pro­duce preparation

  • A Mixed Bag

    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.
  • Baby Food

    Eas­ily rec­og­nized, yams and sweet pota­toes are some of those ugly fall and early win­ter root veg­eta­bles that are found on the side of the plate this time of year.

    Roasted, stuffed and on occa­sion, marsh­mal­low topped, the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of sweet pota­toes and yams has pushed their demand to become a year-​round thing.

    Baby yams and sweet pota­toes, avail­able sea­son­ally from August through Decem­ber, make it eas­ier to enjoy a single-​serve sweet gem.

    Com­pared to their larger coun­ter­parts, the smaller baby ver­sions allow for a petite, ten­der vari­ety to daz­zle the dish with color and fla­vor. With an edi­ble skin, the baby size have a sig­nif­i­cantly faster cook­ing time.

    Well known named vari­eties, sim­i­lar to their larger and jumbo cousins include Gar­net, Jewel, Japan­ese and Sweet Potatoes.
  • Beyond Pump­kin Spice

    A few crisp days strung together and sweat­shirts get pulled out of the closet. So too, do the recipes we love that cel­e­brate fall.

    Ingre­di­ents begin to shift and the land­scape changes in the mar­ket­place. There is more to autumn days than pump­kin spice and pump­kin lattes.

    Apples and pears are now being har­vested. It seems impos­si­ble, but true, new vari­eties seem to appear each year. Ver­sa­til­ity finds them a role in starters, sal­ads, entrees and desserts. Savory to sweet, scout out a fall favorite to switch up main menu plan­ning and lunchtime snacks.

    Tex­ture and taste give apples and pears the green light for pair­ing with cheeses, nuts, fresh greens and other part­ners. Both fruits com­pli­ment meat dishes and offer veg­e­tar­ian swaps in grain, pasta and rice prepa­ra­tions.

    Figs, pome­gran­ates and per­sim­mons are sig­na­ture fruits that fol­low apples and pears . They like that lit­tle cold snap that fol­lows hot weather. Cran­ber­ries will make an appear­ance by the end Sep­tem­ber. Once they debut, kiss sum­mer goodbye.

  • Bright & Tangy

    Tart and tangy, with an under­ly­ing sweet­ness, win­ter grape­fruit offer bright­ness to the cold days of Jan­u­ary.

    This juicy piece of cit­rus shines by pro­mot­ing good nutri­tion while deliv­er­ing a zippy taste.

    Orig­i­nally known as “the for­bid­den fruit”, grape­fruit made its way to the United States in the early 1800’s via the Span­ish and French set­tlers who brought seeds to Florida.

    From there, Span­ish mis­sion­ar­ies are cred­ited for bring­ing grape­fruit west to Texas, Ari­zona and Cal­i­for­nia.

    Although avail­able year-​round, they are in sea­son and at their best from win­ter through early spring.
  • Call Me “Honey“

    The National Mango Board has launched a new mar­ket­ing cam­paign, renam­ing the Ataulfo mango vari­ety to Honey mango.

    Over the years, the Ataulfo name has been repeat­edly reported as hard to pro­nounce for United States con­sumers, retail­ers and food­ser­vice users.

    They’ve had a bit of an “iden­tity cri­sis” with other names attached to them as well. Cham­pagne, yel­low, young, baby and Adolfo are all name tags placed on this beloved sweet piece of fruit.

    Dif­fi­culty with the name has cre­ated some missed edu­ca­tional oppor­tu­ni­ties for this pop­u­lar Mex­i­can cul­ti­var.

    A main dif­fi­culty in the name has been a bar­rier to pur­chas­ing for those U.S. mango lovers con­fused about the mango. Using Honey mango is a consumer-​friendly way to improve the honey mango aware­ness and purchases.
  • Cher­ries!

    Sure­fire sea­sonal items are the things we antic­i­pate with glee and giddy. The dev­as­tat­ing losses of the Cal­i­for­nia cherry crop this year make the 2019 North­west fruit even more desir­able.

