Best if Used By 04/21/14
Organic Picks of the week for April 7th, 2014 features
Fresh Peas, Rhubarb, Mini Seedless Watermelons, Gala Apples, and Butter Lettuce
Organic Fresh Peas
PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR
Spring is for fresh Peas! Here in the early part of the season the harvests start at organic farms in Mexico, then California grown peas arrive, and finally, closer to summer, local organic Peas will be in season. Look for Organic Fresh Peas at natural foods stores, co-ops and organic markets here in April and May.
Organic Snow Peas: Thin, tender but crisp, mild but flavorful – fresh Snow Peas are a delicious vegetable that can be enjoyed in many ways. Raw Snow Peas can be added to salads for texture and crunch, or are excellent for snacking with your favorite dip like hummus. Steam or stir-fry Snow Peas as a side dish, or add them to other cooking vegetables for an Asian-inspired blend.
- Select Snow Peas that are dry, vibrant green in color and not flabby. Store them in the crisper of your fridge, ideally in a plastic bag.
- Other than rinsing, no preparation is needed before eating or cooking Snow since you eat the entire pea – pod, peas and all.
- RECIPES: Get cooking with these Snow Pea recipes.
Organic Sugar Snap Peas: Mmm- sweet, crisp and fresh; Organic Sugar Snap Peas are more plump than Snow Peas, but are still eaten pod and all. In addition to sautéing and steaming Sugar Snap Peas, they can be eaten raw on salads or as a crunchy snack.
- Select Snap Peas that are plump, dry, vibrant green in color and not flabby. Store them in the crisper of your fridge, ideally in a plastic bag.
- If the Snap Peas you find have calyx on them (the stem and blossom) pull it off or cut it off before cooking or serving them.
- RECIPES: Find some spring-time Sugar Snap Pea recipes here.
Organic English Peas: Unlike Sugar Snap and Snow Peas, which can be eaten pod and all, English Peas must be removed from the pod. English Peas are the Green Peas you’re used to buying in cans from the shelf or bags from the freezer. Fresh English Peas? – now, that’s something special! Yes, it takes a little extra effort, OK…tedious focus, to take the peas from the pod during preparation, but the fresh seasonal flavor and satisfaction of doing it yourself will make it an enjoyable food experience. These tender peas will taste much better than what was piled on your plate at the junior high cafeteria as a kid – I can assure you of that.
- Select pods that have vibrant green color and feel fairly firm. Occasional light green or white marks on the pod are caused during harvesting and shipping, but have little to no impact on the quality of the peas inside.
- Pull the pods open and scoop the peas out with your finger. 1lb of whole English Peas will get you a little less than 1 cup of shelled peas.
- Shelled Peas should be cooked right away or blanched for freezing.
- RECIPES: Here is a gorgeous collection recipes featuring fresh English Peas – mmm!
PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR
Growing up, Rhubarb was one of the very first edible things to come out of the garden each Spring, a sign of fresh things to come. It was also a sign that Mom’s Rhubarb Crisp might be in my future…or at least Rhubarb Sauce over ice cream – yum! (I love food memories.) Rhubarb is a vegetable that pairs with both sweet and savory dishes, yet has a propensity for hooking up with sweet-tart berries and desserts to bring out its best.
The season may have a late start here in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast thanks to a bitterly cold winter. But Organic Rhubarb is now in peak season from Oregon and the stalks are looking great! Fresh Organic Rhubarb is in high demand at food co-ops and natural food stores, so keep an eye out for it in the veg section or near the berry display. Raw Rhubarb stalks are crisp like red-skinned Celery and have a bold, bitter flavor that mellows with cooking and is accentuated by sugar. Use Rhubarb in pies, cobblers, crisps, chutneys, sauces, drink and lemonade recipes and more. I found some awesome rhubarb recipes here.
What’s one of the most versatile things to do with fresh Rhubarb? Make a sauce! Sweet-tart Rhubarb Sauce is perfect for topping oatmeal, cottage cheese, yogurt, pound cake, toast, bagels, or ice cream. Fantastic! Here’s the general recipe:
RECIPE: Homemade Rhubarb Sauce
- chop Rhubarb into 1/2 wide pieces, enough for 4-5 cups
- put chopped Rhubarb into a large heavy saucepan
- top Rhubarb with 1/2 cup sugar (or 1 full cup if you like it sweeter)
- add 1 heaping tablespoon of Minute Tapioca
- stir the above raw ingredients then allow to sit for 15 min.
