Produce Profiles: N - R
Bok Choy is an Asian member of the cabbage family. While there are over twenty varieties of Bok Choy, the one most familiar to North Americans is similar in appearance to celery but its stalks are white and are topped with large, dark green leaves. Bok Choy has been cultivated in China since the 5th century. It was introduced to Europe in the 1800s and subsequently to North America.
Nappa or Chinese Cabbage is another popular variety of cabbage with origins dating back some 6000 years. A mainstay in the Chinese diet, it was introduced to Japan in the early 20th century and is now quite common throughout the world. The head is tightly packed with broad leaves that are light green fading to white at the base.
Both Bok Choy and Nappa Cabbage are available year-round but since they are cool weather vegetables their availability is especially good in the fall and winter. Bok Choy is grown primarily in California and Canada; Nappa Cabbage is grown in California, Hawaii, Florida and New Jersey, New York and Ohio.
When selecting Bok Choy, look for stalks that are bright white and leaves that are dark green in color. There should be no yellowing and the leaves and stalk should be firm, crisp and relatively free of blemishes. Choose only what you can use in three or four days. The smaller stalks will be more tender.
When you are purchasing Nappa Cabbage look for heads that are compact with tightly closed leaves. The leaves should be crisp and unblemished. The head should not be dried out or wilted in any way. Avoid any head with small flowers sprouting from the end. This cabbage is either old or has not been grown in the proper environment.
Both Bok Choy and Nappa Cabbage should be stored unwashed in an open plastic bag in the refrigerator. Expect them to last from three to five days.
Preparation and Uses
Bok Choy and Nappa Cabbage can be used interchangeably in any number of recipes. After thoroughly washing them, they can be steamed, boiled or stir-fried. Bok Choy can be chopped and added to salads and Nappa can be shredded for coleslaw. In stir-fries, Bok Choy should be cooked very quickly over high heat to maintain crispness with the stalks cooking a few minutes longer than the leaves. Common uses for Nappa Cabbage include egg rolls, chow mein and wontons.
Nappa Cabbage and Bok Choy are good sources for vitamins A and C. At 12 and 10 calories per serving respectively, they are a great, low calorie addition to any diet. They contain no cholesterol, no fat and are low in sodium. In addition, because they are cruciferous vegetables, they contain chemical compounds that are believed to be helpful in the prevention of certain forms of cancer.
The term “tree nuts” describes a wide variety of nuts that grow on trees. Not included in this category are peanuts which are not nuts at all but actually legumes (like peas and beans). Tree nuts are among man’s earliest sources of protein with historical references on many varieties dating back to Biblical times. While most tree nuts are harvested in the autumn they are available year-round. However, most in-shell nuts are only available through the Holiday season, the exceptions being walnuts and pistachios.
Walnuts: One of the most widely-consumed nuts in the world, they have multiple origins from East Asia to Europe to the Americas. The most important variety and the one we commonly see in the grocery store is the English walnut. Also available is the American black walnut but because of its intense flavor it is primarily used only for baking.
Almonds: Like walnuts almost all of the almonds consumed in the United States are grown in California. Almonds are a great snack food as well as a preferred ingredient in many confections.
Pecans: The fruit of a hickory tree, pecans are the only major tree nut native to North America. This American favorite has been cultivated since the 1500s. In high demand because of its rich, robust flavor, the pecan is one of the most valuable of all tree nuts.
Hazelnuts: Also known as filberts these nuts grow mainly in Washington and Oregon. Turkey, Spain and Italy also produce hazelnuts. Although they are mainly used for baking they are also popular in salads and as a snack.
Brazil Nuts: This native of the Brazilian Rain Forest grows inside a huge pod in trees that are often 150 feet tall. Brazil nuts are excellent eating but they can prove to be a challenge to crack to get at the meat. A tip: put them in the freezer for a day prior to cracking.
Macadamia Nuts: While most people associate these nuts with Hawaii, they are actually native to Australia, the leader in macadamia nut production. Hawaii is number two. These rich, buttery-tasting nuts are high in monounsaturated fat…the “healthy fat.” Macadamia nuts are excellent in cookies and used in numerous confections.
Pine Nuts: Of all the nuts, pine nuts are the highest in protein content. Also known as pinon, there are several species of American Pines that have edible pine nuts; however, because of the labor required for harvesting most of the pine nuts we consume are grown on Italy, Portugal or Lebanon. Pine nuts are a key ingredient in pesto.
Cashews: Very different from other nuts, cashews are actually seeds found on the bottom of the cashew apple. They are native to Brazil but today some of the leading producers of cashews are Tanzania, Mozambique and Nigeria. They are always sold shelled because the interior of the cashew shell actually contains a caustic resin. Prized for its rich taste, it is a favorite for snacking but it also can be used in cooking.
Pistachios: Probably America’s favorite snack nut, virtually all pistachios are grown in California. The shell of the pistachio will split open when the nut is ripe giving it a unique appearance. They are then harvested by shaking the tree with a mechanical shaker. If not dried and hulled properly the shell will stain. To hide this staining the practice of dying the shells red came into existence. Today modern methods of processing have made this unnecessary although a small percentage of pistachios are still dyed red, and even green, as a marketing tool for those customers that prefer a colorful shell.
Selecting nuts is pretty rudimentary; however, if nuts are packaged and you plan to store them for any length of time make sure the package is airtight.
Nuts can be stored in either the refrigerator or in the cupboard. Shelled nuts can also be frozen. The length of time they can be stored varies depending on whether or not they are in-shell or shelled; opened or unopened package; and refrigerated or room temperature.
Once opened, be sure to store them in an airtight container as they will absorb odors from other food. Rancid nuts will develop a “paint” smell.
Preparation and Uses
Nuts have multiple uses. Besides being a great snack food, they can be used in a variety of recipes ranging from main dishes, to soups, pastas, and salads.
With the trend in diets away from animal-based foods and toward plant–based foods, nuts are once again becoming an important source of nutrition. All nuts contain protein and fiber along with important nutrients like vitamin E, magnesium, potassium and calcium. While nuts do contain relatively high levels of fat, it is primarily unsaturated fat... “the good fat.” Walnuts contain polyunsaturated fat and are a very good source of Omega-3 fatty acids which may help to lower cholesterol. Almonds, pecan, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts and pistachios contain monounsaturated fats. According to a USDA study released in 2003 “Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.”
