The Food Page0
How to identify, store and cook your farm fresh produce.
Acorn Squash is also called pepper squash, and as the name suggests, its shape resembles that of an acorn. The most common variety is dark green in color, often with a single splotch of orange on the side or top. However, newer varieties have arisen, including Golden Acorn, so named for its glowing yellow color, as well as varieties that are white. Storage: Acorn squash is good and hardy. It could last throughout the winter in storage, keeping for several months in a cool dry location. Preparing: Acorn squash is most commonly baked, but can also be microwaved, sautéed or steamed. It may be stuffed with rice, meat or vegetable mixtures. The seeds of the squash are also eaten, usually after being toasted. Nutrition: This squash is not as rich in beta-carotene as other winter squashes, but is a good source of dietary fiber and potassium, as well as smaller amounts of vitamins C and B, magnesium, and manganese.
Apriums, a hybrid fruit are available early in the fruit season. Apriums are generally 75% apricot and 25% plum and taste similar to both apricots and plums, hence their name. The intense, complex flavor is unique, much like a blend of fruit juices. The Aprium’s sugar content is much higher than in common apricot and plum varieties, producing fruit of incomparable sweetness. Availability: Aprium season stretches from May to September but most are harvested in late June. Storage: Apriums should be ripened at room temperature and then refrigerated. Pluots can be ripened in a brown paper bag at room temperature. Selection: Apriums should be plump and firm. Avoid fruit that is green, blemished, or has broken skin.
One of the most fascinating and delicious vegetables in the world — the Artichoke. We bet you’ll enjoy the wonderful flavor of an Artichoke even more if you know this is not a mass-produced vegetable. This thistle-like tender perennial grows 3 to 4 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide. The globe artichoke is grown for its flower buds, which are eaten before they begin to open. Selection: Pick an artichoke that feels the heaviest and firmest and have a healthy green color, compact center leaves and an overall look of freshness. Storage: For refrigerated storage, slice a dime width off of the Artichoke stem, sprinkle the raw Artichoke stems with water and refrigerate them in an airtight plastic bag. Preparing: Steam, boil, bake, roast, stuff or grill. Salt may be added to the water if boiling artichokes. Leaving the pot uncovered may allow acids to boil off. Covered artichokes, in particular those that have been cut, can turn brown due to the enzymatic browning and chlorophyll oxidation. Placing them in water slightly acidified with vinegar or lemon juice can prevent the discoloration. Leaves are often removed one at a time, and the fleshy base eaten, with hollandaise, vinegar, butter, mayonnaise, aioli, lemon juice, or other sauces. The fibrous upper part of each leaf is usually discarded. The heart is eaten when the inedible choke has been peeled away from the base and discarded. The thin leaves covering the choke are also edible. Nutrition: This diuretic vegetable is of nutritional value because of its exhibiting an aid to digestion, strengthening of the liver function and gall bladder function, and raising of the HDL/LDL ratio. This reduces cholesterol levels, which diminishes the risk for arteriosclerosis and coronary heart disease.
Arugula, commonly known as rocket, roquette, rucola, has a rich, peppery taste, and has an exceptionally strong flavor for a leafy green. It is generally used in salads, often mixed with other greens, but is also cooked as a vegetable or used raw with pasta or meats. Storage: Rinse the leaves in cool water and dry on paper toweling. Wrap leaves tightly in plastic or a zip lock bag. Best if used within two – four days. Selection: Look for dark greens leaves of a uniform color. Avoid yellowing leaves, damages leaves, wilted leaves, or excessively moist-looking leaves. A bit of dirt is fine – it is likely the result of recent rain or watering. Preparing: Bunched arugula needs to have its tough stems removed and discarded before cleaning. Arugula is best cleaned in a large bowl or basin of cool water. Gently swish leaves in the water, letting any dirt fall to the bottom of the bowl. Lift clean leaves out of the water and transfer to a salad spinner or several layers of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Dry in the spinner or by rolling in the towels. Nutrition: Arugula is low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Protein, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Pantothenic Acid, Zinc and Copper, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Folate, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Manganese.
Asian Pears are super crunchy – more like crisp apples than other pears. They look more like apples than pears, too. While there are many varieties of Asian pears, the ones most commonly available at Laguna Farm are a very matte, tan color with a bit more texture and roughness to the skin than other apples or pears. Selection: Choose Asian pears than feel heavy for their size and have no give when you squeeze them – remember, they’re crisp! Storage: Store loose on counter away from excessive heat or light. Enjoy within 5-7 days. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Preparing: Asian pears are great for eating raw, especially when sliced or diced into salads. They have more of a crisp-apple texture than soft, grainy pear texture. They bake wonderfully in tarts and crisps. Season: Look for Asian pears from August into winter.
Asparagus is a delicious, tender spring vegetable available March-May. Eat these stems and flowers alone or incorporate them into other dishes. Asparagus is a perennial plant and doesn’t produce edible flowers and stems until its second year. The plant is very sensitive to frost and heat, making the it’s short season extra special! Storage: Fresh:
Keep fresh asparagus clean, cold and covered. Trim the stem end about 1/4 inch and wash in warm water several times. Pat dry and place in moisture-proof wrapping. Refrigerate and use within 3 or 4 days for best quality. To maintain freshness, wrap a moist paper towel around the stem ends, or stand upright in two inches of cold water. Freezing: Wash asparagus thoroughly. Trim stem ends slightly. Leave spears whole or cut into 2-inch lengths. Blanch in boiling water, bag and freeze. Do not defrost before cooking.
Prepare: Cut or snap off the tough ends of the stems (about 1”). With olive oil and salt, roast in oven 10 min or sautee over medium-high heat. Nutrition: Asparagus is one of the most nutritionally well-balanced vegetables in existence. It leads nearly all produce items in the wide array of nutrients it supplies in significant amounts for a healthy diet. Asparagus is the leading supplier among vegetables of folic acid.
Now here is a Laguna Farm Favorite! Basil Basil is an herb that can be used to flavor salads, soups, sauces and meats. Basil has a robust flavor and appealing pungent fragrance. It especially complements tomato-based dishes and can be used to flavor butter. Basil can be used fresh or dried. Storage: Remove rubber band or twist-tie. Place stems in a jar of water on counter away from heat and light. Gently cover the basil leaves loosely with a plastic bag. Add water as necessary to keep basil fresh. Enjoy within 4-6 days. Basil can also be stored in the refrigerator in moist towel/cloth bag or plastic bag. To freeze, blanch quickly in boiling water. Preparing: Basil does not need to be cooked. Basil is commonly used fresh in cooked recipes. In general, it is added at the last moment, as cooking quickly destroys the flavor. It is also one of the main ingredients in pesto. Nutrition: Scientific studies have established that compounds in basil oil have potent antioxidant, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties
Beets are a cool season root vegetable available winter and spring. Beets are closely related to chard and have lush, tasty greens. The roots are most commonly deep red-purple in color, but come in a wide variety of other shades, including golden yellow and red-and-white striped. Storage: Remove tie and tops of the beets. Store tops and roots separately in a moist towel/cloth bag/plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Use beet greens within 3-5 days, and beet roots in 7-10 days. Prepare: The usually deep-red roots of garden beet are eaten boiled either as a cooked vegetable, or cold as a salad after cooking and adding oil and vinegar. You can eat them raw as well. The leaves and stems of young plants are steamed briefly and eaten as a vegetable; older leaves and stems are stir-fried and have a flavor resembling taro leaves. Nutrition: Beets are highly nutritious and “cardiovascular health” friendly root vegetables. Garden beet is very low in calories and contain zero cholesterol and small amount of fat. Its nutrition benefits come particularly from fiber, vitamins, minerals, and unique plant derived anti-oxidants.
