vegetables


  • What are “Jimmy Nardello” sweet pep­pers and how are they used?



  • Selec­tion, usage and stor­age of arugula.
  • Once a har­bin­ger of spring, aspara­gus is now avail­able nearly year round with imported prod­uct from Peru and Mex­ico.

    Even so, when fields in Cal­i­for­nia begin to sprout up ten­der tips, by early April, it’s indica­tive of a sea­sonal shift in local eat­ing habits.

    An ele­gant veg­etable with long, ten­der shoots that are gen­er­ally cat­e­go­rized as white, pur­ple and green vari­eties, all belong­ing to a plant in the lily fam­ily.

    The shoots of the green and white vari­eties are usu­ally hand-​harvested when the stalks reach a height of around eight inches and are one quar­ter to half inch thick. The com­pact, tightly packed leaves (resem­bling scales) at the top of the stalk are prized for their soft, to crunchy tex­ture and mild, provoca­tive fla­vor.

    Green aspara­gus is tra­di­tion­ally the most com­mon vari­ety grown in the United States. Pur­ple or white aspara­gus is usu­ally avail­able on a lim­ited basis in spe­cialty and farm­ers markets.
  • 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.

  • Dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing basil in appear­ance, fla­vor and usage.


  • David John dis­cusses avail­abil­ity, prepa­ra­tion, usage, fla­vor and his favorite way to eat Black Radishes.
  • 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.

  • There has been a resur­gence of Cal­i­for­nia gar­lic, both in con­sumer demand and also in pro­duc­tion. The 2018 Cal­i­for­nia gar­lic crop will heighten that trend.

    Christo­pher Ranch, California’s largest gar­lic sup­plier, reports fan­tas­tic pro­duc­tion lev­els this year, the likes of which have not been seen in years. Great news for gar­lic lovers.

    Ken Christo­pher, Exec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent for the com­pany, announced their fore­cast this sea­son to be about 100 mil­lion pounds of gar­lic.

    “Demand for organic gar­lic has been explo­sive and it is the fastest-​growing busi­ness seg­ment”, Ken Christo­pher said.

    The com­pany har­vested 5 mil­lion pounds of organic gar­lic last year and expect to har­vest 10 mil­lion pounds of organic gar­lic in 2018. By far, this is the biggest organic crop ever for Christo­pher Ranch. This will be the first year they are expected to have a 100 per­cent Cal­i­for­nia organic program.

  • Cab­bages belong to the Bras­sica fam­ily of cole crops and are closely related to broc­coli, cau­li­flower and Brus­sels sprouts.

    This cru­cif­er­ous veg­etable is widely used around the world in prepa­ra­tions from raw to cooked, shred­ded to leafy rolls.

    While we most likely think of a com­mon cab­bage head as that large, green can­non­ball type, there are other vari­eties that make spe­cific appli­ca­tions and recipes stand out.

    Red Cab­bage – Sim­i­lar to green cab­bage, this has dark reddish-​purple leaves. The fla­vor is a lit­tle deeper and earth­ier. Pick heads that are tight and heavy for their size. It adds great color to slaws and cold sal­ads.

    Napa Cab­bage – Also called Chi­nese cab­bage, this oblong-​shaped cab­bage has wide, thick, crisp stems and frilly yellow-​green leaves. The fla­vor is sweeter and milder com­pared to heartier green cab­bage. Its soft tex­ture works great as a fill­ing for dumplings or as a del­i­cate fresh salad com­po­nent.

    Savoy Cab­bage – This attrac­tive cab­bage is round in shape but the leaves are deep green and crin­kled. The fla­vor is mild and earthy. The leaves are ten­der even when eaten raw. Heads should be com­pact and tight and will yield to light pres­sure due to the crin­kled leaves. Soups, sal­ads and stir fry dishes are all good savoy cab­bage methods.

  • David John talks about what to do with Cal­abaza and Red Kuri Squash. Try it!


  • Let’ s be hon­est. In the wide open uni­verse of fresh veg­eta­bles, there are many picks that beat out cau­li­flower in pop­u­lar­ity.

    In chef cir­cles, we hear of inno­v­a­tive ways to har­ness the full fla­vor of this under rep­re­sented power source.

    Roast­ing leads the way in the method cat­e­gory. An earthy, nutty fla­vor devel­ops by sim­ply oven roast­ing with noth­ing more than a sprin­kle of salt and a driz­zle of cook­ing oil.

    The real genius of hacks comes from allow­ing the cau­li­flower to play a sup­port­ing role. Try cast­ing this white, crunchy char­ac­ter in numer­ous dishes that embrace bolder per­son­al­ity traits.

