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  • Cherimoya

    Mar 06, 2017


     
    This scaly, tropical fruit may resemble something out of science fiction movie, but it just so happens that a fragrant, tropical, creamy center hides behind the leathery exterior.

    Availability & Origin
    Cherimoyas, also known as custard apples, grow year-round. Domestically speaking, they only come from California and Hawaii, and are available from December through June. Beyond the U.S., they come from Central and South America and South Asia.

    Appearance & Flavor
    Don't let the scaly look of the green skin deter you. After slicing into a cherimoya, you'll see the white creamy flesh, which has a pleasant tropical flavor with hints of mango, banana, and coconut. Amongst the delicious center, there are black seeds. Do not eat them; they contain alkaloids and are hard enough to break a tooth. When picking your cherimoyas, a slight brown color is okay, however avoid any that are black or shriveled. Ripe ones should yield to a gentle touch and will be more brown in color. Their skin is very delicate, so you'll often find them covered by mesh bags in the store to protect them from bruising or puncture.

    Storage
    When ripe, they can be stored in the fridge for one or two days. Any longer will cause the fruit to lose its flavor and become more vulnerable to chill damage. Once cut, they turn brown quickly. Not to worry; to slow the browning effect, put a little orange juice on your cherimoya or put it in a lemon or lime water mixture. 

    Ways to Enjoy
    Room temperature or chilled, raw is the way to go. Use cherimoyas in dressings, compotes, jams, smoothies, and salads to add a new flavor to the usual. Spring is coming, so consider making unique drinks for your events. 

    History
    Cherimoyas were native to Ecuador, Colombia and Peru in their beginning. It is said that the seeds from Mexico were planted in California in the late 1800's. Fun fact: Mark Twain is quoted in The Sacramento Daily Union (October 25, 1866) saying that the cherimoya is "the most delicious fruit known to man" after a visit to Hawaii.

  • Lychee

    Mar 06, 2017


    This spiny, alien-like fruit may look tough on the outside, but the inside hides a delicate surprise. 

    Availability & Origin
    China and India are the main producers, but you can also find them growing in California, Hawaii, Florida, and Texas, June through September. 

    Appearance & Flavor
    Fresh lychees have bright red-brown shells, are an inch or two in length, are firm to the touch, and have no splits or wrinkles. The heavier they feel, the better they will taste. When you crack open its shell, you'll find a white, grape-like ball that houses a seed. The seed is not edible, but the ball holds all the flavor and sweetness. 

    Storage
    Refrigerated in a plastic bag, lychee will last up to ten days. Frozen in a freezer-tolerant bag or container, they will last up to three months. The texture and fragrance of your lychees may reduce after sitting in the freezer for four hours, but not to worry, they will keep their flavor. 

    Ways to Enjoy
    You can always eat them raw, but they're also great in salads, rice dishes, syrups, salsas, drinks, and desserts. If you've been searching for a truly imaginative dish, look no further than this scone recipe

    History
    Ever since 1100 A.D., the lychee grew in its native land of China, and eventually made its way to the western world in the late 1700's. The first lychee tree on U.S. soil bore fruit in the early 1900's.

  • Jicama

    Mar 06, 2017


     
    You might not know it from looking at it, but this flavorful vegetable is part of the bean family. 

    Availability & Origin 
    Jicama is available year-round, but peaks from October to May. Mexico and Central America are top growers, but you can still find them thriving in the United States; Florida, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico to be exact.

    Appearance & Flavor
    With the looks of a turnip or large radish and the texture of an uncooked potato, Jicamas tend to taste similar to water chestnuts. They have white flesh and can range from tan, brown, or even grey in the color of their thin skin. When selecting your jicama, chose one with dry roots and no bruising. NEVER consume the leaves, stems, or mature seeds; they are highly toxic.

    Storage
    When preparing jicamas, make sure to wash them thoroughly and peel them with a knife instead of a vegetable peeler-due to the delicate skin. When cut, place them in a plastic bag for up to ten days in the fridge. Keep whole jicamas in a cool dry place for up to four weeks. 