Bok choy, is the most common Asian green leafy vegetable. Bok choy makes frequent appearances in stir-fries, with a white stalk that stays crisp when cooked and dark green leaf that absorbs flavor and doesn’t lose its color. Bok choy’s popularity comes from its light, sweet flavor, crisp texture and nutritional value. Storage: Store in a moist towel/cloth bag or a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Enjoy within 2-4 days. Preparing Bok choy can also be a delicious and healthy side dish on its own with a few light seasonings. It can be boiled, steamed or grilled, but stir- frying is the most common cooking technique for this vegetable. Remove the bottom of the bok choy plant with a sharp knife so that the leaves separate. Rinse each leaf with cool water and pat dry with paper towels. Cut the stems away from the leaves and chop the stems and leaves into small, bite-sized pieces. Keep the leaves and stems separate because the stems will need to be cooked first due to their longer cooking time. Nutrition: Bok choy is rich in vitamins and nutrients. One cup of cooked bok choy contains 74 percent of vitamin C, 10 percent of iron and 18 percent of folate and potassium needed daily. It only contains two grams of carbohydrates, making bok choy an excellent food source for diabetics who need to mediate their carbohydrate and sugar intake.
Broccoli is an annual cool-season vegetable that we eat the flowers of and occasionally the stems and leaves. There are many varieties of broccoli including Romanesco Broccoli, which growing in many, light-yellow spirals. Purple broccoli has gained populatiry, though it loses its color when cooked. Broccoli is in the brassica family, making is closely related to cabbage, kale, turnips and kohlrabi. Caring For Broccoli: Remove rubber band or twist tie if present. Store in a moist towel/cloth bag or plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Enjoy within 5-7 days. Preparing Broccoli: Remove the toughest part of the base of the stem. Cut the florets free of the stems. Lower stem can be used if the tough stem is peeled off. Enjoy the broccoli florets raw or cooked. Steam lightly for 5-7 minutes to cook well, or stir-fry slightly longer. Cut florets into smaller pieces to add to pasta or to layer into other dishes.
Butternut Squash, also known as butternut pumpkin, is a type of winter squash. It has a sweet, nutty taste similar to that of a pumpkin. It has yellow skin and orange fleshy pulp. When ripe, it turns increasingly deep orange, and becomes sweeter and richer. Storage: Place the squash on shelves or screens so air can circulate around them and store in a dry, dark, well-ventilated, cool place (50 to 55°F) place. Do not store uncooked winter squash in the refrigerator or in an area where the temperature may drop below 41°F. Below 40 degrees will cause chilling injury to the squash and alter flavor and texture. Stored properly, winter squash will keep 2 to 6 months depending on variety, at room temperature they should keep for at least 2 to 3 weeks. Don’t store squashes near onions, potatoes, apples or pears which give off ethylene gas and spoil the squash. Preparing: The fruit is prepared by removing the skin, stalk and seeds, which are not usually eaten or cooked. However, the seeds are edible, either raw or roasted and the skin is also edible and softens when roasted. One of the most common ways to prepare butternut squash is roasting. Once roasted, it can be eaten in a variety of ways.
Cabbage is remarkably flexible: raw in salads and slaws, braised over low heat, quickly cooked in stir-frys. Cabbage is bright and crisp when raw and mellows and sweetens the longer it’s cooked. Look for brightly colored leaves with crisp, moist looking edges, fresh looking cut ends without browning, and heads that feel heavy for their size. Any yellowing leaves, bruised leaves, or mushiness (or even potential mushiness) anywhere? Leave it. Storing: Keep them well chilled, loosely wrapped in plastic, and they will last up to two weeks. (Cut cabbage will keep a few days similarly loosely wrapped and chilled.) Older cabbage is salvageable: remove any wilted outer leaves. Just note: such cabbage will be less sweet than perfectly fresh specimens. Preparing: Cabbage can be eaten raw or cooked. Green and red cabbage are especially good raw, but all varieties can be softened and sweetened by the “cooking” properties of vinegar or lemon juice, which causes the cabbage to behave similarly to cooking it lightly would. Cabbage can be cooked in most dishes that call for greens. It is excellent in salads on its own or with other salad greens and lends itself well to Mexican and Asian flavors. It can also be steamed, boiled and cooked into other dishes. Leaves also excellent stuffed. There are as many ways to prepare cabbage as there are regions where it is prepared.
Cantaloupe, also called muskmelon, rockmelon, netted melon and nutmeg melon, cantaloupe is prized for its sweetness and ease of selection. The best cantaloupes have rough yellow skins with a raised netting pattern and a distinct sweet fragrance coming from the slightly dented blossom end of the melon. The interior flesh should be bright orange with an abundance of cream-colored seeds. Caring for Cantaloupe: Wash and scrub a melon thoroughly before cutting and consumption. Depending on ripeness, store on counter for up to 4 days or in refrigerator for longer up to 4-6 days. The fruit should be refrigerated for less than three days after cutting to prevent risk of Salmonella or other bacterial pathogens. Preparing: Cantaloupe is normally eaten as a fresh fruit, as a salad, or as a dessert with ice cream or custard. Melon pieces wrapped in prosciutto are a familiar antipasto. You can eat it right out of the rind or slice it with mint and other fruit for salad. Some especially enjoy the sweetness of the melon with a sprinkling of salt.
You haven’t tasted a carrot until you have tasted ours! Carrots are a very popular root vegetable. Carrots are usually orange in color, but they come in many varieties, shapes and colors. They are very healthy and common in meals, as they have a variety of different applications, from stews, soups, salads and even carrot cake. Caring: Remove tops and store in a moist towel/cloth bag or a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Enjoy within 7-10 days. To Prepare: Carrots are delicious raw whole, grated, roasted, steamed and incorporated into other dishes. Nutrition: There are a lot of excellent health benefits that come from consuming carrots. Carrots are the best vegetable source for vitamin A carotenes. Carrots are also high in antioxidants, promote healthy lungs, protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease and help improve and promote good vision, especially during the night.
Most people are familiar with cauliflower as one of those vegetables your mother always tried to get you to eat. But there is probably quite a bit that you don’t know about cauliflower. It can be used in a variety of delicious meals. By the way, your mother was right, cauliflower is good for you. It is filled with needed vitamins and minerals. Cauliflower is a healthy, nutritious food. Caring: Store in a moist towel/cloth bag or plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Enjoy within 5-7 days. Preparing: Remove outer leaves if present. Break the cauliflower into florets with your hands, or quarter the head and remove the stem and core. Steam or bake with a bit of olive oil and salt. It’s also great in pasta dishes, as an addition to tomato sauces, quiche and lasagna dishes. It also goes well in curries and stir fries. Nutrition: Cauliflower is a healthy source of vitamins and minerals. It is low in fat, high in fiber and protein. A good source of potassium and Vitamin C, it also contains calcium and iron. It is also an excellent source of phosphorus and magnesium. Cauliflower is low on the glycemic food index meaning it releases sugar slowly, making it a good food for diabetics and people who are trying to lose weight.
Celery Root, also known as celeriac, is just what its name claims it to be: the root of the celery plant. Beneath the gnarly, knobby exterior lies a creamy, white flesh with a sweet, smoky flavor that dispels any ugly notions you might have about it. Celery root is often available year-round, especially in temperate climates, but is at its best in the cooler months of fall, winter, and early spring . Caring: Since celery root is a root vegetable, it stores well and for a long time as long as it is kept cool. It also enjoys the dark (having spent most of its life underground). Kept loosely wrapped in plastic the fridge it will last up to a week or two. Preparing: Celery root needs to be peeled – and be aggressive when you do it. Remove all of the slightly hairy brown exterior to reveal the creamy, solid flesh inside. Celery root is most classically and commonly used shredded, cooked, and in a simple salad. It is also delicious added to soups and stews, or combined with potatoes to make mashed potatoes and celery root.
The earthy-tasting Swiss chard is a powerhouse of nutrition. And with its rainbow assortment of stem colors, it’s as pleasing on the plate as it is to the palate. The tall leafy vegetable is a part of the goosefoot family — aptly named because the leaves resemble a goose’s foot. Other members are beets and spinach. Caring: Remove twist tie if present. Store in a moist towel/cloth bag or a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Enjoy within 3-5 days. Prepare: Prepare Swiss chard by rinsing the crisp leaves several times in warm water. Leaves and stalks can be boiled, steamed, or roasted. Young, tender leaves can be eaten raw or with salt and lemon juice, which help to soften them. Steam, sauté, or stir-fry the leaves until wilted. Remove and cook stems slightly longer than leaves. You can also add chard to sauces, pasta dishes, and casseroles. Nutrition: Swiss chard is a nutritional powerhouse — an excellent source of vitamins K, A, and C, as well as a good source of magnesium, potassium, iron, and dietary fiber.
