Organic Picks of the Week 09/03/13

Best if Used By 09/10/13

Organic Picks of the week for September 3rd, 2013 features
Bartlett Pears, Gala Apples, Kale Greens and Kiwi


Organic Bartlett Pears

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR

Fresh crop Bartlett Pears are back in season! – the ones with the classic light bulb shape. Bartlett Pears are the variety that shows you how ripe it is by the color of its skin. Bartlett Pears have lots of familiar Pear flavor and taste sweeter as they ripen at room temperature. They’re fantastic for fresh snacking, to eat with cheese, in salads and of course, in desserts. Bartlett Pears are preferred by many for home canning too.

Late summer means the fresh crop of Organic Bartlett Pears is in season! Ripen at room temperature from hard, green and tart to soft, yellow and juicy-sweet.

Summer harvests of delicious Organic Bartlett Pears are just about finished at orchards in California and will be seen on retail shelves this month. But some of the best Bartletts around are still being packed at northern Oregon and central Washington’s orchards right now, making the September and October the peak time to enjoy this classic seasonal fruit.

Three Shades of Bartlett: (ripen at room temperature)

Green: Hard and crunchy texture with a tart-sweet taste. This is the ripeness for stage for someone who is without a napkin, is hungry enough or impatient enough to eat a Pear that will taste much better in a day or two.

Yellow-Green: Nicely sweet, classic pear flavor and succulent flesh. This is for typical lunch room eating.

Full Yellow: The chin-dripper! Outrageously juicy, richly-ripe and sticky sweet. This is the lean over the desk waist basket with wet-wipes handy or lean over the kitchen sink and slurp up the sweetness. Yes, Bartletts do not stay at the full yellow stage for long before going bad AND the tender skin will likely show scars and bruises from handling. Be gentle.

Not ready to use them? Store green Bartletts in the fridge to slow the ripening process. Have some over-ripe Bartletts that you won’t be able to snack on before they go bad? Juice them! Bartlett Pears add intense sweetness and a pear-spiced flavor to vegetable juice blends. Explore some Bartlett Pear recipes here.

Organic Gala Apples

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR | VALUE PRICED

Need a fresh, in-season, portable and sweet fruit that’s good in the lunch box, at the office, for after school snacking, in salads, for juicing and in other culinary uses? Oh, and one grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers?

Fresh crop Organic Gala Apples are now in season – crisp, sweet and mild – a snacking apple the whole family will love.

The ever-popular Gala Apple is an accessible variety that the whole family will love. Good ones are crisp yet not overly hard to bite, juicy, sweet and pleasantly mild-tasting. They’re ideal for snacking out of hand, but you can also use them on salads and in many baking recipes. Here’s the great news! The August-September 2013 harvest is underway for fresh crop Organic Gala Apples from California, Oregon and especially Washington. Expect excellent flavor, texture and reasonable prices on this fresh crop fruit.

Peak season harvests of Organic Galas mean you’re likely to get excellent texture, flavor and value. Look for “USA” on the label or sign to be sure you’re buying the freshest fruit this month.

Gala Apple DO’s & DON’T’s:

DO Squeeze the apple with your hand – it should feel hard.

DON’T Select Galas with visible bruises – a sign of damage during handling.

DO Choose Gala’s that have a vibrant color – bright red to deep pink blush-streaks over golden yellow.

DON’T pick ones that have wrinkled skin – a sign of being on the shelf too long and dehydration that causes a mealy textured flesh.

DO Refrigerate the Apples you buy until the day you’re ready to eat them to protect their crispness. This time of year, Apples can last for a few weeks in the fridge.

INSIDER TIP: The supply chain in the U.S. still has some old crop Organic Gala Apples in the pipeline from countries in the Southern Hemisphere like Chile. These Gala’s, if they meet the Do & Don’t criteria above, will still taste fine and might be on sale, but will likely have a shorter shelf-life and run the risk of the occasional “mushy apple.” Check the bag label or PLU sticker on the fruit to find it’s Country of Origin. USA = fresh crop. Other origins = select carefully and consume quickly.

ASIDE: So why is it that more organic apples are grown in Washington than anywhere else in North America? A recent trip to Pacific Northwest to visit organic orchards in northern Oregon and central Washington helped me understand why.

Central Washington’s arid climate, rich soil, plentiful irrigation system and bright sunny days with cool nights make it the ideal place for growing Apples using certified organic practices.

I’d spent most of my life imagining Washington as a grey, cool, rainy region of forests and streams, and that is exactly how it is on the picturesque coastal side of the state, west of the Cascade Mountains. But those same mountains that stall weather systems on the coast prevent much of the precipitation from ever making it to central and eastern Washington – where all of the apples, pears, potatoes, onions, hops and wine grapes are grown in the rich, loess soil, despite almost desert-like conditions.