    Cher­ries are one of the fresh­est pro­duce items avail­able for a very short dura­tion in the sum­mer.

    Tree-​ripened, they are gen­er­ally har­vested, packed and shipped within two days, start to fin­ish.

    North­west grow­ing regions are scat­tered through­out Wash­ing­ton, Ore­gon, Idaho, Utah, and Mon­tana. Small dif­fer­ences in the micro­cli­mates allow cher­ries through­out the region to ripen at dif­fer­ent times through the sea­son.

    As har­vests win­dows depend on weather, Mother Nature had a heavy hand in this year’s late start. The sea­son has finally arrived. Now through August, we expect to enjoy scrump­tious North­west cherry varieties.

  • Egg­plant Revis­ited

    There is some­thing dis­tinctly fall-​like when it comes to egg­plants. Maybe it’s their aubergine shades, or sexy shapes and curves that resem­ble fall gourds and squash.

    Mov­ing back to heartier cook­ing meth­ods in fall makes egg­plant a can­di­date for ideal roast­ing, bak­ing, stuff­ing and grilling prepa­ra­tions.

    Although the dark pur­ple ver­sion is really the best known and read­ily found in most gro­cery mar­kets, the shape, size, and color can vary. From small and oblong to long and thin, look for shades rang­ing of dark to pale pur­ple to white green and even yel­low ver­sions.

    Those dif­fer­ent shapes, sizes, and fla­vors are uniquely suited for dif­fer­ent uses in the kitchen. The long skinny ones tend to be “meatier”, mak­ing them great for stir-​fry appli­ca­tions. The baby sized ones are ten­der and mild, and can be eaten whole, skins and all. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, the white and yel­low vari­eties are sweeter.

    Graf­fiti egg­plant come in both large and small sizes. Their name comes from the inter­est­ing and pat­terned striped mark­ings on the fruit. They have small seeds and a thin peel, mak­ing them great to eat whole — no peel­ing nec­es­sary. They are per­fect for bak­ing, roast­ing and stew­ing. Names like Pur­ple Rain or Shoot­ing Stars attract attention.
  • Esca­lated & Weak

    We all read the updates on weekly mar­ket con­di­tions. Weak, strong, up, down, esca­lated, Acts of God, legs, no legs. All pro­duce lingo to inform end users on the state of let­tuce, berries and veg­eta­bles.

    It all sounds fine in an update on paper. Real­ity sets in when we as con­sumers shop and take our fruits and veg­eta­bles home for meals pre­pared in our own kitchens.

    For the past sev­eral weeks, exces­sive and pro­longed heat (triple digit tem­per­a­tures) in our prime grow­ing areas is news­wor­thy. Next came the head­lines of mul­ti­ple fires through­out Cal­i­for­nia, Ore­gon and Wash­ing­ton. Smoke and ash con­tinue to push air qual­ity in to unhealthy ranges.

    Warn­ings of short sup­plies, higher prices and tight mar­kets are a direct result of those late sum­mer events. Har­vest dis­rup­tions due to lack of labor or min­i­mum time avail­able to pick, sort and pack have worked against grow­ers.

    Prod­uct alerts tell retail­ers and chefs to order tight or “truck to shelf or truck to plate”. Valen­cia oranges have suf­fered from heat stress. Romaine, ice­berg and leafy let­tuces are now show­ing the affects of insect dam­age and high tem­per­a­tures.

    Grow­ers do their best to mit­i­gate all qual­ity con­cerns in every crop. It makes good sense for the farmer to want to make the most of their sales. Still, unavoid­able cir­cum­stances have pre­vailed this sum­mer to give grow­ers more headaches than usual.

