Posts in Miscellaneous

September Seasonal Foods

September 1st, 2013 Posted by Farm to Table, Miscellaneous 0 thoughts on “September Seasonal Foods”

September Seasonal FoodsThough summer is by far my favorite season, there is nothing quite as exciting for food-lovers as the fall harvest. This month, the markets will begin to glow with the deep oranges and greens of sweet potatoes, squash and Brussels sprouts. Buy up and freeze the last of any berries you find and begin adding some of these fall flavors to your meals.

fresh rucolaArugula: Arugula, also known as “rocket” (which is a better name, no?) is available early summer through early fall. It’s a versatile green that can be used in salads, stir-frys, pestos, and soups. Like most dark, leafy greens, arugula is a good source of iron as well as vitamins A, C, and K and ancient Romans actually considered arugula to be an aphrodisiac. Store arugula in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.

 

Brussels Sprouts XSmallBrussels Sprouts: Brussels sprouts are one of fall’s first specialties. They are beautiful on the stalk, and delicious either sautéed or roasted. As a cruciferous vegetable, they provide support for breast health and optimal estrogen metabolism. Look for Brussels sprouts with firm, compact heads and clean ends. They shouldn’t be too big – sprouts bigger than 1 inch in diameter will taste too cabbagey.

 

Cauliflower XSmallCauliflower: Another cruciferous vegetable, cauliflower is an easy snack food and pairs well with dips. Choose cauliflower with compact, creamy white florets, and bright green leaves. Old cauliflower with have a yellow hue and tiny black mold spots. Trim the ends as they are too tough to eat and enjoy raw, blanched, steamed, or roasted. It’s white color and mild flavor make cauliflower a great substitute for mashed potatoes or rice.

Dates XSmallDates: Dates are one of the sweetest fruits in the world – and should be treated as such. Snacking on dates won’t benefit your blood sugar, but dates are great to use as a sweetener in baked goods, desserts, and blended drinks. Dates will be wrinkled, but they shouldn’t be hard. Look for dates that are soft, with an almost greasy skin. Avoid those that have turned white or have crystalized sugar on the skin.

 

Fig XSmallFigs: As one of the most perishable fruits, figs should be eaten very quickly. Figs have the highest calcium content of any fruit and are also a good source of fiber. They can be eaten whole and raw as well as baked and dried. Select figs that are soft, but not mushy. Check the stems to make sure they are firmly in place, loose or soft stems mean the fruit is past its prime.

 

Pear XSmallPears: Pears are another classic symbol of fall. High in fiber and vitamins, they make a great snack and their boron content helps our bodies retain calcium, providing a link to osteoporosis prevention. Pears ripen best off the tree, so select pears that are still a little hard and allow them to ripen at home. Stand them up on their bottom in a paper bag and allow them to ripen over 2-3 days.

 

Bunch of fresh picked broccoliniRapini: The Italians brought rapini to the United States and both its long stems and thin leaves are edible. Another cruciferous vegetable, rapinin has the same cancer-fighting properties as Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, but with a milder taste.

 

 

sweet potato isolated on whiteSweet Potatoes: Though a potato, sweet potatoes are actually quite low on the glycemic index and provide a rich source of antioxidants and carotenes. Select sweet potatoes that are firm and don’t have any cracks, bruises, or soft spots. Store them at room temperature as refrigeration negatively alters their flavor. The skin contains many valuable nutrients, so don’t peel them!

August Seasonal Foods

August 1st, 2013 Posted by Farm to Table, Miscellaneous 0 thoughts on “August Seasonal Foods”

August Seasonal FoodsAugust signals the final long weeks of summer. It tends to be filled with travel, friends, and long meals enjoyed outdoors on warm summer nights. The markets are still lingering with summer fruit and beginning to burst with pre-fall harvest. I encourage you to get to your local farmer’s market (or a new market if you’re on vacation!) to experience the bounty for yourself. Here are a few of my favorites for August:

Tuna XSmallAlbacore Tuna: Fresh albacore is available between June and October, and canned tuna is available year-around. Tuna is an excellent source of omega-3 fats, which provide anti-inflammatory health benefits. Though tuna is a bit controversial due to its potential mercury content (and BPA contamination from cans), you can find out what to look for when purchasing tuna by visiting Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch.