If you are looking for an herb that complements everything from fish to ice cream, then you will love cilantro. This versatile herb is the perfect addition to Mexican dishes and is a popular favorite here at Laguna Farm. Cilantro is believed to be one of the first herbs used by mankind. Some culinary historians believe that it was used as far back as 5000 B.C. Cilantro has a strong taste that is a combination of the sharp bite of parsley and the tang of citrus. Storing: Remove rubber band or twist-tie. Place stems in a jar of water on counter away from heat and light. Gently cover the basil leaves loosely with a plastic bag. Add water as necessary to keep basil fresh. Enjoy within 4-6 days. Basil can also be stored in the refrigerator in moist towel/cloth bag or plastic bag. To freeze, blanch quickly in boiling water. Prepare: The leaves should be washed and patted dry before they are used, as they can attract dirt and sand. Cilantro makes a great addition to salsas and dips when crushed, as well as tasting great in asian-inspired salad dressings and chicken recipes. Gourmet ice-cream stores sometimes serve powdered cilantro as a topping on chocolate ice cream, but this flavor is definitely not for everyone, so make sure to test this combination before you cover your entire sundae with this spice. Nutrition: Cilantro and coriander (cilantro seeds) are natural digestive aids. Not only does the herb stimulate the appetite, but it also helps with the production of gastric juices, making digestion quicker and more efficient. Cilantro can also be used as a fungicide due to its antibacterial properties, is thought to help lower cholesterol and even cures hangovers when combined with violet water.
Cippolini Onions Cipollini onions are smaller than conventional yellow, red or white cooking onions. In fact, the word cipollini translated from Italian means “little onion” Although its name is Italian, cipollini onions are used in a range of cuisines and dishes and are tasty eaten raw in salads or slowly cooked to release their natural sweetness. They are excellent carmelized. Caring: Choose cipollini onions free of cuts or blemishes and with sprouts less than a half inch in length. Abrasions in the onion skin will make it quickly dry out and deteriorate, and longer sprouts indicate age and a bitter tasting interior. Store cured onions in a cool, dry spot on kitchen counter or in a well-ventilated cupboard. Check regularly for soft spots. These onions can last for weeks. Preparing: Since the skin of cipollinis is so thin and clingy, they are harder to peel than conventional onions. For easier peeling, blanch them in barely boiling water in a medium-size saucepan for about 1 1/2 minutes. Pour the onions into a colander and let them cool and drain until they can be easily handled. Cut off the root and give the skin on the body of the onion a quick firm twist. It should easily break away from the onion flesh and leave the sprout end intact, resulting in little waste. Depending on how you are using them in recipes, cipollinis can be left whole or halved lengthwise. Because cippolini onions are so sweet when caramelized, they are excellent cut in half and grilled or roasted whole. They can also be cooked as other onions are, sauteing them in butter or olive oil before adding other ingredients to the dish.
Collard Greens are highly nutritious staple green “cabbage-like leaves” vegetable. Collards are one of the most popular members of the brassica family, closely related to kale and cabbage and could be described as a non-heading (acephalous) cabbage. Caring: Look for fresh, bright, crispy leaves with stout stalk. Avoid those with yellow discolored, sunken leaves. Once at home, collard greens should be cleaned as the same way as you do in any other greens like spinach. Wash the whole bunch in cold running water for few minutes. Collards have relatively good shelf-life, can be stored in refrigerator for up to 4 days. Preparing: Collard greens are mild, earthy, and delicious when treated well. The trick to to do one of two things – either cook them very very quickly or cook them very very slowly. A fast sautée to highlight their nutty flavor or a slow braise that teases out their earthy sweetness, that’s how to cook collard greens. Before you cook them, you need to buy them. Look for dark green leaves without any yellowing, browning, or wilting. Collard greens should be quite stiff – almost like fans. Nutrition: Wonderfully nutritious collard leaves are very low in calories and contain no cholesterol. They contain very good amounts of soluble and insoluble dietary fiber that helps control LDL cholesterol levels. High in vitamins A and C and K. Offers protection against hemorrhoids, constipation as well as colon cancer diseases.
There are dozens of varieties of cucumbers. Most can be subcategorized under two main categories: pickling and slicing. Sweet Slice, Burpee and Poinsett cucumbers are some of the types that are best for salads or sandwiches. Bush Crop, Carolinas and Kirby are some cucumber varieties that pickle the best.
Slicing cucumbers are available year-round. However, they are at their peak during the spring and summer months, specifically May through July. Storing: Cucumbers are at their best when they are dark green, firm, and of moderate size; Refrigerate them in plastic bags. They will keep for 5 or even 10 days, but they lose their garden crispness after five days. Whole cucumbers do not freeze well; they turn mushy when thawed. However, you can peel them, cut them up, and then freeze them. You can also grate or puree the chunks and freeze the result. Or, try baking fresh cuke slices at 450° F for 30 minutes before freezing them. Preparing: Cucumbers are versatile and delicious. Remove the hard, ends of the cucumbers. All of the varieties can be eaten raw, skin and all. Slice thinly or shave into salad, tuck into sandwiches, cut into sticks for a crudite platter. For a more decorative look, run a fork the length of the cucumber, pulling slices of skin off in a linear pattern. Nutrition: Cucumbers contain a fair amount of vitamins A and C, as well as silica, a compound known for nourishing muscles, ligaments and bones. Because it is so high in water and fiber content, cucumber helps you feel fuller and increases regularity. Plus, the high levels of fiber, magnesium and potassium can help lower high blood pressure. It is also an effective diuretic, helping to flush the body of excess fluids.
Delicata squash is small, oblong, and cheerfully striped in bright yellow, dark green, and orange. The peel is exceptionally thin and is, in fact, edible (although many, including me, choose not to partake). The flesh is sweet, nutty, and a bit drier than other squash with a distinct corn-like flavor. It is particularly delicious roasted with butter or stuffed and baked. Storage: Because of its thin skin, however, it does not store as long or as easily as other winter squash. Check Delicatas for bruises, cuts, and soft spots before buying. Preparing: The flesh is sweet, nutty, and a bit drier than other squash with a distinct corn-like flavor. It is particularly delicious roasted with butter or stuffed and baked.
Eggplants are part of the Solanaceae family of fruits and vegetables, which also includes tomatoes, potatoes and peppers. They are technically classified as a fruit, due to their soft flesh, protective skin, and high-seed content. In the classic sense, eggplants are a type of berry, but in most of the world today, they are eaten as a vegetable, and are often included with squash and peppers. The eggplant comes in many different varieties. The skin can be white, pale purple, striped, yellow or a deep purple that is almost black. The most common type, called the “Classic,” or “Black Bell,” is a deep purple oblong shape and is typically used as a vegetable. The Japanese eggplant is much smaller and thinner. It has a thin skin and a light, sweet flavor. Caring: Store eggplant in a moist towel/cloth bag or plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Enjoy within 5-7 days. Preparing: There are many different uses for the eggplant. It can be added to your favorite recipes or cooked on its own as a main dish. It is often sliced, sauteed or fried and used as a side dish or as part of a stew. Grilled and mashed varieties are also popular, but it can also be used as a dip or spread. Some people substitute eggplant for beef in the same way portobello mushrooms are used. It is very bitter before it is cooked, so it is not typically eaten raw.
English Shelling Peas
English Shelling Peas, also known as shell or garden peas, are a cool season crop available from the Valley in Spring and early Summer. Unlike sugar snap peas and snow peas, the fibrous pods of shelling peas are not edible. The sweet, crunchy seeds inside are well worth the work of shelling the peas! Caring for Shelling Peas: Store in a moist towel/cloth bag or a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Enjoy within 3-5 days. Preparing Shelling Peas: Gently pry the peas open along the seam and scrape the peas out o the shell. Especially tender peas are quite tasty raw. They can also be steamed or lightly cooked, about 3-4 minutes. Toss steamed peas with pasta, add to salad, dress with olive oil & lemon juice.