- stir again
- simmer for 15 min. over Medium heat, do not allow to bubble over
- simmer for another 10 min. steadily reducing the heat from toward Low
- cool at room temp. then refrigerate
Organic Mini Seedless Watermelons
PEAK SEASON | VALUE PRICED
Watermelon is a wonderful refresher. It’s like chewing a natural sports drink. April is shaping up to be a great time to enjoy Organic Mini Seedless Watermelons, in-season from Mexico. These “personal sized” melons range from 4 to 8 pound each.
- How’s the flavor? Mexican Organic Mini Seedless Watermelons are not summertime amazing, yet the fruit is juicy, red and has pleasing sweetness. The texture is not quite a crisp as summer Watermelons, but I wouldn’t call it “sandy” either.
- Will there be the occasional seed? Yes. Get over it. (wink)
- How do I pick a good one? It is easier to explain how to avoid a bad one because getting a really good one just by looking or thumping is nearly impossible. The harvesters need to pick them at the right time – that’s how you get good Watermelons. To avoid a “bad one” pass on watermelons that feel spongy (a sign of age or damage) or have soft spots (a sign of bruising or decay).
- Check out these 10 cool recipes for Watermelon from thekitchn.com.
Organic Gala Apples
PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR
The ever-popular Gala Apple is an accessible variety that the whole family will love. Good ones are crisp yet not overly hard to bite, juicy, sweet and pleasantly mild-tasting. They’re ideal for snacking out of hand, but you can also use them in green juices, on salads and in many baking recipes. All Organic Apples are rather pricy this year due to high consumer demand across North America combined with a lighter volume crop this past fall in Washington. Organic Galas are in better supply than other varieties. There are still some nice quality storage Organic Galas available, plus now fresh crop Organic Gala Apples are in season from Argentina and Chile too where it is now the fall season.
Gala Apple DO’s & DON’T’s:
- DO Squeeze the apple with your hand – it should feel hard.
- DON’T Select Galas with visible bruises – a sign of damage during handling.
- DO Choose Gala’s that have a vibrant color – bright red to deep pink blush-streaks over golden yellow.
- DON’T pick ones that have wrinkled skin – a sign of being on the shelf too long and dehydration that causes a mealy textured flesh.
- DO Refrigerate the Apples you buy until the day you’re ready to eat them to protect their crispness. This time of year, Apples can last for a few weeks in the fridge.
Organic Butter Lettuce (Boston Lettuce)
PEAK SEASON | VALUE PRICED | BEST FLAVOR
Organic Green and Red Butter Lettuces are in peak season from organic farms in Florida and California. Sometimes called Boston Lettuce or Bibb Lettuce (usually a smaller version), Butter Lettuces are known for their tender, smooth-textured leaves and crisp, juicy ribs that feature fresh and mild, yet noticeable flavor. I just like the way chews – there’s a noticeable difference from other leaf lettuces.
Butter Lettuce is ideal as a bed of greens under chicken or tuna salad, or the cupped whole leaves can be used as a low-carb wrap. It adds layers of texture when added to other leaf lettuces in salads and pairs when with both creamy dressings and light vinaigrettes. Living Organic Butter Lettuce sold in containers with the roots still attached is also in season from hydroponic greenhouses California. Butter Lettuce recipe ideas can be found HERE.
RECIPE: Butter Lettuce Tuna Salad Wraps
- Dice 2 Scallions and 3 Kosher Dill Pickle Spears
- Add diced veggies to 1 drained can of Albacore Chunk Tuna
- Stir in 1 tbsp Dijon Mustard and 1 heaping tbsp Light Mayonnaise
- Season with Coarse Salt and Cracked Pepper
- Serve in whole leaves of Butter Lettuce
What is Organic Produce?
Certified Organic Produce meets a set of standards for growing, handling and labeling that is governed by the USDA’s National Organic Program. Organic fruits and vegetables are grown without the use synthetic chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers. The terms “Natural” and “Local” are not the same as “Organic.” Learn more about Organic.
Eat in-season. Choose organic. Enjoy good, healthy food.
The Produce Geek, Jonathan K. Steffy