Onions have been cultivated for over five thousand years. No kitchen would be considered complete without onions. Their versatility and distinctive taste are legendary in the culinary arts. Native to the Middle East and Asia, they were highly regarded by the Egyptians, so much so that they even used them for currency to pay the workers who built the pyramids. Onions were first introduced to the Western hemisphere by Christopher Columbus. He is credited with bringing them to the West Indies and from there they spread throughout the New World. Today, China is the world’s leading producer of onions followed by India and the United States. Washington is this country’s leading producer followed closely by Oregon and California.
As a vegetable category, onions are usually separated into two distinct groups: dry onions and green onions. Setting aside green onions or scallions, this discussion focuses around dry onions. Dry onions can be easily grouped into two distinct classifications- storage onions and spring/summer onions or sweet onions.
Storage onions are the typical round onions available year-around either in bags or individually. Normally grown in cooler climates, before they go to market, they are dried for a period of time resulting in a dry, brittle skin. The typical storage onions will have a stronger, more pungent flavor than their sweet counterparts. Storage onions are available in three colors: yellow, white and red. Typically, yellow onions have a stronger flavor than white and white onions are stronger than red. Spanish onions are member of the storage onion category.
Spring/summer onions are often referred to as sweet onions. What makes them so sweet is not their sugar content, but rather the lower levels of Pyruvic acid (this is the sulfur compound that gives onions their “hotness”). Sweet onions are more delicate than storage onions and must be handled with relative care. At one time, these onions were limited to spring and summer but the global popularity of sweet onions along with development of new seed varieties has made them available nearly all year long. Here are some of the more well-known varieties of sweet onions:
Mayan Sweets - Originating in Peru these delicate, sweet onions are available from late September through February.
Maui Sweets - This Hawaiian favorite is available April through June.
Texas 1015 - with a season running from mid-March though May, this is the first of the domestic sweet onions available in the spring. So named because their recommended planting date is October 15. Also available is a Mexican 1015 in late February.
Vidalia - perhaps the most well-known, their peak season runs May through June. Thanks to controlled atmosphere storage, these popular onions are now available until late summer.
Walla Walla - This popular Washington variety was one of the first sweet onions to burst on the scene and is available late June through August.
Onions vary greatly in size, so choose the size needed based on use- larger onions for slicing, smaller onions for stews and roasting. Look for onions that are well-shaped, free of dirt and debris, have dry skin and have no opening at the neck. Onions that are sprouting, have dark spots, bruises or cuts or onions that show visible signs of mold should be avoided.
Onions should always be stored at room temperature. A dark location or one that has minimum exposure to light is preferred. Make sure they are stored in a manner that they are well-ventilated so that moisture cannot accumulate on the surface. A mesh storage container that allows the air to circulate underneath or a hanging basket will work well for storage. Never store onions near potatoes as they will absorb the moisture and ethylene gas from the onions causing them to spoil quicker.
Storage onions can be stored for longer period of time than sweet onions - perhaps as long as a month. Try to use sweet onions within a week of purchase as they are more susceptible to decay. As a general rule, the more pungent the onion, the longer it can be stored thus yellow onions will usually keep longer than a white or red onion. Once an onion has been cut, the remaining piece should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, but try to use it within a couple of days to avoid potential odor contamination of other foods. Onions can be peeled, diced and frozen for later use.
Preparation and Uses
Onions are perhaps one of the most widely used ingredients in cooking today. The recipes calling for onions are endless. Raw onions, especially the sweet onion varieties, can be used to perk up a garden salad or potato salad as well as sliced or diced to top off your burger or bratwurst. Key flavor enhancers in everything from casseroles to soups, onions can be sautéed, baked, fried and roasted.
While most people enjoy the taste of onions, a great many people dread cutting them as their pungency can bring tears to one’s eyes. This reaction is caused by the gas released when the cell walls are ruptured during cutting. One method of reducing this unpleasant side-effect is to cut the onion under running water. A better and easier method is to chill the onion for an hour or so prior to cutting. This will slow the chemical reaction that produces this irritating gas.
Onions are a very good source of vitamin C and chromium. They are also considered a good source of vitamin B6, folate, potassium, manganese and dietary fiber. At a mere 64 calories per serving, onions contain virtually no fat, no cholesterol and no sodium.
A great deal of research has been done centered around the many ostensible health benefits of onions. Among them are the lowering of blood sugars; lowering of cholesterol levels; reducing the risk of certain forms of cancer; and aiding in cardiovascular health. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, it may also be helpful in the treatment of conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and asthma.
In 1820, a single mutation in a Brazilian orchard yielded the navel orange. This mutation resulted in an underdeveloped twin inside the orange. (These are the small segments inside the orange at the base of the fruit.) From the outside, this mutation resembled a human navel, hence its name. Because the fruit had no seeds the only way to cultivate more fruit was through grafting. In the 1870s, two cuttings from the original tree found their way to Riverside, California and the rest is history. Today, California is this country’s number one producer of navel oranges. Florida and Texas also produce navel oranges but they are a different variety and have a slightly different flavor profile.
California navel oranges are normally available from November through May with the peak season being January, February and March. This is when the fruit will be at its juiciest and sweetest. Florida and Texas navel oranges usually start a few weeks ahead of the California crop and end in late February. With imported navel oranges available from Australia, South Africa and Chile during the June to September timeframe, you can now enjoy seedless navel oranges virtually all year long.
When you are selecting navel oranges look for fruit that has bright, relatively smooth, thin skin. Minor blemishes and scars are often the result of limp rubs and do not influence the eating quality of the fruit. Fruit having a very large navel was overripe when picked and should be avoided. Also avoid fruit that has a dull appearance, soft spots or winkled skin. The fruit should be firm and heavy for its size - an indicator of an abundance of juice.
Oranges prefer a storage temperature of around 45 degrees. If possible, store them in a cool place outside of the refrigerator, but only if you plan on eating them in a few days. For longer storage, refrigerating them in a plastic bag or placing them in the vegetable crisper should enable you to keep them for up to 10 days. Make sure the plastic bag has holes in it for ventilation so moisture does not build up and cause mold to form.
Preparation and Uses
Relatively easy to peel and section, navel oranges are a lunch box and snack favorite for eating out of hand. They also can be used in salads, salsas and chutneys. While the navel orange can be used for juice, it is not recommended. Navel orange juice must be used immediately or it will turn dark and become bitter.
A single serving - one medium sized navel orange - contains 120% of the RDA of vitamin C. Navel oranges are also a great source of fiber and possess substantial amounts of potassium, folate, vitamin B6, calcium and magnesium. These seedless citrus gems contain a mere 80 calories and 21 grams of carbohydrates per serving.