For people who enjoy using endive in various dishes, escarole is a form of endive that is both versatile and tasty. Sometimes referred to as broad chicory or common chicory, endive is a salad green that can make the difference between ordinary and outstanding. Characterized by broad outer leaves, this member of the chicory clan does have a slightly bitter taste, but much less so than many other forms of endive. Storing: Store in a moist towel/cloth bag or a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Enjoy within 3-5 days. Preparing: Escarole can be eaten raw or lightly cooked and is edible from the tips to the bases of the leaves. Include the leaves in salads, wilt them quickly with lemon juice and olive oil, or add them to soups. With a crinkled shape to the leaves, escarole is an example of greens that provide various degrees of flavor as the outer leaves are removed. While the outer leaves are a dark green, peeling back a layer will reveal a lighter shade of green. As more layers are peeled back, the leaves continue to lighten in shade. As the shade of the leaves lightens, the degree of bitter taste also lessens. The result is that it is possible to use different layers of escarole to achieve the taste you want with the dish you are preparing. Nutrition: escarole also is a good source of a number of vitamins and nutrients, which helps to make it as important in the diet as the use of spinach or kale. Between the extra taste, the versatility of use in various dishes, and the vitamins and nutrients provided in each serving, escarole is an excellent food choice.
Fennel, also known as anise, is a crunchy, sweet cool season crop available at Laguna Farm late fall and spring. We eat the bulb and foliage of the plant, which is a feature of Middle Eastern cooking. The seeds are often used as a spice in Indian and Pakistani cooking. It is also a common spice in Italian dishes and sausages. Fennel is an excellent source of fiber and of Vitamin C. Caring: Remove twist-tie or rubber band. Trim off foliage if present and store separately. Store in a moist towel/cloth bag or a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Enjoy within 2-4 days. Preparing: Both the bulb and leaves of the fennel plant can be eaten raw or cooked. It lends a sweet, fresh flavor to any dish it’s added to and is commonly used in tomato sauces and pasta dishes for this reason. Slice the bulb thinly or dice the fronds for addition to salads. It goes great with citrus such– try orange fennel salad. The bulb can be roasted whole or peeled and trimmed and roasted in leaves. It goes especially well with seafood of all sorts. Add the diced fronds to sandwiches and garish soups. Combine with mint leaves and yogurt for a great snack or sauce.
The luxury of a luscious ripe fig is extraordinary. Figs are the prize fruit of mid-summer and autumn. A sweet, honeyed taste and a soft (some might say squishy) texture make fresh figs worth seeking out. Unctuous fruit studded with discernible seeds are a far cry from the dried figs most people know. Yet that yielding texture makes them particularly sensitive to travel, since they split and spoil quickly when not handled with kid gloves, a fact that makes locally grown figs even more seductive. Caring: Figs are fragile. Rare is the fig shopper who finds perfect, unmarred fresh figs. Lucky for the rest of us, slightly wrinkled (but still plump) and even split figs (as long as they are not weeping or leaking), are what you want. A bit of bend at the stem and a slight weariness to the skin both indicate better ripeness and flavor that taunt, shiny skin an stems that look like they’re still grasping for the tree. Avoid figs that look shrunken, are oozing from their splits, have milky liquid around the stem, are super squishy, or have any sign of mold. Fresh figs wait for no one, so plan on eating them within a day or two of buying them. They keep best at room temperature with plenty of air circulating around them. They will keep a bit longer in the refrigerator, but chilling detracts a bit from their full flavor, so try to avoid it. Preparing: Figs are delicious raw. They are edible, peel and all, just remove the tough stem. Figs can also be stewed or baked to make sweet, warm desserts.
Fresh Onions (also called Spring Onions) are smaller than leeks but with a fatter bulb than scallions have, spring onions are ordinary onions that have been pulled from the ground before they grow to full size. (Scallions, also known as green onions, are an even younger version of the same thing.) A spring onion’s flavor will be milder than a mature onion’s but considerably stronger than a scallion’s, and its greens will have a strong flavor, too. Storing: Remove rubberband/ twist-tie and store in moist towel/cloth bag or a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Enjoy within 5-7 days. Prepare: Spring onions can be used in place of more-common scallions, especially when you’re looking for a little more punch. You can eat them raw or cooked, in salads, salsas, and stews, to name just a few dishes that benefit from the spring onion’s uniquely bright and pungent flavor. Whole grilled spring onions make a delicious and dramatic side dish.
Green beans come in a variety of colors, but they all taste about the same and can be used more or less interchangeably. The same is true for pole beans, which grow on vines that wrap around poles, and bush beans, which grow on a bushy structure. Some types of green bean are long and thin, like the Rocquencourt green bean, while others are stouter and fatter, like the traditional green beans found in casseroles. Green beans may have a literal “string” running down the middle of the bean, which is why they are also called string beans. However, many types do not have the string. Storing: Store in a moist towel/cloth bag or plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Enjoy within 5-7 days. Preparing Green Beans: Remove the tough ends of the beans and any of the string that comes off when you break off the stem. Green beans are delicious raw and shouldn’t be over cooked– steaming or sauteing them lightly will preserve the crispness of the fresh bean. Nutrition: The green bean is a great favorite of dieters everywhere because they can be served in a wide variety of ways, have lots of vitamins and minerals and are just plain good for you. They contain lots of vitamins C, A and K as well as manganese. This makes them great for bone, cardiovascular and colon health. Green beans also are anti-inflammatories, which means that they can help calm respiratory problems like asthma and other inflammatory disorders like arthritis.
Green garlic is young garlic which is harvested before the cloves have begun to mature. The resulting vegetable resembles a scallion, with a deep green stalk and a pale white bulb. The flavor of green garlic is still garlicky, but is much more mild with less of a bitter bite. When cooked, the green garlic sweetens, lending a new layer of depth to a dish. The whole plant, including the leaves, can be used. Storing: Pick out sturdy crisp stalks which do not appear wilted, and you should check for mold and mildew on the garlic. The green garlic can be stored under refrigeration for three to five days before being used, and it will not cure like regular garlic, so make sure to use it up. Prepare: Rinse and trim off the rootlets. The whole plant, including the leaves, can be used. Some cooks use green garlic instead of mature garlic or scallions for a different flavor in a favorite dish, and others invent entirely new dishes to showcase the mild flavor of green garlic. It can be used raw or cooked in a broad assortment of cuisines. Saute green garlic in butter or olive oil when you make soups or sauces. It can also be eaten raw, chopped finely in dips or salads.
Ah, the Heirloom Tomato. These beauties from the fields of Laguna Farm will make your jaw drop An heirloom is generally considered to be a variety that has been passed down, through several generations of a family because of its valued characteristics. Since ‘heirloom’ varieties have become popular in the past few years there have been liberties taken with the use of this term for commercial purposes. Some say Commercial Heirlooms are Open-pollinated varieties introduced before 1940, or tomato varieties more than 50 years in circulation. Family Heirlooms are Seeds that have been passed down for several generations through a family. And Created Heirlooms, crossing two known parents (either two heirlooms or an heirloom and a hybrid) and de-hybridizing the resulting seeds for however many years/generations it takes to eliminate the undesirable characteristics and stabilize the desired characteristics, perhaps as many as 8 years or more. Other say that simply being a non-hybridized variety makes an heirloom. Storing: Store loose on counter away from excessive heat or light. Use within 3 days, depending on ripeness. Storing tomatoes in the refrigerator lengthens shelf-life, but removes flavor. Preparing: Heirloom tomatoes have remarkable flavor and will need minimal preparation to be delicious. Remove tough stem sop on the top, then slice and drizzle with salt and olive oil, serve with cheese, basil and garlic, chop and add to prepared salads or pasta dishes, layer into sandwiches or chop for salsa. Heirloom tomatoes may also be cooked as you would other tomatoes.
