Category Archives: Fruits

Hello, October

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Fall is in full swing and every season has its bounty to share, as your local grocery stores are piling up autumn’s best harvests and many farmer’s markets are coming to an end. In addition to apples and the perennial favorite , pumpkins there are other types of produce that a commonly available during October. So why not take on October with a few reusable grocery bags and  a pair of sharp eyes, along with this list and seek out the fruits and vegetables that are at their peak.

Happy Shopping!

Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables for October:

Apples
Beets
Blackberries
Broccoli
Brussels sprouts
Butter lettuce
Cabbage
Cauliflower
Chicory
Collard greens
Corn
Cranberries
Cucumbers
Dates
Eggplant
Figs
Grapes
Kale
Kiwi
Limes
Melon
Okra
Pears
Peppers
Persimmons
Plums
Pomegranates
Potatoes
Pumpkins
Raspberries
Tomatoes
Winter Squash
Zucchini

This Month’s Featured Vegetable:
Eggplant!

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Photo Credit: Produce Made Simple, 2018.

The eggplant is a member of the nightshade family, making it related to potatoes and tomatoes. But did you know eggplants are actually a fruit, even though they are consumed as vegetables?

Eggplants are found in many cuisines, as they have subtle flavors and meaty textures which makes them especially versatile for cooking. The flesh of an eggplant acts like a sponge, absorbing the flavor of whatever it’s cooked with.

 

Varieties of Eggplants

There are many varieties of eggplant to choose from, in various colors, shapes and sizes. They can range from small and young to large and mature.

The most common variety is the large Globe eggplant. These purple, pear-shaped eggplants have smooth and glossy skin, and are often used in hearty dishes like eggplant parmesan.

Italia eggplants look like smaller versions of the common pear-shaped variety. However, the skin and flesh is more delicate than its larger counterpart.

Japanese eggplants are long, thin, and very dark in color. They take on a soft and creamy texture when cooked, and have a mildly sweet flavor. These are best used in sautéed dishes or stir-fries.

Chinese eggplants are a bit lighter in color and are slightly less sweet than the Japanese variety. They have a meaty flesh that is ideal for sautéed dishes or stir-fries.

Indian eggplants are small and round, with dark purple skin. These tender eggplants cook quickly, and have a mild sweet flavor.

White eggplants are available in a variety similar to the large common type, as well as smaller Italian eggplants called Bianco. You can also find white Japanese eggplants. White eggplant tends to have a tougher skin and a more astringent flavor than purple ones.

Sicilian eggplant are deep purple, short and squat, and lined with ridges. Sweet and delicate in taste, these eggplants are perfect for making caponata.

 

 

What Goes Well With Eggplant?

Produce: bell pepper, coconut, garlic, ginger, lemon, onions, parsley, tomatoes, zucchini

Herbs & Spices: basil, cilantro, cinnamon, cumin, mint, parsley, pepper, rosemary, salt, thyme

Other: anchovies, bread, cheese, chickpeas, milk, olive oil, tahini paste, sesame, soy sauce, vinegar

Eggplant Serving Ideas

Eggplant is delicious hot or cold, and can be prepared in a wide variety of ways. It is excellent stuffed, grilled, roasted, au gratin, pureed, or as a casserole. It is an essential ingredient in Asian and Mediterranean cuisine, where it is often prepared with tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil. You can also use eggplant slices in place of lasagna noodles for a lower-carb family favorite!

How To Select and Store Eggplants

To check for ripeness, press lightly on the skin with your fingers; if the imprint remains visible, the eggplant is ripe and perfect for eating.

Eggplants bruise easily and should be handled carefully. Store eggplant in a perforated plastic bag in the fridge for up to one week.

To Freeze Eggplant, wash and cut into slices, then blanch. Allow the eggplant to cool completely before placing in a freezer safe bag or container and storing in the freezer. Eggplant will keep in the freezer for 6 to 8 months.

How To Prepare Eggplant

Eggplant flesh discolors quickly when cut, it’s best to cook it immediately after cutting. If you need to, you can sprinkle it with lemon juice to slow the browning process.

To reduce the bitterness of an eggplant, cut into slices and salt both halves. Weigh them down with a heavy plate for 20 minutes, then rinse to remove the excess salt and expelled liquid.

Important to note: 1 pound of eggplant = 3 ½ cups chopped or 1 ¾ cup cooked.

How to Bake Eggplant: Cut eggplant into ½ inch thick slices; brush all sides with oil. Arrange in a single layer on a shallow baking pan. Bake, uncovered, in a 450° oven until well browned and soft when pierced (20 to 30 minutes).

How to Grill Eggplant: Cut off stem end, then cut in 1½ inch-thick wedges. Grill until streaked with brown and tender when pierced (12 to 15 minutes).

How to Pan-fry Eggplant: Prepare 1 to 1¼ pounds of eggplant, cutting it into ½ inch-thick slices and sprinkle with salt. Heat 1 tablespoons of oil in a wide, non-stick, frying pan over medium heat. Add a single layer of eggplant, without crowding; cook, turning as needed, until browned on both sides and soft throughout when pierced (8 to 10 minutes). Lower heat to medium if eggplant browns too quickly.

 

 

Eggplant Tips

  • Eggplant flesh is like a sponge, so it will absorb oil very quickly when pan-frying, leaving your eggplant greasy and unevenly cooked. To avoid this, salt the cubed eggplant and let it rest in a colander for 30 minutes. Then squeeze dry between two sheets of paper towel.  Salting the eggplant will remove its moisture and pressing it will compact the eggplant making it meaty. Now it’s ready to pan-fry!
  • Another way to extract moisture before pan-frying sliced eggplant is to microwave it.  Toss eggplant with a little salt, place on a plate lined with paper towel and microwave until eggplant looks dry and slightly shriveled, about 6 to 10 minutes.
  • The longer the eggplant is cooked, the softer and silkier it will become.
  • If the skin of an eggplant is very thick, it’s best to peel it off, especially if you’re serving it in chucks or slices.
  • Eggplant browns quickly, so don’t cut it until you’re ready to cook.

