Organic Picks | September 1st, 2015

Red and Green Seedless GrapesCantaloupeGala ApplesBartlett Pears

Best if used by 09/09/15

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Organic Red and Green Seedless Grapes

Peak Season    Best Flavor    Value Priced

Forget the artificial fruit snacks. Give your family (and yourself) the ultimate REAL FRUIT SNACK: fresh, in-season grapes! It’s like eating candy… only its natural, full of fiber and antioxidants and micronutrients that are good for you. Organic Green and Red Seedless Grapes from California, which I’ve recommended already a few times this summer on this site, continue to be in season and tasting great! This is the time of year when the flavor, price and availability factors all align well. Enjoy some soon while the crop is at its best and stores promoting this clean fruit at reasonable prices!

Here’s what to expect in the organic produce section during late early September:

Green - “Pristine” are big and elongated grapes with light, bright green color, excellent crispness and vibrant sweetness. The classic “Thompson” Green Seedless variety are long and slender in shape with a medium crispness but lots of sugary sweetness. Thompsons are known to turn from green to yellow to amber as the sugars increase and the fruit ripens.

Red - “Scarlet Royal” are oblong red grapes with maroon to purple color, a firm and crunchy texture and rich, deep sweetness. Don’t worry, the berries do not need to be fully colored dark red to taste sweet.

For some creative snack ideas for the whole family, check out this California Grape Recipe collection.

Grape Tips

  • Select Grapes that feel firm to a gentle squeeze. Lift up the bag or container and look at it from all sides.
  • Look for Grapes with stems that are still green at the thickest parts and appear to still have life in them.
  • Choose packs that have most of the berries still on the vine.
  • Avoid bags that are wet and sticky – a sign that some of the Grapes are going bad – or have berries with splits, cracks or dark brown sunken areas.
  • Keep your Grapes refrigerated until you’re about ready to eat them, since they lose their crunch much quicker at room temperature.
  • Wash Grapes with a cold water rinse just before serving them.

 
 

Avoid bags that are wet and sticky – a sign that some of the Grapes are going bad – or have berries with splits, cracks or dark brown sunken areas.

Organic Cantaloupe

Peak Season    Best Flavor

The Organic Cantaloupe season is winding down as the summer wanes, but right now through mid-September you can expect some of the best tasting melons of the year! Then, alas, the season will be over for the year. The Organic Cantaloupes from California that I’ve seen and tasted this week have been exceptional – a full-flavored melon, with a tight seed cavity, giving you more melon for the money. They have dense, deep orange flesh that is firm in texture and tastes impressively sweet with lots of classic Cantaloupe flavor. Delicious!

Cantaloupe Tips

  • When are they ready to eat? Organic Cantaloupe from summer harvests are picked at maturity, so the fruit is ready to eat as soon as you buy them.
  • Storage? Storing for a day or two at room temperature will soften the whole melon a bit, which can make it taste slightly sweeter, but the fridge is fine for several days. Cut melon can be kept in the fridge for several days, but when it’s tasty – you’re likely to eat it right away.
  • Choosing? Select melons that are free from sunken, discolored spots, or large soft areas (a sign of bruising). A little give is still OK, but the Cantaloupe should not feel spongy.

 
 

When are they ready to eat? Organic Cantaloupe from summer harvests are picked at maturity, so the fruit is ready to eat as soon as you buy them.

Organic Gala Apples

Peak Season    Best Flavor

Fresh Organic Galas?  Yes!  The ever-popular Gala Apple is an accessible variety that the whole family will love. Good ones are lightly crisp yet easily chewable, have thin tender skins, and taste juicy, sweet and pleasantly mild. Sounds nice, right? Gala Apples are ideal for snacking out of hand, but you can also use them on salads and in many baking recipes.

Here’s the great news! The 2014 harvest is underway for fresh crop Organic Gala Apples from California, Oregon and especially Washington. Expect excellent flavor and texture on this fresh crop fruit. Prices on organic apples have been higher the last 6 months, but look for varieties like Organic Gala to become more affordable now through early November. This year’s crop of Organic Gala Apples is yielding a high percentage of small fruit, so the best value will be on apples fist size and smaller, plus 2lb and 3lb bags which are packed with “lunchbox” sized fruit.

Gala Apple Do’s & Don’ts

  • DoSqueeze the apple with your whole hand  – it should feel hard.
  • Don’tSelect Galas with visible bruises or flat soft areas – signs of damage during handling.
  • DoChoose Gala’s that have a vibrant color – bright red to deep pink blush-streaks over golden yellow. Dull appearance, no matter what the color shades are is a sign of age or improper storage.
  • Don’tpick ones that have wrinkled skin – a sign of being on the shelf too long and dehydration that causes a mealy textured flesh.
  • DoRefrigerate 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. Be gentle, even fresh crop apples bruise easier than most people expect.

Shop like an insider

The supply chain in the U.S. still has some old crop Organic Gala Apples in the pipeline from countries in the Southern Hemisphere like Chile or New Zealand. These Gala’s, if they meet the Do & Don’t criteria above, will still taste fine and might be on sale, but will likely have a shorter shelf-life and run the risk of the occasional “mushy apple.” Check the bag label or PLU sticker on the Organic Gala Apple to find it’s Country of Origin. USA = fresh crop. Other origins = select carefully and consume quickly for best texture.

Cutting Tip: How to prevent your apple slices from turning brown.

Soak freshly cut apple slices in a bowl of cold lemon water for 3-5 minutes. Mix 1 tablespoon of lemon juice per 1 cup of cold water. The natural citric acid in lemon juice slows the oxidization of the exposed cells in the apple flesh, allowing the slices to keep a fresh cut appearance for over 24 hours if stored in a plastic bag in the fridge.

 
 

Choose Gala’s that have a vibrant color – bright red to deep pink blush-streaks over golden yellow. Dull appearance, no matter what the color shades are is a sign of age or improper storage.

Organic Bartlett Pears

Peak Season    Best Flavor

Fresh crop Bartlett Pears are back in season! – you know, those pears with the classic light bulb shape. Bartlett Pears are the variety that shows you how ripe it is by the color of its skin. Bartlett Pears have lots of familiar Pear flavor and taste sweeter as they ripen at room temperature. They’re fantastic for fresh snacking, to eat with cheese, in salads and of course, in desserts. Bartlett Pears are preferred by many for home canning too.

The 2015 USA harvest of delicious Organic Bartlett has been underway since early August. Picking is mostly completed at orchards in California. The prime organic pear growing regions of northern Oregon and central Washington’s are now hard at work picking and packing some of the best Organic Bartletts in the world. Fresh crop Organic Bartlett Pears are at their seasonal peak for flavor, quality and affordability during late August, September and October. Enjoy!

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! Outrageously juicy, richly-ripe and sticky sweet. This is the lean over the desk waste-basket with wet-wipes handy or lean over the kitchen sink and slurp up the sweetness. 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.

Idea

Can’t convince your kids to eat Pears out-of-hand?  Make it fun! Get your young-ins involved with their after-school snack using one of these Kid-friendly Pear Recipes.
 

Bartlett Pears have lots of familiar Pear flavor and taste sweeter as they ripen at room temperature.

Buy smart. Shop healthy.

The Produce Geek, Jonathan K. Steffy

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