One of my favorite fall/winter vegetables is the versatile and varied kabocha squash. Kabocha is known as Japanese pumpkin. Kabocha squash is a type of Japanese squash that resembles butternut squash in taste. The outside of this unimpressive-appearing squash resembles a pumpkin in shape, but it has a roughly textured green outer-skin, which opens up to reveal a brilliant orange interior. It’s often used in Thai cuisine and to make vegetable tempura in Japanese restaurants. Storing: These hard squash are cured and can be stored in a cool, dry spot on the counter for a few weeks. If any soft spots are present or begin to develop use the squash right away. Preparing: Kabocha squash can be cooked similarly to all other winter squash. Roast or bake it with the skin on, or peel and chop it to steam or boil it for use in curries and stir fries. The squash is sweet and somewhere between pumpkin and sweet potato in flavor, which makes it an excellent choice for sweet pies. A little known fact about the kabocha squash is that the skin is totally edible. If you roast the kabocha, the skin turns very tender. I love the taste, a little more caramelized than the flesh, with a rich flavor. Nutrition: Kabocha is a low carb alternative to butternut squash. A single cup of kobocha squash has only forty calories per cup compared to butternut squash, which has 60 calories. It has less than half of the carbs of butternut squash (7 grams vs. 16 grams) per one cup serving. Despite its lower calorie and carb count, kabocha squash is an excellent source of beta-carotene, a good source of iron, vitamin C and some B vitamins. In addition, it contains fiber, which most Americans don’t get enough of. To boost the fiber content even more, cook it with the edible skin still on.
Kale is a cool season green closely related to cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. There are many varieties of kale that vary in cooking time, flavor and texture. Storing: Store in a moist towel/cloth bag or a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Enjoy within 2-4 days. Kale freezes well and actually tastes sweeter and more flavorful after being exposed to a frost. Prepare: Kale can be served raw, but it is usually cooked to reduce the bitterness and tenderize the leaves. For raw kale, rinse the kale and remove the stems. Slice the leaves into strips and use in salads. Kale can be chopped and boiled or steamed or used as an ingredient in a hearty soup or stew. You can also make dehydrated or baked Kale chips, which make a nutritious snack that is low in calories. Nutrition: I could write for hours here; kale is so healthy for you. Kale is an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K, and a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and vitamin C, while being low in sodium. Kale is low in calories too; one cup of chopped kale has 34 calories and a little over one gram of fiber. Kale also contains large amounts of phytochemicals. Lutein and zeaxanthin are related to vitamin A and may help lower your risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration, and lutein may help prevent atherosclerosis. Kale, along with the other cruciferous vegetables, provide bitter substances called glucosinolates, some of which may have health benefits.
Everyone has probably seen a leek, whether they knew it or not. They look like a huge green onions. Once it wasn’t that easy to find leeks, but now their place among the other vegetables at our farm has become commonplace. They can be used in a wide variety of recipes and have a wide array of vitamins, minerals and best of all, they’re low in calories. Storing: Remove tie or rubber band, cut off dark green leaves, save light green and white. Store in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator in a moist towel/cloth bag or plastic bag. Use within 7 days. Prepare: Leeks have a mild onion-y flavor and can be used in many of the same ways. Remove the tough, dark green leaves and the rootlets at the bottom of the stalk, reserving the light green and white parts. To clean the leeks, slice them in half lengthwise and run them under the tap. Frying leeks makes them crunchy and preserves the flavor, while sautéing them will infuse surrounding food with flavor. Leeks are delicious in quiches, soups, and omelets and any dishes you might usually include onions in. Nutrition: Leeks are very high in fiber and 1 cup only contains about 57 calories. They are also high in vitamins C, D, K, B6 and A. Leeks are also known to contain iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, folate, manganese and magnesium, making them not only taste good, but good for you, too. They are also low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.
The mandarin orange gets its name from the bright orange cloaks worn by public officials (called mandarins) in ancient China. Mandarin oranges belong to the same group that includes citrus fruits such as satsumas, clementines, dancys, honeys, pixies and tangerines. Storage: Store loose on counter away from excessive heat or light. Enjoy within 2-4 days. Store in the refrigerator for 5-7 days. Prepare: If you are going to use the zest of the mandarin, rinse & gently scrub. Otherwise, just peel away the rind and enjoy the insides. Eat right out of the peel, or add to salads or even to baked dishes. Nutrition: These fruits are an excellent source of vitamins C and A. They are also a good source of thiamin and dietary fiber. A single mandarin orange contains less than 50 calories and 1 gram of protein.
Mustard (also known as mustard greens, spinach, leaf mustard and white mustard), is a quick-to-mature, easy-to-grow, cool-season vegetable for greens or salads. Mustard greens are a green leafy vegetable that are a member of the cruciferous vegetable family. The leaves can be flat or curly in appearance. When mustard greens are cooked, they have a sharp, mustard-like taste. Florida broadleaf, green wave, and southern giant curled are the main varieties Storing: Store unwashed greens in plastic bags in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. They will keep for about three days. Wrap in moist paper towels for longer storage, up to five days. The flavor may intensify in the refrigerator during the longer five day storage. Prepare: Rinse mustard greens and remove the tough stems. The stems will take slightly longer to cook, but cook up tender and delicious, so plan to put them in the water or over the heat first. Mustard Greens are delicious cooked as you would any other green and flavored as you wish– lemon, garlic & olive oil can be quick and simply, but venture out into Indian spices or flavor with ginger, garlic and soy sauce and serve over rice or another whole grain. Add coarsley-cut mustard greens to your favorite pasta dishes or casseroles. Nutrition: Mustard greens are a source of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, manganese, vitamin E, tryptophan, fiber, calcium, potassium, vitamin B6, protein, copper, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin, magnesium, thiamine (vitamin B1), and niacin. Mustard greens are also low in calories.
Napa Cabbage, is a member of the cabbage family that originated in China. It is also known by the names Chinese cabbage, celery cabbage, and Peking cabbage. Napa cabbage grows in a compact, elongated head; the crinkled oblong leaves are wrapped tightly in an upright cylinder. The leaves of this cabbage are light green, and the stalk area below the leaves is lighter still, a pale green approaching white. The flavor of Napa cabbage is somewhat milder and a bit sweeter than that of regular green cabbage. It is delicious raw or cooked, and can be substituted for regular cabbage in most recipes. Storage: Store in a moist towel/cloth bag or a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Enjoy within 2-4 days. Prepare: To prepare Napa cabbage, using a sharp knife, cut the head lengthwise in half. Cut out and discard the core at the bottom center. Separate the leaves and wash them individually under cool running water to remove any dirt or small insects. Spin dry or pat with paper towels to remove water. Shredded or finely sliced, Napa cabbage is wonderful in Asian-style cole slaw. Try adding some shredded Napa cabbage to a mixed green salad for a nice crunch and enhanced nutritional value. Whole Napa cabbage leaves can be blanched briefly and stuffed, used to line a bamboo food steamer, or used to wrap fish before steaming. Shredded leaves are a wonderful, healthy addition to stir-fries and vegetable soups.
New potatoes have thin, wispy skins and a crisp, waxy texture. They are young potatoes and unlike their fully grown counterparts, they keep their shape once cooked and cut. They are also sweeter because their sugar has not yet converted into starch, and are therefore particularly suited to salads. Jersey Royals are the best known variety, and their appearance in late April heralds the beginning of the summer. Other varieties include Pentland Javelin and salad potatoes, which are best eaten cold. Storage: Choose new potatoes that are firm, dry and blemish-free. Unwashed potatoes last longer as the dirt protects them from bruising and general deterioration. Storing: Store new potatoes in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place. They should be used within a few days of purchase. Prepare: These potatoes have a thin, flaky skin, and a delicious, delicate flavor. New potatoes do not need to be peeled, simply wash thoroughly, and trim as needed. New Potatoes cook faster than storage potatoes.
