Organic Picks of the Week 04/02/13

Best if Used By 04/09/13

Organic Picks of the week for April 2nd, 2013 features
Valencia Oranges, Fennel, Cluster Tomatoes, Cucumbers
and Fuji Apples


Organic Valencia Oranges

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR | VALUE PRICED

Organic Navels are still decent for snacking right now, even at the end of the season. But for juicing – hand squeezing or juice extractor – Organic Valencia Oranges are definitely the way to go. Yes, they have seeds, but the juice will stay good longer after squeezing and will taste delicious! Organic Valencia variety Oranges are now in season from California and Florida. Florida grown Valencia’s often appear scarred up and less than perfect, but the juice and flavor inside will be delightful. Select Oranges that feel heavy for their size and are free from soft spots.

Squeeze me. Juice me. I’m sweet! Organic Valencia Oranges (CA-left, FL-right).

Organic Fennel (Anise)

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR

Also referred to as Anise, Fennel has a distinctive licorice flavor that softens and sweetens during cooking. The texture is similar to Celery without the stinginess. Shaved Fennel bulb can be used raw in salads for a delicious crunch. Roasting sliced or wedged Fennel brings out a rich sweetness and sautéing Fennel brings out luxurious caramelization. A cool weather vegetable, the spring crop of Organic Fennel is now in season from California this month.

Fun with Fennel (clockwise): with Potatoes in Fennel Gratin, instead of Celery in Tuna Salad, shaved raw Fennel with Tangelos over Salad Greens, roasted Fennel pieces.

Here are two fabulous recipe albums for ideas on how to use Fennel in recipes:

Healthy Fennel Recipes from EatingWell.com
Seasonal Fennel Recipes
from MarthaStewart.com

TIPS:

  • Select Fennel that has a clean, firm, white bulb and healthy-looking green tops.
  • Store Fennel in the fridge crisper for up to 1-3 days, in a bag for 2-4 days.
  • Remove the stems and green fronds, slice the bulb in half, remove the fibrous heart, then slice away!
  • But don’t throw away all the fronds since they can be used as a fresh herb or garnish.

Organic Fennel is great for juicing. It provides lots of liquid volume that is loaded phyto-nutrients without many calories to juice blends. It can be substituted for Celery in most juicer recipes and adds a hint of licorice flavor. This is my favorite fennel blend so far:

Fennel-Lime Tea Cooler

JUICER RECIPE: Fennel-Lime Tea Cooler

(for a juice extractor)

  • 2 medium bunches of fresh Mint (2-4oz)
  • 1 bulb Fennel with stalks and fronds
  • 1 Lime, partially peeled
  • 3 Sweet-tart or Sweet Apples (2 if the apples are large)

Organic Cluster Tomatoes

PEAK SEASON | VALUE PRICED

Peak season for Organic On-the-Vine Tomatoes continues this week from certified organic greenhouses in Mexico, Arizona and California.  Cluster Tomatoes (also called On-the-Vine Tomatoes or Stem Tomatoes) often keep well when you bring them home since the fruit can still draw on water and nutrients left in the vine – the healthier the vines, the better. This type of Tomato is ideal for salads, sandwiches and roasting. Always store Tomatoes at room temperature since they lose flavor and texture when held below 55 F.

Feeling fine on the vine!

Organic Cucumbers

PEAK SEASON | VALUE PRICED

They’re coming on! Organic Cucumbers have been expensive and in short supply over the past month or so, but that is beginning to change this week as organic growers in Mexico are coming into bigger harvests from their Spring crop. Organic Cucumbers, grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, are not waxed to extend their shelf life so try to use them within a few days of purchase. Choose Cucumbers that feel firm and have no sunken areas.

Cool as an in season Organic Cucumber. No wax, no pesticides, just Cukes.

With a cool, crunchy texture, Organic Cucumbers are great for salads, snacking and dipping. Doesn’t a Quick Pickled Cucumber Salad sound tangy, crisp and refreshing?  Excellent for juicing, Cucumbers have anti-inflammatory and detoxifying properties, plus they add plenty of liquid volume to juice blends.

TIP:  The bitter taste some people dislike in regular salad-type Cucumbers is found in the skin.  For a more mild flavor, peel off some or all of the skin.

Organic Fuji Apples

VALUE PRICED | BEST FLAVOR

Supplies of Organic Apples from this past fall’s crop are winding down.  But there are a handful of varieties that seem to still be readily available, one of which is the Organic Fuji Apple. Nicely crisp, fine-flesh textured, impressively juicy, mildly aromatic – Fuji’s are also known as one of the sweetest varieties. Organic Fuji Apples are good for snacking, add texture to salads, complement cheeses and pair well Asian flavors in cooking. If you’ve got a juicer, Fuji’s can bolster sweetness in just about any green juice or vegetable juice blend plus add lots of liquid. Vitamix and smoothie enthusiasts also appreciate the Fuji variety for adding sweetness to green smoothies.

All sweet. Finely crisp. Organic Fuji Apples

TIPS:

  • Skin color can range from almost solid red with a few green streaks to mostly light green with a few red streaks and small brown flecks, but either way has little impact on flavor.
  • As with all Apples, select Fuji Apples that feel firm, are free from skin wrinkles or large bruises (round discolored spots) and store them in the refrigerator until a day or two prior to eating to maintain crispness.

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