About Grapefruit: Grapefruit are a descendant of the pummelo and believed to be an orange / pummelo hybrid. They derive their name from the way they grow on the tree in clusters or bunches similar to grapes. Although grapefruit are grown in many areas of the world including the Caribbean, South America, Mexico, Morocco, and Israel, the United States continues to dominate the industry. Florida, Texas, California and Arizona are our leading producers. Today there are numerous varieties of grapefruit including both seeded and seedless varieties with pulp colors ranging from yellowish-white to ruby red.
Florida and Texas grapefruit are available from October through May with their peak season coming from December through April. California and Arizona grapefruit are available during the summer and into early fall.
In Texas, grapefruit are grown primarily in the southern Rio Grande Valley. Two of the most popular Texas varieties, the Rio Star and Star Ruby, have a pronounced red blush with flesh that is deep red in color and very sweet. Another popular variety grown in Texas, the Ruby Red has a slight red blush on the exterior and sweet red flesh on the interior. These varieties are seedless or nearly so.
Florida is far and away the leader in grapefruit production with Star Rubies and Ruby Reds among the most popular varieties. Unlike Texas, Florida also grows Marsh White and Golden grapefruit with a yellow exterior and yellowish-white flesh. The two main growing regions in Florida are the Indian River, famed for its near perfect climate and soil for growing grapefruit, and the central or interior region of Florida.
California and Arizona grow limited quantities of grapefruit in both white and red varieties. Most grapefruit from these growing areas tend to peel easier but have less flavor intensity than their Texas and Florida counterparts.
About Pummelos: The pummelo is the largest member of the citrus family reaching sizes up to twelve inches in diameter. Native to southeastern Asia and Malaysia, it enjoys widespread popularity from the Fiji Islands where it grows wild along the riverbanks to mainland China. It is cultivated throughout southern China, Thailand, Taiwan, Indonesian, New Guinea and southern Japan. It is believed that that the pummelo was first brought to the Western Hemisphere by Captain Shaddock in the 17th Century, specifically to Barbados. Hence, the name shaddock was given to fruit in the Caribbean.
The ancestor of today’s grapefruit, the pummelo has a very thick peel with flesh that varies from a pale greenish–yellow to pink or red depending on the specific variety. The outside of the mature pummelo may vary from green to yellow but this bears little connection to the taste of the fruit inside. The pummelo will usually have between 16 and 18 segments, whereas a grapefruit usually has about 12 segments. The flavor is very similar to grapefruit but less acidic and somewhat sweeter. Pummelos contain far less juice than a grapefruit.
About Oroblancos: Grown almost exclusively in California, oroblancos are a cross between an acidless pummelo and a white grapefruit. It is a relative newcomer that was developed by the University of California in their Riverside research facility. Oroblancos are available from late October through March. They have a very thick rind and their exterior varies from bright green early in their season to yellow as the season progresses. The oroblanco’s flesh is golden-yellow in color. Their flavor has been described as similar to that of a grapefruit with sugar added. They peel and section easily and can be eaten like an orange.
Look for fruit that is firm, clean and free of bruises. Fruit from Florida will, however, have the characteristic “wind scaring” from the ocean breezes. Grapefruit should be heavy in the hand indicating an abundance of juice. As the season progresses, they will get even heavier. Pummelos and oroblancos will not be proportionately as heavy since they contain less juice.
All of these citrus varieties will store for up to a week on the kitchen counter but for longer storage, they should be refrigerated.
Preparation and Uses
Grapefruit, oroblancos and pummelos are considered by many to be “breakfast” food, however, there are a number of recipes that utilize these citrus varieties in salads and in cooking. For example, halves of grapefruit or problancos can be sprinkled with brown sugar and cinnamon, lightly broiled in the oven and served hot as an appetizer. Pummelo and avocado compliment each other and make an excellent salsa. They can all be peeled and segmented to add to fruit salads or cut in half and eaten directly out of their “shell” with a serrated grapefruit spoon. Grapefruit are also excellent to juice.
As with other citrus, these varieties all contain an abundant amount of vitamin C. Half of a medium grapefruit provides over 100% of the RDA. In addition, they are a good source for vitamin A and dietary fiber. They also contain thiamin, folate and traces of several other important nutrients. These citrus offerings are a dieter’s delight with around 60 calories per serving, no fat and relatively low carbohydrates.
These three root vegetables are usually found in the same area of the Produce department and are often used interchangeably in various recipes. Each one, however, has its own unique characteristics.
Parsnips: This root vegetable is closely related to carrots; in fact, they look similar to carrots but are tan in color with a white flesh. They have a nutty, sweet flavor and a fragrance similar to celery. Introduced from Europe to America as early as the 1600s, they were often used as a sweetener until the development of the sugar beet in the 1800s. Parsnips are grown in temperate climates as frost is necessary to bring out their flavor.
Turnips: These bulbous root vegetables are white on the bottom and reddish purple in the top where they have protruded from the ground and been exposed to sunlight. The green tops of turnips can also be eaten and are a familiar side dish in Southeastern U.S. kitchens. Interestingly enough, “turnip jack-o-lanterns” are a Halloween tradition in Ireland and Scotland.
Rutabagas: Very similar to turnips in appearance, they are a cross between a turnip and cabbage. The flesh of rutabagas is yellowish in color and they can grow to upwards of 6 inches in diameter. With origins thought to be in Scandinavia or Russia, these very large bulbous root vegetables are also known as “swedes” or Swedish turnips. Introduced to North America in the early 19th century, they are a popular food among people with Scandinavian heritage..
While these vegetables are available year-around, the prime season for them is fall and winter. Select parsnips that are between 5 and 10 inches in length, uniform in color and firm with no soft spots. Usually, the lighter the color the more tender they will be. Look for turnips that are less than 2 inches in diameter for maximum flavor and tenderness. The skin should be smooth and free of blemishes. Rutabagas selection should be based on need as the size has little to do with taste or texture. When selecting rutabagas, make sure there are no sunken areas or soft spots.
These three root vegetables store very well in the vegetable crisper of your refrigerator. Place them unwashed in a perforated plastic bag or wrap them in paper towels. Stored in this manner, they should last for two weeks and perhaps longer.
Preparation and Uses
Parsnips should be scrubbed not peeled prior to use. They can be boiled, mircowaved or roasted. Fresh parsnips will have a creamy, soft texture when cooked, but if they are too old, they will be bitter and fibrous. Parsnips are most often used in soups, stews or casseroles.