Onions are vegetables that belong to the lily family of plants. It is grown for its edible bulb, which most often serves to flavor a variety of foods. Onions are categorized as being either green or dry onions. Green onions are small onions that are harvested before the bulb has matured and the tops are still green. Dry onions, also known as mature onions, are harvested when their shoot has died and layers of papery thin skin cover a firm juicy flesh. There are two types of dry onions, fresh (Spring/Summer), which are also referred to as sweet onions and storage (Fall/Winter) onions. There are a wide variety of shapes and sizes, ranging from small round pearl onions to the larger spherical-shaped Spanish onions. Sweet onions have higher water content and are served either raw or cooked. Storage: Store these cured in a cool, dry spot on the kitchen counter or cupboard. Better ventilation may help preventing mold or rotting in storage. Cured onions can last for weeks. To store a partial or cut onion in your refrigerator, leave the skin on and place it face down on a plate or in a container to prevent its scent effecting the rest of the food in your refrigerator. Prepare: Trim the top and bottom (roots) of the onion. Peel off the outer dry, papery layers. Slice, chop or dice to fit your recipe. Start stir-fries, soups, sautees and steamed dishes by sauteeing chopped onions in oil before adding other ingredients. The onions will infuse the oil and pot with flavor. To caramelize, heat the pan first over medium-high heat, then add oil and onions together. Onions are also excellent roasted or grilled.
Oregano, is a very prominent herb in the culinary world. The leaves are used either fresh or dried to flavor foods such as tomato sauces, marinara, Greek salads and marinades for fish, meats and vegetables. The combination of oregano and basil is the signature of most Italian flavors. Oregano is also used heavily in Greek cuisine. Storing: When purchasing fresh oregano, select bright bunches with no blemishes. Fresh oregano can be stored in the refrigerator up to 3 weeks in a zip-close bag. Fresh oregano can also be frozen, but it will lose a lot of its flavor this way. Drying oregano is best. Dried oregano is often much more flavorful than fresh oregano, and it can be stored in a cool, dry area for up to 6 months. Prepare: Pair oregano with rabbit, veal, chicken, fish, pork and lamb. Cook vegetables such as squash, zucchini, potatoes, tomatoes, mushrooms and peppers with a dash of oregano. Oregano makes a nice seasoning for soups, stews and, of course, pizza. Oregano is often used to flavor an oil and vinegar salad dressing.
Parsley is a green herb available in three varieties: curly, Italian flat leaf and Hamburg. It can be bought fresh or dried. Curly parsley is most commonly used as a garnish due to its appearance and bitter taste while Italian flat leaf packs more flavor, thus adding more to a dish. Both types of parsley, however, are not eaten by themselves but as a seasoning in many dishes. The Hamburg variety of parsley is not commonly known and the root is the part that is used rather than the leaves. Parsley dates back to the Greeks and Romans where it was originally used medicinally rather than consumption. Storage: It is always best to wait and rinse parsley right before use because of its fragile state. To store parsley, wrap it in a damp paper towel and place it in an air-tight bag. When buying parsley, look for bright green colors and stay away from yellowing leaves and stems. Keep dried parsley away from light and extreme temperatures for best results. Enjoy within 2-4 days. Prepare: The most common usage of parsley is as an addition to soups, salads and sauces to add a bit of freshness to the dish. Fresh parsley is generally added at the end of cooking to keep the fresh flavor while dried parsley is added before or during cooking to give the flavor time to seep into the dish. Dried parsley does not add as much flavor as fresh and some cooks claim it adds nothing to a dish. Flat leaf parsley stands up to heat better than curly, which is why it is more commonly added during cooking while curly parsley is added as a garnish. Chew on some fresh parsley after your meal to cleanse your breath. Nutrition: Although parsley may seem to be too small to have many health benefits, it does in fact contain large amounts of nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants. Parsley is an excellent source of vitamins C, A and K as well as iron and folate. The oils that exist in parsley come together to offer the body certain amazing health benefits. These “volatile” oils have been shown in studies to inhibit the growth of tumors in the lungs and brain. The components of parsley also help to cleanse the body of toxins. The flavonoids present in parsley function as antioxidants to the blood.
Parsnips look like fat white carrots. A lot like fat white carrots. Yet they are not carrots. Try them roasted, pureed, mixed into mashed potatoes, and added to stews. Parsnips are primarily harvested in the fall and available from storage through the winter. Storing: Look for bright, very firm, relatively smooth parsnips. If you buy parsnips with their greens still attached, the greens should look fresh and moist. Remove greens when you get them home and store parsnips chilled and loosely wrapped in plastic. Fresh parsnips will last a week or two properly stored. Prepare: Parsnips have a great, distinctly nutty flavor. When cooked until tender they also have a lovely, starchy texture that works beautifully roasted or added to soups and stews. Parsnips pair particularly well with other root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and turnips.
Also called bell peppers due to their shape, sweet peppers are a popular vegetable that can be eaten raw or cooked. All sweet peppers start off as green in color and are most commonly cultivated to be red, orange and yellow. Green peppers are not as sweet as their colorful counterparts because they have not fully ripened. As their name implies, the peppers are slightly sweet and not hot like many other peppers. When eaten raw, they have a crunchy texture and fruity flavor. Storage: Store in a moist towel/cloth bag or plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Enjoy within 5-7 days. Prepare: All sweet peppers can be eaten raw or cooked. Remove the stem, seeds and veins for better texture and more flavor. Roast the peppers whole to bring out the flavor, or chop them finely to add to salads, soups or other dishes. Slice into thin strips for a crudite platter and serve with hummus or other dip. Nutrition: Raw sweet peppers are a great source of vitamin B6, fiber and vitamin K. According to the Food Rating System Chart, one cup of chopped sweet peppers contains over 100 percent of the daily value for vitamin C and vitamin A. Sweet peppers are a low-calorie food, high in phytochemicals, which have great antioxidant activity.
Long after most fresh fruit has left the scene, these yellow-orange to orange-red beauties reach the market to sweeten things up. Persimmons are a delicious delight of the late fall and early winter. The unmistakable tall, broad trees are left naked in the fall, but are covered with the brightly colored, ripening fruit. Commercially, there are in general two types of persimmon fruit: Fuyu persimmons are distinguished by their “flat” bottoms and squat shape. Fuyus should be more orange then yellow and are at their best when just barely a teensy bit soft. They will ripen after picked, so buying rock-hard fuyus and allowing them to ripen at home can be a good strategy. Fuyus are commonly eaten raw, often sliced and peeled and salads. They can also be roasted to great effect. They have a mild, pumpkin-like flavor. Hachiya persimmons are mouth-puckeringly tart unless absolutely, supremely ripe. Ripe hachiyas are unbelievably soft – and are often almost liquified into a silky smooth pulp inside. They are elongated and oval shaped. They will ripen once picked, so you can let them soften on the kitchen counter until ready to use. Storage: Whether Fuyu or Hachiya, look for persimmons that are bright and plump and feel heavy for their size. They should have glossy looking skin without any cracks or bruises. Store almost-ripe and just-ripe persimmons at room temperature. Hasten ripening by storing them in a paper bag. You can keep very ripe persimmons loosely wrapped in plastic in the fridge for a few days. Prepare: Prepare fuyus by hulling them (cutting out their top and its attached flesh), slicing, and peeling them. Remove and discard the large black seeds as you encounter them. Hachiyas are thought of as “baking” persimmons and are commonly peeled and pureed into a pulp to add to baked goods. They add stable moisture and a mild, pumpkin-like flavor to cakes, puddings, and other treats. Nutrition: Most people consider the astringency of a persimmon to be just an annoyance, but eating unripe persimmons can cause digestive problems that requiring surgery. Unripe or partially ripe persimmons should not be eaten. Persimmons should not be eaten with crab meat and persimmons should not be eaten on an empty stomach. Unripe persimmons contain a soluble tannin which, in a weakly acid stomach, forms a sticky coagulum that can combine with other stomach contents.
Poblano peppers are mild chiles named for the Mexican state of Puebla where they originate. They are a staple of Mexican cooking, used in mole sauce, chile relleno and a traditional Mexican independence day dish called chiles en nogada. When they are dried, poblanos are called ancho chiles. Poblanos are often confused for mulato and pasilla peppers, but each variety is distinctive. Storage: Store in a moist towel/cloth bag or plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Enjoy within 5-7 days. Preparing Poblano Peppers: The majority of the heat in Poblano peppers is in the seeds and membranes, which can be removed for a milder flavor. Roast or grill the peppers, then slip them out of their skins. They can then be layered into casseroles with cheeses and sauces or added to salsas. The cooked peppers can be frozen in tupperware or ziplock bags for months.