Eggplant Nutrition

According to the Canadian Nutrient File, the nutritional value per 1 cup (250 ml) of boiled, drained eggplant using the daily recommended intake from Health Canada is: 6.8% folate, 5% of Vitamin B-6, 4.8% of magnesium, 3.7% of potassium, and 3.1% of copper.

Source:
Produce Made Simple: Figs (2018) The Ontario Produce Marketing Association. Date Accessed September 28, 2018. https://producemadesimple.ca/eggplant/
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Hello, September

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September is a time of transition, as late Summer gives to an early Fall. Fruits like blackberries, raspberries and melons will still be available during this time. Be sure to check your local farmer’s markets, as harvest times tend to vary. Please note that this list will help you know when to look for what at markets near you. So, check out the list below for a quick guide to the top in-season fruits and vegetables for the month of September,as the Summer is coming to a close.

September Fruits and Vegetables

Apples
Artichokes
Avocados
Blackberries
Blueberries
Broccoli
Cabbage
Cantaloupe
Cauliflower
Carrots
Chile Peppers
Sweet Corn
Cucumbers
Eggplant
Fennel
Figs
Grapes
Green Beans
Garlic
Horseradish
Leeks
Lettuce
Kale
Mushrooms
Nectarines
Peaches
Pears
Peppers
Plums
Potatoes
Pumpkins
Radishes
Raspberries
Red Onions
Spinach
Squash
Tomatoes
Watermelons
Zucchini

This Month’s Featured Fruit:
Figs!

 

 

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Photo Credit: Produce Made Simple, 2016.

Figs originated in Asia Minor and were brought over to America in the 16th century. Figs were historically used to sweeten dishes before refined sugar was an option, and they continue to be used in such a way in many parts of the world today.

While dried figs are available all year around, fresh figs are usually available in the summer and fall. They taste like a mellowed cross between a peach and a strawberry. Their unique texture, and ability to be simultaneously chewy, soft, and crunchy, is what makes fresh figs so appealing and popular.

Varieties of Figs

There are several different varieties of figs. They range in colour from green or greenish-red when ripe, to the deep purple that most people are familiar with.

The most commonly recognized varieties are: Black Mission figs, Brown Turkey figs, Adriatic figs, or Calimyrna figs. Taste-test each of them to determine which type suits your palate best.

 

 

What Goes Well With Figs?

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Fig Serving Ideas

Figs are commonly stuffed with a tart or blue cheese and wrapped with prosciutto to be served as an appetizer, but honeyed figs and roasted figs are wonderful with yogurt for a snack or for breakfast, or with panna cotta for dessert.

Figs can be made into a jam or a preserve that goes well with pastries, crackers, or toast.

When roasted or grilled, you can add figs to a salad for some sweetness and texture as well. Or if you’d like, bake a cake and gently press figs into the top. It’ll look impressive to see fig halves studded on top of the cake showing their beautiful jewelled centers.

 

 

How To Select and Store Figs

The best figs should be slightly wrinkled, yet still plump with a little bit of a bend at the stem. Figs that are too hard or too firm indicate that they were picked before they were ripe. Depending on the variety, they should have a deep colouring and a sweet smell to them. Any sour odor means you should put that fig down and exchange it for another.

Figs are very fragile, so look for “perfect” figs that aren’t too squishy, don’t have any splits, milky liquid at the stem, or the obvious: no mold.

Figs are best consumed within a couple days of purchasing. They can be kept in the fridge, unwashed for that time, but make sure to cover any foods that may give off an odor as the figs can absorb that smell from sitting in the fridge like milk.

If you do happen to have some unripe figs, store them at room temperature on the counter and they should soften and get a little sweeter. Note that figs do not ripen after they are picked, so avoid unripe figs if you want to have soft and sweet ones for eating fresh.

How To Prepare Figs

Figs are often made into preserves or dried to take advantage of their delicious flavour. However, fresh figs are delightful eaten out of hand given their soft, sweet flavour and chewy texture.

Roast Figs:
Figs can be roasted at 375°F with some red wine or liquor, sugar, and lemon zest, with the cut sides facing up or down in the pan. Cooking them facedown will make them softer, while they’ll be firmer if baked with cut side up. This is a great way to extend the shelf life, and when roasted they’re delicious in the morning with some yogurt, pancakes, or served as a snack with cheese and crackers.

Grilled Figs:
Preheat your charcoal or propane grill and brush a little olive oil on the figs. Grill until lightly charred. Serve in a salad or on some fresh bread topped with crumbled goat cheese.

Caramelized Figs:
You can make fruit brûlée as well. Halve the figs and sprinkle a little sugar on top (raw, brown, demerara, whichever you choose). Use a brulée torch (or your oven on broil, watching carefully) to melt the sugar until caramelized (not too burnt). Let harden and serve alone or with a little burrata or fresh mozzarella.

Stuffed Figs:
To create a sort of blooming flower or star, cut the fig as if you were cutting it into quarters, but leave a centimetre or so uncut. Pinch the bottom to squeeze the insides up a bit to make the cut tips spread out into a star. Stuff with whatever you like: chopped walnuts, gorgonzola or another favourite cheese, and/or a honey drizzle.

Fig Tips

Cook your figs into jam, preserve, or roast with honey for a sweet spread or treat.

Figs are quite mellow in flavour, but cooking or drizzling them with honey, balsamic vinegar, or warm spices enhances their natural sweetness.

Be sure to enjoy your figs within a couple days because they are highly perishable.

 

Fig Nutrition

According to the Canadian Nutrient File, figs are extremely nutrient dense. They have high potassium and fiber content which is reported to help combat heart disease and lower cholesterol levels. On top of that, they’re rich in antioxidants — both in their fresh and dried form (albeit higher in antioxidants in dried form). Per 100 gram serving (about 2 figs), figs contain 12% of your daily fiber, 6% manganese, 7% potassium, 4% magnesium, 4% calcium and 2% iron.

