Organic Picks of the Week 11/04/13

Best if Used By 11/11/13

Organic Picks of the week for November 4th, 2013 features
Fennel, Heirloom Apples, Lemons and Lacinato Kale


Organic Fennel (Anise)

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR

What the heck is Fennel? It’s like celery with black licorice flavor but not stringiness. Also referred to as Anise, Fennel does in fact have a distinctive licorice flavor that softens and sweetens during cooking. Shaved Fennel bulb can be used raw in salads for a delicious fresh-crunch. Roasting sliced or wedged Fennel brings out a rich sweetness. And sautéing Fennel brings out luxurious caramelization. A cool weather vegetable, the fall crop of Organic Fennel is now in season from California this month.

Fall crop Organic Fennel is ready for you salad, juicing, roasting or sautéing recipes!

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 and HOW-TO:
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.
Cut
Fennel by:

  • Chop off stems and green fronds
  • Trim 1/8” off the bottom of the bulb
  • Remove bruised or tough outer layer of the bulb
  • Slice the bulb in half then carve out the fibrous heart
  • Then slice away like an onion!

But don’t throw away all the fronds since they can be used as a fresh herb or garnish.

Raw Fall. Crisp fennel and earthy kale are tenderized with Balsamic and Cider vinegars and paired with creamy-sweet Anjou Pears and rich-sweet Pomegranate Arils.

RECIPE: Raw Fennel & Kale Autumn Salad
A refreshing and robust mix of sweet, tangy, creamy and crunchy from seasonal fruits and vegetables.

  • Wash, Core and thinly slice 1 Fennel bulb
  • De-stem and ribbon-slice 2 stalks of Kale
  • In a mixing bowl massage 2 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar and 2 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar into the Fennel and Kale
  • Allow vegetables to rest for at least 5 minutes
  • Serve topped with sliced ripe Anjou Pears and Pomegranate Arils

Organic Fennel is great for juicing too! Like Celery, 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 Heirloom Apples

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR

Eating the broad array of old-fashioned heirloom apple varieties is like exploring a museum with your taste buds. The colors, flavors, textures and shapes are not what we’ve come to expect in the produce department. Classic American varieties and old-time European have a story to tell and a legacy to share. Discover some of these treasures while they are still in season. Heirloom Orchards of Hood River, Oregon grows a collection of certified Organic Heirloom Apples. You may find them at natural food stores and food co-ops that stock a broad variety. The crop is small and each variety sells out within a few weeks.

A living museum. Discover the breadth of textures and flavors of Organic Heirloom Apples. Left to Right: sweet-sour Winesap, tart-fresh Calville Blanc, thick-skin & sweet Arkansas Black.

What makes a variety of apple an heirloom? Generally, it’s any type of apple that was cultivated prior to the 1940s – before plant-breeding techniques became more sophisticated. With heirloom varieties you can plant the seeds from that apple and they will grow into that very apple tree and those trees will produce that very same variety of apples. With modern “bred” varieties, cross-pollination or root stock and branch splicing is used to combine tree and fruit characteristics to produce a specific type of apple ideal for the commercial market. But if you plant a seed from a bred variety (like my favorite “Jazz Apples”) you will not get a tree that produces that very same fruit.

Here’s what’s still in-season (this varietal info is from HeirloomOrchards.com)

Arkansas Black: This unique apple dates to 1870’s Arkansas. It is a lively red color, deepening to a purplish black when ripe. Known for a hard, slick exterior, apple expert Tom Burford remembers being warned as a boy not to hit anyone in the head with it, as it could kill! It is juicy, with a distinctive aromatic flavor.

Calville Blanc: This world renowned dessert apple dates from 16th century France. Its’ flattened round shape makes it distinctive looking, so much that Monet put it in his 1879 painting “Apples and Grapes”. It has a tart, effervescent flavor, and is good for eating. Claims to be the “best apple pie apple grown”. Higher in Vitamin C than an orange.

Golden Russet: An old American cider apple, believed to have sprouted from a seed of English Russet. Skin turns a golden bronze when ripe. Also good for eating and drying. Crisp yellow, sugary flesh of very good quality.

Mutsu: A late maturing offspring of Golden Delicious from Japan’s breeding program (crossed with an Indo tree seedling brought to Japan by an Indiana school teacher). Renamed ‘Crispin’ in the U.K. and U.S.A. A very large, firm greenish/yellow apple with a sweet cocktail of flavors. Juicy and refreshing, with outstanding dessert qualities. Also known in Japan as the ‘Million Dollar Apple’.

