Organic Picks of the Week 03/03/14

Best if Used By 03/10/14

Organic Picks of the week for March 3rd, 2014 features
Shiitake Mushrooms, Murcott Mandarins, Lady Alice Apples, Grape Tomatoes, and Sweet Mini Peppers

Organic Shiitake Mushrooms


The Shiitake Mushroom is a brown capped variety with white gills underneath has a flavor that is rich and smoky. They are an ancient variety that originated in East Asia. Shiitakes are best enjoyed sautéed, braised, steamed or in soups. The stems are a slightly tougher and take longer to cook, so usually the caps are the prized portion. 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, Shiitake Mushrooms are excellent for soups, sautés and roasting.

Shiitake Mushrooms are picked from the logs or wood fiber they grow in and packed right away. As with most mushrooms, dirt is simply part of the equation. So, what is the best way to clean them? Mushrooms are porous and soak up water easily, so 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.

Recipe ideas:

Crispy Roasted BBQ Shiitake Mushrooms & Red Potatoes

RECIPE: Crispy Roasted BBQ Shiitake Mushrooms & Red Potatoes

  • Pre-heat Oven to 425F
  • Wash 4-5 large Red Potatoes, allow to dry
  • Slice Red Potatoes into 1 inch pieces, skin on
  • Remove stems of 2-3oz fresh Shiitake Mushrooms
  • Gently dry-wipe Shiitake caps with paper towel to clean
  • Toss Mushrooms and Potatoes with 2-3 tbs Olive Oil in a mixing bowl
  • Season with BBQ rub seasoning (I use Penzy’s BBQ 3000), re-toss to coat
  • Spread evenly on a bake tray, Shiitake Gills facing up
  • Roast at 425F for 15 minutes
  • Flip, rearrange with spatula, Roast for 15-20 additional minutes
  • When complete, Shiitake caps will be crispy, Potatoes will be easily pierced

Organic Murcott Mandarins


What’s a good organic citrus fruit that’s highly snackable, easy to peel and sweet?  Well, Organic Clementines from California are out of season. And Organic Gold Nugget Mandarins are still just now coming into season, so they’ll be bigger, sweeter and easier to peel in a by mid-March. But before you shed any tears, there’s some exciting news! A few flavor-minded organic citrus groves in California are now harvesting the next Mandarin variety to be in season – W. Murcott Mandarins, aka Honey W. Murcotts.

Easy to peel, Sweet with deep Mandarin flavor, Organic W. Murcott Mandarins are at their best right now.

Small and slightly flat, Organic W. Murcott Mandarins are bright orange inside and out. They are sweet and extremely juicy, feature a rich citrus flavor and are mostly seedless. The thin skin peels simply and becomes even easier peel by hand as the season progresses into mid-March. Look for Organic Murcott Mandarins at natural food stores, organic markets and food co-ops that carry a broad variety of citrus. They’ll likely be display loose and be sold by the pound. Try a few this week while they’re at their best!

What other organic citrus is tasting great right now?

  • Organic Minneola Tangelos are juicy, but peaking on small sizes.
  • Texas and Florida grown Organic Grapefruit are amazing this month. If you like grapefruit – they’re at their best this month! So sweet!
  • Organic Cara Cara Oranges taste really good – sweet with light berry tones.
  • Organic Blood Oranges are almost done for the season. The taste remains rich with pomegranate flavor and is deeply sweet. Enjoy them while you can!
  • I tried some California Organic Kumquats this morning (3/3) and they were the sweetest I’ve had all year!

Organic Lady Alice Apples


Hey, Apple-aficionados: specialty apple variety alert! Limited engagement: Organic Lady Alice Apples. The flavor profile is sweet up front with tones of tartness. It’s a old-fashioned flavor with modern textures – a very enjoyable apple for snacking! They’re also great for fruit mix and fruit trays since the flesh is very slow to brown after cutting. The flesh is crisp and firm. Visible by red streaks of color over a golden skin, Organic Lady Alice Apples have a big black sticker on them with the logo or are sold in 3lb bags with a black “Lady Alice” header.

Lady Alice: Sweet and tart with old-fashioned apple flavor, fantastic for snacking, crisp and firm, streaks of red over yellow skin.

Organic Lady Alice Apples are only available for a very short window of time here in early March at selected Co-ops, Organic Markets and Natural Foods Stores that carry a broad variety of fruit. The fruit was harvested earlier this past fall in Washington and stored in special controlled atmosphere rooms until Spring when the timing for release to the marketplace was best. If you find them this month, I certainly recommend giving Lady Alice a try!

Organic Grape Tomatoes


Organic farms in South Florida have enjoyed ideal growing conditions for Grape Tomatoes and here in early March the harvest is abundant. Bite-sized Organic Grape Tomatoes are perfect for snacking and for topping salads. Open pack, give them a rinse and enjoy! Remember, tomatoes hate the fridge – room temperature is best to preserve their flavor and texture.

Bite-sized Organic Grape Tomatoes

The sweetness of Grape Tomatoes paired with the acidity of Balsamic brightens the earthy crunch of raw Kale.

RECIPE: Balsamic Grape Tomato & Kale Salad

  • 3 Stalks Kale – cut leaf from stems
  • Slice folded Kale leaves into thin ribbons
  • 1 pint Grape Tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • Combine shredded kale with cut grape tomatoes in a mixing bowl
  • Toss with 4 tbsp Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing
  • Allow to rest for at least 2 minutes, then serve
  • Organic Sweet Mini Peppers

If you’re looking for a good ingredient tomato over a snacking tomato – Organic Cherry Tomatoes are also in peak season.

Organic Sweet Mini Peppers


3 BEST things to do with Organic Sweet Mini Peppers: 1) raw for a crunchy-sweet snack, 2) roast or grill with oil-salt-pepper for a savory side, or 3) stuff for a fun appetizer.

Sweet Mini Peppers are like the “Baby Carrots” of the Pepper category. These lil’ babies are awesome! As the name implies, Sweet Mini Peppers are sweet, crunchy, bite-sized and delicious. One to four inches long, Organic Sweet Mini Peppers come packed in pint containers or bags and are in season from Mexico right now. Rinse them with water and they’re ready to snack on raw. Slice the top off and pull out the easy-to-remove seed core and you’re ready to stuff, grill or roast them!

Fiesta Stuffed Mini Peppers
Pesto Shrimp Stuffed Sweet Baby Peppers
Sweet Pepper Poppers Appetizer
Easy Roasted Sweet Mini Peppers

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