    Ways to Enjoy
    Eat it raw, mix it into stews, throw some in your salsa, toss it in your stir-fry. For an even better idea, take a look at this refreshing jicama salad recipe.

    History
    Once exclusive to Mexico and South America, 17th century Spaniards introduced the jicama to the Philippines. Eventually, it spread farther, to places such as China and India.

  • Asparagus

    Mar 06, 2017


     
    Asparagus can be used in a wide variety of dishes and it has a rich historic past. Fun fact: it is part of the lily family. 

    Availability & Origin
    Asparagus is available year-round, but we get the best flavor from February to June, especially in April. China, Peru, and Mexico being the top three growers, the United States comes in 7th on that list. Our top growing states are California, Michigan, and Washington. 

    Appearance & Flavor
    Though asparagus is usually known for being green, there are also white and purple varieties. They have a mild flavor, similar to broccoli, with an earthy undertone. If your asparagus tastes sour, it may be aged or there may have been a problem with preparation (oops! We've all done it). While selecting asparagus, check for fresh color, firm, yet tender spears that are tightly closed, and moist, plump ends. Signs of aged asparagus include loose tips on the spears, dry or cracked ends, or a yellowed skin.

    Storage
    Rubber band whole stalks together, cut an inch off the ends, stand them in a cup or jar submerged in an inch or so of water, and loosely cover them with a plastic bag. Using this method, they can last up to one week. If the water gets cloudy, replace it. Cut asparagus should be stored in the fridge in an air-tight container in order to last a week. If you prefer to freeze your asparagus, store the stalks, whole or cut and dried of any water, in a freezer-tolerant bag, and they will last several months. 

    Ways to Enjoy
    Asparagus goes great in salads, stir-fries, soups, pastas, stews, and dips, or simply as a roasted side dish. Dazzle any guest by preparing this unique flan dish.    

    History
    Loved by Ancient Greeks and Romans around the 1st century A.D., asparagus was considered a worthy gift offer to their gods. It was even said that Emperor Caesar Augustus would advise his troops to get up and going quicker than you can cook asparagus. Around the late 15th century, asparagus became popular in France and England, making its way to the U.S. shortly after.

  • Meyer Lemons

    Mar 06, 2017



    These lemon look-alikes may have you fooled... 

    Availability and Origin
    Meyer Lemons are available year-round, but they peak from November to March. They are used as an ornamental plant in China, their origin country, and are grown in the United States and New Zealand. 

    Appearance and Flavor
    At first glance, a Meyer Lemon looks just like your typical lemon. But take a closer look and you'll notice they are smaller, rounder and smoother. The rind is thinner and deep yellow-orange in color, with dark yellow pulp. They are said to be a cross between a lemon and an orange. Acidic as they are, they lack the traditional lemon zing. Meyer Lemons give off a herbal spice-smelling aroma. 

    Storage
    When whole, these lemons can last two weeks out on the counter (at room temperature) and up to four weeks refrigerated in a sealed bag. After being cut, store the slices in an air-tight container in fridge to get a week out of them. 

    Ways to Enjoy
    Besides the obvious way to use your lemons-Meyer lemonade-they are perfect for desserts, salads, dressing, sauces, and pastas. They can even provide an interesting twist to your salsa

    History
    In the early 1900s, the U.S. government sent Frank N. Meyer, a USDA agricultural explorer, to Asia to bring plant species back with him. This lemon was named in his honor. Read more about the story here.

  • Bok Choy

    Mar 06, 2017



    Bok Choy, a member of the cabbage family, is one of the oldest crops in China. No wonder it's a staple in Asian kitchens.

    Availability & Origin
    Grown in their homeland of China, as well as in the United States and Europe, Bok Choy is available year-round and peaks during the winter.

    Appearance & Flavor
    All parts of Bok Choy are edible. Their crisp white stalks have a nutty flavor. Their dark green leaves are similar to the flavor and texture of spinach.