Scrub turnips and snip off the root end and leaf end prior to use. Small “baby turnips” that are less than 2 inches in diameter do not require peeling, however, larger turnips should be peeled prior to cooking. Turnips can be eaten raw and thinly-sliced turnips can be served on vegetable trays with dip. Turnips can be boiled, roasted or microwaved and make an excellent side dish. When boiled, turnips trend to have a bitter taste. To counteract this, boil a potato along with the turnips.
The first step in preparing rutabagas is to wash and peel them just like a potato. Depending on the recipe, they can be diced, sliced or left whole for cooking. They are then baked, boiled or microwaved. Typically, rutabagas are used in stews and casseroles, but other favorite uses are mashing them with carrots or using them in pasties, a traditional Scandinavian dish.
Parsnips contain several essential minerals including vitamin B6, vitamin C and vitamin E, and are also a good source of dietary fiber. They are an excellent source of potassium and are low in calories.
Turnips are an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of vitamin B6. They are low in carbohydrates and contain only 34 calories per serving.
Rutabagas are a very good source of vitamin C and potassium as well as being a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6, calcium, thiamin and magnesium. A one-cup serving contains just 50 calories.
Papayas are native to Mexico and Central America; however, they are now grown in almost every tropical and subtropical area of the world. The papaya plant is not a tree but rather a fast-growing, short-lived herbaceous plant similar to a banana plant. The pear-shaped fruit of the papaya plant contains a sweet, refreshing flesh that is somewhat reminiscent of cantaloupe in taste. There are several varieties of papayas but they all fall into two categories, Hawaiian and Mexican.
The Hawaiian papayas (also known as “solos” because they can be eaten by one person) are smaller than their Mexican counterparts. Usually the fruit is from 4 to 6 inches long and weighs a pound or less. The color of the flesh can vary from yellow to orange to red depending on the exact variety. Although this type of Papaya is called Hawaiian, much of the fruit we eat comes from Central and South America and the Caribbean. Guatemala, Brazil and Jamaica are all important sources for this fruit. Included in this category are varieties like Strawberry papayas and Caribbean Sunrise papayas.
The Mexican papaya varieties are usually not as sweet as the Hawaiian varieties but what they lack in sweetness they make up for in size. Some of these papayas grow as large as 20 pounds with 5 to 10 pounds being common. Often times the really large fruit will be cut up into large chunks and sold in packages. Maradol and Caribbean Red are examples of Mexican type papayas.
Papayas should be handled very gently as they bruise very easily. Select papayas that are slightly soft to the touch and are more yellow than green. Avoid fruit that has brown spots or heavy scaring. If only green fruit is available they can be ripened in a paper bag at room temperature in a few days.
Papayas should be stored at room temperature or at least above 55 degrees to allow them to ripen. Only after they are ripe should they be stored in a plastic container in the refrigerator but not for more than a couple of days. As with many tropical fruits, papayas do not do well when frozen.
Preparation and Uses
As a general rule of thumb the riper the fruit the sweeter it will be. To prepare a papaya just follow four simple steps: 1) wash the exterior in cool water; 2) cut the fruit in half lengthwise; 3) scoop out the black seeds with a spoon; and 4) either peel and slice into sections or scoop out the flesh with a spoon or melon baler. The seeds are also edible. They can be used as a garnish or dried and ground into a seasoning similar to pepper.
Besides being a refreshing snack, papayas can be used raw in a number of dishes such as fruit salads, salsas, or smoothies. They can also be grilled with meats like chicken, fish or shrimp to give them a distinctive “tropical” flavor. The enzyme, papain, found in papayas breaks down protein making papaya slices (or the juice) a natural meat tenderizer.
Papayas contain 78% of your Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamin C. They are also a good source of vitamin A, potassium, calcium and dietary fiber and the papain found in papayas aids in digestion. One serving, half a papaya, is only about 30 calories and contains just 8 carbohydrates. They contain no sodium, cholesterol or fat.
Peaches have been around for thousands of years. Popular consensus places the origin of the peach in China. From there, cultivation spread across Persia and the Mediterranean to southern Europe. In the 16th century, the Spaniards brought the peach to Mexico and, with the help of French and English colonists, the peach found its way to the eastern United States. In the 18th century Spanish missionaries brought the peach to California. The peach grew in popularity and planting proliferated to meet the ever-increasing demand of the growing population in California.
While peaches and nectarines are grown in several states, it is California that leads the nation in production supplying approximately 60% of the peaches and over 90% of the nectarines. Other important peach producing states are Washington, South Carolina, New Jersey, Michigan and Georgia.
Nectarines are not a plum/peach cross as some people may think. They are a genetic variation of a peach separated by only one gene. In a nectarine the gene that causes fuzzy skin is recessive, thus, the “smooth-skinned cousin” to the peach.
Summer peaches and nectarines are available from California and other areas of the country from about the middle of May until October. There are over 200 varieties of peaches and over 175 varieties of nectarines that are commercially grown in California alone. Each variety matures at different times with the harvest of any one variety lasting around ten days. That means that the varieties available at the supermarket will change continually throughout the season. A bit confusing, but actually we can break that down into six primary categories of fruit as follows:
Yellow Flesh Peaches and Nectarines: These are the traditional peaches or nectarines that are available all summer long. They have a red blush over a yellow background. This fruit needs to be fully ripened to be eaten.
White Flesh Peaches and Nectarines: As the name implies the flesh is white as is the background color of the skin. The blush will vary from pink to red. They tend to ripen more quickly than their yellow flesh counterparts and are excellent eating - even when not fully ripe. They are available throughout the summer.
Sub-acid Peaches and Nectarines: These varieties of peaches and nectarines share one common characteristic. The acid level of the fruit is reduced, thus giving the fruit a sweeter flavor profile - even when they are not fully ripe. Most white flesh peaches and nectarine are “sub-acid” and several yellow flesh varieties are also available.
There is also the issue of clingstone or freestone varieties - freestone meaning the flesh separates easily from the pit. For the most part, today’s varieties of peaches are freestone; however, freestone varieties of nectarines are only available in June and July.
A discussion of peaches would not be complete without mentioning the Saturn peach. Also known as donut peaches or saucer peaches these unique pieces for fruit are flattened and have a slight depression on the top and bottom giving them a “donut-like” profile. They have white flesh, creamy yellow skin with a red blush and intensely sweet flavor. They are available throughout the summer.