Source:
Produce Made Simple: Figs (2016) The Ontario Produce Marketing Association. Date Accessed September 1, 2018. https://producemadesimple.ca/figs/

Hello, August!

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Late summer eating offers an amazing variety of delicious produce.

Exact crop availability and harvest times vary year-to-year, of course, and this list will help you know when to look for what at markets near you. So, check out the list below for a quick guide to the top in-season fruits and vegetables for the month of August, before the summer season is over.

August Fruits and Vegetables

Asparagus
Avocados
Beets
Blackberries
Blueberries
Cauliflower
Carrots
Cherries
Celery
Corn
Cucumbers
Eggplant
Green Beans
Greens
Herbs
Kale
Leeks
Mango
Nectarines
Oranges
Peaches
Peppers
Plums
Potatoes
Radishes
Raspberries
Spinach
Strawberries
Squash
Tomatoes
Watermelons
Yellow Squash
Zucchini

This Month’s Featured Fruit: 

Peaches!

There is nothing better than biting into a fresh, juicy peach that is so ripe you need a napkin in your other hand. August is National Peach Month and you are sure to find delicious, in-season peaches at the grocery store  all month long.

Peaches are reminiscent of summer no matter what time of the year you enjoy them. Their unique, fuzzy skin and soft, sweet flesh distinguishes them from their cousin, the nectarine.

Peaches are often seen in crisps, cobblers and pies, but remember that peaches are delicious in more than just dessert recipes. Try tossing them in a salad for a lovely addition of color, taste and texture. You can also enjoy them lightly grilled or blended into your favorite barbecue sauce.

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Photo Credit: National Arbor Day Foundation.

Varieties of Peaches

There are two main types of peaches available today: Semi-freestone and Freestone.

  • Freestone peaches will have a stone or pit that will easily fall from the fruit, and are usually the ones you’ll find at your grocery store or farmer’s market.  They are available from Ontario from mid-August to the end of September.  These are a great choice for eating out of hand and for preserving.
  • Semi-freestone peaches have flesh that partially clings to the pit. These peaches are excellent for eating out-of-hand. They are available from Ontario from mid-July to mid-August.

You may also spot donut peaches. This heirloom variety is short, flat and white-fleshed with a lower acidity level than traditional peaches.

Clingstone peaches, as their name indicates, have pits that cling to the fruit. These are not usually available at retail and are more often used for commercial purposes such as canned peaches and jams.

What Goes Well With Peaches?

Herbs & Spices: allspice, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla, nutmeg, mint, basil, ginger, honey, tarragon, rosemary, and lemongrass

Produce: berries, lemon, arugula, tomato, fennel, endive, grapes, lime, greens, other stone fruits like nectarines, apricots, cherries, plums

Dairy & Other:, buttermilk, butter, bourbon, brandy, butter, cream, ice cream, mascarpone cheese, vinegar, wine, sugar, and yogurt

Savory: pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, pork, pesto, prosciutto, and poultry

Peach Serving Ideas

The best way to enjoy a fresh peach on its own. . .  just take a bite.And  there are so many other ways to enjoy peaches, too!

Here are some ways to use one of Mother Nature’s desserts in your everyday cooking:

  • Bake them with some cinnamon and sugar in a peach pie, peach cobbler, or crisp. You can also grill or roast them to be served in a salad, or with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream or mascarpone cheese.
  • Slice some peaches over cottage cheese and add some chopped walnuts and honey on top for a mid-day snack.
  • Slice peaches into rings and grill for a few minutes on each side. Serve with fish, chicken or over a summer salad.
  • Crumble some graham crackers in a bowl. Slice peaches and lay over graham crackers. Top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or cool whip and some cinnamon or freshly grated nutmeg for a sweet dessert.
  • Slice a crusty baguette into two thin pieces. Lay sliced Gruyere cheese, ham, peaches and arugula in between slices and toast for a sweet and savory Panini.
  • Top your oatmeal with fresh peach slices, almond slivers, plain yogurt and a little brown sugar for a delicious breakfast.
  • Blend peaches with strawberries, bananas, ice, skim milk and wheat germ for a fruity smoothie on-the-go.
  • To enjoy the fresh taste of ripe peaches in the winter months, preserve them in a jam, or sliced in a mason jar with syrup. Substitute the apricots for peaches in this easy no-cook jam recipe!
  • Try using peaches to create an irresistible sauce for chicken wings. Or turn it into a salsa to top tacos or pork tenderloin.

How To Select and Store Peaches

Peaches range in color and can be anywhere from light pink and cream to a reddish-yellow. The blush or color of a peach does not indicate ripeness, but is a way of identifying the variety. Be sure to avoid those that have any green coloring or soft spots.  When selecting peaches, look for fruit that feels heavy for their size, and that have a creamy or yellow background.

Don’t be afraid to buy peaches that are firm. To ripen peaches, place them in loosely closed paper bag.  Leave them on your kitchen counter (at room temperature and out of direct sunlight) for a few days.  If you really want to speed up the process, add an apple to the bag. Don’t use a plastic bag as this will trap moisture and can cause premature decay.

When your peaches are ripe, store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, or in their original plastic clamshell packaging, and they will last for up to five to seven days.  Peaches are ripe when give slightly to pressure and have a sweet aroma.

If you buy a container full of peaches, we recommend opening it when you get home to sort according to ripeness. Enjoy those that are already ripe, first!

To Freeze Peaches, peel and pit them, then cut into slices or cubes. Make a simple sugar syrup and submerge them in a plastic container. Alternatively, add some orange juice to keep them from drying out. Pack tightly into plastic containers, leaving 1-inch (2.5-cm) air space at top. Top with a crumpled sheet of wax paper and seal tightly. Frozen peaches can be stored for one year. Watch this fun segment featuring Mairlyn Smith.

To prevent browning, simply coat sliced peaches with lemon juice immediately after slicing. Another solution is to dip the slices into water that has a squeeze of lemon.

 

How To Prepare Peaches

Wash peaches just before you are ready to use them. Washing them in advance will only make them spoil faster.

