Organic Picks of the Week 12/18/12

Best if Used By 01/01/13

Organic Picks of the week for December 18th, 2012 features
Satsuma Mandarins, Blueberries, Dill, Romaine Hearts, and Chard Greens

Plus: Other items that are great, in season choices this Christmas and New Year!

READER NOTE: The week of Christmas we won’t be posting an Organic Picks of the Week. But we’ll be back with fresh recommendations for in season fruits and vegetables the following week so you can kick off 2013 in the healthiest, most flavorful way possible! May peace, joy and fellowship fill your holiday season. Thank you for caring about fresh and supporting our site. – Jonathan and Justin from organicproducegeek.com

Organic Satsuma Mandarins

BEST FLAVOR | PEAK SEASON

Satsumas are the indie rock star cousin Mandarin of the mainstream Clementine – maybe not for everybody, yet those that love ‘em are die-hard fans and they tell all of their friends how cool they are for liking them. As a Mandarin, Satsumas are easy to peel, juicy, small to medium in size, seedless and sweet. But here’s the deal: unlike Clementines, Satsuma Mandarins have a more complex flavor profile with more classic Tangerine notes in their deep orange, juicy flesh. And if you get them from the right California grower that allows them to fully ripen on the tree – you are in for one of the sweetest, most flavorful pieces of citrus you’ll find all year!

Rock star. Juicy-sweet, easy-to-peel, Organic Satsuma Mandarins are in season!

Believe it or not, in the world of certified organic produce grown in the USA – it is actually easier to find Organic Satsuma Mandarins than Organic Clementine Mandarins.  Right now is the peak season in California for juicy-sweet Organic Satsumas, so look for them in bulk-loose displays and in 5lb gift boxes at organic markets, natural food stores and co-ops.  Florida-grown Organic Satsumas are also in season, but to have a more Tangerine-like flavor than the CA fruit.  You might come across a few Organic Clementines from California too, but that crop is quite small.

Organic Blueberries

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR

It’s hard to stop eating Blueberries when they are as tasty.  If I open up a pack of Blueberries with fairly firm texture, and sweet flavor that has just a little tanginess too – I’ll be hard pressed to close the container back up.  Yum!   Since summer just beginning in Chile right now, the Organic Blueberries from that country are entering peak season.  They’re great for your topping your cereal or yogurt, for making smoothies and shakes too.  Here are some healthy Blueberry recipes.

These Organic Blueberries made possible because it’s summer in Chi-Chi-Chi-Le-Le-Le!

INSIDER TIP: When selecting fresh Blueberries inspect the top and bottom of the package to avoid shriveled, smashed-together or wet berries. Seek out Blueberries with the silver, powdery “bloom” on them. Bloom is a naturally occurring wax that forms a protective layer on the fruit while it is growing and is a tell-tale sign of freshness!

Organic Dill

BEST FLAVOR | PEAK SEASON

Fresh herbs can really provide a flavor upgrade to recipes.  For the holidays fresh Dill, with its aromatic and bright taste, can be used for seasoning fish, potatoes, rice and soups.  Dill flavors homemade dips, dressings, jar pickles and even snacks!  Large bunched fresh Organic Dill is in season from Florida and southern California.  You may also find recipe-sized amounts in your store’s organic tub-herb section of the produce department.

Fresh Dill for holiday cooking seasons fish, dips, dressing, salads, snacks and more.

Not exactly a healthy recipe, but these will be a hit at your holiday party for sure. Fresh Dill makes the flavors shine.

RECIPE: Sourdough Pretzels with Dill

  • Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees
  • Remove stem bases and finely chop a handful of Fresh Dill (about .25-.5oz)
  • Melt 3-4 tablespoons of Butter
  • Stir chopped Dill into melted butter
  • Season butter with 1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • Put 10-12oz of cracked Sourdough Hard Pretzels into a mixing bowl
  • Pour Dill-Butter mix over Pretzels and toss until coated
  • Spread Pretzel pieces evenly on a cookie sheet
  • Bake at 325 degrees for 10-12 minutes, shaking the tray at least once

Sourdough Pretzel bites with Fresh Dill

Here are more recipe ideas for fresh Dill!

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 outer leaves are trimmed off, they’re immediately packaged in the field (there is no “romaine heart factory”), rushed to the cooler and shipped around the country. How fresh is that!  From irrigated organic fields of southern Arizona and northern Mexico, Organic Romaine Hearts are in a period of bumper harvests this December.  They are excellent for making crunchy salads or blending in with more tender bitter baby greens to add texture.

Crisp, chopped Romaine Heart salad. Bang for the salad buck.

Organic Chard Greens

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR

Isn’t is cool how some of the most beautiful vegetables are often some of the healthiest? Take Chard for example. Dark green leaves loaded with Vitamins K, A and C sprawling from bright white, red or yellow stems – they’re impressive to behold… and tasty to cook with! Certified Organic Green, Red Swiss and Rainbow Chards (a mix of colored stems) are in season right now from Florida and California. A cousin to Spinach, Chard (also called Swiss Chard) is a super healthy green, one that you can cook both the leaf and the stem, though the stems may take longer. Steam, sauté, braise or juice – what’s your favorite Chard preparation to mellow out or compliment it’s naturally earthy, slightly bitter flavor?

Chard stems require a few minutes of extra cooking time from the greens, but add color and texture.

RECIPE: Jerk-seasoned Stir-fried Snow & Snap Peas with Swiss Chard

  • Wash 1 bunch of Chard (any color)
  • Cut base of Chard stems into 1″ pieces, separate from leaves
  • In a deep sauce pan, braising pan or wok – heat 2-4 tbsp oil
  • Cook 2 slices cloves of Garlic in the oil until translucent over high heat
  • Carefully add Chard Stems, 1 cup each Snow & Snap Peas
  • Season liberally with Jerk Seasoning
  • Stir continuously for 2-3 minutes
  • Add chopped Chard Greens and cover with lid for 2 minutes
  • Remove lid, reduce heat to low and sauté for 4-5 minutes
  • Serve with pasta, rice or quinoa

Jerk-seasoned Stir-fried Snow & Snap Peas with Swiss Chard + Spanish Rice.

Other items that are great, in season choices this Christmas and New Year:

Organic Navel Oranges – for the stocking or for your snacking.

Organic Broccoli – value veg of the season!

Organic Brussels Sprouts – continue in peak season.

Organic Kale – a healthy choice.

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