pro­duce in season

  • A ran­dom sur­plus of sea­sonal veg­eta­bles may pose a prob­lem worth solv­ing.

    Com­ing out of a flush hol­i­day pantry or work­ing through a fat CSA box, par­tic­u­larly with seem­ingly incom­pat­i­ble or unusual fresh ingre­di­ents, may trip us up at first.

    Take a sec­ond look at what there is to work with in the kitchen. Fen­nel, cele­riac and but­ter­cup squash…then what?

    After a bit of head scratch­ing, turn to an inter­net search for a blog post spout­ing the ben­e­fits of that pecu­liar ingre­di­ent. A recipe pos­si­bil­ity is cer­tain to fol­low.

    A wide spec­trum of menu options will be pre­sented. Decide first on which meal solu­tion to tackle. Break­fast, lunch or din­ner? Snack or appe­tizer? That answer will clear a path to the next hur­dle.

    Cooked or served raw will be the next line to cross. Var­i­ous cook­ing meth­ods will pro­duce com­pletely dif­fer­ent tastes and tex­tures. Com­pare a crisp, crunchy car­rot to that of one, moist and soft, roasted in a hot oven.

    Roast­ing ver­sus grilling pro­duces dif­fer­ent results. Sautéing ver­sus pan fried yields takes it in yet another direc­tion.

    The pop­u­lar­ity of fresh pick­les lends itself to con­vert­ing some of these more obscure veg­gies.

    Thinly shaved, juli­enned and whole items brined or soaked with sweet and sour spices make for good snack­ing and gift giving.
  • Apples and oranges are great.

    No one refutes their solid nutri­tional value or culi­nary ver­sa­til­ity.

    By the time June rolls around, it’s time to mix things up in the fruit depart­ment. We crave the taste of sum­mer in all its stone fruit and berry glory.

    Every trip to the gro­cer or farm­ers mar­ket is a delib­er­ate pur­suit for what’s new in the sea­son.

    Early Cal­i­for­nia cher­ries have found their way to the stands. The sea­son looks to be a short and sweet one with a lim­ited crop this year. North­west cher­ries will quickly fol­low. No need to pout with Rainiers and red vari­eties like Chelan, Teiton and Bings rushed to mar­ket upon harvest.
  • It’s not that we hate cake. Most of us have enjoyed a deca­dent slice of choco­late, coconut or red vel­vet cel­e­bra­tory cake before.

    It tasted great as we toasted the bride and groom, grad­u­ate, retiree or anniver­sary couple.

    Birth­day cakes are a bit dif­fer­ent and very per­sonal. Young ones get tur­tles, trains and car­toon char­ac­ter cakes molded and dec­o­rated to their surprise.

    Teens fre­quently bake their own or one for their friend. They choose ice cream cakes, fun­fetti or Oreo cookie cake. Cup­cakes included for teens and sweet­ness is off the charts.

    Adults get the wide open cake range from car­rot with cream cheese frost­ing to molten choco­late lava and every­thing in-​between.

    Birth­day choices run the spec­trum with­out any guilt over bak­ery pur­chased cakes. Bundts and spe­cialty types go over the top on stun­ning designs. Where to place the can­dles might prob­lem­atic between the swirls, curls, rib­bons and fresh flower petals.

  • The Blos­som Hill orchards are located in Pat­ter­son, Cal­i­for­nia. Some sug­gest this loca­tion to be the world’s best apricot-​growing region.

    Lucich — San­tos Farms have been family-​owned for more than 90 years. For over 35 years, they’ve devel­oped exper­tise in grow­ing, pack­ing and ship­ping Cal­i­for­nia apri­cots and apri­ums under the Blos­som Hill Orchard name.

    Four gen­er­a­tions over­see the daily oper­a­tions. Their over­ar­ch­ing goal is to pro­vide cus­tomers with the best eat­ing, sweet­est, juicy apri­cots.

    Jim Lucich, sales rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Blos­som Hill, said the 2018 crop in Pat­ter­son is lighter than usual. Weather played a part with the crop set. Chill hours were lower than needed, and some cold and rain that came after the bloom had an effect on the crop.

    The com­pany grows its apri­cots in a sustainable-​minded envi­ron­ment. Lucich and San­tos Farms and Blos­som Hill Packing’s objec­tive is to pro­duce pre­mium deli­cious fruit with food safety in mind.
  • Nes­tled between Mount Dia­blo and the Sacramento-​San Joaquin Delta in the East Bay, Brent­wood, Cal­i­for­nia is renowned for grow­ing excep­tional fresh mar­ket pro­duce.

