time for Mangoes.
|This Mango Mousse is one
of many great recipes for Mango.
Mexico is the #1
supplier of Mangoes to the United States, mostly grown in
MANGO (Monday, May 23): Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
was born yesterday in 1859. I love reading a good “Sherlock
Holmes” mystery. I have been called the “Sherlock Holmes
of Produce” since I take the mystery out of produce. So today,
we have a mystery. Mangoes coming in from Mexico right now have
some black spots and stains on them. It is not affecting the eating
quality of the fruit, only the appearance. So, what is causing this
mysterious black staining? Well, Mexico has had a lot of rain this
Winter and Spring. Growers tell me that excessive rains are to blame
for the black spots. It’s kind of like “russeting”
on the apples and pears when they have too much rain. Again, it’s
nothing to worry about. If you have never tried the Mango, man,
it’s time you go…buy a Mango. Right now, it is peak
of the season for Mangos from Mexico. That means, the best price
and the best quality are right now. If you have never tried a Mango,
you’re in a lot of company. Still about 45% of Americans have
never tried a Mango. Well, what are you waiting for? It is the sweetest
fruit on planet earth. And probably one of the messiest. In fact,
they are so juicy and messy, that an old-timer produce man once
told me that the best place to eat a Mango…is in the shower
with no clothes on. Mangoes are great just eaten out of hand, but
they are also a great ingredient for many great recipes. Famous
actress Jane Seymour is a confessed mangoholic, and can eat mangoes
morning noon and night. “When I eat mangoes, especially with
raspberries, I am in total heaven!” she declares. Over 20
million tons of mangoes are grown in the tropics and sub tropics.
Top Mango exporters are India, Pakistan, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Brazil,
Israel, South Africa and Peru. The Mango is a member of the cashew
family of flowering plants; other species include the pistachio
tree and poison ivy. There are well over 400 varieties of Mangoes
grown in the world today. The top five varieties are the Tommy Atkins,
Kent, Keitt, Ataulfo and the Haden. The mango originated in Southeast
Asia where it has been grown for over 4,000 years. Over the years
mango groves have spread to many parts of the tropical and sub-tropical
world, where the climate allows the mango to grow best. Mango trees
are evergreens that will grow to 60 feet tall. The mango tree will
fruit 4 to 6 years after planting. Mango trees require hot, dry
periods to set and produce a good crop. Most of the mangos sold
in the United States are imported from Mexico, Haiti, the Caribbean
and South America. Today there are over 1,000 different varieties
of mangos throughout the world. Selecting the ripeness of mangos
can be determined by either smelling or squeezing. A ripe mango
will have a full, fruity aroma emitting from the stem end. Mangos
can be considered ready to eat when slightly soft to the touch and
yielding to gentle pressure, like a ripe peach. The best flavored
fruit have a yellow tinge when ripe; however, color may be red,
yellow, green, orange or any combination. The ideal post harvest
storage temperature for mangos is 55º F. When stored properly
a mango should have a shelf life of 1 to 2 weeks. We have found
that the best way to ripen a mango is at room temperature, on the
kitchen counter and if you wish to accelerate the process place
in a paper bag overnight (some folks place an apple with the mango
in the bag to create more natural ethylene gas and further decrease
the ripening time). Once ripened the mango can be refrigerated for
a few days, but should be used shortly thereafter. Mangoes are so
tough to eat because they are definitely not a “freestone”
fruit. In fact, the fruit sticks to the stone like unyielding Velcro.
Because of their syrupiness, inexperienced mango-eaters can get
themselves hilariously sticky. Mango skins are thin and leathery,
and can be peeled back rather like banana skins, if the skin is
first cut with a knife. If the succulent flesh is bitten into, tough
fibers stick between the teeth. However, if chunks are sliced from
the stone and eaten, the fibers are hardly noticeable. The Mango
is the most popular fruit eaten in the world today. More popular
than bananas, apples or oranges. One great thing to do with these
early Mangoes is to grill them. Brush the Mango with a little Olive
Oil and throw it on a hot grill. Just a few minutes on each side,
just enough time to get some nice grill marks (no relation to Michael
Marks). What grilling will do is actually intensify the flavor by
causing some slight dehydration, leaving more intense flavor.
This is the province
of Veneto, Italy. Through the center of this province is the
Po Valley. You will notice several cities here (pointed out)
that are also varieties of Radicchio: Castelfranco, Treviso
RADICCHIO (Tuesday, May 24): The National Geographic
Bee Finals are taking place today and tomorrow in Washington D.C.
So, where is the Po Valley? And what does it have to do with produce?
