Organic Picks of the Week 03/24/14

Best if Used By 03/31/14

Organic Picks of the week for March 24th, 2014 features
Gold Nugget Mandarins, Cucumbers, Abate Fetel Pears, Navel Oranges, and Strawberries


Organic Gold Nugget Mandarins

BEST FLAVOR | PEAK SEASON

Strike it rich in flavor this week! How? Mine through your local organic market or food co-op to see if you can discover Gold – in season Organic Gold Nugget Mandarins to be exact. Stake your snacking-claim on a ½ dozen of them or so, that way you can bank on a tasty citrus snack

Snacking treasure: in-season Organic Gold Nugget Mandarins.

What’s a Gold Nugget? One of the last of the organic snacking citruses available this season from California growers, Organic Gold Nugget Mandarins are in their peak season here in late March and into April. The skins are deep orange in color and appear pebbled and bumpy – like a nugget of gold, I suppose. Inside of this virtually seedless mandarin the orange-gold flesh is sweet and juicy. They’re acidic enough to be bright, yet richly sweet, making them an excellent snacking variety for both kids and adults. Organic Gold Nugget Mandarins peel and section fairly easily and are good on the go.

TIPS:

  • Select Mandarins that feels heavy for its size, since they’ll have more juice.
  • The fruit’s skin can feel a little puffy – those will likely peel quite easily – but avoid Mandarins with soft, squishy spots which are a precursor to decay.
  • Store Mandarins in the fridge unless you’ll be consuming them within a couple days of purchase.
  • Loose displays of Organic Mandarins are typically priced by the pound. As a frame of reference, it would take both hands to hold roughly a pound of Mandarins.
  • Can’t find Organic Gold Nugget Mandarins? Organic Murcott Mandarins are still a delicious choice too.


Organic Cucumbers

PEAK SEASON | VALUE PRICED

They’re finally coming on! Organic Cucumbers have been expensive and in short supply since 2014 began, but that is beginning to change this week as organic growers in Mexico are coming into bigger harvests from their Spring crop. With a cool, crunchy texture, Organic Cucumbers are great for salads, snacking and dipping. Excellent for juicing, Cucumbers have anti-inflammatory and detoxifying properties, plus they add plenty of liquid volume to juice blends. Look for more affordable prices and steadier supplies where you shop for organic produce during late March and into April.

Affordable Organic Cucumbers are back in season for your salads and green juices!

RECIPE IDEAS:

TIPS:

  • The bitter taste some people dislike in regular salad-type Cucumbers is found in the skin. For a more mild flavor, peel off some or all of the skin. Mature cucumber seeds can sometimes be bitter too, so taste the cucumber first and decide if you
  • Choose Cucumbers that feel firm and have no sunken areas.
  • Organic Cucumbers, grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, are not waxed to extend their shelf life so try to use them within a few days of purchase.
  • If you desire a milder Cucumber without seeds that has a more tender skin – Organically grown European-style Seedless Cucumbers (aka English Cucumbers) are in season from Mexican and Canadian greenhouses. They come individually wrapped and are more expensive by the each, but the Seedless Cucumbers are longer and 100% usable with no peeling needed.


Organic Abate Fetel Pears

BEST FLAVOR | PEAK SEASON

Old world pear. Timeless flavor. Abate Fetel Pears are named for a French monk who first bred them in an abbey orchard in the 15th century. They are quite popular in southern Europe, especially Italy – here’s why. Abate Fetel Pears are long and slender with a slight curve at the top of the neck. Their skin is green to yellow in color with natural freckles and areas of brown russetting. How do they taste? Abate Fetel are crisper than an Anjou and honey-sweet like a Bosc. Yes, they’re great for salads or baking. A pear as special as the Abate Fetel is best enjoyed as a stand-alone snack or dessert, paired with some fine, strong cheese.

Abate Fetel: An old European variety gets renewed popularity from organic shoppers with texture that is crisper than Anjou and honey-sweet taste like Bosc.

TIP: Allow Abate Fetel Pears to ripen at room temperature until they give just slightly under thumb pressure near the stem for a sweet and fruity-flavored piece of fruit. Check them daily. Too hard and you won’t enjoy the sweetness at its best. Too soft and they might become mushy or mealy inside.

Abate Fetel Pears are not a commonly grown variety in US orchards, but in certified organic orchards in Argentina (where it is their fall right now) it is peak season for Abate’s. Some of the harvest stays in South America, but much is exported the Europe…and the past few years more are now making their way to the States too. Keep an eye out for Organic Abate Fetel Pears at natural foods stores and organic produce departments through late April.


Organic Navel Oranges

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR

The familiar sweetness, the pleasing juiciness and memorable aroma of a freshly peeled Navel Orange makes me happy. What a satisfying, classic snack! No seeds. Not too difficult to peel, section and share, or cut into snack-friendly wedges. Healthy too, with all the Vitamin C and fiber!

Enjoy the sunshiny flavor of Organic Navel Oranges while the season is still going.

In-season Organic Navel Oranges continue at their peak into mid-April –  that means you’re likely to purchase fruit that’s juicy and flavorful. Find the juiciest ones by selecting Navels that are heavy for their size. BUT this was a tough year for the organic citrus growers of the San Joaquin Valley of California who lost a large portion of their crop to freeze damage early in the season, so prices are higher than prior years.

Ever try low-acid, big flavor pink-fleshed Navels? Those are called Cara Cara Oranges and they’re in season organically right now too!


Organic Strawberries

PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR | VALUE PRICED

Need some clean, tasty berries this week? Go with Organic Strawberries. The quality has been nice from both Mexico and California – firm berries with deep red color. And the flavor is improving as the season moves on. The special varieties grown for the Driscoll’s brand have really tasted of sweet Spring!

Best berry this week? Organic Strawberries!

TIPS:

  • At the store, inspect the packages from all sides, avoiding containers with wet spots on the berries or bottoms of the containers.
  • Look for plump, red berries with healthy looking, green caps.
  • Keep them cold in the fridge, but they’ll have better taste and texture if you use them within a couple days.
  • Wash Strawberries under cold water just before hulling the tops and serving them.

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