All Posts In In Season

Herb of the Month: Basil

by in Healthy Recipes, In Season, August 1, 2011
basil on pizza
Basil on pizza, one of the many ways to use this versitle herb.

In parts of Italy, men sport a sprig of basil on their lapel if they’re looking for love. Although an interesting fashion statement, we’ll enjoy basil as part of our healthy eats instead.

Basil Basics
The herb basil (Ocimum basilicum, Labiatae) is part of the mint family. It seems to have originated in India about 4,000 years ago. The ancient Greeks called it the “King of Herbs.” The herb gained popularity in England in the 16th century and was brought to the Americas by English explorers.

Basil can be found in different shapes, sizes, and colors — there are over 60 varieties. The most common are large-leaf Italian sweet, purple opal, Thai, lemon, tiny-leaf and African blue. Sweet Italian (a.k.a. sweet Genovese) is probably the one most recognized. The bright green leaves are rounded, have a pungent flavor that’s a cross between licorice and cloves.

The main producer in the U.S. is California, but basil is also grown commercially in India, Israel, Mexico, Yugoslavia, Italy and Morocco.

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In Season: Eggplant

by in In Season, July 25, 2011
grilled eggplant Food Network Magazine’s Hoisin Eggplant.

Grilled eggplant is a summer favorite, but there are plenty of other ways to enjoy this scrumptious delight. Check out these fun eggplant facts (did you know it’s a fruit?) and healthy, delicious recipes.

When, Where, & What?
Eggplants (Solanum melongena, Solanaceae) are part of the nightshade family along with peppers, potatoes and tomatoes. They were originally named after eggplants found in Europe that resembled an egg in shape and color. Eggplants only became acceptable to eat in the U.S. about 50 years ago; prior to that, folks believed that eating it caused insanity, leprosy and cancer.

Eggplants grow on vines, similar to tomatoes, and can be found in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors. They can be white, purple, black or green and vary in length. Their shape can be spherical, curved, or long and narrow. The most common eggplants have a deep purple skin with a teardrop shape and are about 8 to 10 inches long.

Eggplants have a spongy flesh, meaty texture, and slightly bitter taste (the skin is especially bitter). Female eggplants contain more seeds and are more bitter, while male eggplants contain less seeds and have a slightly sweeter flavor. To determine the sex of an eggplant, check  the bottom: a female will have a deep indentation shaped like a dash while a male eggplant will have a shallow, round indentation.

The largest producers of eggplants in the U.S. include Florida, New Jersey and California. They’re also grown in Mexico, China, Italy, Turkey, Egypt and Japan. Popular varieties include Black Beauty, Rosa Bianca, Classic, Orient Express, Black Italian, Japanese, Lavender and Cloud 9. Eggplants are in peak season from July through October.

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In Season: Plums

by in Healthy Recipes, In Season, July 12, 2011
plums
Plums in many colors.

Finally…plum season has arrived! This juicy stone fruit is only in season a short period of time. Be sure to enjoy it while it lasts.

What, Where, When
The plum (Prunus domestica, Rosaceae) belongs to the rose family with cherries, peaches, and apricots. There are hundreds of plum varieties grown throughout the world. Common varieties include French, Italian, Imperial, Greengage, Long John, Castelton, and Fellenburg.

Plums grow on trees in clusters, have smooth skin and a pit in the center. Plums can be oval or round in shape. The skin can be deep purple, red, green, blue, or multicolored. The flesh can be orange, red, purple, yellow, or white. Plums also vary in taste—some are sweet while others are tart. They’re available from July through October.

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Market Watch: Pea Shoots

by in Farmers' Market Finds, July 11, 2011
pea shoots
Tender, sweet, delicate pea shoots at the farmers' market.

A true farmers’ market find: Sweet and tender pea shoots are too delicate and perishable for the supermarket.

Pea shoots are the green, coiled tendrils of the pea plant with delicate rounded leaves. They’re bursting with nutrients like vitamin C, fiber and even some protein. Shoots have a subtle pea flavor and add a fresh bite to salads, seafood recipes, and summer rolls (see recipe below). You can also wilt them into soups or pasta dishes by tossing in right before serving.

