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Archive for November, 2021

Winter Transition to the Desert

It is that time of year when many California growers transition their wet veg operation, think lettuces, leafy greens, broccoli and cauliflower, from the cooler areas of the Central Coast and Salinas Valley down to the warmer regions in the California desert, Imperial Valley and Yuma, Arizona. The desert regions include Coachella, Thermal and Mecca north of the Salton Sea and south of Palm Springs. The Imperial Valley extends from the southern area of Coachella, past the Salton Sea and all the way down to the border of Mexico. Warm veg is now mostly coming out of Baja California and northern Mexico, think zucchini, green beans, hot peppers, colored bells, cucumbers and tomatoes.

imperial-valley

As we approach the winter solstice on December 21st it is getting colder and days are becoming shorter. Less hours of sun slows down the growth of everything which means there are less hours in the day to harvest which can lead to light volumes. Combined with the fact that during winter the entire United States is pulling vegetables from the same area which also limits the quantities available and can lead to higher prices.

Roasting Chestnuts

Tips on roasting chestnuts: Cut an “X” shape into the flat side of each chestnut. Use a sharp knife to do this. This will make the chestnuts roast faster, allowing the steam to escape from the chestnuts. Place them on a baking sheet with the cut side up. Roast 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees, keeping an eye on them so they don’t burn. Let them cool slightly before easily removing the shell. We enjoy added them to Japanese rice for a fall favorite. https://www.justonecookbook.com/chestnut-rice-kurigohan/

 

California Grown Pomegranates

Pomegranates are native to Persia, now called Iran. They are one of the oldest fruits grown with evidence reaching back as far as 2000 B.C. In the United States they enjoy the drier climates of California and Arizona. Earl’s pomegranates are coming out of Los Banos and Madera in the Central San Joaquin Valley. The season typically runs from September to February.

The outside of a pomegranate is very hard and only the inside arils which cover the seeds in a red translucent material are edible.  It may seem like a lot of work to get to the arils, but it is well worth it. Cut off the top and bottom of the fruit, score the fruit and then open it into two halves. Place the halves in a bowl of water and use your fingers to gently separate the seeds from the white, spongy membrane. The inedible white membranes will float to the top of the water and leave you all the delicious arils at the bottom. Be careful not to get the juice on your hands and clothes because it will stain.

Click here to watch Earl’s IGTV video on how to cut and seed a pomegranate.

Look for pomegranates with a full bright red to dark red color. You also want fruit that feels heavy for their size, which means they are super juicy.  Drastic changes in temperature from cold to hot or rain can cause the fruit to crack. This is not a bad thing! In fact the fruit will be bursting with juice and ready to go!

Pomegranates are full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties which researchers believe may help to reduce high cholesterol and high blood pressure. We like to sprinkle pomegranate arils over a spinach salad. The green and red together make a beautiful salad during the holiday season.

Sweet Potatoes Are Not Yams

Sweet potatoes are commonly seen labeled as yams, when in reality they are most likely sweet potatoes. Many years ago the U.S. government decided to label sweet potatoes by their color to make things easier. The creamy white flesh ones are labeled sweet potatoes and the orange fleshed ones are sometimes labeled yams.  The USDA requires that sweet potatoes labeled as yams also be labeled as sweet potatoes. Chances are likely that you are buying sweet potatoes regardless of what the label says. Are you still confused?

In reality sweet potatoes and yams are two totally different vegetables.  Yams are tubers and are usually found imported in ethnic markets in the United States. They are originally from Africa, where over 95% of the world’s crop is harvested, and Asia.  Yams are grown in tropical climates and are very popular in Latin America and the Caribbean.  A few varieties can grow up to 7 feet in length and weigh almost 200 pounds! The skin of a yam is rough and scaly and the taste is very starchy.  Yams are toxic when raw and must be cooked to get rid of the toxins. They are an extremely important part in the diet of the people in Nigeria and West Africa.  Yams supply more than 200 calories per person per day for more than 150 million people in West Africa while also providing a necessary income for local farmers.  Yams are high in vitamin C and B and potassium and low in saturated fat and sodium.  The flavor can sometimes be sweeter than a sweet potato depending on the variety.