    In par­tic­u­lar, sum­mer cher­ries, peaches and delec­table sweet corn are what local mar­kets and chefs cel­e­brate.

    Hot Cen­tral Val­ley days and cool, off-​shore breezes at night make it the per­fect loca­tion for grow­ing sweet corn.

    The cobs are picked dur­ing the early milk stage of ker­nel matu­rity, when sugar con­tent and mois­ture lev­els are high. This is in con­trast to field corn, which is har­vested in the dry, starchy dent stage. Over the last cen­tury, sweet corn pro­duc­tion in the U.S. has increased as farm­ers and geneti­cists have devel­oped hardier and sweeter vari­eties.

    To clar­ify, most of the corn grown in the United States is the com­mod­ity crop known as field corn. It is used as ani­mal feed, ethanol, whiskey and goes into all kinds of processed foods and food ingre­di­ents. High-​fructose corn syrup, corn starch, and corn oil.

  • Color affects both emo­tions and mood. Win­ter is no rea­son to for­feit bright col­ors. It may well be the absolute best time of year to strut the most vibrant hues on the color chart.

    Cit­rus is at peak of sea­son in avail­abil­ity and taste. Use the many vari­eties to lift spir­its, boost immu­nity and improve menus.

    Out of hand snack­ing is made con­ve­nient with portable “easy peel” vari­etals. This includes navel oranges, man­darins and tan­ger­ines.

    Navel oranges have a sunny fla­vor with a touch of acid­ity. These seed­less fruits are per­fect for mak­ing any dreary day a bit cheerier. A fan favorite, they are burst­ing with unreal juicy sweet­ness.

    Cara Cara oranges are very sweet with pinkish-​red fruit flesh. They have hints of berry and flo­ral fla­vors for a cit­rus change of pace. Con­sider seg­ments added to yogurt, com­potes and desserts.
  • Cal­i­for­nia pear farm­ing areas are arguably in some of the most desir­able and beau­ti­ful places in the state.

    The beauty of his­toric pear orchards con­tributes sig­nif­i­cantly to the appeal of com­mu­ni­ties such as Court­land and Clarks­burg, located in the Sacra­mento River Delta grow­ing region.

    Lake­port and Kelseyville rep­re­sent the Lake County pear grow­ing dis­trict. Ukiah, in the Men­do­cino grow­ing dis­trict, rounds out the real estate.

    Together these grow­ing areas pro­duce approx­i­mately 150,000 tons of pears each year. The vol­ume of pears pro­duced in Cal­i­for­nia has declined in recent years, as has the num­ber of pear farm­ers.

    Even so, the Cal­i­for­nia pear indus­try remains a lead­ing sup­plier of pears to the world.

  • The word veg­etable is based on culi­nary and cul­tural tra­di­tions, not science.

    Edi­ble plants used to make savory dishes are typ­i­cally con­sid­ered vegetables.

    Herba­cious plants that have edi­ble leaves, stems, flow­ers, or roots all claim the veg­etable moniker.

    We exclude some plants that bear fruits, nuts, legumes, pulses and grains. Iron­i­cally, we then arbi­trar­ily deem cour­gettes (squashes, pump­kins, cucum­bers, and the like) in the veg­gie group.

    As Spring emerges, flow­ers are in bloom. There are some veg­eta­bles that tech­ni­cally are flow­ers too. We’re eager for them as the shift of sea­sons hails to locally-​sourced Cal­i­for­nia vegetables.

    Aspara­gus– Cal­i­for­nia pro­duces more than sev­enty per­cent of the nation’s fresh mar­ket aspara­gus. Peak of sea­son depends entirely on weather. This flow­er­ing peren­nial blooms and sprouts on cue depend­ing on the elements.

  • There are ten cel­e­brated national hol­i­days in the United States, so named by con­gress. After those stayed hol­i­days, peti­tions get intro­duced to local, state and national offi­cials for com­mem­o­rat­ing other wor­thy days.

    Fewer than 150 are granted in an aver­age year, across all cat­e­gories, by the pres­i­dent of the United States. Still oth­ers get invoked at a more local level procla­ma­tion.

