Summer produce is on it's way!
June is when produce starts showing up en masse at farmer's markets, farm stands, and grocery stores around the country. Learn more about what's in season.
Interesting Trivia: If you are Italian, you might have been familiar with this green leafy vegetable prior to the 1990’s when it first became popular in the United States. Arugula is also known as Italian cress as it is Mediterranean in origin and commonly used in Italy since antiquity. Also called rocket, roquette, rucola, rugula, or rocket cress, arugula is a member of the crucifer (cabbage) family. Its leaves are used as a salad green and it tastes akin to a blend of radish, pepper, and bitter mustard. Its pungent flavor does a great job of giving zest to a mild mix of greens. Arugula is also good sautéed.
Selection Tips: Look for young, tender leaves that are a bright dark green. Avoid leaves that are yellowing, and wilted. Use arugula within a couple of days and store it in the refrigerator in a plastic bag. If you have not bought pre-washed arugula, keep in mind it can be very gritty. Rinse it well and several times before draining and using it.
Classic Uses: Arugula is commonly used to give green salads or mesclun mixes extra pep. It is served on sandwiches and is sometimes used as a distinctive substitute for basil in pesto. You will also find it nicely mixed into stir-fries, soups and vegetable sautés.
Other Inspirational Ideas: Try chopping arugula and mixing it into potato salad, tuna salad, or tabbouleh salad. Here is a wonderful arugula Vichyssoise (cold) soup recipe from Gourmet Magazine that was printed quite a while back but it is as contemporary now as it was then to serve for a fashionable summer luncheon or light dinner.
Interesting Trivia: Broccoli is a member of the cruciferous family that includes cabbage, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. Its origins are from the Mediterranean and the ancient Etuscans in the area somewhere between the Island of Cyprus and Northern Italy first developed it over 2,500 years ago. Ninety percent of the fresh broccoli you buy in your supermarket comes from California where it is grown year round. Broccoli tends to prefer cool wet climates and is sensitive to hot, dry, conditions. Therefore, it is not a good crop to grow in the Southwestern states during the height of the summer. However, it can be grown quite successfully in California, Alaska, and the Northwest, Midwest, and Eastern states during summer. Broccoli is grown for its green florets (or buds) which are cut (or harvested) from the plant before they open into yellow flowers. The stalks of the broccoli plant are also edible and delicious, as well. Broccoli is quite nutritious it contains twice as much vitamin C as an orange; it is high in vitamin A and K, a good source of calcium, and contains immune-boosting glusosinolates (which can help promote anti-cancer processes in your body).
Selection Tip: Choose broccoli that is bright to dark green and that may even have a slight purple tinge. The florets should be tight and compact and the leaves should be crisp. Avoid broccoli that has limp stalks, flowering buds, or stalks that are hollow and woody. Keep broccoli in a plastic bag in your refrigerator for up to 4 or 5 days but it is best to cook them as soon as possible after purchase.
Classic Uses: Broccoli is eaten raw with dip, steamed, boiled, stir-fried, roasted, and fried. It is best to cook it as quickly as possible and only until just tender. Steaming is the preferable method for the best digestibility and nutrient retention. Broccoli covered with Hollandaise is a classic dish as is Chicken Divan, Cream of Broccoli Soup and Broccoli with Cheese Sauce.
Other Inspirational Ideas: Mix cooked chopped broccoli and shredded cheddar into potato pancakes mix and cook on the griddle until done. Place a fried egg between two pancakes and then smother the top with roasted red bell pepper sauce and green chili sauce. Make a broccoli and Emmentaler cheese soufflé. Mix blanched chopped broccoli, shredded blanched Brussels sprouts, and shredded raw cabbage together in a bowl, lightly dress the mixture with some honey-mustard dressing and a splash of lemon juice. Then season with a little fresh chopped basil, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper. Call this salad a “Cruciferous Cole Slaw” and enjoy.
Interesting Trivia: Kohlrabi looks like a green turnip and is in fact in the cabbage family (Brassica oleracea). Hence it is sometimes called a “Cabbage Turnip”. Kohlrabi is a bulbous vegetable or a swelled part of the plant stem that grows above the surface of the ground. The leaf stalks that arise from the bulb are good eats as well. Kohlrabi comes in two varieties, green or purple. They can be eaten raw or cooked in varying methods. Kohlrabi tastes something reminiscent to a mix of broccoli, cucumber, radish, and celery root. Their leaves when cooked, taste similar to kale and collard greens. Kohlrabi helps to stabilize blood sugar imbalances and is a good food for diabetics. Kohlrabi is also rich in potassium and vitamin C.
Selection Tips: Kohlrabi can grow up to forty pounds in size but it is highly recommended that they be purchased and eaten when they are young and at their sweetest (or between the sizes of a small plum on up to a tennis ball). Look for Kohlrabi that is heavy for its size, has no sign of cracking, and has leaves that are a deep green in color. Once you bring home your Kohlrabi, cut the leaves off the bulbs. Separately wrap and store the bulbs and leaves in the refrigerator. The leaves will last up to four days and the bulbs up to a week.