 

Apple XSmallApples: Though apples are commonly associated with autumn, they become available during August and are a good source of fiber, vitamin C, and support stable blood sugar levels. The variety of apple you choose will depend on your personal taste preferences, but look for apples with firm skin and rich color. Like the adage says, “one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch,” it’s best to remove any bruised apples from the group as they release large amounts of ethylene gas that will decrease the shelf life of the others.

fresh basil leaves on white backgroundBasil: From the same family as peppermint, basil provides both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. Try to select fresh basil as its flavor is superior to dried basil. Look for deep green leaves that are free of dark or yellow spots.

 

 

Red GrapesGrapes: An overwhelming amount of research has been done on the health benefits of grapes, showing benefits to the cardiovascular system, respiratory system, immune system, inflammatory system, blood sugar regulating system, and the nervous system. Fully ripe grapes have the highest antioxidant content, so select grapes that are plump, without wrinkles, and firmly attached to the stem with the color around the stem the same as the rest of the grape.

Potato XSmallPotatoes: Potatoes are a good source of vitamin B6, vitamin C, copper, potassium, manganese, and dietary fiber. Look for potatoes that are firm, relatively smooth, and haven’t been washed. Avoid those with decay, green spots, or sprouts. Potatoes will keep in a cool, dark place for 2 months.

 

Sage XSmallSage: Sage has one of the longest histories of any medicinal herb, having been used by ancient civilizations as a preservative, and was believed to promote immortality. Today we know that sage contains a variety of volatile oils, flavanoids, and phenolic acids known for their anti-inflammatory and brain-boosting effects. Fresh sage is superior in flavor to dried, so look for sage with vibrant, green-grey leaves that are free from brown or yellow spots.

strawberryStrawberries: A common fruit, strawberries are prized for their sweet taste, but also provide supportive nutrients for the cardiovascular system, blood sugar balance, and cancer prevention. During August, strawberries are at the tail end of their peak season, so enjoy them while you can! Since strawberries don’t ripen further once picked, select berries that are plump and deep red with attached caps. They’re very perishable so be sure to enjoy them within a few days of purchase.

Tomatillo With HuskTomatillos: If you’re ever so lucky as to come across these rare little treats, be sure to pick up a bunch and make some salsa! Their flavor is a bit more tart, and more suitable for most recipes when they’re a bit unripe, so look for tomatillos that are bright green and still quite hard. To store, remove the husks and keep them in the vegetable compartment of your refrigerator. Tomatillos have many qualities similar to tomatoes, except for lycopene. Tomatillos instead contain an antioxidant called withanolide, which is known to have anti-bacterial and anti-cancer properties.

June Seasonal Foods

June 4th, 2013 Posted by Farm to Table, Miscellaneous 0 thoughts on “June Seasonal Foods”

June Seasonal Foods

 

June – the month summer officially arrives. It’s been tempting us with stone fruits and berries for weeks now, but I’m ready for full-on, corn-on-the-cob summer! Savor the end of your early-spring produce because it will soon give way to full-blown summer. Here are my favorite farmer’s market picks for June:

Artichoke XSmallArtichoke: The artichoke heart has found its place in fine cuisine, but it’s the leaves that contain the most beneficial nutrients. There are plenty of ways to cook artichokes so the entire vegetable is edible, stem and all, but even just eating the meat from the leaves will provide you with a good source of many nutrients. Best known for digestive support, the nutrients in artichokes support the gallbladder and increase bile flow, regenerate liver tissue, and are a great source of fiber. Choose artichokes that feel heavy for their size, with tight leaves and a freshly cut stem.

