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Organic Picks of the Week 8/02/16

tomatoes4

Organic Picks | August 2nd, 2016

Heirloom TomatoesFresh FigsChampagne GrapesSunGold KiwifruitPluotsSweet Corn

Best if used by 8/14/16

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Organic Heirloom Tomatoes

Peak Season    Best Flavor

Heirloom Tomatoes and summer go hand in hand for me. It is all about flavor and legacy with Heirlooms.

Organic Heirloom Tomatoes season is for people that 1) want their Tomatoes that taste like something memorable, 2) care about where the seeds came from and 3) care how the plants are grown. Organically grown Heirlooms Tomatoes are now in peak season from small and medium sized farms across many parts of the country. August will be prime time from organic farms in my region (the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast) like Lady Moon Farms. Discover the tapestry of Tomato flavor out there. Heirlooms are perfect chopped for homemade fresh salsa or sliced for a Caprese salad. I often enjoy them simply with a dash of coarse salt and cracked pepper, or sliced thick for a sandwich.

What exactly are Heirloom Tomatoes?

Most modern, round Tomatoes have been hybrid-bred for consistency of size, shape, color, shelf-life and firmness – all so that they can safely make it through the supermarket supply channel and into your kitchen without getting soft or going bad. Heirlooms, on the other hand, are old and diverse varieties that have been around since WWII. Some have been passed down over the years by a family and others were created through natural cross-pollinations, still others were commercially produced by a seed company or university ag program over 75 years ago. With Heirloom varieties you can take seeds from this year’s fruit and plant it year after year and get the exact same tomato plant. Each Heirloom variety has its own special taste, texture, shape, size and color characteristics that make them unique and wonderful in their own way.

“Wait, these Tomatoes feel SOFT!”

Organic Heirloom Tomatoes are soft to begin with – you should expect them to have a little give. Since they are not hybridized for shelf-life or firmness, do not expect a long shelf-life. Use them quickly. Refrigerating Heirloom Tomatoes will only make them softer.  Oh, and they’re ugly by most normal standards, …but the flavor, whether sweet, earthy, bold, tangy or bold – is always beautiful! Since Heirlooms are not bred for maximum production or disease resistance – yields are typically smaller and they cost more to grow. That is why you can expect to pay more at the register. What is flavor, farming and philosophy worth to you?

What do they taste like?

There is a broad range of flavors when it comes to Heirloom Tomatoes and that is a great thing! In my experience, the following color categories have some flavor similarities, but this is by no means a definitive guide. Explore and discover for yourself!

  • Reds: rich tomato taste, sweet with noticeable acidity, “Beefstake” often in the name
  • Pinks: pronounced acidity, full throttle tangy garden tomato taste, “German” often in the name
  • Yellows: sweeter flavor than most red varieties, often less acidic
  • Browns: bold, earthy and intense flavors, “Black,” “Purple” or “Russian” often in the name
  • Striped: range from bitter to sweet depending on the variety or how ripe the fruit is when picked

 

Heirlooms are perfect chopped for homemade fresh salsa or sliced for a Caprese salad. I often enjoy them simply with a dash of coarse salt and cracked pepper, or sliced thick for a sandwich.

Discover Heirloom Tomatoes

Organic Fresh Figs

Peak Season    Best Flavor

Have you discovered Fresh Figs?

Most people only eating experience with figs is Dried Figs, and likely in the form of a cookie or dried fruit bar. Is the flavor the same? Comparing dried Figs to fresh Figs is a bit like comparing the flavor of raisins to fresh Grapes – it’s similar, yet a very different eating experience. Ripe Fresh Figs have tender skin and a soft, gooey flesh, and can be eaten whole (except for the stem) or sliced into wedges. The fruit tastes sweet, rich and slightly earthy. Fresh Figs are excellent for eating whole as a snack, for desserts, or in sweet and savory baking recipes. Figs wrapped with bacon? Oh yea!

Organic Fresh Figs are here! August and September will be the peak season for Organic Fresh Figs from California. The main variety you’ll find in organic produce sections and natural foods stores right now is the classic Black Mission Fig with charcoal black skids and sweet flesh. Sticky-sweet green skin varieties are also available – a must try for fig lovers.

