Organic Picks of the Week 03/19/13

Best if Used By 03/26/13

Organic Picks of the week for March 19th, 2013 features
Asparagus, Ataulfo Mangos, Red Bartlett Pears, Sugar Snap Peas and Minneola Tangelos


Organic Asparagus

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR

After a winter hiatus, Organically grown Asparagus is back! Packed with flavor, packed with vitamins and nutrients, Asparagus evokes feeling of Spring (or longings for true Spring weather!). Organic growers in Mexico are harvesting crisp and reasonably priced Organic Asparagus right now through early April. The sizing is fairly thick, but don’t be fooled into thinking that it will be tough – large Asparagus is delicious, juicy and cooks up great! Try it in this Asparagus Quesadillas recipe.

Fresh Organic Asparagus from Mexico is now in season!

Asparagus can make meals exciting in many ways. Blanch it before adding it to a spring salad. Boil or steam it as a delicious green side dish, dressed simply with oil, butter, fresh herbs or a squeeze of lemon. Roast it in the oven with olive oil, balsamic or the juice from an orange. And if the Spring-like weather so moves you – Grill it! No matter how you prepare fresh Asparagus – remember this rule to avoid that awful mushiness from over cooking: high temperature for a short time. Enjoy!

ASPARAGUS TIPS:

• Readers often ask, Why is Asparagus displayed standing upright in water at some supermarkets? Asparagus, like the lily it is related to, can soak up water at the cut end, preventing wilt and keeping it fresh longer. Should you do that at home? Meh, that can get messy. I simply recommend wrapping a moist paper towel around the stem ends and storing the Asparagus in the refrigerator.

How do you choose?  When shopping for fresh Asparagus avoid bunches that have an odor, wrinkled spears, spread open tips or soft tips. Look for a healthy green color, though a little purpling is not a problem.

• Is the whole spear edible? Cut the tougher bottom portion of the spear off – usually the last 3/4″ to 1-1/2″. If you prefer the snap method, it takes more time but it does work too. Grab the bottom of the stem and the middle of the spear then bend – the Asparagus will snap where the woody portion ends.

How do you cook it? Steam or blanch fresh Asparagus for 2 to 3 minutes. Grill for 2 to 4 minutes after lightly coating the Asparagus in olive oil and seasoning with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Sauté in olive oil over medium heat for 3 minutes covered. Or Microwave in about 1/4 cup of water for 5 minutes in a tightly covered container.

Organic Ataulfo Mangos

PEAK SEASON

A big-time family favorite at our house – creamy, golden Organic Ataulfo Mangos from Mexico are back in season!  The Ataulfo variety Mango (aka Yellow Mango, aka Manila Mango) is smaller than most other red and green skin varieties, but it also has a much thinner seed in the middle so you get more yummy fruit to enjoy. The texture of the golden flesh is smoother and less stringy than other orange-fleshed Mangos. The flavor? I love it! – sweet, a little tangy, tropical… almost caramel-like when they’re full ripe.

Allow Ataulfo Mangos to ripen at room temperature from lime green to a deep gold skin color. The fruit will be give to gentle pressure and the skin will begin to wrinkle when they’re ready to eat.

As they ripen on the store shelf or on your kitchen counter from firm with lime-green skin color to yellow with a little give – they’ll be ready to eat with a balance of sweet and tangy. As Ataulfo Mangos ripen from yellow with a little give to gold, some wrinkles and soft – they’ll be get even sweeter.  Peak season is just starting now and will last into June. The wonderful caramel flavor will be even more pronounced and tanginess will diminish as the season progresses into April and May. Yum!

How to cut at mango.

NOTE: The end of season crop of Organic Kent Mangos (greenish skin with orange flesh) from Peru are tasting amazing and are definitely worth a try this week too.

Organic Red Bartlett Pears

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR

A touch of color lives things up sometimes, right? On the outside Red Bartlett Pears are just like Green Bartletts except they have kisses of red blush on the skin. Inside they taste fresh-sweet and crunchy when firm. When they are full ripe, the green part of the skin will turn yellow and the fruit will taste sticky-sweet and juicy. The one flavor difference with Red Bartlett Pears is the hint of floral tones. Organic Red Bartlett Pears are in peak season now and for a few more weeks out of Argentina. Enjoy ‘em while they last!

Organic Red Bartlett Pears are sweet with hints of floral freshness.

Organic Sugar Snap Peas

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR

Mmm- lightly sweet, pleasantly fresh and crisp; Organic Sugar Snap Peas are now in season from Mexico.  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. Find some spring-time Sugar Snap Pea recipes here.

In season Organic Sugar Snap Peas are great as a crunchy raw snack, a steamed side or sautéed with other other veggies.

Organic Minneola Tangelos

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR | VALUE PRICED

A cross between a Tangerine and a Grapefruit, Minneola Tangelos are juicy and have a vibrant, mostly sweet orange flavor with hints on tangerine tanginess. Dark orange-skinned Organic Minneola Tangelos from California continue at the peak of their growing season.  Small-sized fruit is more prominent at this point in the season, but the fruit is exceptionally juicy right now and fairly easy to peel.  Keep an eye out for promotions on gift box Mini Minneolas.

Peak season Organic Minneola Tangelos are super-juicy! …even the small ones!

Minneolas are easy to spot – they have that goofy knob at the stem end, which actually makes them easier to peel. Their flesh is super juicy, has few to no seeds and delivers a sweet and tangy citrus flavor. Minneola Tangelos are ideal for on the go snacking, slicing onto salads, making smoothies – and fantastic for fresh squeezed juice. Select Minneolas that feel heavy for their size and are free from soft spots. Skin scars, where the fruit rubbed against the leafs and stems on the tree, have no impact on eating quality.

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