To remove the pit, cut your peach lengthwise around the stone (follow the natural indent on the peach) and gently twist both halves in opposite directions to separate them. If the peach is of the freestone variety, the stone will pop out easily.

Peeling stone fruits is a breeze. With a small knife, score an “x” on the bottom of the peach, then place in boiling water for 30 seconds and transfer them to an ice bath (to stop the cooking process). Their skins should slip off easily. After peeling, immediately return them to the ice bath to prevent discoloration.

Peach Tips

  • Top Tip! For the most flavor, peaches are best enjoyed ripe, at room temperature.

  • Peaches will discolour quickly after being cut, so if you aren’t combining them with something acidic, such as lemon juice or salad dressing, quickly dip the fruit in water with a squeeze of lemon and drain well.
  • Sniff a peach for ripeness. If they are ripe, they will  smell sweet.
  • Grill peaches to caramelize the natural sugars in the fruit. Cut a ripe peach in half and remove the pit. Grill over medium heat for about 2-3 minutes per side to emphasize the caramelized flavor.
  • Peaches add great natural sweetness to smoothies, oatmeal, etc.

Peaches Nutrition

Peaches are good sources of lycopene and lutein, similar to tomatoes. The lutein gives peaches their red and orange color and lycopene is especially beneficial in fighting cancer and preventing heart disease.

Did you know that 1 medium peach (98 g) contain a great number of your daily-recommended intake of nutrients: 11% of Vitamin C, 4% of fibre (1.9 g), 5% of potassium, 4% of Vitamin A, and 3% of copper.

 

 

Sources:
August Produce Spotlight: Peaches. (2011). Healthy Schools Campaign. Date Accessed June 24, 2018. https://healthyschoolscampaign.org/uncategorized/august-produce-spotlight-peaches-6539/

Produce Made Simple: Peaches. (2018) The Ontario Produce Marketing Association. Date Accessed June 24, 2018. https://producemadesimple.ca/peaches/

Blueberry Turnovers with Lemon Glaze

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Blueberries… there’s really nothing that tastes more like summer!  We went to work in the kitchen this weekend and decided to cook up some yummy blueberry turnovers.

Making flaky turnovers is about as easy as it sounds, and it’s even more fun to do so with family Simply just lay out squares of puff pastry, spoons the blueberry filling into the centers, and fold over one corner to create a pudgy, tightly sealed, triangular pastries.  Brush the tops with egg wash to help them turn deliciously golden when baked, and drizzle with a lemony powdered sugar glaze to create just the right balance of sweet and tart.

These turnovers with summertime flavors are great for desserts or for a nice casual Saturday morning brunch. We hope you will  enjoy these delectable treats!

Serves 8

Ingredients:
Filling:
Vegetable cooking spray
1 cup fresh blueberries
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
2 sheets puff pastry (*See Cook’s Notes)

Egg wash:
1 egg yolk + 1 Tablespoons of water
Granulated sugar, for sprinkling

Glaze:
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon honey

 

 

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 450º F.

Lin two baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly coat with vegetable spray. Set aside.

In a bowl mix blueberries, lemon zest, sugars, and cornstarch until the blueberries are well coated. Set aside.

Roll out the puff pastry on a flour coated cutting board and cut each sheet into 4 even squares. Spoon out 1 to tablespoons of the blueberry mixture into the center of each square and fold each over to create 4 triangles. Seal the edges of the pastry with a fork and prick 2 to 3 air vents in each.

Brush turnovers with egg wash and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Place turnovers on parchment paper lined baking sheets and bake for 22-25 minutes until golden brown. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a separate bowl mix together confectioner’s sugar , lemon juice and honey to make the  glaze. When turnovers are slightly cool, drizzle glaze over the top with a spoon or rubber spatula. Serve warm.

*Cook’s Notes:
Making puff pastry from scratch is a time consuming process and many home cooks, like the option of using commercially prepared puff pastry sheets that are found in the frozen dessert section of the local supermarkets.

However, if you are adventurous and want to make you puff pastry from scratch, here is a quick and easy recipe from  Gemma Stafford,  a professional chef.  Her recipe is easy and fast to make without all the folding in making traditional puff pastry. The secret to this great recipe is the use of frozen grated butter. Follow the link  to Chef Stafford’s website, BiggerBolderBaking.com , for the recipe.


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Hello, July!

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Yes, Summer is in full swing and so are the many colorful fruits and vegetables that you will be able to find at your local farmers markets and grocery stores. And there is enough different types of produce for every palette, with many that can be eaten raw. So you don’t always have to turn on the stove. Peaches, Nectarines, Avocados, Tomatoes, and Corn are abound and the perfect produce for backyard barbecues as the vibrant tantalizing offerings make excellent desserts and side dishes. It is also the perfect time for canning tomatoes and peppers so that you can savor the taste of the Summer season during the coming Winter months. So, check out the list below for a quick guide to the top in-season fruits and vegetables for the month of July, while they last.

July Fruits and Vegetables

Apricots
Avocados
Beets
Blueberries
Cabbage
Cantaloupes
Cherries
Corn
Crenshaw Melons
Cucumbers
Figs
Eggplant
Green Beans
Greens
Herbs
Kale
Lemons
Limes
Mango
Nectarines
Oranges
Peppers
Plums
Potatoes
Radishes
Raspberries
Spinach
Strawberries
Squash
Tomatoes
Watermelons
Yellow Squash
Zucchini

This Month’s Featured Produce: Heirloom Tomatoes!

The tomato is the edible, often red, fruit/berry of the plant Solanum lycopersicum, commonly known as a tomato plant. The plant belongs to the nightshade family, Solanaceae. The species originated in western South America.

Aztecs and other peoples in Mesoamerica used the fruit in their cooking. The exact date of domestication is unknown; by 500 BC, it was already being cultivated in southern Mexico and probably other areas.

The Nahuatl (Aztec language) word tomatl gave rise to the Spanish word “tomate”, from which the English word tomato derived. Its use as a cultivated food may have originated with the indigenous peoples of Mexico.The Spanish discovered the tomato from their contact with the Aztec peoples during the Spanish colonization of the Americas, then brought it to Europe, and, from there, to other parts of the European colonized world during the 16th century.

