Organic Picks of the Week 09/23/13

Best if Used By 09/30/13

Organic Picks of the week for September 23rd, 2013 features
Honeycrisp Apples, Acorn Squash, Asian Pears, Sweet Potatoes and Shiitake Mushrooms


Organic Honeycrisp Apples

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR

Organically grown Honeycrisp Apples are now in season from Washington! Stay calm and snack on.

Explosively juicy. Crackingly crisp. Brightly flavorful – an amazing blend of sweet and tart that keeps you interested with every bite. Something to really look forward to each September through November – a seasonal treat. This is what Honeycrisp Apples are all about.

Prepare to crunch! Juicy, crispy Organic Honeycrisp Apples are in season now and feature a sweet flavor propped up by some tartness. Mmm!

Organic Honeycrisps are, in fact, more expensive than other varieties because of the high demand plus they’re a tricky to grow, but the delectable eating experience is worth it for those with a passion for texture and flavor… and for organic growing methods. The Washington grown Organic Honeycrisp I’ve tried this season have been more sweet than tart.  Sure, you can juice them, bake and cook with Honeycrisps, though, why would you when they’re so darn good for eating out of hand? There are plenty of other varieties that are perfectly good baking that cost a third less right now – like organic Gala, Jonagold and Gold Delicious.

TIPS and HINTS:
Select Apples that feel heavy for their size and are free from wrinkled skin, punctures or large bruises.

Honeycrisp do not need to have all red skin to be delicious, but if they’re completely green they’ll likely be more tart.

For the best shelf-life and texture, keep Apples in the dry-fruit drawer of your refrigerator until the day you’re ready to eat them.

Honeycrisp Apples can bruise easily, and bruises cause brown areas of flesh inside. They’re not rocks – they’re a fruit with easily damaged cells. Treat them gently and ask the check-out clerk to do the same.

Organic growers spend lots of time caring for their precious Honeycrisp Apple crop. The variety isn’t so easy to grow, but the superior flavor and texture of this variety is in high demand!

Organic Acorn Squash

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR | VALUE PRICED

Ah, Fall is here! Time to put away the shorts and get out the jeans, maybe fire up the oven. Speaking of Fall, Fall Squash – aka Hard Squash – aka Winter Squash – is in peak season!

Embrace the flavors of Fall: Cider-baked Acorn Squash.

Acorn Squash is an easy to use Fall Squash variety. And local harvests of Organic Green Acorn Squash are plentiful here at the start of Fall from farms on the Eastern Seaboard, Mid-West and elsewhere. Fiber-packed Acorn Squash is dark green with patched of orange, has deep ribs and is shaped like… well, an acorn nut. The flesh is yellow to gold, slightly fibrous and has a sweet, slightly nutty vegetable flavor. Select Acorn Squash that is hard and has not pitting. Store it for several weeks at room temperature. The easiest way to prepare Acorn Squash is to slice it in half side-ways, scoop out the seeds and pulp, place the halves face down in 1” of water and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until the flesh can easily be pierced with a fork.

RECIPE: Cider-baked Acorn Squash – A pleasing mix of fall flavors come together for this easy side dish.

  • Cut one Acorn Squash in half, scoop out seeds and pulp with a spoon
  • Spray a large glass baking pan with no-stick olive oil
  • Place Acorn Squash halves flesh-side down in pan
  • Bake at 350F for 30 minutes
  • Flip Acorn Squash up right
  • Fill both squash halves with Apple Cider and 2 tbsp Butter each
  • Season squash halves with Ginger Powder, Cinnamon and Cloves
  • Bake at 350F for 20 minutes more or until flesh can easily be pierced with a fork
  • Cut halves into quarters, serve with pan drippings

Other Acorn Squash Recipes:
Sweet & Buttery Acorn Squash (video)

Acorn Squash & Kale over Penne Pasta

Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash


Organic Asian Pears

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR

Enjoy the best of both worlds. Asian Pears have the texture of a very juicy apple yet taste like a sweet, ripe pear – earning them the nickname “Apple Pears.” Asian Pears are collection of Pear that originated in Asia hundreds of years ago, but are now grown all over the world. Varieties include the Hosui, Kosui, Ichiban Nashi and Olympic. Their shape is round and, depending on the variety, their skin color is pale yellow, gold, tan or russet brown. Here’s the best part: the cream-colored flesh is crisp and crunchy like an Fuji Apple, at the same time extremely juicy like a ripe Bartlett, nicely sweet and has a familiar Pear flavor.

Organic orchards in Oregon and Washington are now harvesting some fantastic Asian Pear varieties like the golden brown-skinned Hosui.

