurant-style flavor? Add a little more coarse salt onto the peppers once piled on the plate.

You may also find a similar mini pepper this August: Organic Padron Peppers. Padron Peppers are bite-sized, mini-green peppers (smaller than Shishitos) but even more of them pack a spicy punch – maybe 25%. Like they say, ”Some are hot but most are not.” These peppers are stir-fried in oli or often served raw with tapas plus wine or beer in Spain.

Organic Shishito Peppers are now in peak season from California. You can enjoy them at home since they’re becoming available at food co-ops and natural foods retailers that carry a broad variety.


Buy smart. Shop healthy.

The Produce Geek, Jonathan K. Steffy

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