    Even so, that still gives us every­thing from National Pome­gran­ate Month and National Cherry or Pecan Pie Day to draw atten­tion to the pro­duce indus­try and ingre­di­ents wor­thy of a food hol­i­day.

    How­ever man­u­fac­tured, some of the food related hol­i­days make per­fect sense. National Bar­be­cue Day and National Ham­burger Day coin­cide with the upcom­ing Memo­r­ial Day Hol­i­day week­end.

    For most of the coun­try, Memo­r­ial Day week­end launches the sum­mer out­door cook­ing sea­son. We build mem­o­ries around shar­ing food and cre­at­ing food events in more casual environment.
  • The cal­en­dar page says Novem­ber so all bets are off. The imme­di­ate feel of this new month takes on a more fes­tive and impres­sive aura.

    Maybe we start to pay closer atten­tion to every detail of the plate. Is it pos­si­ble to have even more col­ors avail­able when using fresh ingre­di­ents this month?

    The shift towards apples, pears and cit­rus is evi­dent as they crowd out peaches and nec­tarine dis­plays. Hard squashes and root veg­eta­bles make their way to menu selec­tions at food­ser­vice venues.

    Besides pump­kin every­thing (food and bev­er­ages), there are some easy ways to add drama to the plate. Take Sat­suma man­darins, com­ing on region­ally through­out Cal­i­for­nia, are a good start to glam­our.

    These delight­ful hand fruits have a zip peel and make the per­fect any­time snack. When the indi­vid­ual seg­ments are sep­a­rated, they brighten up a morn­ing break­fast and do more than dec­o­rate a sup­per dish. They perk up a ho-​hum serv­ing right away with a pop of color.
  • Sure, there are more ways than one to accom­plish any given task. Or cut a melon, pineap­ple or mango.

    When ama­teur knife skills clash with more expert tech­niques, there is a lot to be learned.

    Any­one can wield a knife blade. Exact­ing just the right cuts to extract every bit of fruit with­out waste can be tricky. Doing so safely is yet another feat.

    Round-​shaped fruits are espe­cially unruly. Pic­ture a large can­taloupe or hon­ey­dew melon rolling around the coun­ter­top. There is a ten­dency to judo chop it dead cen­ter to stop that action.

    Deft hands will exer­cise patience and exe­cute a plan.

    One clever move is to first cut both ends of the melon off. This cre­ates a flat base on which to stand the melon on end.
  • Food his­to­ri­ans credit Por­tugese cooks for the tasty spread we’ve come to know as mar­malade.

    Orig­i­nally made of quince (marmelo is the fruit’s Por­tugese name), the sweet/​tart gel like paste is used in desserts, breads and cakes.

    Quince are a rel­a­tively unusual fruit in that they are rarely, if ever, eaten raw. Mak­ing them into a jelly/​preserve/​compote allows them to be savored well past their sea­son.

    In Brazil, most marme­los are boiled, sweet­ened and then reduced to a thick jelly-​like paste called marme­lada.

    Quince are very tart and tan­nic, mak­ing them almost impos­si­ble to eat in their nat­ural state. Dur­ing cook­ing, their tan­nins mel­low and change color, giv­ing cooked quince a lovely pink-​to-​reddish hue.
  • Even though straw­ber­ries are grown year-​round in Cal­i­for­nia, it seems like we appre­ci­ate them more when they are at peak of sea­son.

    Inclement weather this year has kept us guess­ing as to when the robust strawberry-​producing regions around the state will see some good spring vol­umes.

    From San Diego to Mon­terey (Watsonville/​Salinas), Cal­i­for­nia has sev­eral straw­berry vari­eties in com­mer­cial pro­duc­tion. Each one has its own char­ac­ter­is­tics, advan­tages and har­vest time.

    Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia sci­en­tists have bred straw­berry qual­ity stan­dards for size, firm­ness, shelf life, yield, and resis­tance to dis­ease. By name, some vari­eties include Aro­mas, Camarosa, Camino Real, Chan­dler and Ven­tana.

    Con­sumers usu­ally never see the vari­etal named, but we know what we like. Sup­ple, juicy, sweet-​tart berries that make us grate­ful for short­cake, waf­fles and chocolate.