Two of the largest growers of Radicchio in the world today are no
longer found in Italy. They grow in Salinas, California. Just about
a decade ago, you couldn’t find more than 10 acres of Radicchio
being grown in California. Now, you will find several thousand acres.
In fact, Italy no longer has the reign of Radicchio. But for the
two Italians now growing in Salinas, their seed still comes from
Italy. In fact, in Italy, in the region of Veneto, where most Radicchio
is grown, each town has their own unique variety of Radicchio. Each
variety is usually named after that city. For example, the regular
round Radicchio you mainly find grocery stores, is called “Chiaggio,”
and comes from the Italian city of…you guessed it, Chiaggio.
Treviso Radicchio comes from Treviso. Castelfranco Radicchio comes
from Castelfranco, Veneto. Just get out your world atlas and check
out this region of Veneto. All of these towns reside in a large
valley, the Po Valley. These tiny towns take their seeds very seriously.
They guard their seeds like treasure. In fact, the seeds are actually
stored in a bank vault in each city. You can brush a little olive
oil on Radicchio and then grill it. Even with good supplies, we
have noticed slightly stiffer prices. A lot of that has to do with
heavier demand. More fast food restaurants are promoting summer
Salads. And what’s a salad…without Radicchio? Radicchio
is part of the bitter chicory family. It is a popular salad green
in Europe, mainly because it helps your digestive system. In fact,
salad is often served after the main entrée in Europe. That
allows for Radicchio to help you digest your meal.
ASPARAGUS (Wednesday, May 25): As heat starts
to hit the Delta region of California,
more growers will let their fields go to fern and end the season.
We are getting some Asparagus now from Washington
State. That’s right. The apple state is also the second
leading supplier of fresh Asparagus grown in the United States.
Asparagus has been around for more than 2,000 years. It has graced
the gold and silver plates of royalty and nourished ordinary folks.
It has a colorful past, with folklore even suggesting asparagus
as an aphrodisiac! Washington asparagus is produced on approximately
24,000 acres in the Columbia Basin, the Yakima Valley and the Walla
Walla area. About 80 million pounds of asparagus are produced each
year, bringing close to 80 million dollars to the state's economy.
Sixty percent of Washington's asparagus crop is processed, in cans
and frozen. Washington is the world leader in the production of
whole-spear canned asparagus. The remaining forty percent is sold
to the fresh market and has the reputation worldwide as a premium
product. Washington takes great pride in its high standards for
quality asparagus. The "Washington Extra Fancy" label
exceeds the standards set by the government for U.S. Number One
asparagus. With the trend toward healthier diets, asparagus is quickly
becoming a premium vegetable that takes a regular place in menu
planning rather than being "only for special occasions".
Asparagus is the leading natural source for two nutrients that prevent
disease and promote a healthy body--folacin and glutathione. Folacin
(folic acid) is important for the formation of blood cells and helps
prevent birth defects. Asparagus provides 60% of the USDA of folacin.
Glutathione has been shown to be one of the most potent anticarcinogens
and antioxidant found within the body. Of all foods tested none
was higher in glutathione than asparagus. There are approximately
350 asparagus growers in the state of Washington and like everyone
involved in the agriculture industry they face many challenges in
the future. But with Washington State producing 40% of all the asparagus
grown in the United States there continues to be a commitment by
growers to provide a premium product that is recognized and sought
after around the world. Most of the canned asparagus that you buy
in the store comes from Washington. In fact, in California,
about 75% of the asparagus crop is sold to the fresh market. In
Washington, about 75% of their asparagus crop is sold to the canners
and processors. There is another difference in asparagus from Washington.
Growers there generally cut the bottom white part off of each spear.
That way they can market their Asparagus as “all green.”
That does present a problem for asparagus lovers. You see, that
bottom white part helps keep the spear from dehydrating. Without
that white part, the spear just “bleeds.” That white
part acts as a “band aid.” This makes it very critical
in how you store your Washington asparagus. First, I wouldn’t
buy it if the spears are not on a refrigerated rack. In ice or water
would be ideal as well. As soon as you get home, cut a thin layer
off the bottom of the spears, fill a mug with water, place the bunch
in the mug, then refrigerate immediately. Washington does grow some
of the world’s finest asparagus. Eroded volcanic rocks have
made mineral-rich soil in the Yakima Valley, Wenatchee Valley and
in the Columbia River Basin. Days during this time of year are very
warm, while the nights are very cool. That’s a sweet combination
for Asparagus growers, causing very sweet, tender spears.
The Lucille Ball
|Orange slices are very
important at athletic events.
