Although plums originated in China, their popularity spread quickly to other parts of the world like Japan, where they were further cultivated, and America, which saw its first plums in the late 1800s. Today, there are over 2,000 varieties of the stone fruit, although 95 percent of the plums in the United States come from Central California. Learn what to do with all those amazing drupes when you read more.
Before you shun certain fruits and vegetables for life, sample them at their peak and see if you feel the same way. Although I grew up swearing off tomatoes, all it took was a locally grown heirloom variety, plucked from the vine that very Summer morning, that convinced me that I did enjoy fresh tomatoes.
Sworn foes of the pea, I challenge you to do the same. Don't like the overly sweet, baby food-like consistency of frozen peas? You're allowed to write them off altogether — but only after you've tried a bowl of in-season, freshly shelled peas and are certain you can't appreciate the toothsome snap that comes with every bite.
Shell sweet, delicate English peas and toss them lightly with a bit of olive oil, vinegar, onion, and torn mint for a classic preparation. See if you'll become an unexpected convert when you read more.
Mangoes are enjoyed both ripe and unripe. To select a fully ripe mango, look for a smooth, leatherlike skin, an intoxicating scent, and a meaty flesh that gives, but isn't mushy. To enjoy unripe or "green" mangoes, select firm fruits and store them in the refrigerator to use before they've ripened. Get inspired to use them in different ways when you read more.
March is such an interesting time of year for seasonal eating: Fall and Winter fruits and veggies are still hanging around the markets, and fresh Spring produce is making an appearance as well. Soon you'll be stocking up on asparagus, artichokes, and strawberries, but consider taking advantage of the last vestiges of the colder season while you still can with tiny, sweet-tart kumquats.
The diminutive fruit is in season from January through April, and although it resembles a miniature orange, it may not be a citrus fruit at all — the jury is still out, but some scientists believe it belongs in its own genus, called Fortunella. A kumquat's flavor is almost like an inside-out tangerine; the edible rind is surprisingly sweet and mild, while the flesh is mouth-puckeringly tart. To maintain their sweet/tart balance, kumquats are typically used whole. A few ways to enjoy them, when you read more.
Brown tomatoes? I wondered as I inspected the label. They had an intriguing greenish-reddish tinge to them, and at less than $4 for five, I couldn't resist taking a few home. They turned out incredibly succulent, with an herbaceous aroma and a rich, sweet, earthy flavor.
The odd-looking variety was developed by Syngenta several years ago. It's got a higher sugar content than most tomatoes and a durable, thick skin that doesn't bruise easily and gives the tomatoes a longer shelf life. It's now grown across Europe, as well as in Canada and Mexico. While I try not to eat tomatoes outside of the Summer season, I have a new go-to when it's unavoidable, and that's the Kumato tomato. It'd be delicious (and beautiful) in a Caprese salad or bruschetta with other red and yellow oranges. Have you ever tried a brown tomato?
This week, the New York Times published a study, showing that 40 percent of food waste occurs in the home. It's a distressing statistic that I am a part of; just last night I opened my crisper drawer to discover a sad bunch of broccoli rabe and a wilted red pepper. Wasting produce is bad for the planet, our wallets, and it's insulting to those who don't have the luxury of forgetting about food.
- Plan ahead and only buy what's necessary. In the times I've been to France and Italy, I was impressed at how often people went shopping for food. People go to local markets almost daily to pick up ingredients for that night's dinner; it ensures that everything is at its freshest and also cuts down on waste. If frequent shopping isn't possible, plan your meals ahead of time. That way, when you do go to the market, you won't buy too much of anything.
- Store produce in plain sight. Once produce goes into the crisper drawer, it's hidden away and easily forgotten. Instead, keep produce on refrigerator shelves as a visual reminder. If you're worried about produce spoiling outside of the crisper drawer, use Evert-Fresh or Debbie Meyer green bags, which actually work in keeping produce fresher, longer. Clear Tupperware also works well.
- Preserve veggies by blanching or freezing. An easy way to preserve the freshness of vegetables is to blanch or freeze them. Both of these techniques help lock in the flavor and nutrients of veggies, while also making them last longer.
Walmart will focus more on working with small- and medium-sized farms and reducing farms' carbon footprint on the environment. Although meeting its lofty goals means local product makes up only nine percent of the chain's produce, nearly half of Walmart's $405 billion in annual revenue comes from food.
While I'm certain that other factors aside from altruism (like brand management and supply chain efficiency) come into play in these decisions, I'm still enthused that a corporate behemoth such as Walmart is setting an example and influencing the market for other grocers to follow. What do you think? Would you buy local produce from Walmart?
Source: Flickr User mjb84
One of the main reasons I buy organic produce is to eliminate the risk of pesticides from my diet. Even with a good wash, I'm still paranoid that I can't get everything off. And since any produce — organic or not — is handled considerably before it makes it to the market, washing is a must. But the washing part has always been a bit confusing. Is water enough, and should it be hot? Does produce need to soak or spin? And, is vinegar or another type of produce wash needed?
Well, thank you, New York Times! This week, it published a story answering all of the above, and here's the skinny: first off, you better be washing that produce. In order to remove pesticides from produce, rub any fruits and veggies while rinsing them with tap water. Removing microorganisms like E. coli is a little trickier. For that, you'll need a vinegar-water solution: nine parts water to one part vinegar. To be on the safe side, clean any produce with a vinegar solution, then finish it up with a 30-second rinse under the tap. Done and done!
It may be approaching Fall, but at Bay Area farmers markets, tomatoes are even more prolific than they were in the early days of Summer. One particularly delicious variety that’s thriving right now is the Early Girl tomato. Early Girls are typically grown using dry-farming, a sustainable, water-saving technique that’s supposed to produce a more concentrated, intense flavor. They also have an unusually short maturation period — they're typically ripe within 50 days of transplanting.
The 'maters, which are a favorite of Alice Waters, have a vibrant red color and a bright, sweet flavor. Because they're so delicious on their own, it's best to enjoy them in preparations that require minimal cooking, to highlight their fresh-from-the-garden juiciness.
Here are a few ideas for enjoying your Early Girls:
- Marry them with a little olive oil and minced garlic and toss with fresh fettuccine for a light and flavorful dinner.
- Combine them with cilantro and jalapeno for a zesty pico de gallo.
- Use them in a flavorful tomato-fennel sauce and serve over grilled swordfish.
- Grill up some bread and toss together diced Early Girls and fresh basil for an elegant bruschetta.
Have you ever come across Early Girl tomatoes?