Pomegranates are easily identified. They are a fairly large fruit, about the size of a grapefruit, and covered with a smooth, leathery red skin. When opened, clusters of translucent purplish red arils are clearly visible, surrounded by a white membrane. The arils, including their seeds, are completely edible. Although the skin and membrane are not toxic, they are unpleasantly bitter and not usually eaten. Pomegranates are usually available at Laguna Farm during the winter months. Storage: To store before using, keep the pomegranate whole in the refrigerator in a plastic/cloth bag for 5-7 days. Prepare: These are ready to eat. Peel the skin away to enjoy the ruby-like seeds. To remove all of the seeds easily, slice the pomegranate in half and score the sides. Hold the pomegranate over a large bowl in one hand and whack it on the rind/skin with a large spoon. Most of the seeds will easily fall into the bowl. Eat the by the handful, sprinkle them over salads, or use the seeds or juice in meat dishes. Nutrition: Pomegranates are high in polyphenols, an important antioxidant; as a result, pomegranate juice is a popular drink among the health-conscious. Pomegranates are also high in Vitamin C, folic acid, potassium and fiber. Most of the fiber contained in the fruit is in the edible seeds.
Radicchio is a bright magenta chicory that looks light red cabbage got stylish – it has white ribs among its purple leaves and is smaller and lighter than a head of red cabbage. Storage: For freshly picked heads simply brush any dirt off the exterior and put in a plastic bag and place in the refrigerator. It will keep approximately a week. When you are ready to use the leaves simply pull the leaves off the head and rinse in cool water. Prepare: Radicchio is great raw in salads, either on its own or mixed with greens. Cooking softens the bitter edge of radicchio and brings out the bit of sweetness held deep in those leaves. Cooked radicchio is particularly delicious in omelets or other egg dishes.
Radish is one of the nutritious root vegetable featured in both salads as well as in main recipes. This widely used root vegetable belongs to the family of brassicaceae. The sharp pungent flavor of radishes ranges from crispy red globe radishes to the peppery flavor of turnip-shaped black radishes. They are thought to be originated from the mainland china centuries ago but now cultivated and consumed throughout the world. Radishes come in different forms varying in size, color and duration of required cultivation time. Radishes can be broadly categorized into four main types-summers, fall, winter, and spring while growers classify them by shapes, colors, and sizes, such as black or white colored radishes, with round or elongated roots. Top greens can also be used as food. Storage: Remove the top greens as they rob nutrients of the roots. Then wash thoroughly in clean water to rid off surface dust and soil. Store them in a zip pouch or plastic bag in the refrigerator where they remain fresh for up to a week. Prepare: Both root and top greens are used for cooking. Peeling may be avoided as the anti-oxidant allyl-isothiocyanates, which gives peppery pungent flavor to radish, are thickly concentrated in the peel. Just wash the root thoroughly, trim the tip ends and if you have to peel, then gently pare away superficial thin layer only.
Rapini, also known as Broccoli Raab or Broccoletti, is a cool season green closely related to broccoli and turnips. Although rapini occasionally shares a name with broccoli, it has more in common with the turnip. Its leaves resemble turnip greens, surrounding dispersed buds that resemble thin, leggy broccoli stalks. Storing: Store in a moist towel/cloth bag or a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Enjoy within 2-4 days. Prepare: Rapini can be steamed, sautéed, stir-fried, or braised. If desired, the rapini can be blanched briefly and drained well before sauteing. It has a somewhat strong and bitter flavor, which makes it a good complement to both milder foods like pasta, polenta, and white beans, and strong flavors like garlic, chili, and anchovy. Nutrition: One serving (1/2 of a bunch, about 220 g) of cooked rapini has only 75 calories and contains vitamins A, C, and K; thiamin, riboflavin, folate, zinc, manganese, potassium, calcium, and iron; is low in saturated fat; and is a good source of fiber.
Romano beans are a form of flat snap bean which originated in Italy. Many Italians cook with these beans when they are in season during the summer months. Like other snap beans, Romano beans are supposed to be eaten whole. They are considered ripe when they make a crisp “snap” if they are broken in half, and they have a very mild flavor and a tender texture. Storage: Store in a moist towel/cloth bag or plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Enjoy within 5-7 days. Prepare: Remove the tough ends of the beans and any of the string that comes off when you break off the stem. These beans are often braised with other summer vegetables and eaten as a side dish, and they can also be added to soups, stews, stir fries, and assortment of other dishes. You may also hear these legumes referred to as Italian flat beans or Italian snap beans, but don’t confuse them with fava beans, which are sometimes labeled as “Italian broad beans.”
Rosemary is a woody perennial, easily recognizable with its short pine-like needles and aromatic scent. In summer, it usually has blue flowers, although some varieties are white, pink or purple. Rosemary is best known for its aromatic and seasoning properties and is widely used for cooking. Storing: Store in a moist towel/cloth bag or a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Enjoy within 5-7 days. To dry, hang the bundle in a warm, dry area away from direct sunlight– over a refrigerator works well. Harvest the leaves from the bundle as you need them or store them in an airtight container. Prepare: Peel the fresh or dried leaves off the rosemary stems for use in dishes, or use the whole sprig under veggies, meats or even fruit while roasting. Add leaves to soup base, tomato and alfredo sauces, salad dressings, marinades and rubs for chicken, roasts, burgers or pork.
Many Thanksgiving meals feature the classic vegetable known as the turnip, but an uncommon vegetable known as the rutabaga is much like the turnip. Rutabagas are a unique vegetable and can be used in a variety of recipes and dinner creations. The rutabaga is a great fall vegetable. A rutabaga is a yellowish vegetable that is grown under the ground and known as a “root” vegetable much like a carrot or potato. The top of a rutabaga can be purple in color, but may also blend in with the vegetable itself. The vegetable has a round shape, sometimes with a pointed end. Storage: Remove the greens and rubber band or twist-tie. Store greens and roots separately in a moist towel/cloth bag or plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Enjoy greens within 2-4 days and roots within 5-7 days. Prepare: Rutabagas can be used in a variety of recipes or just cooked on their own. In order to be cooked on their own, they first must be washed and peeled. Then they are boiled and mashed with other ingredients to add flavor. Rutabagas are also popular roasted and served fresh with a salad.
Savoy cabbage, or Cavolo Verza, is a sweet, tender member of the cabbage family. It has a distinct appearance that makes it stand out from its brethren. It is the preferred cabbage that top chefs and cooks use when making dishes that contain cabbage. Storage: When selecting, choose a head that feels heavy with leaves that are crisp and fresh looking without signs of browning. To store, wrap in a plastic bag and refrigerate for up to a week. To Prepare: Remove tough outer leaves and center stem. Savoy cabbage is mild enough that it is quite tasty raw, especially dressed with lemon juice or vinegar. It can also be lightly sauteed, stir-fried, braised or steamed.
Snow Peas are a delicious flat-podded pea available in late winter and spring. These peas can be eaten raw or cooked and shouldn’t be shelled– the pod is edible! Caring For Snow Peas: Store in a moist towel/cloth bag or a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Enjoy within 3-5 days. To Prepare Snow Peas: Rinse the peas and remove the stems. Eat them raw or cook them lightly. They are great in Asian-style stir-fry dishes
Spaghetti squash is an oval-shaped, seed-bearing type of winter squash. It may also be called noodle squash or vegetable spaghetti. The color of a spaghetti squash can be ivory, yellow, orange or even green with white streaks. If you cut open a spaghetti squash, you would find large seeds inside. The flesh of the squash varies between bright yellow, orange and white depending on the color of the outer skin. In its raw form, the flesh is solid. However, once this squash is cooked, the flesh easily separates out into spaghetti-like strands. This is what gives this squash its name. Storing: Spaghetti Squash can be stored at room temperature for about a month. After cutting, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 2 days. Spaghetti squash also freezes well. Pack cooked squash into freezer bags, seal, label and freeze. Partially thaw before re-using, then steam until tender but still firm, about 5 minutes. Prepare: You can prepare spaghetti squash in a number of ways. You can simply boil it and season it with butter, salt and pepper and serve it as a side. The other options are to bake it, steam it or cook it in the microwave. This squash is often regarded as a healthier substitute for pasta, rice or potatoes. This is primarily due to its low calorie count. One cup of spaghetti squash contains an average of just 42 calories. Spaghetti squash is highly nutritious and is loaded with folic acid, vitamin A, potassium and beta carotene. Even the seeds of the vegetable can be eaten in roasted form, much like pumpkin seeds.