When selecting peaches and nectarines, one should look at the background color of the fruit. A yellow background (or creamy white on white flesh varieties) means the fruit has reached maturity and will ripen properly. The amount of red blush does not indicate ripeness or quality; it is merely an attribute of each individual variety. Aroma is also important and if the fruit is at room temperature, it should display its characteristic aroma. Be sure the fruit is free of major blemishes or bruises and handle them very carefully. As peaches and nectarines ripen they will yield to gentle palm pressure.
For best ripening results store unripe or firm peaches and nectarines at room temperature. Do not put them on a window sill in direct sunlight as the heat will be too intense and will damage the fruit. To speed up the ripening process, carefully place the fruit in a single layer inside a paper bag with a closed top for a day or two making sure to check them often for ripeness. If you refrigerate unripe fruit between 36 and 49 degrees, you will not only inhibit the ripening process but you also run the risk of causing internal breakdown resulting in fruit that is dry, flavorless and mealy. Once the fruit is soft and ripe, it can safely be refrigerated for up to a week.
Preparation and Uses
Preparation of peaches and nectarines couldn’t be simpler. Just rinse them thoroughly under cold water and enjoy. Eating a juicy, ripe peach or nectarine out of hand is always a great experience. Sliced on cereal, in a fresh fruit salad or salsa, in smoothies, baked in a cobbler, cake or pastry, and made into jams or preserves are some of the other ways to enjoy the delicious flavor of peaches and nectarines.
Peaches and nectarines contain significant amounts of vitamin C along with vitamin A and potassium. Both of these fruits are a good source of healthy carbohydrates and dietary fiber. Peaches and nectarines also contain antioxidants and phytonutrients that are important in helping to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.
Early colonists brought the first pear trees to America's eastern settlements where they thrived until crop blights proved too severe to sustain widespread cultivation. Fortunately, the pear trees brought west to Oregon and Washington by pioneers in the 1800s thrived in the unique agricultural conditions found in the Pacific Northwest. Today's Northwest pear varieties are the same or similar to those first cultivated in France and Belgium where they were prized for their delicate flavor, buttery texture, and long storage life. Oregon and Washington produce 84% of the nation's fresh pear crop.
Available: August through January Ripens to bright yellow. Aromatic, perfect for fresh eating. Very sweet and juicy. Excellent for canning or cooking.
Red Bartlett and Starkrimson
Available: August through January Bright red skin when fully ripe. Same flavor, texture and use as yellow Bartletts.
Available: October through June Abundant juice and sweet flavor when ripe.They do not change color as they ripen.
Available: October through May Much the same flavor and texture as green Anjous. Remains maroon red when ripe.
Available: September through April Highly aromatic flavorful pear. Dense flesh makes it ideal for baking and cooking. They are brown and often russeted. They do not change color as they ripen.
Available: September through February One of the sweetest, juiciest varieties, and often are very large. An elegant dessert pear that's excellent with cheese. Almost no color change when ripe.
Available: September through February Tiny pears with ultra-sweet flavor, maroon and olive green in color. Excellent choice for children's snacks, pickling, or as a garnish. No color change when ripened.
Available: September through February A smaller variety. Turns bright yellow with crimson freckling when ripe. Sweet, very juicy.
…And the newest variety, the Corcorde. It is a cross between a Comice and a British Conference pear. The Conference is a relative to the Bosc so the pear shares that familiar elongated shape with the Bosc but it is not as heavily russeted. This pear stays green when ripe so check the neck for softness.
Pears do not ripen well on trees. They are harvested mature, but unripe and need to be ripened after harvest. Bartlett pears change from green to yellow as they ripen. Non-Bartlett pears (Anjou, Bosc, Comice, Seckel and Forelle) do not dramatically change color as they ripen. Because pears ripen from the inside out, the best way to check for ripeness is to "check the neck for ripeness." To do this, gently press near the stem with your thumb. When it gives to gentle pressure it is ripe, juicy and ready to eat. If you wait until the pear is soft around the middle chances are it will be overripe. Placing pears in a paper bag will help them ripen faster. Be sure to check them daily so they don't get overripe. You can also leave them out in a fruit bowl and enjoy their beauty as they ripen. Add apples or bananas to speed up the process.
Once they are ripened, pears will generally keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days. Unripe fruit can be kept for a week or more, however, pears will not ripen properly inside the refrigerator.
Preparation and Uses
Pears are very versatile. In addition to being served raw in almost anything, pears bake, poach, sauté, roast and grill very nicely. They can be used as an ingredient in baked goods, and can be made into preserves, jams and chutneys. Anything that can be done with an apple can be done with a pear. Browning, or oxidation, is a natural process that occurs when cut pears are exposed to oxygen. This can be slowed by using a mild solution of water and lemon juice, in to which the pears can be dipped or the solution can be brushed on the cut pears.
Pears are a good source of dietary fiber (a medium sized pear has 4 grams of fiber) and a good source of vitamin C, a proven anti-oxidant. Pears are also packed with Potassium (a medium sized pear has 208 mg of potassium). They contain no saturated fat, sodium or cholesterol. A medium pear has about 100 calories.
Peas are among the earliest–known vegetables with evidence pointing to cultivation in Burma and Thailand as early as 10000 BC. Areas such as Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Egypt have produced archaeological evidence of peas dating back as early as 4800 BC and Afghanistan, Pakistan and India have evidence dating as far back as 2200 BC.
Peas are a cool season vegetable that does not tolerate intense summer heat. Spring and early summer are the peak season for peas. However, with the globalization of the Produce industry, we now can enjoy them virtually year round.
Today, California is the leading producer of peas in the United States. Washington, New York, Texas, Florida and New Jersey are also key peas-producing states.
Peas can be divided into three main varieties: English, Snow and Snap peas.
English Peas: Only about five percent of all English peas make their way to the Produce department as a fresh alternative to frozen or canned peas. English peas come in a plump, inedible pod each containing 4-6 edible peas. While they are available year around, their peak season is March to May and again August to November.
Snow Peas: Snow peas look quite different than English peas. The pod is flat and the “shadow” or the peas inside is visible through the pod. Unlike English peas, Snow peas are eaten pod and all. Fresh Snow peas are available all year long thanks to imports from countries such as Guatemala, Mexico, and Honduras.
Snap Peas: Also referred to as Sugar Snap peas, they are actually a hybrid of English peas and Snow peas. The look similar to English peas however they tend to be somewhat smaller in size. Like the Snow pea, Sugar Snap peas are eaten without being shelled. While they too are available year around, the spring and fall are prime time to enjoy these sweet legumes.