Fig How-To

  • Selecting: Be gentle! Fresh Figs are delicate so handle with care. Skin scars and overall skin color rarely impact the flavor, but closely inspect packages to avoid Figs with leaks, punctures or smashed areas which will quickly go bad.
  • Ripening: Fresh Figs are ripe and sweet when they become soft to a gentle squeeze. Soft is good. You can keep them at room temperature for a day to soften or in the fridge for maybe a week if you can’t eat them right away.
  • Eating: The skin is edible, but the stem is not. I love to hold them by the stem and eat the rest of the fruit whole – yum! Slice them in to wedges to top a salad or throw them into a smoothie to add rich sweetness. They pair well with sweet dishes, savory dishes and salty meats.
  • Recipes: Here is an expansive collection of recipe ideas to feature the rich, old-world flavor of Fresh Organic Figs.

 

Organic Fresh Figs are here! August and September will be the peak season for Organic Fresh Figs from California.

Fresh Fig How-To

Organic Champagne Grapes

Peak Season    Best Flavor

Here’s a fun thing to try during mid-summer: Organic Champagne Grapes! Wait, wine grapes? Really? Nope, these are not the famous wine grapes from the Champagne region of France used to make the celebratory bubbly.” Organic Champagne Grapes are actually miniature-sized Seedless Grapes that grow in tight clusters on tender, thin stems. They’re the ultimate dessert grape – intensely sweet and flavorful. The name comes from the “tiny bubbles,” I suppose, and the fact that they were photographed with a glass of Champagne at some point.

Organic Champagne Grapes taste rich and deeply sweet with a hint of tanginess underneath. Try a pack of these this August just for fun. Rinse them, grab some scissors to snip them into bite-sized clusters and enjoy the reaction from friends and family.

How do you eat them? I enjoy eating them by grabbing the thick base of the stem on a cluster, biting down on the whole bunch, and then pulling the main stem from between my teeth. Sure, you might get a few mini-stems in with the grapes but they’re so tender you hardly notice them as you chew.

Tiny Bubbles! Champagne Grapes for snacking – what are they?

 

Rinse them, grab some scissors to snip them into bite-sized clusters and enjoy the reaction from friends and family.

Organic SunGold Kiwifruit

Peak Season    Best Flavor

You gotta try these!

So, you’ve tasted Green Kiwifruit before – maybe you liked it, maybe you didn’t – but SunGold Kiwifruit are much more accessible thanks to their extra sweet and mellow flavor. Kids love ‘em! Unlike Green Kiwifruit, SunGold Kiwifruit have a smooth, dark brown skin that is almost more a tender-shell than skin and a deep golden bronze flesh that is less acidic than typical Kiwifruit. I love the taste of the SunGold variety – sticky sweet, juicy and refreshing, tropical yet not intense.

SunGold is a newer variety from Zespri, a New Zealand organization that is essentially a cooperative of growers marketing their fruit to the world. The variety is already a smash hit in Japan, Taiwan and other Asian countries, but was only introduced in North America last year, so you may have to ask the produce manager at your local store to bring some in. Peak season Organic SunGold Kiwifruit are available in the US organic produce departments at natural food stores and food co-ops during July through September.

SunGold How-To

When is SunGold Kiwfruit ripe? Hard = tart. Slightly Soft = Sweet and Juicy!

Ripening Info: SunGold Kiwifruit are picked hard but at peak maturity and ripen off the vine, slowly. An unripe SunGold Kiwifruit is hard and not very juicy, while a ripe SunGold Kiwifruit will make come back for seconds with its sweet and mellow flavor and juicy flesh! A SunGold Kiwifruit is ready to eat when it gives to a gentle squeeze in the palm of your hand. The softer the fruit, the sweeter and juicier they’ll taste. Store firm SunGold Kiwifruit at room temperature until they’re ripe, or place them in a paper bag to speed up the process by trapping the natural ethylene emitted by the fruit. Ripe SunGold Kiwifruit can be held at that stage for about week in the fridge if you’re not ready to eat them.

How do you eat a SunGold Kiwifruit? The easiest way to enjoy a ripe SunGold Kiwifruit simply slice it in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. It’s like a sweet treat in that comes in its own bowl!