And then there are the Heirloom tomatoes which are also called heritage tomato in the UK, are open-pollinated (non-hybrid) heirloom cultivar of tomatoes. According to tomato experts, heirloom tomatoes can be classified into four categories: family heirlooms, commercial heirlooms, mystery heirlooms, and created heirlooms. They usually have a shorter shelf life and less disease resistance than hybrids bred to resist against specific diseases. They are grown for a variety of reasons, such as for food, historical interest and having access to wider varieties.

For the most past, heirloom tomatoes have been around for a hundred years or more . However, he definition of an heirloom tomato is vague, but unlike commercial hybrids, all are self-fertile varieties that have bred true for 40 years or more and have passed on the saved seeds from one generation to another, by people who wish to save seeds from year to year, as well as for their taste.

Heirloom tomatoes are absolutely beautiful and are always stunning when served. With so many different colors and subtle flavor differences, heirloom tomatoes are perfect for dishes that feature tomato flavor. Numerous varieties of heirloom tomato are widely grown in temperate climates across the world, with greenhouses allowing its production throughout the year.

While tomatoes are botanically berry-type fruits, they are considered culinary vegetables as an ingredient or side dish for savory meals. Because of their versatility, heirloom tomatoes can be consumed in diverse ways, including raw, as an ingredient in many dishes, sauces, salads, and drinks. Heirlooms are such a staple in global cuisine where they can be used as tomato sauce for pasta or pizza, as a base for salsa, or in a curry; there is nothing better than dunking a grilled cheese sandwich into a creamy bowl of tomato soup or slicing them and eating them fresh on a sandwich.

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Photo Credit: Half Baked Harvest , 2016

Varieties

Heirloom tomato cultivars can be found in a wide variety of colors, shapes, flavors and sizes. They can be brown, purple, green, pink, yellow, orange, striped, and of course, red. They come in different shapes and sizes as well: round, oval, ribbed, and squat. Each tomato will develop in its own way to become naturally unique! Some heirloom cultivars can be prone to cracking or lack of disease resistance. As with most garden plants, cultivars can be acclimated over several gardening seasons to thrive in a geographical location through careful selection and seed saving.

Some of the most famous examples include San Marzano, Brandywine, Green Zebra, Gardener’s Delight, Marglobe, Lollypop, Yellow Pear, Silvery Fir Tree, Hillbilly, Paul Robeson, Cherokee Purple, Mortgage Lifter, Neville Tomatos, Mr. Stripey, Costoluto Genovese, Pruden’s Purple, Black Krim, Amish Paste, Aunt Ruby’s German Green, Garden Peach, Hawaiian Pineapple, Big Rainbow, Chocolate Cherry, Red Currant, Matt’s Wild Cherry, and Three Sisters.

What Goes Well With Heirloom Tomatoes?

Tomatoes go well with almost anything! Of course, tomatoes are especially delicious when paired with Italian flavors like oregano, balsamic vinegar, capers, olive oil, garlic, bocconcini or fresh mozzarella cheese. Also enjoy with Parmesan cheese, basil, bacon, rice, mushrooms, pasta, onion, avocado, crusty breads, strawberries, chickpeas, eggs, fennel, parsley, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce.

Enjoy ripe tomatoes by eating them fresh in salads and sandwiches or kick it up a notch and try halving them and grilling them on the BBQ, or stuffing them with rice, cheese and herbs and roasting them!

Enjoy fresh tomatoes topped with salt and pepper along side your eggs and bacon in the morning.

Make your own fresh salsa to serve along tortillas or on baked potatoes.

Chop tomatoes and add fresh basil, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and red onion to make a perfect bruschetta topping for a baguette.

How To Select and Store Heirloom Tomatoes

Tomatoes that are brightly hued, plump and without bruises or blemishes are best. They should be firm, but not rock hard and have a nice, earthy tomato-y smell. They should be heavy for their size, as ripe tomatoes will have more water content.

Store them at room temperature in an open basket if they’re ready to eat for up to a week, but if you want them to ripen faster, place them in a paper bag with an apple or an onion. Avoid storing tomatoes in a plastic bag or in the fridge as the cold causes them to turn mealy and they lose their delicious tomato flavor!

 

How To Prepare Tomatoes

Heirloom tomatoes are extremely versatile since they can be eaten fresh, in sauces, soup, salad, or even stir-fry. Wash tomatoes in cold water and remove any stickers from the grocery store.

To prepare tomato slices for sandwiches, slice them horizontally with a very sharp knife. Dull knives may squish tomatoes instead of cleanly slicing through the skin.

For soups or sauces, you may want to remove the tomato skin by first scoring the bottom of the tomato with an “X”, then blanching in boiling water quickly for about 30 seconds. Remove and place immediately in an ice bath. Once blanched, the tomato skins loosen and are easily peeled off; now they’re ready for use in sauces or soup!

For salad (or even stir fry), slice the tomatoes in half vertically and cut the stem out by slicing a V around the hard part of the stem. Continue to slice in wedges, perfect for eating on their own, in salad, or tossing in the last couple minutes of cooking a stir-fry.

Showcase different heirloom tomato color, size, and flavor in different applications. Fresh is great to show off those beautiful striped tomatoes, but heirloom tomato sauces can showcase different shades and colors of the heirloom tomatoes so well.

Heirloom Tomatoes Tips

Balance the natural acidity of tomato in recipes with either a pinch of salt or sugar or even a bit of baking soda, especially in soup. If you’re making tomato soup, it’s always a fun chemical reaction to share with the kids: let them sprinkle in baking soda and stir it in to see it bubble and foam!

Be sure to watch for bruises or holes in your tomatoes as they will decay quickly. Avoid these ones at the grocery store.

If you have an abundance of tomatoes in the summer, preserve them by canning. Check out this site for safe canning techniques to make sure your preserved tomatoes are safe and delicious after the season.