    Storage
    Bok Choy will last a few days if left unwashed in a perforated bag in the crisper drawer. Do not wash them until you're ready to use them, however, because water will start the breakdown process. But when you do, wash them thoroughly since the stalks tend to hide dirt.

    Ways to Enjoy
    When raw, Bok Choy is great in salads and sandwiches, and the stalks can be filled like a celery stick. Most commonly, you will see them used in stir-fries and other Asian dishes. Make Grilled Bok Choy like a pro with this recipe. Here's a tip: try cooking baby Bok Choy for its milder flavor.

    History
    Not only did a 5th century text in China mention Bok Choy, an excavation in China also unearthed Bok Choy seeds, or at least that of its close relative, and they dated back more than 5,000 years. We have 19th century Chinese immigrants to thank for the introduction of Bok Choy in the U.S.

  • Rutabagas

    Jan 24, 2017


    Rutabaga is a bit of an underdog; it's one of the more overlooked root vegetables, but it is interesting and worth a try.

    Availability & Origin
    They are available year-round, but they peak during the winter. Rutabagas are grown in the Northern United States, Canada and parts of Europe.

    Appearance & Flavor
    With yellow tips and dark purple blotchy skin, rutabaga is mild and less bitter than the turnip. Their flesh is yellow with a firm, grain-like texture.

    Storage
    After slicing off the tops, peel the outer skin, slice it into cubes and then blanch. When stored in the freezer in a durable bag or container, it will last up to eight months. Placing rutabaga in your fridge's vegetable drawer, after rinsing them, cutting the tops off and placing them in a plastic bag, will allow them to last up to three months.

    Ways to Enjoy
    Roast them, boil them, steam them, braise them, or put them in a soup. When cooked, rutabagas are sweet like a gold potato. Speaking of, here's an interesting twist on French fries.

    History
    A Swedish botanist is credited with crossing a cabbage and a turnip in the 17th century to create the rutabaga, or "baggy root" in Swedish. In the 19th century, it made its way to the U.S.

  • Leeks

    Jan 24, 2017


    Leeks are one of the oldest vegetables, but that doesn't mean that they can't add a unique flavor to your dishes.

    Availability & Origin
    These vegetables are available year-round, but they peak during late winter and early spring. The top three producing countries are Indonesia, Turkey, and Belgium. The top producing states in the U.S. are California, New Jersey, Michigan, and Virginia.

    Appearance & Flavor
    Their long, cylindrical stem closely resembles that of a scallion. This stem is white at the root and grows more green the closer to the top you look. Leek leaves are stiff and have a blue-green hue. 

    Storage
    To get up to a week from your leeks, wrap them tightly in plastic and store them in the refrigerator.

    Ways to Enjoy
    Enjoy them raw in your salads and dips or cooked in your soups, casseroles, and sauces. Try this leek dish and switch things up at your dinner table.

    History
    Remember how we said the leek is one of the oldest vegetables? Well, the oldest cookbook from Roman times-written by Apicus around the 3rd century-mentioned the leek. Fun fact: The Roman Emperor Nero's love of leeks was said to be so outrageous that he was given the nickname of Poropahgus, meaning "leek-eater."

  • Santa Claus Melon

    Dec 30, 2016

    Availability and Origin
    Santa Claus Melons are grown in California and Arizona during the late spring and summer months. During the winter, we get them from South America. 

    Appearance and Flavor
    The Santa Claus is an oval-shaped melon with hard, wrinkled skin, which is how it got its Spanish name Peil De Sapo, meaning 'Toad Skin'.
    The thick rind doesn't even give off an aroma when it's ripe. You'll know that they're ripe when the ends become soft to the touch. The color of the rind can range from green to yellow-the more yellow in color, the sweeter it is. The flesh underneath can be white or pale green, and is very juicy and sweet. 

    Storage
    When your melons are whole and ripe, they can be stored at room temperature for five days or in the refrigerator for three days. When cut, refrigerate the slices in an air-tight container and you may get three days out of them. 

