All Posts In In Season

Market Watch: Japanese Eggplant (and an Easy Eggplant Dip Recipe)

by in Farmers' Market Finds, September 12, 2011

eggplant spread
When tiny, cutie-pie eggplants turned up in my CSA box, they were a little small for eggplant parm, but that’s not where my eggplant options end.

Get our quick eggplant dip recipe »

In Season: Grapes

by in Healthy Recipes, In Season, September 9, 2011

grapes
Grapes are in season right now. Get them fresh off the vine and try some of our favorite ways to prepare them.

When, Where, & What?
Grapes (Vitis spp, Vitaceae) are edible berries grown in clusters on small shrubs or vines. They grow best in temperate zones such as Italy, France, Spain, Mexico and Chile. New world settlers found that grapes brought over from Europe didn’t survive the winter cold and were prone to fungal diseases. They developed the hybrid varieties found in America today. Today California is the largest producer of “table grapes” – the kind for snacking.

There are thousands of varieties of grapes. Some are grown for wine production while others are grown to be eaten as-is. Concord grapes are used to produce grape juice, jams and jellies. They’re blue in color, with a thick, chewy skin and contain seeds. They’re sold as table grapes along with other varieties like Interlaken, Lakemont, Einset Seedless and Venus. Muscat grapes are turned into raisins while Riesling grapes are used to produce wine. Dana found fun varieties when she scouted her local farmers market including Mars and Juniper grapes.

Grapes are typically round or oval, smooth skinned and juicy. Some varieties contain seeds while others are seedless. Some are “slip skin” where the skin can easily be removed while other varieties have skin that is tough to remove. Grapes are divided into categories by color: white or black (or red). White grapes range in color from pale yellow-green to light green, while black varieties range in color from light red to deep purple. In the U.S., peak season for grapes is August through October.

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Herb of the Month: Tarragon

by in Healthy Recipes, In Season, September 7, 2011

tarragon
Turned off by this green herb’s anise flavor? Don’t discount tarragon just yet. This delightfully fresh and fragrant herb will find its way into your culinary heart if you’re just willing to give it a chance.

Tarragon Basics
This under-appreciated herb is a staple in French cuisine. It made our list of Top Herbs for Healthy Cooking because it’s easy to grow (it will last all summer and through to the fall) and its feathery leaves are just as tasty frozen or dried as they are fresh. It certainly does have an element of anise flavor but the accompanying sweetness will make even the most devout licorice-hater swoon.

Nutrition Info
In a tablespoon of fresh tarragon, you’ll find about 5 calories. There are also all kinds of nutrients including iron, zinc, potassium, magnesium and vitamins A, C and B6.

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30 Days of Corn

by in In Season, September 1, 2011
grilled corn salsa
We've got 30 ways to love sweet, tender, in-season corn, like this Grilled Corn Salsa.

It’s the peak of the season for sweet corn. Here are 30 ways to enjoy this summer treasure.

  1. Classic and straight up – on the cob with butter and salt
  2. Use our shopping tips to pick the perfect ears.
  3. Use a serrated knife to cut kernels off the cob — add raw kernels to to a salad for sweet crunch.
  4. After cutting off kernels, don’t toss those cobs – use them to flavor and thicken chowder.
  5. Make an easy summertime dinner –Fish Tacos with Chili Mayo and Grilled Corn
  6. Company coming? Make Grilled Corn Salsa and serve with tortilla chips
  7. Hit up the farmers’ market for the freshest corn. Local farmers will have all kinds of unique varieties available.
  8. Cooking Tip: when boiling corn on the cob, add salt and a splash of milk to the water.
  9. Add corn to your favorite pasta salad recipe.
  10. Add freshness and color to a stir fry.
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Market Watch: Cherry Peppers (and Cheesy Hot Pepper Poppers)

by in Farmers' Market Finds, August 30, 2011
cherry pepper poppers
Find hot cherry peppers and grill cheesy, spicy pepper "poppers."

Green peppers just don’t get the love they deserve! This time of year you’ll find all different kinds at the farmers’ markets including sweet bell, mild frying peppers and these little babies – sweet and fiery cherry peppers.

These tiny peppers just scream “stuff me.” They’re not as hot as jalapenos, but they still have a bit of heat. Try this grilled appetizer, a take on japaleno poppers made with seafood, cream cheese and salty Manchego. They make deluxe appetizers but only take minutes to make.

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Why We Love Tomatoes

by in In Season, August 23, 2011
heilroom tomatoes
Tomatoes. We love 'em. (Who doesn't?)

For all you die-hard tomato fans, these babies are now in season! We’ve dedicated this week to celebrating these red gems. Pick some up during your next visit to the farmers’ market and whip up some tomato-licious recipes.

Tomato Facts

Tomatoes were introduced to Italy in the early 16th century but many folks feared they were poisonous since they belonged to the nightshade family (peppers, potatoes and eggplant also belong to this family). The French, however, felt differently about tomatoes and called them “pomme d’amour” (a.k.a. love apples). Colonists who settled in Virginia brought tomatoes with them, but they didn’t become popular until the 19th century.

Tomatoes are technically a fruit since they grow on vines. They come in various shapes, sizes and colors, too. Don’t be fooled into thinking they should all be round —check out some of the crazy tomato finds out there. Read more

Market Watch: Black Raspberries

by in Farmers' Market Finds, August 3, 2011

raspberry granita
While black-raspberry ice cream may be the extent of your black-raspberry knowledge, these sweet and succulent berries (not to be confused with blackberries) do exist in the primitive form – you just won’t find them in most grocery stores.

Scout out your farmers’ market for deep violet raspberries hiding among the typical red varieties. While blackberries (a completely different variety of berry) are easy to come by, I only know of one local farm that grows black raspberries in my area. They’re only available for a short time (usually mid-June to late July). Use them for any raspberry recipe – trifle and salad dressing are just a few favorites. They make an incredibly special and refreshing granita.

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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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