Tomatoes carry a lot of juice, which can cause a soggy sandwich – especially if you don’t eat it right away. To prevent this, bring tomatoes in a separate container and put them on your sandwich right before eating. For salads, add them at the end to prevent them from diluting the dressing.

You can never go wrong with a classic like blueberry muffins. Perfect for on-the-go breakfasts and late-afternoon snacks, keeping a stash on hand will satisfy all your hunger cravings.

Sources:

Cambridge Dictionaries Online (2015). “English definition of ‘tomato’ “. Cambridge University Press. 2015. Date Accessed June 5 2018. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/tomato?a=british

Lockhart, James (2001). Nahuatl as Written: Lessons in Older Written Nahuatl, with Copious Examples and Texts. Stanford, CA, US: Stanford University Press.

Produce Made Simple: Heirloom Tomatoes. (2018) The Ontario Produce Marketing Association. Date Accessed June 24, 2018. https://producemadesimple.ca/heirloom-tomatoes/

Smith, A. F. (1994). The Tomato in America: Early History, Culture, and Cookery. Columbia SC, US: University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 1-57003-000-6.

Solanaceae Source (2011). “Phylogeny“. Date Accessed May 15, 2018.
http://solanaceaesource.org/content/phylogeny-0

Hello, June

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The warm weather is here!

Fruits  and vegetables abound with all  the brillance of the sunny warmth all around beginning in June. Summer produce begins to sprout and before you know it, all types of berries are showing up in your local farmers markets,  reaching their peak in flavor and with the season comes blueberries, strawberries, black berries and stone fruits like cherries.

So , I am sure that you are wondering what  you can  expect to find in your local supermarkets and  grocery store shelves and what can you make with it? Well, here is a list I have put together that can help you break out of your cooking rut using  fresh fruits and vegetables in their peak season!

Also note that buying locally sourced produce is easier on your wallet and it  helps the local economy as well.

June Fruits and Vegetables

Apricots
Avocados
Beets
Blackberries
Blueberries
Cabbage
Carrots
Cherries
Corn
Cucumber
Fava Beans
Green Beans
Greens
Herbs
Kale
Kiwi
Leeks
Mangoes
Nectarines
Peaches
Peas
Radishes
Raspberries
Rhubarb
Spinach
Strawberries
Sorrel
Watermelon
Yellow Squash
Zucchini
 

This Month’s Featured Fruit: Blueberries

Blueberries are here! Those plump little berries are packed full of antioxidants and they are  delicious, nutritious and oh so  versatile. They’re naturally fat-free, high in vitamin C and a powerful antioxidant. We love them in cereals, salads, sauces, as toppings and by the handful.Blueberries pair marvelously with lemon flavor (juice and zest). Think of a refreshing blueberry lavender lemonade for sipping in the hammock. As with all berries, buy organic if possible to avoid pesticide exposure. 

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Photo Credit: Fitness Republic , 2017

Blueberry Varieties

Throughout the year, we typically see the beautiful, plump cultivated blueberries we’re most familiar with. However, in the summer it’s easy to spot smaller wild blueberries popping up in the market.

The main difference between wild and cultivated blueberries is found in their size: cultivated blueberries are typically larger than wild blueberries. Which means, since most of a blueberry’s antioxidants and other health benefits are found in the skin, per cup there will be more skin of wild blueberries than cultivated ones, due to their size.

However, it’s important to note that both varieties of blueberries are delicious, healthy and a nutritional powerhouse that belongs in everyone’s diet.

While we love to take advantage of the short season of wild blueberries and enthusiastically devour them in the summer, we also are happy to enjoy the cultivated ones year round.

What Goes Well With Blueberries?

Produce: bananas, lemon, peaches, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, mango, spinach, lemon, lime, watermelon, beets, orange, kiwi, and coconut

Herbs, Spices & Sweets: cinnamon, ginger, honey, maple syrup, nutmeg, vanilla, mint, and basil

Savory: oatmeal, granola, almonds, walnuts, pork, cornmeal, and chicken

Dairy: cream cheese, sour cream, crème fraîche, cream, yogurt, mascarpone, goat cheese, ricotta, and buttermilk

How To Select and Store Blueberries

Choose blueberries that are firm and have a lively, uniform blue colour. Avoid berries that are dull in color or soft and watery in texture (as the presence of moisture will cause them to decay).

Give the container a shake to see whether the berries move freely. If they don’t, this may be a sign that they are soft and damaged, or worse, moldy.

Store ripe blueberries in a covered container in the refrigerator. Here, they will keep for up to three days. If kept out at room temperature for more than a day, the berries may spoil.

Blueberries are extremely easy to freeze and store for future use. To do so, buy them in abundance in the summer and freeze them for a batch of Sunday blueberry pancakes or to stuff into muffins throughout the year. To freeze, wash blueberries and remove any stems and spoiled blueberries. Arrange on a clean tea towel to gently blot dry. Transfer to a lined baking sheet and flash freeze the cleaned and dried blueberries until frozen. Transfer to an airtight container and use within 8 months.

How To Prepare Blueberries

Your berries should not be washed until you are ready to eat them, as washing will remove the bloom that protects the berries’ skin from spoiling. Fresh berries are very fragile. They should be washed briefly and carefully and then gently pat them dry.  You can also spin them dry in salad spinner.

Blueberry Tips

  • Before storing, remove any crushed or moldy berries to prevent the rest from spoiling.
  • Like other tender fruit, blueberries have a natural bloom or slight white coating. The plant produces this in order to protect the fruit, so wait to wash your berries until you are ready to enjoy them.
  • Freeze blueberries on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Once frozen, transfer them to a re-sealable bag or container. This keeps them from sticking together.
  • Add frozen blueberries to a smoothie, yogurt, oatmeal, muffins, pancakes etc.
  • When shopping in the store, give the container of fresh berries a shake to see whether they move freely. If they don’t, this may be a sign that they are soft and damaged or moldy.
  • Wash your blueberries in a salad spinner to keep them intact while drying them at the same time.

