MR. GREENS "FRESH TIPS"
June 8, 2001
Our last PRODUCE MAN PUZZZZLE dealt with summer melons: Which melon is not really a melon, but actually is a berry? Of course, we know what berries are. Strawberries, Blackberries, Blueberries, Raspberries. Here is our very simply definition of a berry: "A multi-celled fruit with many seeds." With that definition, here are a few other berries you might not have considered to be berries: Tomatoes, Grapes, Kiwifruit, and Pomegranate. So, which melon is not really a melon, but a berry? When you cut a Cantaloupe or Honeydew in half, where are all the seeds? That's right. Right in the middle in the seed cavity. What about a Watermelon? A Watermelon is indeed a berry, a multi-celled fruit with many seeds. It is not a melon. The Watermelon is the largest berry in the world. This week's PUZZZZLE still deals with melons: Which melon was named after a farmer's daughter? See next week's "Fresh Tips" for the answer.
STONEFRUIT: The boys of summer may be McGuire, Sosa and Bonds, but the joys of summer are undeniably Peaches, Plums and Nectarines. And what a summer this will be. Growers in California, Georgia and the Carolinas are expecting good crops this year, although no record crop. The Carolinas lost about 20% of their stonefruit due to cold temperatures, and California will lose just slight amounts. Most fresh California stonefruit is grown in the fertile San Joaquin Valley, just south of Fresno. California grows five times more peaches than Georgia. Actually, California supplies about 85% of the nation's peach supply, and about 50% of the world's peach supply. The California supplies about 90 - 95% of the US Nectarine supply. Most are grown in a 25-mile radius of Reedley, a tiny valley town just south of Fresno.
There are about 200 varieties of Peaches, 200 varieties of Plums and about 175 varieties of Nectarines commercially grown in California. Only about 25 varieties of each make up the bulk of the crop. Why are there so many varieties? Well, we enjoy fresh California stonefruit from May through October. Each variety is bred for its own specific harvest time. Some are harvested in May, some in July, some in October. During virtually every week to 10 days of the season, a new variety is being harvested. By doing this, growers are able to lengthen the season. If growers didn't diversify their varieties, then we would have a stonefruit season that would last only about two months.
Over the past decade, growers have been increasing acreage of white-flesh varieties of peaches and nectarines. Today, they represent almost 20% of the total crop. These white-flesh peaches and nectarines have a pale white skin with beautiful splashes of florescent pink. The flesh is a light pink or whitish. The colors, both inside and out, are not nearly as bright and vibrant as the yellow-flesh varieties. But the sugar content is greater, and the acid content, generally lower. That brings up another difference between the yellow and white flesh varieties. A yellow-flesh variety will get sweeter as it ripens. That's because the acid content in the fruit will decrease by 40 - 50%. The lower acid content makes the fruit "appear to taste" sweeter. White-flesh stonefruit, on the other hand, already has a lower acid content level. As the fruit ripens, the acid levels stay the same. That simply means, a firm ripe white-flesh peach or nectarine will taste just as sweet as a soft ripe white-flesh peach or nectarines. That makes the white-flesh fruit easier to use in recipes.
Ripening is the key. Knowing how to ripen stonefruit is just as important as knowing how to use stonefruit in recipes. Just like with bananas, cold temperatures will stop the ripening process of unripe fruit. In simpler words: Cold kills flavor! The cold temperatures will also cause the cell structure of the unripe peach or nectarine to break down, causing the fruit to becomemealy. Unripe peaches and nectarines should be left out at room temperature. Keep them enclosed in the carton or a paper bag. The magic of the brown paper bag is amazing. In just a few days, you'll enjoy perfectly ripened fruit. If you leave the fruit exposed to open air, becausethere are no natural oils on the them, the fruit will dehydrate and shrivel before they ever ripen. White-flesh fruit will ripen almost twice as fast as yellow-flesh fruit. Once the fruit is fully ripe, it would be ideal to use it quickly. Ripe stonefruit can be refrigerated for up to several days. Beyond that, the fruit will lose a lot of its flavor and texture
POTATOES: We talked about problems in the potato fields in last week's "Fresh Tips." Well those problems are leading to much higher prices, just as we had anticipated. Spud prices are soaring. You will most likely see doubling of prices for potatoes. Even at the much higher prices, Potatoes are still the best value and are the cheapest vegetable per pound.
YOUR PRODUCE MAN'S
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