Friday, August 6, 2010

Are You a Good Picker?

I've received multiple requests on this topic, so this is in answer to your request on Picking! Many of us will be venturing out to farmer's markets, road side stands or the backyard to pick up some fruits and veggies this weekend - but do we really know how to be good pickers? What should the tomato or zucchini or ear of corn look like, feel like, smell like? Behold! I have researched and am a pretty good picker - so, here is my take on the matter...

I've taken my four favorite summer time picks and plucked them for your reading enjoyment.

Let's first tackle the Tomato - marvelous in pasta sauces, cut up on salads or sliced and served with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic. I can't eat enough of them during the summer. My father in law has the growing of Better Boy tomatoes perfected, but since his crop is almost all picked, I'll be forced to quit mooching off of his plants and hit the farmer's market. Tomatoes should be firm, with a smooth waxy skin. Stray away from squishy and wrinkled - run from holes or bruises. If you're going to eat your tomato that day, it's ok to grab the reddest juiciest looking fruit you can find, but go a little orangey red if you're going to eat them throughout the week so they can ripen in your windowsill. And to totally throw you, live life on the edge and buy a green one and fry it in oil after dredging in cornmeal and egg wash. Ooooooh the bliss of a Fried Green Tomato. But that's another recipe for another day.

Now for Corn. Corn on the cob with salt and melted butter - who can beat it? Canned and frozen should be shunned and hidden in the back of the pantry or freezer until desperate times (winter season). I (in my couponing sassiness) purchased 10 ears of corn for $1 at Earthfare yesterday. Who else can walk out of Earthfare only spending $1.04? (Well, anyone who is on their mailing list...but I'd prefer to consider myself among the frugal minority of savings and satisfaction). Corn on the cob should have bright green, moist husks (can I tell you how much I dislike the word moist? I can't find another adjective, so we'll have to suffer through). The silk should be stiff, dark in color and moist (ugh, there it is again!). The best time to eat corn is after you've just picked it - or just purchased. Corn actually loses it's sugar content the longer it's off the stalk. Who knew? You want to eat your corn within 2 to 3 days or else the taste won't be as delicious and sweet. Boil it for a few minutes, grill it with your burgers, bake it in the oven for 20 or microwave it for's delicious. There are disputes on keeping the husks on or off while cooking. I'm a husks off kind of girl.

Now for Zucchini - another veggie of choice in our household (wait, I did NOT include my almost 4 year old in the poll. His opinion is not of relevance as he'd exist on sour gummy worms if we let him). I'm growing several pots of zucchini in my backyard and have enjoyed sauteing them with onion and olive oil and serving them as a side. If I could get off my sauteing kick, I'd also bake zucchini bread and zucchini squares. YUM! I've just inspired myself. Ok, to pick a good zucchini you want to look for a firm dark green skin - avoid nicks and cuts as they can breed bacteria. Choose small to medium in size - 6 to 8 inches in length. Your freshest zucchini will still have bristled tiny hair on it.

And finally, who can have a blog post such as this without mentioning the beloved PEACH?! Peaches are tricky. I prefer yellow over white. They have a much better taste. I go for a firm fuzzy fruit that gives just a little when I squeeze it. Peaches have a rite of passage they must endure upon entering our house - they have to sit on the kitchen counter for several days to ripen. When they begin to give a little more upon squeezing them, then slice and enjoy. The tricky part is getting your peaches from a good source and your best bet is to try a sample to make sure you like it. If there are no samples, ask if they will slice one for you (in which case, go for a softer one to have sliced). Avoid bruises and soft spots - you want a well rounded peach that ripens all at once.

All of this talk of produce now has me starving. I'm off to pick.

Have a delicious weekend!

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