What else can you do with SunGold Kiwifruitdiscover ideas here?

SunGold Kiwifruit are fantastic for snacking but here are some of the other ways I’ve enjoyed them include: in smoothies, dried SunGold Kiwifruit, in Muesli, in a sauce over beef, in salads, served warm over grilled salmon, baked into muffins and as part of a salsa.

 

SunGold Kiwifruit have a smooth, dark brown skin that is almost more a tender-shell than skin and a deep golden bronze flesh that is less acidic than typical Kiwifruit

iscover SunGold Kiwifruit, taste the new sweet and mellow variety from Zespri

Organic Pluots (Plumcots)

Peak Season Best Flavor Value Priced

Looking to upgrade your Plums?  Try Pluots, also called Plumcots: Part Plum. Part Apricot. All delicious! (…at least more often than not.) They’re great for snacking, salsas, salads and more!

Mid-summer varieties of Organic Pluots are plentiful during late July and August from certified organic orchards California’s sunny San Joaquin Valley. Growers and plant breeders work tirelessly to come up with the best new varieties of Pluots that are super sweet, juicy and flavorful. They come in many flesh and skin colors – from yellow to ruby flesh – from speckled skin (dappled) to bright red. And Pluot varieties have cool names like the Dapple Dandy and Flavor King. Even if you don’t like regular Plums, you owe it to your taste buds to try some Organic Pluots!

Fun fact: What is that powder-like film on the skin? It’s called “bloom” and it is a natural, protective wax that forms on the fruit as it grows. When you rub up Plum or Pluot it gets it’s shine from the bloom.

Even if you don’t like regular Plums, you owe it to your taste buds to try some Organic Pluots!

 

Mid-summer varieties of Organic Pluots are plentiful during late July and August from certified organic orchards California’s sunny San Joaquin Valley.

Organic Sweet Corn

Peak Season    Best Flavor

One of my summer love is fresh sweet corn.  Organic vegetable farms in Upstate New York, Central Pennsylvania, and other parts of the Northeast as well as Quebec, are into their peak summer harvests of fresh, Certified Organic Sweet Corn – mostly Bi-Color varieties. Now through the end of August will be the best time of the year to enjoy it!

Since Organic Sweet Corn is, of course, grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, you may find some bug damage here and there when you pull back the husk – nothing that can’t be trimmed from the end – but the flavor is good and you get to support chemical-free farming. Fortunately, the NY Organic Sweet Corn I’ve sampled from the Finger Lakes region has had very nice quality.

Organic Sweet Corn Tips

  • Selecting: Choose Sweet Corn that feels full up and down the cob and has green husks.
  • Insect Damage? Organic Sweet Corn, grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, can have occasional insect damage. It happens. Simply cut away the damaged area with a knife. The rest of the ear should be just fine!
  • Storage: Sweet Corn will last in your fridge for about a week when stored in a plastic bag, but will dehydrate and lose flavor every day it sits – so try to use it right away.
  • Recipes? If you want to get fancy with your corn, here are some tasty looking Sweet Corn recipes to try.

Cooking Instructions

  • Boil: Over-cooking is the #1 MISTAKE people make with Sweet Corn, since it can lead to toughness and less flavor. 3-5 minutes in boiling water is really all it takes for perfect Sweet Corn on the Cob.
  • Microwave: Microwave on high “in the husk” for 4-6 minutes. If fresh corn is already husked, wrap in a damp paper towel and microwave on high for about 5 minutes.
  • Grill: Pre-heat Grill to high. Remove loose outer leaves of Sweet Corn. Rinse the husks with water to add some moisture. Grill for 8-11 minutes, flipping 1-2 times. Remove from heat and husk it just before serving. This method adds a smoky flavor to your corn and makes removing the silk a breeze!

Organic vegetable farms in Upstate New York, Central Pennsylvania, and other parts of the Northeast as well as Quebec, are into their peak summer harvests of fresh, Certified Organic Sweet Corn – mostly Bi-Color varieties.

Buy smart. Shop healthy.

The Produce Geek, Jonathan K. Steffy

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