    Since most meals are now being made or con­sumed at home under COVID restric­tions, pro­duc­tion dis­rup­tions hit close to home on food waste and the wal­let. Fewer store trips for mar­ket­ing mean the per­ish­ables need to last and go farther.
  • Fall For­ward

    There is no deny­ing the visual cues of Autumn. Trees and leaves are turn­ing color. Darker morn­ings greet us with fewer day­light hours left for leisure. Farewell sum­mer.

    Crisper, cooler night­time and morn­ing tem­per­a­tures are just what is needed to bring on our most favorite fall fruits.

    A wide array of veg­eta­bles, décor items and flo­ral selec­tions vie for atten­tion this time of year. Think about col­or­ful and tasty first fall bites.

    Crunchy and crisp, juicy and sweet are descrip­tive words for the Hol­i­day Seed­less grapes that are just on the scene. They make grape fans of those look­ing for a sweet tooth solu­tion.

    Eat­ing pat­terns and cook­ing meth­ods fol­low the steady pro­gres­sion into fall food choices. Bak­ing, broil­ing and brais­ing, segue nicely from out­door bar­be­cu­ing and grilling. Cal­i­for­ni­ans will con­tinue to cook out­doors year-​round.

    Glide back into the kitchen with new crop apples, Brus­sels sprouts, pump­kins, per­sim­mons, hard squashes and pomegranates.
  • Figs


    David John III dif­fer­en­ti­ates figs: Brown Turkey, Kadota, Tiger Striped.


  • Flower, Veg or Duo?

    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.

  • Flu Shots

    Cold and flu sea­son is on the hori­zon. Some work places have already seen the unwanted viral spread of germs, coughs and sore throats.

    This is a good time of year to refresh the fun­da­men­tals of pre­ven­tion. Invest­ing in healthy habits is a good jump start to ward­ing off a lousy cold or flu bug.

    Flu vac­ci­na­tions are avail­able at nearly every phar­macy, gro­cery store and clinic in town. Dou­ble down on pro­tec­tion by boost­ing your immunity.

    The Cal­i­for­nia cit­rus sea­son is just under­way. Some of the best sources of vit­a­min C are cit­rus fruits. Juic­ing up with new crop navel oranges, grape­fruits, tan­ger­ines, man­darins and lemons gives the body a lift and sup­ports the body’s nat­ural defenses.

    A well-​balanced diet, rich in veg­eta­bles and fruits– leafy greens, cau­li­flower, mush­rooms and cit­rus fruits– pro­vides the nutri­ents to resist pathogens. Atten­tion to what goes on the plate is par­tic­u­larly impor­tant when fight­ing sea­sonal bugs.

  • Fresh Turmeric


    Turmeric: what it is, health ben­e­fits, prepa­ra­tion, usage.
  • Fruit Impulse

    Ever since the start of the global pan­demic, cit­rus demand and vol­ume have been tremen­dous. Navel oranges, in par­tic­u­lar, have been in high demand.

    Con­sumers have got­ten the mes­sage that vit­a­min C is a good immu­nity boost. Given any chance to fight COVID-​19 through health­ier food choices, cit­rus makes log­i­cal sense.

    Typ­i­cally, veg­etable choices make their way to the gro­cery shop­ping list. We tend to build meals around veg­eta­bles or at min­i­mum, lay a foun­da­tion of fla­vor. Fresh fruits suf­fer the fate of being more of an “impulse” buy over must have items.

    Onions, cel­ery, gar­lic, car­rots, mush­rooms and bell pep­pers fre­quent any tasty sauce, stir fry or sum­mer grilling dish. It’s dif­fi­cult to imag­ine cook­ing with­out them. These pantry sta­ples are hardly out of stock.

    Spe­cialty or eth­nic menu sug­ges­tions call for egg­plants, cab­bages, green onions, leeks, pota­toes and squashes. Turn­ing them in to a sump­tu­ous meal is only a recipe away.

    Most fresh prod­ucts are being sold by super­mar­kets. In the United States and many other coun­tries, restau­rants are still closed or lim­ited on how much and what food is being served.