  • In Sea­son Now


    asparagus
    Asparagus


    strawberries
    Strawberries


    artichokes
    Artichokes



    Navel oranges


    peas
    Eng­lish Peas

  • In Sea­son Now


    peaches
    Peaches and other stone fruits (plums, nec­tarines, apri­cots, pluots)


    berries
    Berries (straw­ber­ries, blue­ber­ries, rasp­ber­ries, blacberries)


    cauliflower
    Col­ored Cauliflower


    Corn
    Sweet Corn

  • A sym­bol of pros­per­ity and abun­dance, exquis­ite pome­gran­ates have long been cher­ished for their beauty, ben­e­fits and unique taste.

    The ruby red bulbs are dif­fi­cult to resist as they begin to appear in our fall mar­ket­place.

    In North Amer­ica, pome­gran­ates have tra­di­tion­ally only been avail­able from around Octo­ber through Jan­u­ary.

    Con­sumer demand has called on sup­pli­ers to import fruit from the south­ern hemi­sphere dur­ing the off-​season. This means, pom arils (the edi­ble inter­nal seed) has become a year-​round jewel for sal­ads, dips, baked goods and out of hand eat­ing.

    The delight­ful, sweet-​tart crunchy seeds perk up nearly any plate with their sassy color and burst of tangy juice. This is real party food for adults, turn­ing the ordi­nary in to a fes­tive occasion.

  • It could very well be a savory pear tart. Or a car­rot souf­flé or even a Brus­sels sprouts Cae­sar salad with pecans that starts a hol­i­day dis­pute.

    A seem­ingly nice sur­prise and uncon­ven­tional approach to fruits and veg­eta­bles this time of year might sound per­fectly ratio­nal.

    Thanks­giv­ing is a time to gather with friends and fam­ily around a table that holds mostly tra­di­tional favorite dishes.

    The mere thought or sug­ges­tion of sneak­ing in a new take on a famil­iar salad, side, appe­tizer or dessert may be grounds for a fam­ily fuss.

    Chances are good that if the group assem­bled at your Thanks­giv­ing table has been there year-​after-​year, the expec­ta­tion is to serve exactly those same “tried and true” dishes that have been plated before.
  • Soup from scratch is well worth the small effort it takes to make. Likely, the famil­iar, basic com­po­nents are already in the pantry.

    Why wait for that req­ui­site sea­sonal cold or flu to set­tle in? Make soup now as it can be a com­fort for the soul and a tonic to the body.

    The nutri­tional val­ues and sooth­ing prop­er­ties of soup work on mul­ti­ple lev­els.

    Con­sum­ing plenty of liq­uids is always advised when fight­ing of aller­gens or bat­tling anti­bod­ies. The broth of soup counts toward flush­ing out the tox­ins and hydrat­ing the weary body.

    Warm liq­uids tend to clear the sinus pas­sages. Hot water and hot tea suf­fice, but hot soup is a wel­come change to the daily steam regimen.
  • The fleshy green spears of aspara­gus are all at once suc­cu­lent and ten­der. They have long been con­sid­ered a true sea­sonal del­i­cacy.

    This highly prized veg­etable arrives with the com­ing of spring. When the shoots finally break through the soil and reach their peak har­vest length, we are ready to enjoy locally grown aspara­gus.

    In Cal­i­for­nia, the first crops may be picked as early as Feb­ru­ary. The sea­son gen­er­ally is con­sid­ered to run from April through May. Like most things in agri­cul­ture, Mother Nature is in charge.

    In the Mid­west and East, the sea­son may extend through June or July.

    Under ideal grow­ing con­di­tions, an aspara­gus spear can shoot up to be eight to ten inches tall in a 24-​hour period. Each crown will send spears up for about six to seven weeks dur­ing the spring and early summer.
  • What’s a sip of mojito or slice of key lime pie with­out the bright­ness of fresh lime juice? Lack­ing for starters.

    Lucky then that limes are avail­able year round to impart their aro­matic, tangy good­ness.

    Under­stand­ing the vari­etal dif­fer­ences in limes might be use­ful for the best choices in culi­nary appli­ca­tions.

    Although there are other cit­rus species that are referred to as “limes”, the Per­sian lime is the most widely cul­ti­vated lime species com­mer­cially grown. It accounts for the largest share of the fruits sold as limes.

    Extremely fla­vor­ful, Per­sian limes are a key ingre­di­ent in regional cuisines world­wide. Also known as Tahit­ian or Bearss, Per­sian limes deliver an intensely tart fla­vor to your dishes and cock­tails. Typ­i­cally sold while still dark green, they become light green to a mild yel­low as they ripen.