Serving Ideas

Everybody knows that blueberry muffins are a perfect morning food, but don’t forget that blueberry pancakes or blueberry sauce on waffles can bring breakfast to a whole new level. This vegan blueberry lemon loaf is also a great treat in the morning if you need a pick-me-up!

Blueberries are also classic in pies and cobblers. Blueberries and lemons are a match made in heaven beneath a blanket of oat streusel or biscuits. Top with a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream for a decadent spin on this dish.

Add blueberries to your favorite greens like kale or spinach and pair with some salty cheese like feta to have a delicious and complex textured saladGrilled peaches and blueberries tossed in vinaigrette are also delicious, while this simple yet tasty blueberry, walnut, and Manchego cheese salad is great for a quick side dish.

For a spin on your traditional bruschetta, try this gorgeous blueberry and beet bruschetta at your next gathering. It will be sure to wow your guests with its striking color and flavor.

After a long week, wind down with some blueberry mojitos. Muddle blueberries with mint to get extra flavor and a beautiful hue to your drink.

A Caprese salad is typically prepared using a few high quality ingredients like fresh mozzarella, tasty tomatoes and fresh basil. Seasoned only with good quality olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper to taste, it’s as delicious as it is simple. Try giving it a little extra boost of flavor and color  with fresh blueberries .

You can never go wrong with a classic like blueberry muffins. Perfect for on-the-go breakfasts and late-afternoon snacks, keeping a stash on hand will satisfy all your hunger cravings.

Source:

Produce Made Simple: Blueberries. (2018) The Ontario Produce Marketing Association. Date Accessed May 15, 2018.  https://producemadesimple.ca/blueberries/ 

Hello, May!

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What’s in season right now, this month? For starters, lettuces, turnip greens, kale, and possibly some root vegetables like fennel and onions are signatures of Spring. You’re also likely to see strawberries, rhubarb, and asparagus, and okra. Check out the list below for a quick guide to the top in-season fruits and vegetables for the month of May.

May Fruits and Vegetables

Artichokes
Apricots
Arugula
Asparagus
Basil
Beets
Brussels Sprouts
Cabbage
Carrots
Collard Greens
Cauliflower
Chard
Cherries
Garlic
Green Garlic
Garlic Scapes
Kale
Lettuce
Mushrooms
Mustard Greens
Okra
Peas
Radishes
Rhubarb
Scallions
Spinach
Strawberries
Sugar Peas
Snap Peas
Swiss Chard
Turnips
Turnip Greens

Hello April!

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It’s Spring Time……

And cooking with the seasons means choosing fruits and vegetables that are at the peak of freshness and flavor and for the purposes of freshness, April is a fabulous month for choice! Buying locally grown produce is the best: local produce is less likely to be damaged, uses less energy to transport, ripens more naturally. In fact, when fruits and vegetables have been allowed to ripen on the vine for consumption — they taste sweeter and have significantly more intense flavor.

And, locally sourced produce helps the local economy as well.

April Fruits and Vegetables

Artichokes
Arugula (Rocket)
Asparagus
Beans
Beets
Broccoli
Cabbage
Cauliflower
Chicory
Chives
Dandelion greens
Fava Beans
Fiddlehead Fern
Horseradish
Leeks (end of season)
Lettuce (leaf and head)
Limes
Morel Mushrooms
Oranges
Papayas
Peas
Radishes
Ramps
Rhubarb
Shallots
Strawberries
Sweet Potatoes
Sweet Onions
Turnips
Watercress

 

This Month’s Featured Vegetable: Cabbage

Cabbage is in season all year long and is more abundant during the beginning of Spring.Cabbage is a low-calorie, fiber-rich, leafy vegetable that boasts plenty of health benefits, which include: treatment for constipation, headaches, obesity, arthritis, and vitamin C deficiency. An unsung hero of the vegetable crisper, this versatile veggie can be used in everything from slaws and salads, to fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi, to soups and stews and Indian curries.

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Photo Credit: Produce Made Simple, 2018

Cabbage Varieties

Cabbage comes in a variety of kinds – green, red, Savoy and Napa.

Green and red cabbages are identical with the exception of their colour. Both are quite heavy for their size due to their density and are smooth and spherical in shape.

Savoy cabbage has crinkly and flexible green leaves that are looser than a green or red cabbage. Savoy is also milder in flavour (with the exception of the stems, which are slightly bitter) and very tender.

Napa cabbage is long with oblong leaves and pale green in colour and tastes milder than green cabbage and is common in Asian cuisine.

 

How to Select and Store Cabbage

Select  cabbages  with compact  heads and that feel  heavy for their size with good colour and nice crisp leaves. Avoid cabbages that have brown and/or blemished spots, or loose or yellow leaves. Cabbage generally keeps for a pretty long time and can be stored unwashed in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper of your refrigerator for up to two weeks. That quality along for most cabbages makes it a good ingredient to keep on hand. However, Napa cabbage has a shorter shelf life and will only last approximately four days.

How to Prepare Cabbage

A cousin to broccoli, this potent anti-cancerous cruciferous vegetable can be a part of many healthy meals. It cab be great raw, in slaws, roasted in pieces, or chopped and sautéed with olive oil and garlic. It cab also be the best comfort foods of all times – cabbage rolls.

To prepare your cabbage, first remove the outer leaves and run it under cold water. To core the cabbage, use a small sharp knife and cut a cone shaped section from the bottom of the cabbage. Or, you can cut the cabbage into quarters starting at the stem end. Be sure to cut the core out of each piece.

You can also freeze cabbage for future use. Start by first chopping it into slices or chunks, depending on how you choose to use it in your recipes. Blanch cabbage for about a minute or two in boiling water, then drain and submerse into an ice bath to shock the cabbage and stop the cooking process. Spread the leaves or pieces out and pat dry. Transfer to a baking sheet to flash freeze, and then place in an airtight container and use within 9 months.

Important to note: One pound of cabbage will yield approximately four cups of shredded raw cabbage or two cups cooked cabbage.