Where does the water come from to grow all of the bountiful tree fruit and produce in agricultural towns like Pasco, Yakima, Quincy and Wenatchee? The region is blessed with the highest flowing river system on the continent that empties into the Pacific: the Columbia River and its tributaries. Hundred-year-old canals, Roosevelt-era public works projects like the Grand Coulee Dam and reservoirs bring copious irrigation water to the Columbia River Basin.

That brings me to Organics. Bug pressure, fungus issues and tree fruit diseases are easier for growers to manage in their orchards without the use of synthetic pesticides, fungicides and chemical fertilizers in the arid micro-climate of the Yakima and Wenatchee regions. The warm, sunny days and cool nights help create beautiful, high color apples too. Oh you can grow apples organically in the humid hills of the Mid-Atlantic, but they will likely not be very pretty – too blemished from scab and scale to be fit for the retail marketplace. Washington organic growers don’t have it easy, but the climate sure helps.

Organic Kale Greens

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR | VALUE PRICED

No vegetable more talked about right now amongst health conscious shoppers, the food media, restaurateurs, and juicing enthusiasts than Kale. There’s even an effort underway to create a National Kale Day on October 2 – learn more HERE. Kale is packed with phyto-nutrients and has curly, deep green leaves with a slightly bitter, earthy flavor. Kale has calcium, Vitamin K and magnesium for healthy bones; potassium for vascular health; and anti-oxidants like Vitamin C too.

Nutrient-dense Organic Kale Greens aren’t just for juicing and cooking, they’re also great raw salads when cut thin and massaged with an acidic vinaigrette or citrus juice.

So, what do you do with this sturdy-leafed, slightly intimidating Green? Cooked preparations include adding kale to soups, sautéed or steamed kale, braised kale, homemade kale chips (I add hot sauce) and kale in vegetable lasagna or casseroles. Kale can be eaten raw and is typically sliced into think ribbons and massages with a acidic vinaigrette or some citrus juice to tenderize the cells and soften the flavor for use in salads and slaws. And if you’ve got a juicer – now is a smart time to add Organic Kale to your juicing recipes.

Here are some great Kale recipes to look over and give it a try.

Organic Kale Greens are in a period of steady seasonal harvests at organic farms in the Mid-Atlantic like Lady Moon Farms of Chambersburg, PA, at small farms in the Upper Mid-West and from larger organic farms in California. This means organic produce departments will likely have steady supplies and maybe even some in-store specials on this in demand vegetable that has taken the healthy-eating world by storm.

Organic Kiwi (Kiwifruit)

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR

Kiwi are juicy, sweet and tangy… in fact, my mouth waters from the back of my jaw as I recall that last flavorful bite. Oh, and they’re surprisingly nutritious! Two Kiwi have more potassium than a banana, more than twice the daily RDA of Vitamin C and more fiber than a bowl of bran flakes – all that for about 100 calories. Whoa! Oh, and they’ve got antioxidant Vitamin E, Lutein, Folate, Magnesium and more.

Delicious organic green kiwi from New Zealand – Ripen, then scoop or slice your juicy-sweet reward.

Kiwi are great for snacking, salads, smoothies and more.  Here is a collection of Kiwifruit Recipes.  Delightful Organic Kiwi are in season through October from the country that gave this ancient Chinese fruit it’s common name – New Zealand.

How do you know when a Kiwi is ripe?

An unripe Kiwi is aggressively tangy and hard, while a ripe Kiwi Fruit will make come back for seconds! A Kiwi is ready to eat when it gives to thumb pressure. The soft the fruit, the sweeter and less tangy they’ll taste. Store hard Kiwi at room temperature until they’re ripe, or place them in a paper bag to speed up the process by trapping the natural ethylene emitted by the fruit. Ripe Kiwi can be held at that stage for about week in the fridge if you’re not ready to eat them.

How do you eat a Kiwi? Here are three ways I enjoy them:

SLOOP: To eat a ripe Kiwi simply slice it in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon.

FILLET: Trim the ends, lay the Kiwi on its side and peel the skin away with a sharp knife – rolling it along the cutting board over the knife. Then slice it into discs.

SKIN ‘N ALL: The last way to eat a Kiwi is for the adventurous: rinse the fruit and eat it whole – skin and all! The skin is a little fuzzy, but edible.

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.

If you’re eating what’s in season, you’re likely saving money and enjoying produce at its peak of flavor. This is especially true with Organics.

The Produce Geek, Jonathan K. Steffy