Shopping Tip: Choose crisp and bright green shoots. Store in the refrigerator gently wrapped in a paper towel and a plastic bag, use within 2 days.

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8 Ways You Didn’t Know You Could Eat Peaches

by in In Season, July 6, 2011
peach and tomato salad
Tomato-Peach Salad from Food Network Magazine.

summer festWe’re teaming up with food and garden bloggers to host Summer Fest 2011, a season-long garden party. In coming weeks, we’ll feature favorite garden-to-table recipes and tips to help you enjoy the bounty, whether you’re harvesting your own goodies or buying them fresh from the market. Today, we’re exploring peaches.

Peaches are finally in season, so get your hands on some while they last and enjoy them in as many ways as you can (but don’t forget to freeze some for the colder months!). Here are 8 healthy ways to eat the sweet stone fruits that you might not have thought of.

8. As a side dish: Tomato-Peach Salad from Food Network Magazine (pictured above)

7. With chicken: Bobby Flay’s Grilled Chicken With Spicy Peach Glaze Read more

Herb of the Month: Dill

by in Healthy Recipes, In Season, July 3, 2011
dill
Liven up summer dishes without adding extra fat or calories with a few sprigs of green.

The Romans believed this herb was a symbol of good luck. This month we’re celebrating fresh and feathery dill.

Dill Basics
Also known as dill weed, you can identify this quick-growing herb by its soft feather-like leaves, sweet aroma and clean flavor. This green herb is very delicate so it’s best added to raw dishes or towards the end of cooking to preserve the flavor. Read more

Why We Love Fennel

by in In Season, June 30, 2011
fennel
How do we love thee, fennel? Let us count the ways.

Show some love to this under-appreciated veggie from the parsley family. Don’t be turned off by its licorice-like flavor. When prepared right, it’s easy to love.

Fennel Facts
The Puritans used to chew on fennel during long church services and came to be known as the “meeting seed” for this reason. Fennel is composed of a bulb which is white or pale green in color, with stalks topped with green feathery leaves called fronds. Each part of the plant is edible – though the texture varies (the bulb is crisp while the fronds are delicate and tender with a stronger flavor) Raw fennel is slightly sweet with and resembles the taste of anise (or licorice). Knowing how to compliment the delicate flavor of this veggie will unlock its goodness. Read more

Cranked Up Cocktails

by in In Season, June 27, 2011
Robin Miller's cocktails
Robin's (seven!) summer sips, made with fresh ingredients -- no processed mixes here.

It’s no secret that I love a cool cocktail at the end of the day. They call it “happy hour” for a reason. I’m mostly a vodka drinker but I enjoy refreshing libations with rum and tequila too. Check out my rather large selection of concoctions below. Why put cocktails on the Healthy Eats page? Because I’ve added a variety of vitamin- and antioxidant-rich fruits and juices to each signature drink. There’s definitely something for everyone (everyone over 21 that is!).

Pineapple Caipirinha: Combine in a glass: 2 lime wedges (1/2 of a lime) and 2 teaspoons superfine sugar; smash together until sugar dissolves. Fill glass with ice. Add 1-2 ounces cachaca (Brazilian rum) and 4 ounces good-quality pineapple juice. Garnish with lime.

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Update: Where Should You Spend Your Organic Dollar?

by in In Season, June 16, 2011
Organic Produce
Find out what fruits and veggies are most important to buy organic.

Sure, we’d probably all love to buy every fruit and veggie organic, but it’s not always affordable to purchase everything from the often higher-priced organic section.  Luckily, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) keeps a running list of the fruits and veggies that are most and least contaminated — here’s how they updated the list for 2011.

Find out the most important foods to buy organic »

30 Days of Summer Berries

by in In Season, June 15, 2011
Summer Berries
Here are 30 of our favorite ways to enjoy berries. What are yours?

Whether you prefer strawberries, raspberries, blueberries or blackberries, don’t miss the prime season for these plump, juicy treasures. Here are 30 ways to enjoy these nutritious little delights — one for each day in June.

30 ways to enjoy summer berries »

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