Organic Picks of the Week 08/19/13

Best if Used By 08/26/13

Organic Picks of the week for August 19th, 2013 features
Thomcord Grapes, Vine Ripe Tomatoes, Sweet Onions,
Colored Bell Peppers and Sweet Corn


Organic Thomcord Grapes

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR | VALUE PRICED

Love the classic flavor of dark purple Concord Grapes, but find the seeds and thick skins not so easy to snack on? Try Thomcord Grapes! They’re a round, seedless, thinner skinned variety of Grape that features that rich grape-juice taste of Concords. The flesh is deeply sweet and the chewable skins are just slightly tangy. Yum!

Thomcords taste like a Concord Grape! …without the seeds or tough skins.

Organically grown Thomcord Grapes from California are in season for a short window of time during late August and September. Keep an eye out for Organic Thomcord Grapes at co-ops, natural foods stores, organic markets and produce departments that stock a broad selection of organic fruit. Select packs that are free from wet spots. Keep the grapes refrigerated and rinse with water just before eating them.


Organic Vine Ripe Tomatoes

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR | VALUE PRICED

What is an ideal slicing Tomato? It would be full red, meaty flesh that is juicy but not loaded with gel, flavor that is full and acidic but still slightly sweet, and grown organically not too far from where you live. Sandwiches, BLTs, salads, salsas – go to town! Sounds great, right? Well, if you live in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, now through mid-September is your prime time to enjoy peak season Organic Vine Ripe Tomatoes from certified organic farms throughout the region like Lady Moon Farms in Chambersburg, PA.

Local season Organic Vine Ripe Tomatoes with fresh Basil and Balsamic.

TIP: NEVER Refrigerate Your Tomatoes (unless you’ve already sliced them), because temperatures under the mid-50s cause the texture to become soft and mealy plus it weakens their flavor.

Did you know…
What makes a Tomato “Vine Ripe”? There are three main types of round Tomatoes you may come across in the organic produce section.

1. Vine Ripe Tomatoes are field grown and picked with at least some color on the fruit. The Tomato ripens naturally as it travels the supply chain to the store. These Tomatoes will ripen to a bright red color and get slightly soft to the touch. Their shelf-life is shorter than Greenhouse-grown Tomatoes though the fuller flavor is often makes up for this.

2. Hothouse Tomatoes are grown in the controlled environment of greenhouses and are identifiable by the stem still on the fruit.

3. On-the-vine Tomatoes, also called Stem or Cluster Tomatoes, are also grown in greenhouses and picked almost fully ripe.  Their flavor is good, but not as strong as field-grown Vine Ripe Tomatoes. Because Cluster Tomatoes still pull a little nutrition and moisture from their vine – the shelf-life is longer.


Organic Sweet Onions

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR

If you want a mild Organic Onion to eat raw on sandwiches or salads, or to enjoy just grilled with some flavorful caramelization, then you should try some Organic PA Simply Sweet Onion this August and September. Expect these fresh Sweet Onions to have less pungency than regular Yellow Cooking Onions. The slightly higher sugar content and crispness make them ideal for both fresh and cooked recipes. Organic PA Simply Sweet Onions are grown, you guessed it, in Pennsylvania – mostly by Amish farmers in Lancaster County.

Local, Organic Sweet Onion season has begun in Lancaster County, PA.

Select Sweet Onions that are free from soft spots or strong odor. Since they are a basically fresh Onion the will not hold up as long in your pantry as a regular Yellow Onion, use Sweet Onions within a week or so of purchase for best quality.

Organic Colored Bell Peppers

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR

Organic Colored Bell Peppers are an excellent choice this month! All peppers start green, but these Peppers have thick walls and a blocky shape, ripen to rich colors (a sign of good anti-oxidant content) and feature sweet flavors. Organic Red, Yellow and Orange Bell Pepper varieties grown in certified organic greenhouses in Holland and Belgium hitch rides in the bellies of airplanes to JFK in NYC this time of year.

Beautiful bells. Greenhouse-grown Organic Colored Bell Peppers: sweet, ripe, crisp and juicy.

I love grilling Organic Red Peppers or fire roasting them to remove the skin. They add lots of color and crunch to salads.  Plus, dipping fresh slices of Red Pepper in Hummus makes a great evening snack. Here are some other interesting vegetarian recipes featuring Red Bell Pepper. Did you know that a Red Pepper has more immune system building, energy bolstering Vitamin C than an Orange?  And yes, Colored Bell Peppers are great for juicing.


Organic Sweet Corn

Organic vegetable farms in Upstate New York and other parts of New England are into their late summer harvests of Bi-Color Sweet Corn, make now through Labor Day the best time of the year to enjoy it!. Since Organic Sweet Corn is, of course, grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, you may find some bug damage here and there when you pull back the husk – nothing that can’t be trimmed from the end – but the flavor is good and you get to support chemical-free farming. Cool! If you want to get fancy with your corn, here are some tasty looking Sweet Corn recipes to try.

Certified Organic Bi-Color Sweet Corn is in season from Upstate New York and New England now through Labor Day.

SWEET CORN TIPS:

SELECTING: Choose Sweet Corn that feels full up and down the cob and has green husks.

STORAGE: Sweet Corn will last in your fridge for about a week when stored in a plastic bag, but will dehydrate and lose flavor every day it sits – so try to use it right away.

BOIL: Over-cooking Sweet Corn can lead to toughness and less flavor. 3-5 minutes in boiling water is really all it takes for perfect Sweet Corn on the Cob.

MICROWAVE: Microwave on high in the husk for 4-6 minutes. If fresh corn is already husked, wrap in a damp paper towel and microwave on high for about 5 minutes.

GRILL: Pre-heat Grill to high. Remove loose outer leaves of Sweet Corn. Rinse the husks with water to add some moisture. Grill for 8-11 minutes, flipping 1-2 times. Remove from heat and husk it just before serving. This method adds a smoky flavor to your corn and makes removing the silk a breeze!

One of the very best things I ate this summer was Spicy Mexican-style Street Corn on the Cob. It was made by Zem, an entrepreneur who sells fresh produce to hundreds of produce-cart vendors in New York City and runs some food-carts in NYC on the side. Zem roasts fresh sweet corn in the husk, then husks an ear, serving it in foil topped with butter, lime juice, paprika, salt, chili powder and Cojita Cheese crumbles (like a Mexican version of Parmesan or Feta). The combination was sweet, spicy and tangy all at once. I had never tasted anything quite like this. Needless to say, I was floored.

Below was my first attempt to recreate some of those flavors. I could not find Cojita Cheese where I shop so I substituted plain Feta. Pardon the imprecise ingredient measurements.

RECIPE: Mexican-style Street Corn Salad with Tomatoes

  • 8-10 ears of Sweet Corn, cooked then cut from husk (about 2lb net) into a glass bowl
  • Trimmed Corn should be hot, melt 6 tbsp Butter into it (microwave if needed)
  • Squeeze the juice of 1 Lime onto the Corn
  • 2 Vine Ripe or Heirloom Tomatoes, cored, peeled, diced – add to bowl
  • Season with (approximates):
    • ½ tsp coarse Salt
    • ¼ tsp Paprika
    • ½ tsp Chili Powder (or to taste)
    • ¼ tsp Garlic Powder
    • ¼ tsp Cumin
  • Stir thoroughly
  • Top with ¼ Cup crumbled plain Feta Cheese (or Parmesan, or ideally Cojita Cheese) – re-stir
  • Serve Warm

Mexican-style Street Corn Salad with Tomatoes: sweet, spicy, tangy.

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