Organic Picks of the Week 02/17/14

Best if Used By 02/24/14

Organic Picks of the week for February 17th, 2014 features
Spring Mix, Cara Cara Oranges, Romanesco, Rainbow Carrots, and Medjool Dates


Organic Spring Mix

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR | VALUE PRICED

Many of us could use a little “Spring” right now. Organic Spring Mix salad greens are tender, baby lettuces combined together to offer a blend of flavors – from earthy to bitter to nutty to mild. Build some tasty and healthy salads using Spring Mix as a base for other seasonal ingredients. Organic Spring Mix is in peak season from Arizona and California, and some retailers are promoting it on special.

Tender, flavorful, earthy-fresh – Organic Spring Mix salad greens to start something delicious!

TIPS & NOTES:

  • Spring Mix, often called Mesclun or Baby Greens, is a blend of about 3 to 8 green and red Lettuce and Greens varieties.
  • Each leaf variety is grown separately then washed and blended before it is packed.
  • The blend is tender and highly perishable, so keep it cold and dry in the fridge and use it within a few days of purchase.
  • Select packs of Spring Mix that are free from smashed, wet or slimy leaves – the early signs of decay.
  • The slightly bitter flavor of Spring Mix pairs well with sweet fruit and savory nuts. The salad ideas are endless.
  • It also lends itself to vinaigrette-style dressings that can be massaged into the greens in a large bowl prior to serving. This method lightly coats the Spring Mix without damage and helps you avoid pouring too much dressing (and calories) onto the plate.

Hoping-for-Spring Salad

RECIPE: Hoping for Spring Salad
This recipe is meant as a large entrée salad.

  • 1/3 Cucumber, partially peeled, thinly sliced rounds
  • ¼ Red Bell Pepper, thinly sliced into strips
  • 1 Carrot, peeled, then peeled into long ribbons
  • 6 Asparagus Spears, cut into 2” lengths sliced on bias
  • Cover a large plate with Organic Spring Mix
  • Add raw vegetable toppings
  • ½ handful of chopped fresh Italian Parsley sprinkled over salad
  • Drizzle with 1-2 tbsp Balsamic Vinaigrette Salad Dressing
  • Top with cracked black pepper


Organic Cara Cara Oranges

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR

On the outside Cara Cara Navels look exactly the same as regular Navels. Inside the beautiful and exciting differences are revealed. Pink-fleshed Cara Cara Oranges are seedless like normal Navels, but the straight-forward sweetness is balanced by a mild Strawberry to Cranberry-like finish. Cara Cara’s tend to be quite juicy and that pink flesh is an excellent source of Lycopene. They’re perfect for snacking or fun for salads, desserts and prepared with fish.

Outside they look like regular Navel Oranges, but inside Cara Cara Oranges have juicy, pink flesh that is sweet with a light berry finish.

Organic Cara Cara Navel Oranges from California continue to be in their peak season, BUT the harvest is much smaller this year as much of the crop was lost to a December freeze in the San Joaquin Valley. Therefore prices are higher this season and the crop will be sold out earlier than normal, making the next couple of weeks the best time to buy, if you want to try them before next winter. Select Oranges that feel heavy for their size and are free from soft spots.

Organic Romanesco

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR

Romanesco may be one of the most beautiful vegetables in the world to admire. Each floret is like a fractal, providing geometric wonder. Romanesco is an old Italian variety of Cauliflower that is light green in color and forms its head in spiked cones. The flavor is like a mild-Cauliflower with hints of Broccoli. You can prepare Romanesco basically like you would with its creamy-white cousin: cut the florets from the core to then steam, boil, sauté or roast. I started a collection of inspiring Romanesco recipes in a Pinterest board HERE.

Romanesco is as interesting to eat as it is to see. It tastes like mild Cauliflower with a hint of Broccoli. Perfection is steamed florets of Romanesco served drizzled with browned butter.

Romanesco is not a prominent vegetable on many produce department shelves, but here in late winter you stand a better chance than usual of finding fresh Organic Romanesco in Natural Foods Stores, Organic Markets and Food Co-ops. That’s because a couple certified organic farms in California put in sizable plantings of this specialty crop that are being harvested right now.

Organic Rainbow Carrots

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR

How cool do these Organic Rainbow Carrots look? They’re just begging to be sautéed, roasted or shaved into a salad! The Purple Carrots are extra high in beta-carotene, the Yellow Carrots are mild, the White Carrots are rustic and sweet, and I believe you’re familiar with the Orange Carrots. Now is a great time to find Organically grown Rainbow Carrots since California growers are in a stretch of great quality. Stores with a broad variety of organic vegetables may stock them in bunches with tops or 2lb bags without tops.

Did you know that the first carrots were not orange? The variety of colors in old-world seed help carrot lovers discover their “roots.”

High heat, plus a little Olive Oil, Salt & Pepper bring out the sweetness and rich flavor of these Organic Rainbow Carrots.

RECIPE: Easy Roasted Rainbow Carrots

  • 1 Bunch of Rainbow Carrots, washed, topped, peeled
  • Cut the carrots into 1” sections, bias cut (cut thin parts longer)
  • Toss cut carrots in 2 tbsp Olive Oil, ½ tsp Coarse Salt, ½ tsp Cracked Black Pepper
  • Roast on a baking tray at 450 F for 15 minutes
  • Flip the carrots, roast for an additional 15 minutes or until carrots can easily be pierced with a  fork

I’ve started Pinterest board with lots of Rainbow Carrot recipe ideas HERE.


Organic Medjool Dates

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR

Caramel-sweet, plump and soft, Organic Medjool Dates are like an ancient, natural candy – better tasting than any other date variety you’ve tried from a little pouch or tub in the “baking section.” The Medjool variety is larger than other Dates types and is best for eating whole, just don’t forget about the ½” pit inside. Dates are often mistaken for dried fruit, but in fact, the fruit ripen to perfection on tall palm trees in Certified Organic date-palm groves in Southern California and Western Arizona. This past fall’s harvest of fresh Organic Medjool Dates is still at its best – enjoy! Delicious recipe inspiration for Medjool Dates can be found here.

High-protein, high-fiber, high-flavor: Banana-Date Smoothie.

RECIPE:  Banana-Date Smoothie

  • Peel and freeze two ripe Bananas ahead of time
  • Pit and halve 4 Medjool Dates
  • Blend the following in a high-powered blender until smooth
    • Add 2 frozen ripe Bananas
    • 4 pitted Medjool Dates
    • 1-½ cups plain Greek Yogurt

TIPS:

  • Avoid Dates that have a crystallized-sugar appearance, a sign of age.
  • Store Medjool Dates in a plastic bag or sealed tub.
  • Medjool Dates will stay good on your counter for a couple weeks and in your ‘fridge for a couple months.

Why I love Medjool Dates VIDEO.

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