    Korean bar­be­cue bowls, buf­falo cau­li­flower steaks, chimichurri cauli, bat­tered and fried and cau­li­flower alfredo liven up the dol­drums of this pedes­trian cruciferous.
  • A Mediter­ranean diet incor­po­rates the basics of healthy eat­ing — plus a splash of fla­vor­ful olive oil and per­haps a glass of red wine.

    Touted as one of the health­i­est ways to eat, this tra­di­tional cook­ing style of coun­tries bor­der­ing the Mediter­ranean Sea is more a way of life than pre­scrip­tion for a diet reg­i­men.

    Key com­po­nents on the Med menu are fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles, fish, whole grains, fresh herbs, beans and lim­its to any unhealthy fats.

    Red meat is more rarely con­sumed and poul­try, eggs, cheese, and yogurt only in mod­er­a­tion. Processed foods, refined grains and sug­ary bev­er­ages are avoided.

    What needs to be con­sid­ered is how inte­grated diet and lifestyle are woven together. Eat­ing any meal is an event. Meals are shared with fam­ily and friends and peo­ple take their time to enjoy every bite.


  • Cock­tail Avo­ca­dos: What they are, when and how to use them.

  • About the Pro­duce Beat: David John hosts this weekly pro­gram regard­ing every­thing you ever wanted to know about fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles: selec­tion, stor­age, prepa­ra­tion, vari­eties, sea­sonal avail­abil­ity, trivia, and his per­sonal secrets about how to enjoy pro­duce.

  • What are Cucamel­ons and how are they used?
  • Chili pep­pers are a sta­ple of most Mex­i­can food recipes. The sheer pop­u­lar­ity of Mex­i­can cui­sine and the ever grow­ing His­panic pop­u­la­tion in the United States make chili pep­pers an essen­tial daily ingre­di­ent.

    Fresh chili pep­pers are gen­er­ally avail­able year round. They are grown in Cal­i­for­nia, New Mex­ico, Texas, and Mex­ico. Dried chili ver­sions are also avail­able year-​round.
    California’s extreme sum­mer tem­per­a­tures are con­ducive to grow­ing a wide vari­ety of mild to very hot spec­i­mens. Cul­ti­vated in a full range of sizes, shapes, and degrees of hot­ness, the num­ber of vari­eties is impres­sive.

    The head-​scratching comes with try­ing to prop­erly iden­tify the var­i­ous pep­pers by name and fla­vor pro­file. It gets com­pli­cated when the name of a pep­per may vary from region to region. The name changes again when the pep­per goes from being fresh to being dried.

    With a vari­ety of heat lev­els and fla­vor pro­files, ver­sa­til­ity is a key attribute of both fresh and dried chili pep­pers.

    Har­vested through­out the sum­mer, some green chili pep­pers are left on the plants until autumn. They will go from bright green in color to their final hue of yel­low, orange, pur­ple or red, depend­ing on the variety.
  • No one likes to get pushed around. Some­how, the early retail pres­ence of all things Thanks­giv­ing, Christ­mas and Hanukkah in Octo­ber feels like we are get­ting nudged. Stop the push­ing.

    In the orbit of fresh pro­duce, we take our cues from truly sea­sonal veg­eta­bles and fruits.

    Import pur­chases make eat­ing avo­ca­dos, corn and toma­toes a year-​round culi­nary pos­si­bil­ity. There are still a few Amer­i­can grown items that com­pletely set a tone for “here today, gone tomor­row” enjoy­ment. Fresh cran­ber­ries are indeed a sea­sonal har­bin­ger.

    Native to North Amer­ica, cran­ber­ries are a pow­er­house of nutri­tion with sub­stan­tial health ben­e­fits. Antioxidant-​rich, they hold the magic for a mul­ti­tude of con­di­tions from pre­ven­tion to rem­edy.

    This fall fruit dar­ling is har­vested begin­ning in Sep­tem­ber and goes through mid-​November in states like Wash­ing­ton, Ore­gon and Michi­gan. Wis­con­sin and Mass­a­chu­setts are the two largest pro­duc­ers in the United States.

    Cran­ber­ries grow on low-​lying vines in imper­me­able beds lay­ered with sand, peat, gravel and clay. These beds are known as “bogs” or “marshes” and were orig­i­nally cre­ated by glacial deposits.

    Com­mer­cial bogs use a sys­tem of wet­lands, uplands, ditches, flumes, ponds and other water bod­ies that pro­vide a nat­ural habi­tat for a vari­ety of plant and ani­mal life.

    Most cran­ber­ries are wet har­vested when grow­ers flood their bogs. They then use har­vest­ing machines that loosen the cran­ber­ries from the vines. Air cham­bers in the cranberry’s cen­ter allows it to float to the water’s sur­face. The berries are then cor­ralled and trans­ferred to a truck for transporting.
  • 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.

  • Selec­tion tips, dif­fer­ences and fla­vor pro­files of var­i­ous eggplants.


  • How to pick, store, and 3 ways to use fennel.