    Less demand on cer­tain fresh pro­duce items and more demand on oth­ers makes it a very unpre­dictable sup­ply chain. Afford­able fruits and veg­eta­bles with a good shelf life com­mand shop­per atten­tion. In nor­mal mar­kets, fruits gen­er­ally get trac­tion from sea­sonal pro­mo­tions. Today’s empha­sis is geared towards stay­ing healthy.
  • Game On!

    Tail­gat­ing Sea­son is well under­way. This great Amer­i­can tra­di­tion has moved to higher ground where food and sports take the field together.

    Sim­pler times called for pedes­trian sand­wiches, potato chips and cold drinks tossed into a tote bag. Move over Rover.

    Tail­gat­ing has become a lively, con­vivial event with a life of its own. This portable party binds game day good eats with an oppor­tu­nity for social­iz­ing with friends and other fans.

    The menu may be a bit more high art than high brow. Bring the gear and appetites for a day long feast. Game day? We’ve got you covered.

    Sips & Drinks: Go with cool quenchers for those Indian Sum­mer days to hot tod­dies for chill­ier ones around the cor­ner. Fresh cut mel­ons, cel­ery, cucum­bers and cit­rus deliver for bev­er­age gar­nishes. Dress up apple cider with spices, pear slices or even cran­ber­ries. Cheers to fresh lemon­grass or rose­mary skew­ers adding more drama to cock­tail bars.

  • Glam­our Shots

    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.
  • Good Stuff

    Nearly any­thing stuffed will con­vince us that there is a cel­e­bra­tion in the mak­ing.

    That could mean an easy week­night din­ner party if the vehi­cle used for stuff­ing is a por­to­bello mush­room.

    In North­ern Italy, this over­sized mush­room is called “cap­pel­lone” which means “big hat”. It makes sense as the shape resem­bles a large cap or top­per (just right for stuff­ing).

    To be clear, once a cri­m­ini mush­room reaches between four to six inches in diam­e­ter, it is offi­cially called a por­to­bello or porta­bella. Yes, they are one in the same vari­ety, with a dif­fer­ent matu­rity level dic­tat­ing its name.

    A porta­bello is rec­og­nized by it’s open, flat sur­face (cap). Because it’s left to grow larger, the gills are fully exposed. This means that some of the mushroom’s mois­ture has evap­o­rated. The reduced mois­ture con­cen­trates and enriches the fla­vor and cre­ates a dense, meaty texture.
  • Haku Haku

    Kabocha, pro­nounced “kah-​BOH-​chah”, is a win­ter squash encased in a dull, deep green, hard, mot­tled skin that is often­times lined with pale, uneven stripes.

    There are also some orange skinned cul­ti­vars, though the green is the most com­monly pro­duced. This time of year, they begin to appear on autumn tablescapes and in earthy fall menu items.

    The skin is tech­ni­cally edi­ble if cooked, though most com­monly, it is dis­carded. Round and squat, with a flat­tened top, it ranges from one to eight pounds. Gen­er­ally, aver­age weight is two to three pounds.

    Inside is a deep yel­low orange flesh sur­round­ing a small seed cav­ity. Cooked, Kabocha offers a finely grained, dry flesh with a but­tery and ten­der tex­ture. Rather sweet, the rich fla­vor resem­bles a com­bi­na­tion of sweet potato mixed with pump­kin.

    In Japan, Kabocha squash was tra­di­tion­ally eaten around the time of the win­ter sol­stice with shiruko (adzuki beans) in a sweet soup to boost the immune sys­tem and help pre­vent colds dur­ing the win­ter months.
  • Ital­ian Prune Plums


    David John III explains how to choose, ripen, use and enjoy this sea­sonal treat!


  • Jack­fruit


    Find out what Jack­fruit is, how to eat it, and what it tastes like. Try some­thing new!