Organic Picks of the Week 07/22/13

Best if Used By 07/29/13

Organic Picks of the week for July 22nd, 2013 features
Peaches, Cucumbers, Pluots, Heirloom Tomatoes
and Green Beans


Organic Peaches

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR | VALUE PRICED

For me, Peaches are like orbs of summer picked from a tree. A juicy-sweet Yellow-flesh Peach, ripened to perfection for the ultimate balance of sugars and acid – what a treat! For snacking out of hand and for using in baking, drinks, salsa or salad recipes – summer Peaches are tops in my book. And if growing those Peaches is achieved without the use of synthetic pesticides and fungicides – all the better.

Late July and August Organic Peaches: Summer picked from a tree.

Late July through most of August marks the heart of summer, the time when the very best of the season Organic Yellow Peaches varieties are harvested in South Carolina and California. July Flame, Zee Fire, Zee Lady, Flavor Crest, Sun Crest… many of these Peaches are “free-stone” or “semi-free-stone” varieties where the flesh releases from the pit, making recipe preparation easier.

PEACH TIPS

  • Select Peaches that feel heavy and have no soft spots and no wrinkled skin.
  • The amount of redness on the skin can vary from variety to variety and is not a true indicator of ripeness.
  • Greenish areas on the skin is a sign of immaturity.
  • Yellow-flesh Peaches must ripen to allow the acidity to mellow and the sweetness to shine through creating a balanced sweet and tangy taste.
  • White-flesh Peaches are low-acid and can be eaten hard or soft.
  • Store Peaches at room temperature to allow them to get to the softness you desire for your eating preference.
  • Impatient? Have some Peaches that are too hard? Place them in a paper bag to speed up ripening.
  • Not ready to use your ripened Peaches? They will hold at that stage for a couple of days in the refrigerator.

From easy to involved, from healthy to indulgent – here are 10 delicious recipes to try for all of those wonderful peak season Peaches:

Organic Cucumbers

PEAK SEASON

Organic Cucumbers are now in season from California and locally from organic farms throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.  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.

Local Organic Cucumbers are now in season in the Mid-Atlantic region!

TIPS:

  • 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.
  • Choose Cucumbers that feel firm and have no sunken areas.
  • 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.
  • If you desire a milder Cucumber without seeds that has a more tender skin – Organically grown European-style Seedless Cucumbers are in season from Canadian and Holland greenhouses.

Refreshing and energizing Cucumber-Peach Summer Green Juice

JUICING RECIPE: Cucumber-Peach Summer Green Juice

Juicing the following ingredients in a juice extractor in this order for a refreshing, energizing juice.

  • 3-4 stalks Green Kale
  • 1 Cucumber, semi-peeled
  • 2 Peaches, pitted
  • 1 Lime, semi-peeled
  • 1 handful fresh Mint
  • 2 tart-sweet Apples (like Pink Lady)

Organic Pluots (Plumcots)

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR

Are you a fan of Plums but get annoyed with their inconsistency in sweetness and the occasional dud flavor? You should upgrade to Pluots, also called Plumcots: Part Plum. Part Apricot. All delicious! (…at least more often than not.) They’re great for snacking, salsas, salads and more!

Plum + Apricot = sweet, juicy, flavor Pluots. Pictured here are two “mottled-skin varieties: Dapple Supreme and Dapple Fire.

Mid-summer varieties of Organic Pluots are plentiful during late July and August from certified organic orchards California’s sunny San Joaquin Valley. Growers and plant breeders work tirelessly to come up with the best new varieties of Pluots that are super sweet, juicy and flavorful – and boy, are there some good ones out there right now. The come in many flesh and skin colors – from yellow to ruby flesh – from speckled skin to bright red. And Pluots have cool names! You might find Dapple Supreme, Dapple Fire, Mariposa, Flavor Jem, and Dapple Dandy. Even if you don’t like regular Plums, you owe it to your taste buds to try some Organic Pluots!

Fun fact: What is that powder-like film on the skin? It’s called “bloom” and it is a natural, protective wax that forms on the fruit as it grows. When you rub up Plum or Pluot it gets it’s shine from the bloom.

Recipe: Summer Pluot & Corn Salsa – Enjoy this richly flavored, sweet-spicy blend that is perfect for big, chunky scopes with Tortilla chips. I think you’ll find it hard to stop! It can also be used for topping chicken, mushrooms or fish. In-season Plums or Peaches could be substituted for the Pluots.