Asian Pears are perfect for eating out of hand as a delightful snack. They’re also ideal for enjoying with sharp cheese, slicing into salads and slaws or simply sharing for dessert since a sliced Asian Pear is naturally slow to oxidize, or brown. Organic Asian Pears are now in peak season now through November from Oregon and Washington orchards. This fruit is tasting fantastic right now!

Video – Organic Asian Pears, inside a beautiful orchard in Oregon

TIPS:

  • Asian Pears may thicker skin than other pear varieties, but their juicy flesh bruises easily.  Handle with care!
  • Select Asian Pears that feel heavy for their size, have no wrinkled skin, punctures or large bruises.
  • Some prefer to peel their brown-skin Asian Pears, but that is up to preference.
  • Asian Pears do store well and fresh ones will keep for a few weeks in the fridge.
  • They’re excellent for cheese trays or fruit trays since the sliced flesh is slow to oxidize or brown.

Eats like an apple. Tastes like a pear. In-season Organic Asian Pears are exceedingly juicy, crisp and sweet. Plus, they’re naturally slow to brown when cut, making them ideal for salads, slaws, and fruit and cheese platters.

Organic Sweet Potatoes (Organic Yams)

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR

Flavorful, sweet, moist and delicious – sweet potatoes can be enjoyed in so many ways! This time of year I love baked Sweet Potato Fries, roasted Veggies with Sweet Potatoes, whipped Sweet Potatoes topped with nuts and Baked Apples & Sweet Potatoes with cinnamon. Loaded with Beta Carotene, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Manganese, Sweet Potatoes are not only tasty, but quite healthy too. It is a great time to try out some new recipes.

Fall flavors: Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Cauliflower.

The best, clean-skinned, premium Organic Sweet Potatoes (aka Organic Yams) are in peak season from California. The best of this crop will be carefully stored for shipping over fall and winter. The gorgeous Jewel Yam with it’s reddish-purple skin and deep orange flesh, as well as the ever-popular Garnet Yam that features orange-red skin and vivid orange flesh are what to look for at natural food stores, co-ops and organic markets. At home, Yams d not get stored in the fridge. Simply, keep them in a cool, dry place like the bottom or your pantry.

Organic Shiitake Mushrooms

BEST FLAVOR

Shiitake Mushrooms are an ancient variety that originated in East Asia. This brown capped Mushroom with white gills underneath has a flavor that is rich and smoky. The stems are a little tougher and take longer to cook, so usually the caps are the prized portion. Shiitakes are best enjoyed sautéed, braised, steamed or in soups. Organic Shiitakes Mushrooms are grown indoors on logs or blocks of wood chips and are in season all year long from top mushroom growing states like Pennsylvania.

Smokey and rich, Organic Shiitake Mushrooms are excellent for soups, sautés and roasting.

SHIITAKE MUSHROOM TIPS
Cleaning:
Shiitake Mushrooms are picked from the logs or wood fiber they grow in and packed right away. Dirt is simply part of the equation. So, what is the best way to clean them? It is important to know that Mushrooms are porous and soak up water easily. Gently wipe the caps a damp paper instead of rinsing them with water. Don’t peel Mushrooms, since it’s way too tedious and you end up peeling away flavor.

Preparation: After cleaning Shiitake Mushrooms, cut the stems off. The stems tend to be tougher than the caps, though they can be saved for making soups. Gill side up, slice the caps into ¼ inch strips for sautéing and stir-frying.  Whole Shiitake Caps are good for roasting.

Roasted Shiitake Mushroom & Sweet Potato Warm Spinach Salad

RECIPE: Roasted Shiitake & Sweet Potato Warm Spinach Salad

  • Pre-heat oven to 450F
  • Peel 2 Sweet Potatoes and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • Toss cut Sweet Potatoes in a mixing bowl with 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Season with coarse salt, cracked black pepper and favorite roasting seasoning (I like Penzy’s Northwoods seasoning)
  • Arrange seasoned Sweet Potatoes on a baking tray and roast for 10 minutes
  • Clean and trim stems of 3.5oz of Shiitake Mushrooms
  • Peel two cloves of Garlic and Slice one Red Onion
  • Toss Shiitakes, Garlic, Onion with 2 tbsp olive oil – season with same as above
  • Add these veggies to the Sweet Potatoes and roast for 12 minutes at 450F
  • Flip and rearrange with a spatula, roast for 5 more minutes or until Sweet Potatoes are soft
  • Combine roasted vegetables with 5oz Baby Spinach
  • Toss in a bowl, allow the Baby Spinach to begin to wilt for serving

More Recipe ideas:

Healthy Sautéed Shiitake Mushrooms
Stir Fry Green Beans and Shiitakes

Shiitake, Ginger and Miso Soup

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.

Eat in-season. Choose organic.

The Produce Geek, Jonathan K. Steffy