Northern Spy: An American heirloom apple native to the Northern East Coast discovered around 1800 in East Bloomfield, N.Y. Its name comes from the codename of an Underground Railroad operator, who guided former slaves through New England into Canada. Flavor is especially tart, and flesh is harder and crunchier than most. A consumate pie apple, and an old favorite for eating out of hand. Trees are very slow bearing and can take up to twelve years to produce an alternate bearing crop.

Spitzenburg: This “apple of connoisseurs” was discovered in upstate N.Y. in the early 1700’s. Rumored to be the favorite of Thomas Jefferson, and definitely grown in his orchards at Monticello. Produced in the Hood River Valley, OR in the early 1900’s. Rich, fruity aromatic flavor and crisp meat. A great dessert heirloom apple, it is often a favorite at Christmas time.

White Winter Permain: There is some confusion as to the origin of this apple; some say it originated in Indiana around 1849, others that it came from 1200AD England. Medium to large in size, the White Winter Pearmain has a pale yellow skin with streaks of reddish blush. The skin is waxy and tough. Yellowish flesh is crisp, juicy and tender with a hint of sweetness. One of the premier dessert apples.

Winesap: Unknown in origin, this heirloom apple was probably brought in seed form from Europe over 200 years ago. Deep red in color, it was noted as a great cider apple in writings as far back as 1817. Good for pie, sauce and eating out of hand. Flesh is a fruity, crisp yellow; sometimes featuring red streaks on the inside. The blossoms on Winesap trees are mostly pink, instead of white. One of the parents of ‘Arkansas Black’.

York Imperial: This apple was originally named “Johnson’s Fine Winter” and originated on the Johnson Farm near York, PA in 1830. Farmer Johnson once watched school children digging out these leaf-covered apples in early spring and found them in remarkably good shape. A local nurseryman called them “imperial keepers” (long lasting) and suggested the name of “York” be changed to “York Imperial”. It has an unusually small core, and is lopsided in appearance. In York County it was also called a ‘schepabbel’ or crooked apple, in the local German dialect. Some of the fruit actually grows on an oblique axis! York Imperial excels in the kitchen, and as a cider apple.

Organic Lemons

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR

Good news – Organic Lemons are coming back into season, and therefore, back better supply and quality as certified organic ranches in Southern California see bigger harvests. Start something delicious in your kitchen this week with Organic Lemons.

Preparing your taste buds for what’s next.

Lemons are a catalyst. They prepare your taste buds for what’s next. What’s next for you? Start something delicious in your kitchen this week with Organic Lemons. Zest the yellow part of the skin in baking. Squeeze the juice into your vinaigrettes. Brighten up the salad, veggies or fish. Add acidity to your juice-blends. Flavor your water. Heck, you can even clean your cutting board with the ends.

Organic Lacinato Kale

PEAK SEASON | VALUE PRICED

You know about Leafy Green Kale, but have you ever tried it’s Italian cousin? Lacinato Kale – aka Dino, Dinosaur, Tuscan or Black Kale – is deep green in and has an earthy flavor that is slightly sweeter than Leafy Green Kale. The tall, tender leaves are slightly thicker than other Kales.  Lacinato is complimented in cooking with other bold flavors like garlic. Lacinato Kale cut into 1/2″ wide strips with the stems removed can be braised in stock, steamed, boiled or sautéed. It can also be sliced into thin pieces and used raw in salads. Since it’s so packed with vitamins and nutrients, Lacinato is fantastic to add to your juice blends.

Organic Lacinato Kale is in season. The tall, slender leaves are thick yet tender and have blue-green color with a slightly sweeter flavor than regular green kale.

Right now Organic Lacinato Kale from California is looking fantastic! It is in season from North Carolina and Florida organic farms are set to begin their harvests soon as well. Healthy, blue-green embossed leaves in bouncy, squeaky-fresh bunches can be found standing tall in most organic produce sets this month. Here are some Lacinato Kale recipes to consider.

Other in-season Organic Produce Picks:
Organic Pomegranates

Organic Persimmons

Organic Hass Avocados

Organic Pie Pumpkins

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. Enjoy good food.

The Produce Geek, Jonathan K. Steffy