Organic Picks of the Week 12/02/13

Best if Used By 12/09/13

Organic Picks of the week for December 2nd, 2013 features Satsuma Mandarins, Broccoli, Opal ApplesBlueberries and Spinach


Organic Satsuma Mandarins

BEST FLAVOR | PEAK SEASON

What is this Produce Geek pumped for? Satsuma Mandarins in December! If Clementines are the popular “top 40 pop band” of conventional Mandarins, then Satsumas are the “cool indie rock star” of organics – maybe not for everybody, yet those that discover them become die-hard fans and they tell all of their friends about “this best kept citrus secret.” As a Mandarin, Satsumas are easy to peel, juicy, fist-size and smaller, seedless and sweet. But here’s the deal: unlike Clementines, Satsuma Mandarins have a more complex flavor profile with more classic Tangerine notes in their deep orange, juicy-sweet flesh. Plus, their dimpled-rough skin is puffier, and therefore even easier to peel than Clementine Mandarins.

Sweet, juicy, easy to peel and oh so flavorful – Organic Satsuma Mandarins are at their best during December.

Here in December, the peak season for juicy-sweet Organic Satsuma Mandarins is in full swing in California, so look for them in bulk-loose displays and in 5lb gift boxes at organic markets, natural food stores and co-ops. Now that Satsumas are tasting their best, don’t be too upset if your store is out of stock from time to time since demand for this tasty, seasonal snack has been overwhelming.  Just ask them when their next shipment will arrive.

TIPS:

Select Satsuma Mandarins that are free from gooey-soft spots (decay), but if the skin feels loose that is normal for the variety.

Satsumas have high sugars and will go bad quicker than other citrus fruits so keep the fruit refrigerated until the day you intend to eat them.


Organic Broccoli

PEAK SEASON | VALUE PRICED

It’s a good thing that halls are decked with lots of ideas and recipes for fresh Broccoli in cookbooks and online, because will be an abundant supply of Organic Broccoli for most of December. Growers of Organic Broccoli in California are discounting prices on their bountiful harvests that have come on after the Thanksgiving holiday. This creates the possibility of ad prices and in-store specials on high quality Organic Broccoli where you shop. Save money on an approachable, easy to like veggie?  Rock on! Raw for veggie trays, dipping and snacking, steamed as a healthy side, sautéed for richness, stir-fried with other vegetables or roasted for great flavor – what’s your favorite use for fresh Organic Broccoli?

TIPS & STUFF

Keep your Broccoli refrigerated right up until you’re ready to eat it.

Select Broccoli that has tight beads on the crown, is firm and has fresh, green cut ends.

Avoid Broccoli that has a strong odor or is flabby and limp.

What is the difference between Broccoli and Broccoli Crowns? It’s all in the cut. Growers cut some Broccoli with the full stalk on and sell them in bunches, while other Broccoli is trimmed with the just the top – Broccoli Crowns.

What do you do with the stem? Broccoli stems can be cooked with the crown, or they can shredded like cabbage and used in salads or slaws.

Broccoli grows best in cool weather, and so it makes sense that Broccoli likes to stay quite cold after it is picked. This is why you often see Broccoli displayed on ice at the store.

Lemon Pepper Broccoli Blast

RECIPE: Lemon-Pepper Broccoli Blast

  • Pre-heat oven to 500 F
  • Rinse and cut 2 Organic Broccoli Crowns into large florets
  • Cut 1 Organic Lemon into slices
  • Squeeze the juice from the lemon ends onto the florets
  • Toss the florets and lemon slices in 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • Season the florets with Lemon-Pepper seasoning (or just coarse salt and cracked pepper)
  • Roast at 500 F for 7-10 minutes until seared yet still al dente


Organic Opal Apples

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR

Attention Apple Enthusiasts! Here’s a variety to be on the lookout for in December and into the winter months: Organic Opal Apples. The Opal variety looks like a Golden Delicious with some brown russeting near the stem area, but that’s where the similarities end. Opal Apples are very crisp and firm in texture. The flesh is sweet with some tanginess in the background – fantastic for snacking.  Their flesh is naturally slow to oxidize, so a cut Opal Apple slice with not turn brown as quickly as other varieties, making Opals ideal for salads. You can bake with them too – check out the recipes on the Opal Apples site.

Delicious, sweet and tangy Opal Apples are very crisp and firm with flesh that is naturally slow to brown.

The Opal apple variety is grown in the US by the Broetje family (First Fruits brand) at their organic and conventional orchards in Washington. Opals are harvested in late fall and become a little sweeter tasting in storage, so that’s why they’re held back until the winter months. I had the opportunity to meet Ralph Broetje and tour his orchards during August. The variety, a cross between Golden Delicious and Topaz discovered in Europe in 1999, has been well-received by those that have tasted it. The Broetje’s are planting a lot of Opal Apples so you will see more of this variety in produce departments in the next 5-10 years.


Organic Blueberries

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR

It’s hard to stop eating Blueberries when they are as tasty. If I open up a pack of Blueberries with fairly firm texture, and sweet flavor that has just a little tanginess too – I’ll be hard pressed to close the container back up. Yum! Since summer is just beginning in Chile and Argentina right now, the Organic Blueberries from that country are entering peak season. They’re great for your topping your cereal or yogurt, for making smoothies and shakes too. Here are some healthy Blueberry recipes.

Summer is just beginning in Argentina and Chile, thus peak season organic blueberries from the southern hemisphere!

SMOOTHIE RECIPE: Easy Blueberry-Banana Blend

  • 1 Banana, peeled then frozen
  • 1 pint Blueberries, rinsed
  • 3 large tbsp plain Greek Yogurt
  • Pulse and blend until smooth

Easy Blueberry-Banana Blend


Organic Spinach

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR | VALUE PRICED

Cooking with Spinach? Juicing with Spinach? The next couple of weeks look to be a good time to use Organic Spinach in your meals since growers in California are into steady harvests. Mature, flat-leaf Organic Spinach that is sold in bunches is ideal for hearty salads, sandwiches, wraps, braising, sautéing, steaming and juicing recipes. Organic Baby Spinach, which is best for salads, is also available. Organic Spinach is not only flavorful (earthy yet mild), but loaded with vitamins and nutrients too. Eat good. Feel good.

Spinach to make a vegan Popeye proud.

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, healthy food.

The Produce Geek, Jonathan K. Steffy