ORANGES (Thursday, May 26): The NAIA Mens and Womens Track
and Field National Championships are taking place in Kentucky. Do
you know two fruits that are very popular with athletes? Oranges
and Grapes. New crop grapes are being cut in Mexico, Arizona and
California’s Coachella Valley. Temperatures have soared to
over 100 degrees the past several weeks, which really brings on
maturity, sugar content and size. These early Red Flame grapes will
have a smaller berry size, but don’t worry, this year, the
early sugar content has been fantastic. Take a look at the stems.
See how velvety and green they are. That is a sign of freshness.
If the stems start looking dried, dehydrated or brown, that is a
sure sign of age or heat after harvest. Table Grapes are very cool
these days. Just ask the greatest football receiver in the NFL,
Jerry Rice. After every workout or game, he recovers quickly by
eating a two pounds of red grapes. New medical studies show that
there are compounds
in red grapes which help your red blood cells rejuvinate faster,
allowing more oxygen to be carried through your bloodstream. This
helps your body, muscles and cardiovascular system recover after
a strong workout. If you are a “weekend warrior,” buy
a few pounds of Red Flame Seedless Grapes and have them ready. Grapes
are not only one of the most convenient snacks around, it’s
also one of the healthiest.
Grapes are loaded with phytonutrients, which some studies say may
even help prevent cancer or heart disease. Excite any green salad
by simply cutting grapes in half and adding those to the salad.
Add some grilled chicken into your favorite Waldorf Salad recipe
(including red and green grapes, of course) and you’ve made
a great, refreshing summer salad entrée. Now, what about
Oranges? At virtually every “Walk-A-Thon” or “Bike-A-Thon”
or a sports event for kids, you will find slices of Oranges available
for the participants. Have you ever wondered why? Well, I’m
sure most people think it’s simply because they are refreshing.
That they are. But there is another reason. You see, there are compounds
in Oranges which help you breathe better. That’s why the Harlem
Globetrotters will have piles and piles of sliced Oranges for their
players whenever they play, especially at high-altitude venues,
like Denver or Mexico City. There is a story of first year Harlem
Globetrotter Zsa Zsu Bird. In his first game in Denver, he pulled
himself out of the game in the first period. “Coach, I’m
so winded,” Bird said. “I can barely catch my breath.”
“Did you eat the snacks I had for you before the game?”
“No.” “Well, go eat some.” When Bird went
into the locker room, he saw several bowls of Orange slices. He
downed a pound or so and returned to the game…and played the
rest of the game. “Now, before any game, high altitude or
not,” Bird says, “I down some oranges.”
(Friday, May 27): You may want to print this out. How to pick out
the best watermelon for your Memorial Day picnics. First, click
here to test your Watermelon knowledge with this quick quiz. Before
we get picking out the best Watermelon, let’s chat about watermelon.
Nothing like an ice-cold melon on a hot summer day. Between Texas
and Florida, they grow about 75% of the nation’s supply of
watermelons. The rest come from Arizona and California. In the off-season,
most of our watermelons come from Mexico, from northern Mexico,
from the state of Sonora. Chefs around the country are coming up
with some great recipes for watermelons, even a Watermelon Salsa.
Watermelon may actually be the largest vitamin pill, loaded with
vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. In fact, watermelons are loaded
with lycopene, the anti-oxidant that gives it the red color. Recent
medial studies show that men who have high levels of lycopene in
their system, have a 45% less chance of getting prostrate cancer.
Gentlemen, eat your Watermelons. So, here’s how to pick out
the best watermelon for Memorial Day picnics:
- Look for a watermelon symmetrical in shape, even from side
- Look at the belly of watermelon, where it laid on the ground.
If the color is white, you don’t want it. It should be yellow
to dark yellow.
- Pick it up. It should feel very heavy for its size, a sign
of great juice content.
- Gently scrape your fingernails along the rind. If the rind
comes up easily under your fingernails, then that is a mature
- For a seeded watermelon, look at the stem end. There should
be a hole where the stem used to be. That’s called a “full
slip,” which means the melon fully slipped off the vine
without having to be cut off. That means the melon was ripe and
ready to come off the vine.
- Look for black crystallized sugar around the stem, or beads
of sugar on the surface of the melon, a sign of good sugar content
- Finally, when you hit it, hit it to “feel” it, not
hear it. If you feel the watermelon vibrate in the hand you’re
holding the melon with, then that means the melon is solid. The
vibration is the sound waves that you are feeling. If it doesn’t
vibrate, then the melon is most likely overripe and mushy inside.