Spinach is a cool season leafy green available fall through spring. There are four types of this delicious, leafy vegetable, and they are extremely different in appearance and taste. Savoy spinach has dark green, wrinkled leaves and a sharp taste, while flat and smooth-leaf spinach have smooth-edged, flat leaves that are easier to clean and slightly sweeter and crisp in taste. Semi-savoy is a mix of these two, and many people like it because it is easier to clean than savoy but has a stronger edge to it than flat-leaf. Finally, baby spinach is tender and sweet with leaves generally no more than 3 inches long. Storage: Remove twist tie or rubber band if present. Store in a moist towel/cloth bag or a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Enjoy within 3-5 days. Prepare: If the spinach is bunched, slice off the bottom root and rinse the stems and leaves carefully to remove any dirt. In the rainy season, spinach can get quite muddy. Soak it to help remove dirt. Use the spinach raw in salads or cook it. The stems are tender and considered a delicacy in Asian cultures, where they are steamed and served with sesame seeds. Leaves and stems cook quickly– steam or sautee for use as a side dish, or add them to any dish that calls for greens such as casseroles, pasta dishes, omelettes, fritatas, or stir-fries. Nutrition: Spinach has countless conclusively proven health benefits as well as many suspected benefits that have not yet been formally acknowledged by the medical community. Spinach is thought to help prevent and fight cancer, build strong bones, promote gastrointestinal health and discourage heart attacks, even if you already have cardiovascular issues. It is also a great source of vitamins C and K and is a documented anti-inflammatory agent, which means that it can sooth infected and inflamed parts of your body, like stomach ulcers. Some scientists even suspect that these properties help discourage age-related mental issues like Alzheimer’s disease and senile dementia as well as more simple memory loss over time.
Summer Squash is the term used to refer to all warm season soft-skinned squashes. They are generally available late spring through late summer and come a tremendous variety of sizes and shapes and include green zucchini, gold zuchini, patty pan (flying saucer) squash, ron de nice, and many others. Caring For Summer Squash: Store in a moist towel/cloth bag or plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Enjoy within 5-7 days Preparing Summer Squash: This squash does not need to be peeled, simply remove the stem and butt ends. It can be eaten raw if it is young enough or it may be steamed or sauteed. Marinate and grill or roast until tender. Because it is very moist and mild, summer squash also lends itself easily to baked goods.
Sweet Dumpling is a small plump squash that is only about four to five inches in diameter. Its skin is generally cream colored or light yellow with green stripes. The sweet dumpling’s flesh is starchy and pale yellow in color but has a honey sweet flavor. Sweet dumpling squash are available September through December. Storing: A small plump squash that is only about four to five inches in diameter. Its skin is generally cream colored or light yellow with green stripes. The sweet dumpling’s flesh is starchy and pale yellow in color but has a honey sweet flavor. Sweet dumpling squash are available September through December. Prepare: Sweet Dumpling is a versatile ingredient that can be baked, sauteed, roasted or steamed. The small size of this squash makes it perfect for baking and stuffing for individual servings. Nutrition: All squashes provide vitamin A and vitamin C, some of the B vitamins and are a good source of fiber. One cup of cooked squash has about 100 calories. Deep-colored squashes have the most beta carotene.
Sweet potatoes are root vegetables known for their rich, sweet flavor. For this reason, they are often used in sweet recipes as opposed to savory potato dishes. However, this is beginning to change as baked sweet potatoes, fries and purees begin to pop up on many restaurant menus. This nutritious vegetable is grown in the southern United States and is available year round, although peak season and increased availability come during November and December. Storing: Store your potatoes in cool, dark, ventilated rooms. Breathable packaging, whether it be a burlap sack, paper bag, or a box, allows moisture to escape, lengthening the storage time of the potato. Interestingly, storing them next to onions will cause both the potato and onion to degrade faster. Prepare: Like potatoes, sweet potatoes are always eaten cooked, but their sweetness makes them versatile. They can be used in a wide variety of dishes, both savory and sweet, and go well with cinnamon, honey, lime, ginger, coconut and nutmeg. Enjoy them in baked desserts and quick breads, puddings and custards, casseroles, stews or croquettes. Nutrition: Sweet potatoes are a nutritional powerhouse. The vibrant flesh provides beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E, all which are valuable antioxidants. Antioxidants help to battle free radical damage within the body leading to reduced risks of heart disease, cancers and dementia. The dietary fiber content promotes a healthy digestive system. This vegetable is also full of manganese, copper, vitamin B6, potassium and iron.
Sometimes referred to as honeybells, tangelos are the size of an adult fist, have a tangerine taste, and are juicy at the expense of flesh. They generally have loose skin and are easier to peel than oranges, readily distinguished from them by a characteristic “nipple” at the stem. Storing: Store on the counter at room temperature for 4-6 days or in the refrigerator for longer. Prepare: Slip tangelos out of their skins and enjoy them just as they are! Slice them thinly in rounds for use in salads or cut in half to juice.
A turnip’s flesh is either white or yellow and the skin white, pink, red or yellow. The young leaves are edible and resemble mustard greens. Both turnip leaves and taproots have a characteristic pungent flavor similar to that of raw cabbages or radishes that turns mild after cooking. Caring for Turnips: Remove rubber band and turnip tops. Store both greens and turnip roots in a moist towel/cloth bag or a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. The greens can be used in soups, steamed, etc. Enjoy greens within 2-4 days, turnips within 4-6 days. Preparing Turnips: Turnips are often quite mild and delicious raw. The skin is edible, so scrub the turnip well to remove the dirt then remove the tough turnip tops and any small rootlets with a paring knife. Slice into rounds or sticks for salads or snacking. They can also be roasted, sauteed or steamed and eaten plain or pureed into soup. The greens are very similar in flavor to mustard greens and can be cooked as you would any other greens.
Winter squash is a type of squash that is not harvested until it has ripened fully. Unlike summer squash, which are picked before they have the chance to ripen entirely, winter squash have a thick skin and contain a hollow cavity on the inside. The seeds are very hard as well and winter squash must be cooked much longer than the summer variety. Squash that are allowed to ripen to this extent can be stored the whole winter long until used, hence the name. Storing: Two inches of the stem should be left on the squash when it is picked to ensure that no opening exists that could precipitate early decay. Winter squash can be stored for months when they are placed in a dry location that stays cool. Temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit can damage the squash, as can warm temperatures. Prepare: There are a number of ways to cook winter squash. One of the most common is to boil them. They can be boiled uncut and unpeeled but they are often cut into square pieces and boiled for up to 15 minutes. Winter squash can be steamed as well. They must be cut into pieces, and depending on the type of squash and its freshness can be steamed for as long as an hour. Winter squash can be cut in half and with the seeds removed and can be baked for as long as two hours before being done. Grilling winter squash is best done after boiling it for a little while. It is much easier to remove the skin from a winter squash after it has been cooked. Nutrition: As well as fiber, winter squash is full of such minerals as niacin, iron and potassium. Beta-carotene, which the human body converts into Vitamin A, is also plentiful in winter squash. This makes it a beneficial food because Vitamin A aids in bone development and contributes to healthy skin and good vision.
The zucchini is a long, dark green fruit that measures from 8 to 10 inches. A summer squash, zucchinis have a thinner and more tender skin than winter squashes. They also feature a mild taste.
Storing: Store in a moist towel/cloth bag or plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Enjoy within 5-7 days. Prepare: Zucchini does not need to be peeled, simply remove the stem and butt end. It can be eaten raw if it is young enough or steamed or sauteed. Marinate and grill or roast until tender. Because it is very moist and mild, zucchini lends itself easily to baked goods. Nutrition: Zucchinis make a nutritious addition to most diets. The fruit is low in calories, featuring 16 calories for each 1-cup serving of raw zucchini. Zucchinis also contain around 280 mg of potassium, 284 IU of vitamin A and 25 mcg of folate per serving.