When selecting English peas make sure they are plump, crisp and bright green in color. At the peak of maturity the pea pod will be full so check for empty space by listening for a rattling sound when you shake them. Snow peas should also be crisp but the color will be lighter than either the English pea or Sugar Snap. Preferably, Snow peas should be no more than three inches long and about 3/4 inch wide. Smaller Snow peas tend to be sweeter. Good quality Sugar Snap peas will be plump, crisp and bright green. Slightly smaller than Snow peas- about 2-1/2 to 3 inches in length is ideal.
Buy only what you will eat in a day or two as peas are not the hardiest of vegetables. Also, their sugar starts to convert back into starch as soon as they are picked. You should avoid pods that are either very large or very small or pods that show any indication of decay.
Unwashed peas can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator but only for a relatively short period of time. English peas should never be shelled until just prior to use and it is best if they are stored for no more than two days. Snow peas and Sugar Snap peas will last for perhaps up to four days in the refrigerator. Remember, the sooner you use them the sweeter they will be. Fresh shelled English peas, Snow peas and Snap peas can also be blanched for one to two minutes and then frozen for later use.
Preparation and Uses
English Peas: Wash the peas under running water before you remove the pod. Snap off the stem end of the pod and then press the seam with your thumb until it pops open. Run your thumb down the length of the pod to pop out the peas. Discard the pod. English peas can be steamed and plated as a vegetable or once cooked they can be chilled and used in a variety of salads including fresh garden salads.
Snow Peas: It is not necessary to remove the pod, however, you will want to snip off each end then rinse them under running water. A traditional use, of course, is in stir-fries but they also can be blanched for about a minute then immediately rinsed in cold water for use in garden salads. Blanching will bring out their emerald green color.
Sugar Snap Peas: Sugar Snap peas can be eaten raw; however, blanching brings out the color and sweetness. They too can be used in stir-fries or in salads. They are also finding their way onto vegetable platters as they go very well with a variety of dips.
Peas are an excellent source of nutrition. They are high in vitamins C and K and contain a significant amount of dietary fiber, thiamin and folate. Peas are a good source of vitamin A, potassium, magnesium, protein and several B vitamins. They are low in calories and contain no cholesterol.
Oriental Persimmons are native to China, the world’s largest producer. They have been cultivated there as well as in Korea and Japan for more than a thousand years. Commodore Perry is credited with bringing the Oriental Persimmon to the United Sates from Japan in 1856. The American Persimmon, popular in the 1800s, is a relative of Oriental persimmon but it is no longer cultivated and is now mainly a wildlife food. In fact, the word Persimmon is Algonquian meaning “a dry fruit.” (Most of the world calls them Kaki.) Virtually all Persimmons consumed in the United States come from California. Persimmons are in season from October through January peaking in late November. The California crop usually finishes up in mid to late December at which time we begin importing them from Israel where they are known as Sharon Fruit.
Persimmons are divided into two very distinct categories: astringent and non-astringent. Astringent varieties must be completely ripe before they can be eaten. Their astringency comes from the high level of tannins in the fruit. These tannins fade as the fruit ripens. When ripe the fruit will feel almost jelly-like and squishy to the touch. They are very soft and must be handled with care so as not to break the skin.
Hachiya: This is the most common astringent variety grown in the US. It is deep orange in color and its shape can best be described as acorn-like. An unripe Hachiya can be ripened at room temperature in about a week.
Fuyu: The Fuyu is the most common non-astringent variety sold in this country. It is vibrant orange to yellow in color with a shape that is round and flat making it easy to distinguish from the Hachiya. Unlike the Hachiya, this Persimmon can be eaten when it is still firm although some people prefer to let them soften somewhat. When firm they are crunchy and extremely sweet with a texture and flavor similar to an apple.
When purchasing Persimmons you should look for fruit that is free of cuts or cracks in the skin. Dark spots are caused by sunburn and are of no consequence unless they are sunken into the flesh. Scarring due to rubbing against tree limbs is also normal and will not diminish the quality of the fruit. Hachiyas will need to be ripened if they are still firm so keep that in mind as you plan your purchase. Fuyus should be firm to the touch.
Interestingly enough Persimmons store best at either just above 32 degrees or at room temperature. Persimmons that are stored in a refrigerator, which normally runs at about 40 degrees, will actually deteriorate faster than fruit that is held at room temperature. Unripe, hard fruit left at room temperature will ripen in about a week. Once ripe they should be used in a few days.
Preparation and Uses
Hachiyas are mainly used for baking and cooking. By its very nature when ripe it is almost always used as a puree. There are numerous recipes for cookies, cakes, breads, puddings and sauces that showcase the persimmon. They make excellent jams and preserves as well.
The Fuyu, as stated earlier, can be eaten raw out of hand. They also work well in fruit salads or as part of a fresh fruit appetizer since they do not darken when cut.
Persimmons are rich in beta carotene and contain 70% of the RDA for vitamin A. They also contain 20% of the RDA for vitamin C and are a good source of dietary fiber. A six ounce serving contains just 130 calories.
Pineapples are believed to be native to Paraguay. The Indians carried them as far north as Mexico and ultimately throughout Central America and the Caribbean. Fifteenth and sixteenth-century trade ships carried them to places as far away as Australia, India, South Africa, China and the Philippines. It was during this period of exploration that the pineapple found its way to Hawaii; however, it wasn’t until the late 1800s that the first plantations started to appear and the pineapple industry began to flourish on the islands.
The fresh pineapple industry has changed dramatically in recent years. The growing demand, coupled with the escalating cost of land in Hawaii, has meant a shift in production to other parts of the world. Today, most of the pineapples we consume are grown in Central America. Countries like Costa Rica, Guatemala and Honduras are among the leading exporters to the United States.
Another important change in the industry has been in the variety of pineapple that is grown. Advances in agricultural practices and plant breeding have given us pineapples that are not only sweeter, but also more appealing with a golden shell color to match the fruit inside. With an 18-month growth cycle to maturity, pineapple plantings are carefully controlled and monitored to give us fresh pineapple throughout the year.
When purchasing pineapple, it is important to note that all pineapple are picked when ripe. The conversion of starch to sugar stops once a pineapple is picked and they do not continue to ripen once harvested. While the golden color of the shell is attractive, it has little to do with the maturity of the fruit inside. Also, the old practice of pulling leaves out of the crown has nothing to do with ripeness. To pick a good pineapple, simply look for fruit that is not old looking. In other words, the leaves of the crown should not be dry or brown and the fruit should be void of bruises and soft spots.