Cabbage Tips

  • Red cabbage tends to turn pale blue when cooked so if you want it to retain its vibrant purple colour, add a little vinegar or lemon juice (or something slightly acidic like apples or wine).
  • Shredded cabbage is a great addition to any salad, soup or stir-fry and cooked shredded cabbage is a terrific filling in wraps and casseroles.
  • Try cooking cabbage until it’s just tender. This way it will retain its sweetness and crunch.
  • If you find it difficult to slice cabbage thinly, try peeling a few leaves off the head of the cabbage and stacking them on your cutting board. This makes it much easier to finely slice to your desired thickness.
  • Said to aid digestion, fermented foods including sauerkraut made from cabbage are on trend. It’s also very easy to do yourself at homeThis recipe is a good starting point for those who would like to give it a go.
  • Speaking of foods that are on trend, Kimchi, another fermented cabbage-based side dish, is having a much–deserved moment and can also be made at home.

 

Source:

Produce Made Simple: Cabbage. (2018) The Ontario Produce Marketing Association. Date Accessed March 18, 2018.  https://producemadesimple.ca/cabbage/ 

Hello, March

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Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables for March

Listed below is a broad range of beautiful fruits and  vegetables that are available right now, as well as tips on how to prepare them.

Arugula
Asparagus
Avocados
Beets
Broccoli
Brussels sprouts
Cabbage
Carrots
Cauliflower
Chives
Collards
Endive
Garlic
Grapefruit
Guavas
Kumquats
Leeks
Lemons
Limes
Mandarins
Mint
Onions
Oranges
Parsley
Parsnips
Potatoes
Radishes
Rhubarb
Rutabaga
Strawberries
Tangerines
Turnips
Spinach
Walnuts

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Asparagus is a perennial favorite and is really only worth eating in the springtime. And since asparagus season comes around for a few short weeks every spring try to enjoy this delicious vegetable while it lasts! The fresh flavor of asparagus purchased at the farmers market is at its best when prepared simply.  It can be eaten raw, grilled, roasted and sauteed. Think beyond drenching it i Hollandaise sauce. It’s lovely with lemon and mint. Shaved asparagus is great in salads and roasted asparagus makes a perfect springtime side dish, whether it is at a barbecue or a formal dinner.

Photo Credit: SouthwestJournal.com, 2017

 

 

CITRUS FRUITS
Citrus fruits like grapefruits, lemons, limes oranges, tangerines and mandarins show up citrusevery year when the sky goes gray and we are all in desperate need of some bright color on our plates during our winter meals and continues to grace our dinner tables right through spring.  Now is the best time where you can find a great selection of citrus fruits in you local  grocery stores and super markets right now. Why not use real lemon juice to make your favorite salad dressing, it tastes so fresh and the light acidity will make a salad sing!

 

 

PARSNIPS
Parsnips are root vegetables that look like off-white carrots with parsley-like, leafy tops.Parsnips-58371ca43df78c6f6a3688e9 Unsurprisingly, they’re related to both carrots and parsley. Parsnips are usually served roasted or cooked, but can also be eaten raw.

Look for bright, very firm, relatively smooth parsnips. They should, like most fruits and vegetables, feel heavy for their size. This tip is particularly important when choosing parsnips, since they can get dried out or turn extra woody if not properly stored.If you’re lucky enough to buy parsnips with their greens still attached, the greens should look fresh and moist. Remove the greens when you get them home for longer storage.

Store the parsnips chilled and loosely wrapped in plastic. Fresh parsnips will last a week or two properly stored.

When cooked until tender parsnips have a lovely, starchy texture that works beautifully roasted or added to soups and stews. Add parsnips the same way you would add carrots or potatoes to stews, knowing that they’ll have a nuttier flavor than carrots and a sweeter, more distinctive, and less starchy flavor than potatoes.

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Thank you so much!

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Winter Fruit Spotlight: Pears

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During the winter, nutrient-rich fresh pears reach their seasonal prime late January through February. While they are a treat to eat on their own, pears, with their perfect colors and unique texture, can give a sweet flavor to a variety of dishes. When you select your pears, make sure to check the “neck”, when mean to apply gently pressure to the next of the pear with your thumb. If the flesh of the neck yields to pressure, then it is ripe. Always store unripe pears at room temperature to ripen fully.

Anjou

Flavor Profile: The most abundant pear in the United States. Anjou Pears are short anjou red and greennecked and come in green and red varieties. They are incredible juicy and have a firm texture with a flavor that is sweet and citrusy.

In the Kitchen: Anjou pears are excellent for light snacking. They are also great for baking, poaching or roasting. Add Anjou pears to a salad, or cheese plate or even to a meat entree that has chick or pork as it main dish for a bit of variety in your weekly diet.

Asian
asian pear

Flavor Profile: Shaped like an apple, Asian pears are known for their creamy flesh, crunchy texture and melon like flavor.

In the Kitchen: Asian pears are best eaten raw or diced in salads or julienned and added to slaws. You can juice Asian pears into a morning juice blend or puree into a sauce or dressing that can be used as marinade for chicken and pork.

Bosc

Flavor Profile: Bosc Pears are sweet juicy and aromatic and have elongated neck with abosc distinctive brown skin.

In the Kitchen: Bosc pears are prized by chefs and home cooks alike because they can hold the shape beautifully when cooked, making them the best choice for grilling, poaching or baking. Gorgonzola cheese and chopped walnuts are the best pairing for this variety of pair when adding in other ingredients.

Bartlett

Flavor Profile: Bartlett pears is the most commonly found pear in most grocery stores and supermarkets. What makes the Bartlett pear unique is that is bright4409-03ens as they ripen which does not happen for most pear varieties. When fully rip, Bartlett pears are green, crunchy, juicy, sweet and slightly buttery.

In the Kitchen: When the slightest of heat is applied, Bartlett pears tend to loose their shape immediately, which makes them great for baking. They can be used in pies, tarts, quick breads, preserves, syrups or chutney with relative ease.

All photographs and content, excepted where noted, are copyright protected. Please do not use these photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this photograph and all other contents, then we kindly ask that you link back to this site. We are eternally grateful and we appreciate your support of this blog.

Thank you so much!

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