    Ways to Enjoy
    Just like the princess who kissed the frog, you can turn this frog-like melon into a prince with a tart recipe like this. They also go well in sauces, soups, fruit salads, and desserts.

    History
    A type of Casaba Melon, the Santa Claus variety is native to Turkey and it began commercial cultivation in Spain. The name Santa Claus or Christmas Melon, however, came from the American interpretation of the fruit's longevity. They come to the U.S. all the way from South America just in time for Christmas

  • Cara Cara Oranges

    Dec 30, 2016


    Availability and Origin
    These oranges are available from winter until the beginning of spring and are grown mostly in California and Florida, as well as South Africa and Venezuela.

    Appearance and Flavor
    Don't be fooled; Cara Caras look comparable to standard oranges, but there are some differences. The flesh is a red-pink color, similar to a grapefruit. They peel easy and they taste similar to a tangerine. Some say that their intense aroma resembles a rose. 

    Storage
    When whole, keep them refrigerated and they'll last you two weeks. If your oranges are cut, refrigerate them in an air-tight container for up to a week. Juiced Cara Cara oranges can last up to six months in the freezer when housed in an air-tight freezer bag or container.

    Ways to Enjoy
    Juices, jams, sauces, salads, raw, or in dessert. Here is an interesting tart recipe to wow your holiday guests.

    History
    Stated to be a naturally occurring mutation, these oranges were discovered in Hacienda de Cara Cara in Venezuela in 1976. Subsequently, they were brought to the U.S. in the 80s. The Cara Cara is considered a specialty citrus variety, so is very prominent in boutique-style stores and road side stands.
  • Comice Pears

    Dec 30, 2016

     

    Availability and Origin
    These pears are available from September to March and are primarily grown in the northwestern United States and France.

    Appearance and Flavor
    More plump than others in the pear family, with a rounder body and a shorter neck, they are also the sweetest pears.
    Their buttery flesh is often green, sometimes showing a red blush, and they are very juicy. 

    Storage
    Their fragile skin must be handled lightly to avoid bruising. Click here to determine if your pears are ripe. If the pear is ripe, store in the fridge between 35 and 45 degrees for up to two days. If it is not ripe, leave it out at room temperature.

    Ways to Enjoy
    Due to its delicate texture, the Comice Pear is not an ideal candidate for cooking. However, this soup recipe is a good option.
    Other ideas include eating them raw, throwing a few in your salad, or using them to compliment a plate of soft cheese, such as Blue or Brie.

    History
    These pears made their start in France in the 1800's and were named Doyenné du Comice. They were first discovered on U.S. soil during the 1900's in Oregon

  • French Beans

    Dec 30, 2016

     

    Availability and Origin
    French Beans are available year-round, but they really peak in the summertime. The U.S. produces 60% of these beans; Illinois, New York and Oregon being the highest contributing states. The remaining 40% are produced worldwide, coming mainly from France, Mexico and Iraq. 

    Appearance and Flavor
    It isn't easy being green, so French Beans can also be yellow and purple. They have a mild, sweet flavor, yet have a bit of a starchy texture.

    Storage
    To get up to 10 days out of your beans, refrigerate them in a tightly-sealed plastic bag.

    Ways to Enjoy
    Raw, steamed, or sautéed - these beans are a triple threat. Check out this recipe for a great Thanksgiving side dish idea for your celebration. 

    History
    The beans are native to Central and South America, but were brought to France in the 16th century. By the 19th century, France had dubbed them as their household bean and gave them the French name Haricot Verts.

  • Turban Squash

    Dec 30, 2016


     
    Availability and Origin:

    From Mexico to the United States, these squash are available from the late summer through the winter.  

    Appearance and Flavor:

    This colorful squash's greens, oranges and yellows tend to look like a painter's drop cloth after a masterpiece is created.
    The flesh is very fine and it ranges from mild to sweet. The American Turban is known as the most flavorful variety.
     

    Storage:

    When whole, store your squash in a cool, dry place for no longer than 90 days.
    Cut up, it should be refrigerated in an air-tight container and it may last up to a week. 
     