In general, you should try to purchase your pineapple as close as possible to when you plan to use it. Pineapple can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days, but longer than that could result in chill damage. Cut pineapple can be stored in the refrigerator in a covered container for a couple of days as well.
Preparation and Uses
To cut a fresh pineapple, begin by twisting off the crown. Next, cut the fruit lengthwise into quarters and trim off both ends. Stand each quarter on end and remove the core of the fruit (about 1/2 inch) by slicing vertically down the quartered section. With the fruit still standing on end, carefully remove the shell with two or three vertical slices down the outer edge of the fruit. Finally, cut the remaining fruit into chunks appropriate for serving.
If you want to make a “pineapple boat,” leave the crown in tact and cut the entire fruit lengthwise including the crown. Next, with a thin-bladed, flexible knife, carefully remove the fruit from the shell, cut away the core and cut the fruit into chunks. The “boat” can then be refilled with the pineapple chunks or a combination of fresh fruits to create an attractive serving dish.
There are a number of culinary tools available to make the job of cutting and coring pineapples a snap. These can be purchased at culinary specialty stores as well as many supermarkets.
Dairy products, such as cottage cheese, should not be mixed with pineapple until just prior to serving. Pineapple can be used to tenderize and enhance the flavor of many meats.
One cup of diced pineapple is just 74 calories and 20 grams of carbohydrates, yet it contains 94% of the RDA of vitamin C and 91% of the RDA of manganese. It is also a good source of dietary fiber, copper, thiamin and vitamin B6.
Pluots are a complex hybrid of a plum and an apricot, hence a pluot. This relatively new fruit was developed in the late 1980s and early 1990s by Floyd Zaiger and Zaiger Genetics in Modesto, California. The pluot is much sweeter than either the plum or apricot from which it is derived. With a season that runs from approximately the beginning of May to the end of September, there are currently over 50 different varieties of pluots available. This smooth-skinned fruit as similar in size to a plum and varies greatly in appearance. The skin color can range from black to red to green and can be solid or speckled. Likewise, the flesh can vary from white to red in color. These varieties have some very interesting names like Mango Tango, Flavor Grenade, Dinosaur Egg™ and Yummy Giant and Dapple Dandy. In order to lend some structure to all this variety, the Produce industry has divided pluots into four categories based on their appearance - red, black, green and mottled. The Dinosaur Egg™ is an example of a mottled pluot.
When you are purchasing pluots, look for fruit that is plump, firm and full-color. Avoid fruit that is green (unless it is a green variety). The skin should be free of punctures from stems and major blemishes.
Pluots can be ripened at room temperature in a brown paper bag on the kitchen counter, but avoid putting them in direct sunlight. Ripe fruit will yield to gentle pressure and be very fragrant. Ripened pluots can be stored in a plastic bag in your refrigerator for several days.
Preparation and Uses
Pluots can be used in any recipe that calls for either plums or apricots. They are a great addition to a summer fruit salad or a yogurt smoothie but perhaps the best use is simply eating out of hand. As with other fruits, be sure you wash pluots under a stream of cold water prior to use.
There isn’t an official nutritional breakdown for pluots; however, they are similar to both plums and apricots. One medium size pluot contains about 80 calories, 19 carbohydrates, and no fat, sodium or cholesterol. Like plums and apricots, they are a good source of vitamins A and C as well as dietary fiber.
Pomegranates were first cultivated in Persia as early as 2000 BC. Remains from archaeological excavations show that the pomegranate tree was one of the first fruit trees cultivated in the Old World. The domestication of the pomegranate then spread from the Middle East into Africa and Greece. The intriguing pomegranate has been celebrated in mythology, featured in fine art and revered for its health benefits since the dawn of time. Pomegranates were brought to the New World by Spanish missionaries in 1521.
Early Wonderful, Grenada, Foothill and Wonderful are the names of pomegranate varieties that grow in California. The Wonderful variety of pomegranate is in season from October to January.
Fresh pomegranates can vary from a pale, red-yellow to a deep, crimson red. Pomegranates are hand picked when they're ripe, so store-bought fruit is ready to enjoy as soon as you get it home. The color of the fruit and a few external blemishes are no indication of the internal quality. The heavier the fruit, the more juice you'll find inside.
Fresh, unopened pomegranates will keep at room temperature (out of direct sunlight) for a week or two and should last in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator for up to a month. Cut pomegranates should last anywhere from a couple of days to a week if stored in a tightly sealed plastic bag in your refrigerator.
Place the fresh arils in an airtight container in the refrigerator and they’ll keep for several days. You can also freeze arils in a tightly sealed plastic bag for up to a year so that you can enjoy them year around.
Preparation and Uses
Here is an easy three-step method to get at the delicious fruit inside a pomegranate:
- Cut off the "crown", and then score the outer layer of skin into sections.
- In a large bowl of water, break apart the sections along the score lines. Roll out the arils (the sweet juice sacs surrounding a tiny edible seed) with your fingers. The arils will sink to the bottom while the white membrane floats to the top.
- Strain out the water. The arils are ready to eat whole, seeds and all.
A tablespoon or two tossed into a salad will make ordinary greens look and taste exotic. Top your ice cream or sundae with arils instead of the usual cherry. Sprinkle them over dry cereal or stir them into oatmeal to give your morning a wake-up call. Stir a few arils into yogurt to liven up the taste. Arils make a gorgeous garnish for chicken or rice dishes.
Throughout the world, the pomegranate has been associated with good health. Preparations using parts of the pomegranate (the juice, arils, husk and bark) have, over centuries, been used to treat a variety of conditions. Today, scientists are researching the powerful health benefits of the pomegranate. Pomegranates contain beneficial potassium and fiber. Potassium helps regulate blood pressure and maintain strong bones. Fiber helps maintain digestive regularity and may reduce LDL cholesterol, which may help lower the risk of heart disease. Pomegranates are an excellent source of polyphenol antioxidants. They also provide 29% of your RDA of vitamin C.
Potatoes originated in the Andean mountain region of South America. It is estimated that potatoes have been cultivated by the Indians in these areas for between 4,000 and 7,000 years. Potatoes were brought to Europe by Spanish explorers in the early 16th century. It is believed potatoes were first introduced to the United States in the early 18th century by Irish immigrants; however, they did not gain significance as a crop until the 19th century. Today potatoes are the world's fourth largest food crop with China being the number one producer. Everyone is familiar with the traditional Russet, White or Red potatoes we see in the supermarket, however, recently several new offerings can now be found in your favorite Produce department. Once known only by chefs, caterers, and restaurateurs, these “gourmet” potato varieties are gaining in popularity with everyday consumers.