Blackberry XSmallBlackberries: Along with most berries, blackberries are an excellent source of antioxidants, relieving the body of oxidative stress that can lead to cancer. Composed of many individual “druplets”, each like a small berry with one seed, each druplet contributes extra skin, seeds, and pectin, making them one of the highest fiber content plants in the world. Blackberries are also a great source of ellagic acid, an antioxidant shown to protect the skin from damage from ultraviolet light – how convenient that they ripen during the summer months! Select blackberries that have a deep color and avoid those will hulls still attached (a sign of premature picking). They don’t ripen after picking, so eat them right away as they only last about 2-3 days. They are best stored unwashed and arranged in a single layer on a plate in the refrigerator.

The blackberryBoysenberries: Boysenberries are less commonly found in your local grocery store, so if you come across them at your farmer’s market, be sure to pick up a basket! They are a cross between blackberries and raspberries with a dark purple color and you should see them appearing in late June. Each different fruit has a unique nutritional profile, and boysenberries are no different. As part of the berry family they are also high in antioxidants and fiber, but boysenberries specifically are an excellent source of folate. Like raspberries and blackberries, boysenberries are very delicate and should be handled with care and eaten quickly. Don’t wash them under running water, rather dip them in a bowl of water and lay flat to dry on a towel. Store in a single layer in the refrigerator.

Uncovered green raw cornCorn: Though corn is be available year-around and most of us consume our share of this grain through tortillas, chips, and popcorn; there’s no comparison to a fresh, sweet ear of corn found at the farmer’s market during the summer. Corn, in its natural form, is an excellent source of vitamin C, manganese, antioxidants, and fiber. Purchase organic corn to avoid genetically-modified varieties and look for ears with bright green, tight-fitting leaves. For the sweetest flavor, eat fresh corn the day of purchase and hold off shucking until the last minute.

Melon XSmallMelons: Melons are actually a summer variety of autumn’s gourds, but are consumed as fruits due to their much sweeter and juicy flavor. Most melons contain about 95% water, making them a cooling and soothing summer fruit that has been known to relieve heartburn and cleanse the kidneys from the remnants of metabolism. Melons contain collagen, which promotes healthy, firm skin and the minerals in melon provide good digestive support. Look for melons with a symmetrical shape and bright skin. Some heirloom varieties are pale in color, but avoid melons that appear dull compared to the others. Most importantly, look for the “field spot,” the large spot that was in contact with the ground, indicating that it sat in the field for a long time, allowing it to mature and sweeten.

Fresh OkraOkra: Okra grows in warm temperate regions and the pods are harvested while still immature to be eaten as a vegetable. Okra is an excellent source of fiber and mucilaginous content, which aids digestion and relieves constipation. Okra is also a good source of flolates, vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin K. Choose small pods, no more than 4 inches in length, with firm, bright, and unblemished skin. Store okra in a paper bag in the warmest part of the refrigerator for up to 3 days as overly cold storage can speed decay.

Pluot XSmallPluots: 75% plum and 25% apricot, pluots are sweeter than their parents with more antioxidants as well. Pluots are an excellent source of carotenoids and flavanoids that help maintain eye health and can provide protection against cancer and heart disease. Look for pluots at your farmer’s market as they’re difficult to find at the grocery store. Select firm, ripe pluots that are free from any bruising or cuts. Ripe fruits give to pressure and are very fragrant. Ripe stone fruits are very delicate, so handle with care and don’t pile them on top of each other.

Raspberries XSmallRaspberries: Filled with antioxidants, fiber, and just the right mix of tart and sweet, it’s easy to see why raspberries are one of the most popular berries in the world. Recent research has found that organic raspberries have significantly higher antioxidant capacity than non-organic raspberries. To further increase your antioxidant benefit, select raspberries that are fully ripe. Choose berries that are firm, plump, and deep in color, avoiding those that are soft, mushy, or moldy. They are highly perishable, so store unwashed berries in a single layer in your refrigerator and enjoy within 1-2 days.

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