Sweet Potatoes are thought to originate in either Central or South America at least 5,000 years ago.  In the U.S. they are grown in temperate climate zones.  North Carolina is the largest producer of sweet potatoes followed by California, Louisiana and Mississippi.  In California 80% of the sweet potatoes are grown in Merced County followed by Fresno and Stanislaus County. When you sit down for the traditional American Thanksgiving dinner you will be eating sweet potatoes regardless of their color.

There are 5 main types of sweet potatoes grown. The orange flesh varieties become moist when cooked and the white flesh varieties become dry when cooked with a crumbly texture similar to a baked white potato. The Garnet is the classic sweet potato that most people think of when making mashed sweet potatoes, pies, cakes and breads.

  1. Red Skin/Orange Flesh (Varieties include Dianas, Reds & Garnets)
  2. Orange Skin/Orange Flesh (Varieties include the Beauregard, Covington & Jewel)
  3. White Skin/White Cream Flesh (Varieties include the O’Henry, Jersey Sweet, Hannahs or Hannah Golds)
  4. Red Skin/White Flesh (Japanese Sweet varieties include Murasaki and
    Kotobuki- most commonly referred to as “Orientals”. Also referred to as Satsumaimo in Japan)
  5. Red skin/Purple Flesh (Purple Stokes)

Storing Sweet Potatoes

  • Store sweet potatoes in a cool dark place.
  • Don’t store them in the refrigerator! Refrigeration will make the center of the sweet potato hard and it will cook unevenly.

Sweet potatoes are relatively low in calories and have no fat. They are rich in beta-carotene , having five times the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin A in one sweet potato, as well as loaded with potassium. These nutrients help to protect against heart attack and stroke. Purple sweet potatoes are particularly rich in antioxidants called anthocyanins, also found in blueberries and pomegranates. This compound is best known for boosting immunity and thought to help fight cancer.  Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away.  Download Earl’s Sweet Potato Guide here.

Maitake Mushrooms

Thanksgiving is less than 3 weeks away and mushrooms is one of the top items on everyone’s menu. Offering a variety of delicious mushrooms has been proven to increase sales! Mycopia fresh specialty mushrooms are locally grown in Sebastopol on oak-based substrate in reusable bottles. After the mushrooms are harvested, the spent substrate is recycled and turned into compost that is highly prized by local farmers and wineries.

Maitake mushrooms have a delicate, rippling fan shape. Also known as Hen of the Woods, this wonderful mushroom variety has a fabulous forest aroma, rich woodsy flavor and a light, crunchy texture. In the wild, maitake can grow into huge heads over a foot in diameter. Mycopia’s small, delicate clusters present the mushroom’s best qualities at the peak of flavor.

Maitake Mushrooms growing in reusable containers www.mycopia.com

Maitakes are traditional in Asian cuisine, but its rich versatile flavor also finds complements with roasted meats and chicken, cheeses, dark leafy greens, and hearty grains. Use maitakes for a richer taste in any recipe calling for mushrooms. Try this delicious recipe with spinach, swiss chard, broccoli rabe or a mixture of your favorite greens!

Sautéed Maitake Frondosa Mushrooms with Pancetta and Greens

https://www.mycopia.com/recipes/sauted-maitake-frondosa-mushrooms-with-pancetta-and-greens

Maitake is at the top of the list of mushrooms used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and it is one of the better studied mushrooms in modern clinical trials. Maitake (and other mushrooms) are functional foods, good sources of micronutrients and active biological compounds that support a healthy immune system. Mushrooms are low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol-free, gluten-free and very low in sodium. Source: Mycopia.com

Find more recipes here: https://www.mycopia.com/recipes

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