Classic Uses: Peel the tough fibrous skin off the bulb by using a sharp paring knife or vegetable peeler. Slice the crisp, water chestnut like creamy-white flesh into 1/8” slices and serve it with dip or cut it into julienne (matchstick-sized) strips and toss it into a salad. Cube it and throw it into the last 20 minutes of a cooking stew or soup. Stir-fry it with Chinese vegetables and sauce. Saute the leaves as you would other types of greens.
Other Inspirational Ideas: Trim and cut Kohlrabi into large chunks, boil until tender. Drain and drip dry then mix with sour cream, chopped dill, and minced red onion. Or, make a “Kohlrabi Gratin” by spreading out a short layer of thinly sliced Kohlrabi into a casserole dish. Then top with the sliced kohlrabi with cheese and buttered and seasoned breadcrumbs. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven until brown and crispy.
Interesting Trivia: The Vidalia onion is grown strictly in Georgia specifically in the fields of 20 different counties around Vidalia and Glennville Georgia. As was done with appellation designations to brand and protect the official grape growing regions for special varietal wines in France, the growing regions for Vidalia onions are defined and protected by U.S. Federal and Georgia State Law. Onions are in season all over the country now but Vidalia onions are a variety that are worth your while to seek out. Thanks to Controlled Atmosphere Technology, Vidalia’s are available nation-wide from May to September. They are famous for their mild, sweet, and juicy flavor (and they will not cause tears) which can only be achieved by growing them in the sandy, low- sulfur soils, mild weather, and regular rains of their unique growing region.
Storage Tips: Vidalia onions contain higher moisture amounts then other varieties of onions therefore, they can be susceptible to bruising. But, if handled with proper care they can be stored for months! Keep them in a cool, dry place and separate them from each other (not touching) such as on a rack or screen. You can also keep them in the refrigerator but if you do, wrap them individually in absorbent towels or paper. Do not store your onions in the presence of potatoes. Potatoes will accelerate their spoilage.
Classical Uses: Vidalia onions, because of their mild sweet flavor, are perfect for making onion rings. Stuffed and baked Vidalia’s provide an elegant presentation to show case their compatibility to endless flavor possibilities. However, some even say they are mild and sweet enough to eat on their own and out of hand like an apple. They can be added raw in liberal proportions to fresh salads and cold pasta without imparting a harsh note on the overall taste. And Cored Vidalia’s are often baked and stuffed with fillings such as grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and butter for a simple, but elegant, delight.
Other Inspirational Uses: Grilled Vidalia Onions: Slice some Vidalia onions into ½-inch thick disks, season them with salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar, and then brush them with olive oil. Place prepared onion slices on a hot grill and cook on both sides until they are soft and caramelized (the sugars have become golden brown in color). Remove and serve while still warm over a bed of fresh lettuces tossed in Italian dressing. Black and White Pizza: Lay a layer of sliced fresh mozzarella over a rolled-out out pizza crust dough, top the mozzarella slices, coarsly chopped grilled caramelized Vidalia onions slices, shredded Fontina cheese and Nicoise olives. Bake until melted and bubbling.
Interesting Trivia: Okra is also sometimes called Lady’s Fingers, or Gumbo and belongs to the marsh mallow family which also includes cotton, The Rose of Sharon and hollyhock. Marsh mallow root was used to make the original marshmallow candy; the root pulp was boiled down with sugar until it became thick and creamy. Okra has green colored pods with 5 to 7 prominent ridges or spines that run lengthwise. Pods can grow up to 8 inches long but it is best to consume them when they are younger and shorter. Overgrown pods are fibrous and thereby used to make paper and rope. Okra has a slimy texture that some people dislike however; its mucilaginous properties enable it to thicken soups and sauces and it is a star ingredient of Creole gumbo. It has a sweet, fresh taste somewhat akin to a combination of eggplant, cucumber and asparagus. Okra is native to Africa then migrated up through Egypt and into Europe in the thirteenth century then carried over by slaves to the Americas in the 17th century.
Storage Tips: Okra is very sensitive to cold temperatures, grown in hot weather or frost-free zones; it is mostly available mid-summer to fall. Look for young pods, preferably less than three inches in length and no more than seven, that are brightly colored (usually green but occasionally a burgundy variety is available) and have no signs of spotting, mold, bruises, dryness or cuts. Store your okra in a cool place in a paper bag. If kept in the refrigerator okra will damage once its temperature drops below 45 ̊ degrees. Use okra as soon as possible or within a couple of days from purchase.
Classical Uses: Okra is an essential ingredient in Creole Gumbo it is also common to see it deep-fried throughout the southern states of America. In the middle east it is used to make a well-known dish called Bamieth Bi Zayt which includes okra, cilantro leaves, garlic, onion tomatoes, lemon juice and seasonings all cooked together and then served chilled as an hors d’oeuvre. In Northern Brazil okra is used to make a popular Indian dish called Caruru do Pará, a one-pot meal of dried shrimp, okra, onion, tomato, cilantro, and dende oil (unrefined red palm oil).
Other Inspirational Uses: Young okra freshly picked from the garden can be lightly steamed, seasoned, and eaten with a dipping sauce such as Hollandaise for a light appetizer. It can also be dried and threaded on strings and kept for use in winter or just used for a decoration.