    Ways to Enjoy:

    These eye-catchers are primarily used in ornamental displays. However, they can be pureed, stuffed, or added to soups as well.
    They are quite challenging to cut so be patient, as can take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes.
    If you're up to it, here is a video on how to cut up Turban Squash. CuttingTurbanSquash
    For something new to try, check out this recipe for stuffed squash. StuffedTurbanSquash

     History Lesson:

    The squash was first mentioned in a French publication in 1818, but the French Turban variety is said to pre-date that year.
    However, it had a poor eating quality. Its name came from the appearance of the blossom end that resembles a turban.

  • Sugar Pie Pumpkins

    Nov 18, 2016


    Availability and Origin

    Sugar Pie Pumpkins are available during the fall months. The largest growing areas are found in the United States, but the best producing states are Illinois, Ohio, and California.

    Appearance and Flavor
    One of the sweetest of all pumpkin varieties, this one is smaller, smoother, and brighter in color than traditional pumpkins.

    Storage
    If your pumpkin is whole, store it in a cool, dry place like your pantry for up to a month. When cut, you have two options. One is to refrigerate it in an air-tight container or bag, and it will last up to six days. The other option is to place them in the freezer in a freezer-tolerant bag or container. With this option, it will last up to six months. Save some pumpkin for April!

    Ways to Enjoy
    These pumpkins are the ones you want to use if you want that sugary pumpkin pie, making them perfect for baking. Another idea is to hollow out and stuff the pumpkin like this.

    This variety can also make a great side to your Thanksgiving dinner when cubed and roasted. When the flesh is cooked down, it can actually be a base for curry. Take a look at this recipe for details.

    History
    It is said that the Native Americans gave them to the early colonists as gifts. Rumor has it, the very first pumpkin pie may have been baked with this pumpkin variety.

     

  • Lettuce tell you what the Ariz. Governor just did

    Nov 09, 2016

    Guess what billion-dollar industry in Arizona is being recognized this month?
    According to the Governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey, November is now Leafy Greens Month. Check out the official proclamation.

    In honor of the greens we love, here are a few of the unique ones:



    Broccoli RabeBroccoli Rabe

    When raw, it has a very bitter taste. But when cooked, the bitterness reduces and leaves a nutty, robust flavor. 

    It’s meant to be cooked, so sauté it using your favorite spices or oils. Use it as a side dish to compliment any meal.








    Dinosaur Kale

    Commonly known as Black or Lacinato Kale, Dinosaur Kale is the heartiest of all the kale varieties.

    Much like some actual dinosaurs, these greens can survive a frost.
    .  
    Cold temperatures actually make the leaves sweeter and more tender.  Use it in soups, pastas or eat it raw.







    Mache
     
    Mache, also referred to as Lamb’s tongue, has a sweet and creamy flavor. 

    The leaves are so delicate, that they can start to melt with incorrect harvesting. 

    Due to their delicacy, they cannot be cooked so use in small salads or as an edible garnish for appetizers.

     


  • Fingerling Potatoes

    Nov 02, 2016
    shutterstock_127293224fingerlingpotatoes

    Availability/Origin
    Year-round. Growing is restricted to 15 states to reduce disease. The main states are Maine, New York and Pennsylvania followed by Idaho, Washington and Colorado.
     
    Appearance/Flavor
    Add some color to your plate with fingerlings - reds, purples and yellows. They naturally grow smaller and are often confused with new potatoes which are harvested at their immature state, but take it from Snoboy, there's no mistaking these - they are small, shaped like a finger and often stubby.
     
    Storage
    Keep in a cool, dry place between 40-50 degrees and should last up to a month. If they become warm they will begin to sprout and due to the thin skins they will breakdown quicker. (Don't tease them as they are thin-skinned and their feelings may get hurt) :)
     
    Ways to enjoy
    Roast, bake broil and grill. There are plenty of recipes online, but here's an unusual one that includes pesto. Pesto Recipe
     
    History
    The first seed came to America by Mark Fulford of Maine. He went to France to buy a race horse and came back with the Fingerling seed. Wait? What!!! Check out the link for the rest of the story. Fingerling History
  • The Cinderella Pumpkin

    Oct 26, 2016
    Cinderella Pumpkin

    Availability/Origin

    Fall and winter months, 60% of crop is grown on the East Coast.
     