Summer Pluot & Sweet Corn Salsa.

Step 1 – Produce Prep.

  • 4lb high-flavor variety Tomatoes (like Heirlooms, especially dark-fleshed)
  • Wash Tomatoes, core stem area, cut into wedges
  • 3-4 Pluots, washed, pit removed, cut into wedges (Plums can be substituted)
  • 1 medium Sweet Onion, skin removed, cut into wedges
  • 3 ears Sweet Corn, cooked, sliced from cob (or 1lb home-frozen Sweet Corn, defrosted)

Step 2

  • In a blender or food processor-separately pulse prepped Tomatoes, Pluots and Sweet Onion until diced
  • Place diced ingredients in a large mixing bowl
  • Add Sweet Corn to bowl
  • Empty bowl contents into a colander to strain excess juice to 20-30 seconds

Step 3

  • Return strained ingredients to the large bowl
  • Sprinkle with Salsa Seasoning until evenly covered (I used about 1oz of Mrs. Wages Salsa Mix. Salt, Pepper, Cheyenne Pepper, Cumin, Garlic Powder could be used)
  • Stir thoroughly, allow to set for 10 minutes
  • Refrigerate for up to 36 hours

Homemade fresh salsas allow you to capture the full flavors of summer… And use up extra ripe produce. Modify the recipe based on your tastes. Experiment!

Organic Heirloom Tomatoes

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR

Boy, do I love summer produce, especially Heirloom Tomatoes. It is all about flavor and legacy with Heirlooms. Organic Heirloom Tomatoes season is for people that 1) want their Tomatoes that taste like something memorable, 2) care about where seeds came from and 3) care how the plants are grown. Organically grown Heirlooms Tomatoes are in the heart of peak season from small and medium sized farms in California like Capay Organics and will begin to be in-season here in the Mid-Atlantic from organic growers like Lady Moon at the end of July and through August. So try some for yourself this summer to discover the tapestry of Tomato flavor out there.

Slice up some old-fashioned FLAVOR with peak season Organic Heirloom Tomatoes.

What exactly are Heirloom Tomatoes? Most conventional, round Tomatoes have been hybrid-bred for consistency of size, shape, color, shelf-life and firmness – all so that they can safely make it through the supermarket supply channel and into your kitchen without getting soft or going bad. Heirlooms, on the other hand, are old and diverse varieties that have been around since WWII. Some have been passed down over the years by a family and others were created through natural cross-pollinations, still others were commercially produced by a seed company or university ag program ¾ of a century ago. With Heirloom varieties you can take seeds from this year’s fruit and plant it year after year and get the exact same tomato plant. Each Heirloom variety has its own special taste, texture, shape, size and color characteristics that make them unique and wonderful in their own way.

Straight-talk: Organic Heirloom Tomatoes are soft to begin with – you should expect them to have a little give. Since they are not “bred” for shelf-life, do not expect a long shelf-life. Use them quickly. Oh, and they’re ugly by most normal standards, …but the flavor, whether sweet, earthy, bold, tangy or bold – is always beautiful! Since Heirlooms are not bred or hybridized for maximum production or disease resistance – yields are typically smaller and they cost more to grow. That is why you can expect to pay more at the register. What is flavor, farming and philosophy worth to you?

Organic Green Beans

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR

Certified Organic Green Beans are in peak season in California. One of the premier organic bean growers is in full harvest right now, picking daily and shipping the product onto refrigerated trucks that same night to be distributed around the country. Small local organic producers in the Mid-Atlantic are also into their peak harvests. These Organic Green Beans feature a crisp texture and fresh flavor – mmm! – perfect for your favorite summertime Green Bean recipes!

Try this Creamy-Cool Green Bean, Scallion and Tomato Salad recipe.

Expect great flavor and texture on Certified Organic Green Beans during Late July through Mid-August.

Specialty Pick! Wax Beans, also referred to as Yellow Beans, are a golden-colored variety of Green Bean. The flavor is similar, but more mild, almost buttery when you cook them, tender as you eat them. What a fun seasonal treat for picnic side dishes and summer meals! Organic Wax Beans are in season for a short time here in August from California. Look for them at stores that stock a broad variety of organic produce.

Yellow Bean = Wax Bean = mild, tender, seasonal treat.

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