Here are some of those varieties:
Klondike Rose™ - A beautiful rose-colored skin with an amazing gold-colored flesh and taste that is simply unbelievable.
Yukon Gold - This variety has a light, buttery-looking yellow interior and a smooth, creamy yellow skin virtually free from eyes or depression. They are excellent baked, mashed or roasted.
Purple Potatoes - Also called Blue Potatoes truly are naturally purple. This is from the same powerful antioxidant that gives blueberries their brilliant color. Purple Peruvian Potatoes were some of the first potatoes ever harvested. Traditionally used in Mexican cooking, purple potatoes are gaining popularity in the U.S. They have a naturally creamy flavor and texture and hold their shape well for salads. They are perfect for a purple potato salad, fried or baked purple chips, or purple mashed potatoes.
Fingerling Potatoes - Gourmet fingerling potatoes add flavor as well as nutrition to a variety of dishes. These potatoes are small in size and, as the name suggests, resemble a finger in shape. Their diminutive size makes them convenient, flavorful and versatile. Three popular varieties are:
Russian Banana - The superstar of the fingerlings and a favorite among chefs, heralded for their excellent flavor and versatility. These yellow, banana-shaped, waxy-type tubers with firm texture are great baked, boiled or steamed.
French - A gourmet quality fingerling with satin purple-pink skin and yellow flesh with an interior ring of pink when cut across.
Rose Finn Apple - Truly the classic European fingerling with its slender shape, rose-colored skin and firm yellow flesh. This savory delight is favored as a puree to thicken soups, sauces and gravies but also makes a delectable roasting potato.
When selecting, look for potatoes that are firm and feel heavy in the hand. They should be unblemished, free of green spots and have no signs of sprouting.
Potatoes should be stored in a cool, dry place away from light. Avoid refrigerating them as doing so converts some of the potato's starch to sugar. If you do have to refrigerate them, take them out in the morning and let them come to room temperature before preparing. This will allow the sugar to return to starch. Don't wash potatoes before storing; it speeds up the development of decay. Exposure to direct sunlight turns potatoes green and makes them bitter. Do not store potatoes in plastic bags as the lack of air movement reduces storage life. If a potato begins to sprout, it has been stored too long. Potatoes that have been cooked will keep in the refrigerator for several days. Avoid freezing potatoes.
Preparation and Uses
Wash potatoes under cold running water, scrubbing them lightly with a vegetable brush. Cut them right before cooking in order to avoid the discoloration that occurs with exposure to air. If it is not possible to cook them immediately, placing them in a bowl of cold water and adding a small amount of lemon juice will help prevent discoloration. Potatoes are also sensitive to certain metals that may cause them to discolor so avoid cooking them in iron or aluminum pots. Likewise, do not use a carbon steel knife to cut them.
- Fingerlings bake quickly and are a great addition to virtually any meal. They can be baked, roasted, grilled, steamed, sautéed, boiled, fried or mashed and offer outstanding flavor and color to your favorite meal.
- Fingerlings should be eaten with their skins on. This helps keep their great flavor. Plus, they'll hold their shape and absorb less water.
- The next time you prepare your potatoes, try them plain or with a little salt and pepper. You will be amazed at just how good they taste all by themselves.
- Mash them with the skins on. It gives your mashed potatoes a great texture and the skins contain additional nutrients.
- Boil a mixture of fingerling potatoes until fork tender, toss with butter and herbs for a quick and simple side.
- Add a new twist to your potato salad and use a variety of fingerling potatoes for increased color and flavor.
Only 100 calories per serving, potatoes are fat free, cholesterol free, and sodium free. Potatoes supply 18% of the daily needs of potassium, 45% of the RDA for Vitamin C and 10% of the RDA of vitamin B6. A serving contains 4 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, and 26 grams of carbohydrates.
Raspberries and blackberries are both decendents from the genus Rubus and are often referred to as “bush berries” because they grow on bushes as opposed to plants like the strawberry. Forensic evidence shows that man has been consuming these tasty fruits for at least 2500 years-probably much longer. While they are found wild in many parts of the United States, most of our commercial production comes from California and Oregon in the West. North Carolina and Georgia are key blackberry producing states in the East. Grown throughout much of the world, these coveted berries are now available year-round. During winter months both blackberries and raspberries are imported from Central and South America.
Both of these berries are actually not berries at all but rather a composite fruit consisting of numerous “drupelets” around a central core. When raspberries are ripe the drupelets separate from the core as the fruit is picked giving us a hollow fruit. On the other hand, the blackberry drupelets stay attached to the core even when ripe.
Blackberry, is a generic term that often is used to cover an array of bush berries, including Marionberries, Loganberries, and Boysenberries. Actually these varieties are hybrids and crosses between raspberries and blackberries. While there are numerous varieties of raspberries, they fall into two common categories, the red raspberry and golden raspberry. Golden raspberries are available from late May to October and are especially delicious. Their taste is often described as a cross between an apricot, a banana and a raspberry.
Blackberries and raspberries are marketed in a number of different sizes of plastic containers. Both of these berries are highly perishable and should be handled very gently. Look for fruit that shows no sign of bruising or crushing. Ruptured drupelets will leak and hasten the breakdown of the fruit. Raspberries should be plump and evenly colored. The tiny hairs on raspberries, called “styles,” are natural and do not affect the taste. Blackberries should have a nice sheen and be plump and evenly colored.
Because of their highly perishable nature blackberries and raspberries should be kept under refrigeration at all times. Store them in your refrigerator in their original plastic container. Fresh raspberries and blackberries will usually only last 1 to 2 days in the refrigerator so plan your purchase accordingly and consume them as soon as possible. Blackberries freeze quite well. Wash the fruit prior to freezing then freeze them on a flat tray. As soon as they are frozen, place them in an airtight container in the freezer for use later.
Preparation and Uses
Raspberries and blackberries are both sensitive to moisture so wash the fruit just prior to use under a gentle stream of water. They bruise very easily so handle them with care. Both blackberries and raspberries can be used in a variety of desert creations, in fresh fruit salads, in smoothies, or simply eaten out of hand. They make excellent preserves, jams and sauces as well.
A one-cup serving of raspberries or blackberries contains about 50% of the RDA for vitamin C and 32% of the RDA for dietary fiber. Both raspberries and blackberries contain significantly high levels of antioxidants. Raspberries, in particular, have ten times the level of antioxidants of tomatoes. This is due to the presence of compounds found primarily in raspberries known as ellagitannins which reportedly have anti-cancer benefits.