    Appearance/Flavor
    Vivid red and orange with some green. More of a flattened look with deep lobes. The flesh is thick and sweet almost like a custard. (All little girls want to be Cinderella. Now, you can buy her the pumpkin that resembles her carriage.)
     
    Storage
    Whole
    Keep indoors and do not place on a wooden table top or on carpet because it can cause breakdown. Another good idea is to place a cloth or cardboard between the pumpkin and the surface.

    Cut
    Refrigerate in a covered container or in aluminum foil, will last up to 5 days.
     
    Freeze
    Cut flesh away from the outer skin and remove the seeds, cook until soft. Then mash, let cool and place in a heavy-duty freezer bag or covered container. Will last up to a year or more.
     
    Ways to enjoy
    Roasted, breads, cakes, cookies. Can even puree to make ice cream or butter. (See, there's more than just those lattes) :)
     
    History
    An heirloom variety from France which began in 1830 and gained popularity in the 1880s. Supposedly, the pilgrims served this form of pumpkin on the second Thanksgiving. Pumpkin types.
     
  • Rainbow Carrots

    Oct 20, 2016
    rainbow carrots

    Availability/Origin

    Year-round. Grown in Asia, the Mediterranean and the United States.
     
    Appearance/Flavor
    Variety of colors (yellow, purple, red). Tender, crisp and sweet, however have an earthy flavor. They are harvested before maturity to preserve color and taste. (We tell them we are preserving their youthful appearance. No chance to get to grow up to be an adult carrot, poor things.)
     
    Storage
    Cut off the green tops and place in a container with water, ensuring they are fully submersed. They will last up to two weeks. If they are stored properly, the green tops will attempt to grow back. (Just like growing your hair out after a bad haircut.) :)
     
    Ways to enjoy
    Raw, salads, pastas, cakes, roasted, steamed, boiled and microwaved.
     
    History
    Carrots in general have been consumed for over 1,000 years and originated in Afghanistan and were actually yellow and purple at the time.
     
  • Purple Cauliflower

    Oct 13, 2016
    purple cauliflower

    Availability/Origin

    California (year round), Northeast (fall).
     
    Appearance/Flavor (The purple is real! No GMOs here.)
    Outside florets are purple, while the stem and core remain cream. Texture of the stems and florets are the same as white cauliflower. However, the taste is milder and less bitter with a nutty undertone.
     
    Storage
    The head will last up to two weeks when loosely wrapped in plastic and stored in the fridge. The cut florets will last up to one week when sealed in a plastic bag and stored in the fridge.
     
    Ways to enjoy
    Raw, roasted, steamed, soups.
     
    History
    The wild grown origin is unknown, most likely a heritage variety from either South Africa or Italy. (Can we be anymore vague?) :)
     
  • Produce Facts: Baby Broccoli

    Oct 06, 2016
    baby broccoli

    Availability/Origin

    Year-round. Grown in Central California (spring to fall) and Yuma, Arizona (winter).
     
    Appearance/Flavor
    Smaller florets with a thinner stalk than broccoli. Baby broccoli isn't young broccoli, it is a hybrid of broccoli and Chinese kale. Flavor is sweet and tender. (Tell kids it's broccoli's mini-me, and I bet they will eat it.)
     
    Storage
    In a plastic bag tightly sealed in the refrigerator. Will last up to five days.
     
    Ways to enjoy
    Raw, steamed, pastas, stir-fries, salads.
     
    History
    Created by Sakata Seed Company of Japan in Salinas, California in the early 90s. Originally called "Aspabroc". In the late 90s, Sakata partnered with Mann Packing Company and registered its trademark name. (Starts with a B, ends with ini.)
     
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