Organic Picks of the Week 09/23/14


Organic Picks | September 23rd, 2014

McIntosh ApplesAcorn SquashShiitake MushroomsYellow Onions

best if used by 09/30/14

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Organic McIntosh Apples

Peak Season    Best Flavor

McIntosh variety apples feature a classic flavor that is more tart than sweet along with a juicy, semi-crisp texture making them ideal for old-fashioned baking and sauce recipes. This round-shaped, red-skinned apple best is best as an ingredient, but there are some folks who prefer McIntosh for snacking and salads in spite of their tanginess and medium-crisp texture. HINT: Keep your McIntosh in the fridge since room temperature will make them mealy inside even though the still look fresh on the outside.

Here on the East Coast, the McIntosh – a chance seedling discovered by John McIntosh in New York over 100 years ago – is a variety so ubiquitous that one bite can make you recall Mom’s apple cake or Grandma’s homemade applesauce. But have you ever found Organically grown McIntosh? Here’s your chance. Peak season has arrived for Certified Organic ones grown at orchards in the Pacific Northwest. There are not a lot of Organic McIntosh Apples are in production compared to conventional (which are grown in abundance here in the Northeast US), so the window of the availability is shorter.  Pick up a bag or a handful if you find Organic McIntosh at your local natural food store or coop and enjoy a vintage flavor of fall while you can.

Old-fashioned flavor! Tart-sweet and juicy, Organic McIntosh Apples are in-season!

What Certified Organic “snacking fruits” are at their best this week?

Organic Acorn Squash

Peak Season    Best Flavor    Value Priced

Ah, Fall is here! Time to put away the shorts and get out the jeans, maybe fire up the oven. Speaking of Fall, Fall Squash – aka Hard Squash – aka Winter Squash – is in peak season which means it is readily available, tasting great and priced affordably.

Green Acorn Squash is an easy to use Fall Squash variety. And local harvests of Organic Green Acorn Squash are plentiful here at the start of Fall from farms on the Eastern Seaboard, Mid-West and elsewhere. Fiber-packed Acorn Squash is dark green with patched of orange, has deep ribs and is shaped like… well, an acorn nut. The flesh is yellow to gold, slightly fibrous and has a sweet, slightly nutty vegetable flavor.

Acorn Squash Tips

  • Select Acorn Squash that is hard and has not pitting.
  • Store it for several weeks at room temperature.
  • The easiest way to prepare Acorn Squash is to slice it in half side-ways, scoop out the seeds and pulp, place the halves face down in 1” of water and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until the flesh can easily be pierced with a fork.

Recip: Cider-baked Acorn Squash

This easy dish is a pleasing mix of fall flavors! Carnival Squash, Sweet Dumpling or Golden Acorn can be substituted for Green Acorn Squash in this recipe.

  1. Cut one Acorn Squash in half, scoop out seeds and pulp with a spoon
  2. Spray a large glass baking pan with no-stick olive oil, then place Acorn Squash halves flesh-side down in pan
  3. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes
  4. Flip Acorn Squash up right, then fill both squash halves with Apple Cider and 2 tbsp Butter each
  5. Season squash halves with a light dusting of Ginger Powder, Cinnamon and Cloves
  6. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes more or until flesh can easily be pierced with a fork
  7. Cut halves into quarters, serve with pan drippings

Other Acorn Squash Recipes

Local harvests of Organic Green Acorn Squash are plentiful here at the start of Fall from farms on the Eastern Seaboard, Mid-West and elsewhere.

Organic Shiitake Mushrooms

Best Flavor

Shiitake Mushrooms are an ancient variety that originated in East Asia. This brown, thin-capped Mushroom with white gills underneath has a flavor that is rich and smoky. Shiitakes are best enjoyed sautéed, braised, roasted, steamed or in soups. 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.

Shiitake Mushroom Tips

Cleaning: Shiitake Mushrooms are picked from the logs or wood fiber they grow in and packed right away. Dirt is simply part of the equation. So, what is the best way to clean them? It is important to know that Mushrooms are porous and soak up water easily. 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. Gill side up, slice the caps into ¼ inch strips for sautéing and stir-frying. Whole Shiitake Caps are good for roasting. The stems are a slightly tougher and take longer to cook, so usually the caps are the prized portion. Stems can be saved for making soups.

Smokey and rich, Organic Shiitake Mushrooms are excellent for soups, sautés and roasting.

Recipe: Roasted Shiitake & Sweet Potato Warm Spinach Salad

  1. Pre-heat oven to 450F
  2. Peel 2 Sweet Potatoes (Yams) and cut into 1 inch pieces
  3. Toss cut Sweet Potatoes in a mixing bowl with 2 tbsp olive oil
  4. Season with coarse salt, cracked black pepper and favorite roasting seasoning (I like Penzy’s Northwoods seasoning)
  5. Arrange seasoned Sweet Potatoes on a baking tray and roast for 10 minutes
  6. Clean and trim stems of 3.5oz of Shiitake Mushrooms (about 7-8 mushrooms)
  7. Peel two cloves of Garlic and Slice one Red Onion (Yellow Onion can be substituted)
  8. Toss Shiitakes, Garlic, Onion with 2 tbsp olive oil – season with same as above
  9. Add these veggies to the Sweet Potatoes and roast for 12 minutes at 450F
  10. Flip and rearrange with a spatula, roast for 5 more minutes or until Sweet Potatoes are soft
  11. Combine roasted vegetables with 5oz of Baby Spinach
  12. Toss in a bowl, allow the Baby Spinach to begin to wilt for serving

More Recipe Ideas


Organic Yellow Onions

Peak Season    Value Priced

Yellow Onions are a must-have ingredient for your kitchen. Their bold flavor adds a culinary backbone to a myriad of cooked, sautéed, stewed, braised and stir-fried dishes. Raw Yellow Onions can be a little intense, though that might be exactly what you want for certain recipes. Cooking Yellow Onions until they are translucent softens the pungency and creates a mouth-watering aroma.

It is easy to take it for granted that Yellow Onions are available in the produce department 365 days a year. But… that’s not necessarily the case with Organic Yellow Onions. There are definitely peak seasons during the year when onions harvested from certified organic farms are at their best availability and quality. For late September and October, Organic Yellow Onions are in season from irrigated arid growing regions in California, Nevada and Washington.

Yellow Onion Tips

  • Select Yellow Onions that are free from soft spots, black mold, strong aroma or sprouting.
  • Store whole Onions in a cool dark place like your pantry closet.
  • How to Cut Onions (video)

Select Yellow Onions that are free from soft spots, black mold, strong aroma or sprouting.

Buy smart. Shop healthy.

The Produce Geek, Jonathan K. Steffy

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