Organic Picks of the Week 01/20/14

Best if Used By 01/27/14

Organic Picks of the week for January 20th, 2014 features Blueberries, Fennel, Orlando Tangelos, Red Peppers and Ambrosia Apples


Organic Blueberries

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR

Indeed, it’s summer in Chile – a prime growing area for Blueberries. That means fresh Organic Blueberries in 6oz and 1pt (11oz) packs are traveling by boat and plane to the US this month, and enough of them to keep prices reasonable. It’s hard to stop eating Blueberries when they are as tasty, and yes, the samples I’ve been trying this past week have had excellent flavor – sweet with some tanginess and enough firmness that they pop in your mouth just a little. A superfood for your body and brain, fresh Blueberries are perfect by the handful as a power-snack or for your topping your cereal or yogurt, for making smoothies and shakes too. Here’s a collection of 35 Blueberry Recipes for superfood meals.

Go ahead, grab a handful. Organic Blueberries from Chile are in peak season. Great for your taste-buds, great for your brain.

Select fresh Blueberries by inspecting the top and bottom of the package to avoid shriveled, smashed-together or wet berries. Seek out Blueberries with the silver, powdery “bloom” on them. Bloom is a naturally occurring wax that forms a protective layer on the fruit while it is growing and is a tell-tale sign of freshness! Keep the fruit cold in the fridge and try to use in within a few days of purchase since they’ve already traveled from the Southern Hemisphere. For best shelf-life, wait to wash your Blueberries until just before using.

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 Fennel (Anise)

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR | VALUE PRICED

Fennel fans, rise up! Organically grown Fennel is in peak season from California farms this month. Fennel, aka Anise, has the texture of celery without the stringiness and a natural black licorice flavor that softens and sweetens during cooking. Most people eat the white bulb part but the entire plant is edible.

In-season Organic Fennel is perfect for salads, juicing, sautéing and roasting.

How do you use Fennel?  Shaved Fennel bulb can be used raw in salads for a delicious fresh-crunch. Fennel can be a juicing recipe substitution for Celery or Cucumbers and pairs well with Mint and Lime. Roasting sliced or wedged Fennel brings out a rich sweetness. And sautéing Fennel brings out luxurious caramelization. Check out this beautiful collection of Fennel recipes.

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.

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 – delicious!

JUICER RECIPE: Fennel-Lime Tea Cooler

  • 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)

This is my second favorit Fennel juice recipe: Granny Fennel Green Juice
Juice the following ingredients in a juice extractor for a phyto-nutrient-rich green juice that packs a tart-sweet punch with tones of licorice.

  • 3 stalks Kale
  • 1 bulb of Fennel (feel free to include stems and fronds)
  • 1 Lime, mostly peeled
  • 3 medium Granny Smith Apples

Granny-Fennel Green Juice packs a tart-sweet punch with a mild licorice flavor.

Organic Orlando Tangelos

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR

You want an exceptionally juicy piece of citrus to brighten you day? Try Orlando Tangelos! The Tangelo category of citrus are variations of natural plant breeding crosses between Tangerine and Grapefruit. The “Orlando” variety, created over 100 years ago, is usually fist size and smaller, has light orange skin and a flattened shape. Their flesh is sweet and mild and packed, I mean packed! with juice. The thin skin clings to the flesh so I usually use Orlando Tangelos for hand-squeezed juice. Four pounds of Tangelos will make a pitcher of juice. Orlando Tangelos are in season during December and January from organic orchards in Florida, like Uncle Matt’s.

Juicing pick of the week! Hand-squeezed Organic Orlando Tangelo juice: sweet and mild.


Organic Red Peppers

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR | VALUE PRICED

In health food stores and organic markets, I’ve often found that Organic Red Bell Peppers sell better than Organic Green Bell Peppers, even when the Reds cost more. I suspect that is because shoppers in the know understand that Red Bell Peppers not only taste sweeter but that bright color indicates high anti-oxidant levels.

Did you know that a Red Pepper has more immune system building, energy bolstering Vitamin C than an Orange?

A little bold color is always nice in the cold, wind-washed days of days of winter. Well, the next several weeks look to be an outstanding time to choose Organic Red Bell Peppers since they are in peak season and becoming quite plentiful from Mexico and the greenhouses of Israel. Protected from the elements, the hothouse grown plants produce beautiful, sweet, flavorful Peppers. Select Bell Peppers that have firm shoulders, feel heavy for their size and feature a vibrant appearance.

More Recipe ideas:
Roasted Red Pepper Soup

Herb-Stuffed Red Peppers

Red Pepper, Mushroom & Onion Sauté

Roast your peppers and make Red Pepper Hummus


Organic Ambrosia Apples

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR

Last call for Organic Ambrosia Apples! Supplies from this past fall’s harvest in Washington and British Columbia is selling fast, so enjoy some this January while they’re still around. This exceptional variety has gained a loyal following because the special eating qualities. The fruit is crisp when you bite in, yet finely textured and almost creamy when you chew. The flesh is naturally slow to oxidize (or brown) when cut, making it ideal for salads.

Extra sweet, finely crisp – Organic Ambrosia Apples are a snacking delight!

Greek mythology has a term Ambrosia which means “food of the gods.” A unique apple variety was discovered from chance seedling decades ago in a Vancouver orchard. The fruit from this tree was delicious! – juicy, low in acid, with a pleasing aroma, fully sweet – thus inspiring the mythological name.

Have a sweet tooth, but can’t find Organic Ambrosia Apples where you shop? The next best thing would be the ever-sweet and crisp Organic Fuji variety.

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