Organic Picks of the Week 09/25/12

Best if Used By 10/02/12

Organic Picks of the week for September 25th, 2012 features
Hard Squash, Jonagold Apples, Cauliflower, Crimini Mushrooms,
and Flavor Fall Pluots

Organic Hard Squash


Happy Fall! Speaking of Fall, Fall Squash – aka Hard Squash – aka Winter Squash – is in peak season! Rich in Vitamins, nutrients and anti-oxidants, these flavorful gourds need to be baked, boiled, roasted, microwaved or steamed to enjoy their yellow to orange flesh by itself or in recipes. Late summer and early fall is the when Organic Hard Squash is harvested locally in the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast and Mid-West regions, making the now through November the best time of the year to enjoy Hard Squashes that have been grown on certified organic farms. And because they’re so firm, they can be often be kept at room temperature on your counter for a few weeks. Select Hard Squash that are solid, free from stem-mold and that feel heavy for their size.

Eat seasonally – Organic Fall Hard Squash basics: Acorn, Butternut, Spaghetti.

Here’s a little bit more about the three main Hard Squash varieties you’ll likely find at the organic produce section:

  • Organic Acorn Squash: This squash is dark green, has deep ribs and is shaped like… well, an acorn nut. The flesh is yellow to gold, slightly fibrous and has a sweet vegetable flavor. The easiest way to prepare Acorn Squash is to slice it in half side-ways, scoop out the seeds and pulp, place the halves face down in 1” of water and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until the flesh can easily be pierced with a fork.
  • Organic Butternut Squash: Ideal for soups and roasting, Butternut Squash is the most popular of the Hard Squashes. It’s flesh is very moist and has a nutty flavor that falls somewhere between cooked carrots and sweet potato. The skin is often peeled, but is actually edible. Simply remove the seeds and pulp from the bulbed end of the squash, chop it up it up and boil it to puree for a creamy soup – or toss the pieces with a little olive oil and seasoning, and roasted for 25-30 minutes at 450 degrees to bring out the best flavor.
  • Organic Spaghetti Squash: You really have to make it yourself to believe it, but the flesh of Spaghetti Squash comes out like pasta strands when it is cooked. The flavor is sweet and mild, and the texture is just slightly crunchy (al dente). Halve your yellow-skinned Spaghetti Squash lengthwise, remove the seeds and pulp from the center, wrap one half in plastic wrap, microwave for about 7-8 minutes, and then allow it to cool for a few minutes so you can handle it. Finally, use a fork to pull out the spaghetti-like strands of flesh to use just as you would for pasta –only this squash will offer more nutritional benefit and only about 40 calories per cup.

Organic Jonagold Apples


It’s nice to have a good go-to, all-purpose apple sometimes – one you can use for fall baking, desserts, sauces and cooking AND enjoy for fresh snacking and salads. The Jonagold variety is just that type of apple.

A fantastic all-purpose apple: Organic Jonagold.

This 60 year old variety is a cross between the tart Jonathan and the mellow-sweet Golden Delicious. Jonagold’s are crisp but have a fluffier texture, and they’re sweet but have some tart zip underneath. Organic Jonagold Apples are now in peak season from California. In October they’ll be in peak season from Washington.

Organic Cauliflower


Now is a fantastic time to try out some new Cauliflower recipes. Roasting Cauliflower quickly in high heat mellows the bitterness and gives it some caramelization for great flavor – m-mmm! A fall harvest bump of fresh Organic Cauliflower from California is expected the next couple of weeks. Select Organic Cauliflower that looks fresh and has no soft or slimy spots, but don’t get worried if you see a little brown spot on a few florets – those discolored spots are easy to trim off with a knife when you are cutting up the head.

Cauliflower: nutrient profile to support detox, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant systems. Easy dish: Steam, toss with Italian Vinaigrette and Parmesan Cheese.

RECIPE – Roasted Cauliflower, Carrots and Butternut Squash

  • ½ head of Cauliflower separated into bite-sized florets
  • 3 Carrots peeled and bias-cut into bite-sized pieces
  • ½ of a Butternut Squash, cleaned and chopped into large-bite chunks
  • Toss Vegetables in a bowl with 2 tsp Olive Oil
  • Season with Coarse Salt and Cracked Black, or a Seasoned Salt mix (I love Penzy’s Centennial Rub)
  • Spread out evenly on large cookie sheet
  • Roast at 450 F for 30 min

Centennial Roasted Cauliflower, Carrots and Butternut Squash

Organic Crimini Mushrooms


Ideal for adding a rich, earthy flavor to pastas, pizzas, salads and stir-fry’s – Organic Crimini Mushrooms a popular, healthy and versatile choice for your recipes. Basically an immature Portabella, Crimini are also called Baby Bella Mushrooms. With the weather changing, this would be a great time to try Organic Crimini (Baby Bella) Mushrooms in a Meatless Monday recipe!

Crimini = Baby Bella. Rich flavor for sautéing.

Organic Flavor Fall Pluots


As Organic Peaches, Nectarines and Plums are winding down for the summer season, there remains one variety of stone fruit that is still being harvested fresh off the trees in California this month: Organic Fall Flavor Pluots. As the name suggests, this specific cross between a plum and apricot harvested at the very beginning of fall. Fall Flavor Pluots are typically quite firm, rather large, oblong in shape and have a maroon skin. Inside the gold flesh is sweet with some tanginess to keep it interesting.

Organic Fall Flavor Pluots: last picked off the trees, but not likely to be last picked from your fruit bowl.

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.

Buy Smart. Shop Healthy. Live Organic.

The Produce Geek, Jonathan K. Steffy

Forward this to a friend if you think they’ll like it – Here’s to fresh!