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In Season for May
May is the gateway to summer--it is a month that can start off raining, but always seems to end with sunshine. The days are continuing to get warmer and longer, and we are enjoying a wider selection of fresh produce. May is also National Barbeque Month, so if you have not already been outside grilling, there is no excuse to delay any longer.
An apple a day provides respectable amounts of both insoluble and soluble fiber (including pectin), some vitamin C, and potassium. Apples are also a good source of quercetin, a flavonoid that may help protect against heart disease. Apples are widely available and they store well if refrigerated; keeping them chilled preserves their crispness and conserves their nutrients.
Trivia:Apples are the second most important of all fruits sold in the supermarket, ranking next to bananas.|Tens of thousands of varieties of apples are grown worldwide.|The history of apple consumption dates from Stone Age cultivation in areas we now know as Austria and Switzerland. |In ancient Greece, tossing an apple to a girl was a traditional proposal of marriage; catching it was acceptance.|Folk hero Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman) did indeed spread the cultivation of apples in the United States. He knew enough about apples, however, so that he did not distribute seeds, because apples do not grow true from seeds. Instead, he established nurseries in Pennsylvania and Ohio. |Three medium-sized apples weigh approximately one pound.|One pound of apples, cored and sliced, measures about 4 1/2 cups.|Purchase about 2 pounds of whole apples for a 9-inch pie.|One large apple, cored and processed through a food grinder or processor, makes about 1 cup of ground apple.
Tips:Rub cut apples with lemon juice to keep slices and wedges creamy white for hours.|Store apples in a plastic bag in the refrigerator away from strong-odored foods such as cabbage or onions to prevent flavor transfer.
These fragile peach-like fruits, with their perfumed aroma and ultra-sweet flavor, contain impressive amounts of beta-carotene. They are also a fair source of potassium, and supply a good amount of fiber.
- • Mini Meatball Appetizers with Apricot Dipping Sauce
- • Dessert Pancakes
- • Cornish Hens with Honey-Apricot Glaze
Trivia:Apricots are known as, "Moons of the Faithful" in China where they originated. Their cultivation spread westward from China to Persia and the Mediterranean, eventually coming to the New World with Spanish settlers.|It is interesting to note that both the fresh and dried apricot are a main food staple of a tiny Hunza principality in the Himalayas, who are known for their extreme longevity, excellent health, and an almost exclusive vegetarian diet.
To keep asparagus fresh, cut 1/2 inch off of the base of the stalk and stand the asparagus upright in an inch of warm water (do not let the tips soak in water!). This will also revive asparagus that looks wilted and limp. or an elegant appetizer or spring salad, steam asparagus, sprinkle with red wine or Balsamic vinegar and refrigerate. When ready to serve, top with chopped toasted almonds.
Trivia:Today's asparagus has been bred from wild plants that were native to western and central Asia and central Europe. Asparagus has always been considered a luxury vegetable, highly prized in ancient Rome, Egypt and Greece. In Europe, its popularity flourished under the reign of Louis XIV of France, a devotee who encouraged its production.
Tips:To keep asparagus fresh, cut 1/2 inch off of the base of the stalk and stand the asparagus upright in an inch of warm water (do not let the tips soak in water!). This will also revive asparagus that looks wilted and limp.|For an elegant appetizer or spring salad, steam asparagus, sprinkle with red wine or Balsamic vinegar and refrigerate. When ready to serve, top with chopped toasted almonds.
Avocados are commonly thought of as vegetables, but they are actually fruits. These delicious creamy fruits are known to be high in fat, however, keep in mind that it is a healthful fat.
- • Citrus-Avocado Salsa
- • Avocado, Bacon & Ranch Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
- • Grapefruit and Avocado Salad
Trivia:Avocados date back to 8,000 B.C., and are native to Mexico and Central America. Until recent years, the avocado had a well-entrenched reputation for inducing sexual prowess and wasn't purchased or consumed by any person wishing to protect their image from slanderous assault. Growers had to sponsor a public relations campaign to dispel the ill-founded reputation before avocados became popular. Avocados must reach full maturity before they are picked, but they will not soften on the tree. The tree is actually used as a warehouse; the fruit can be kept on the tree for many months after reaching maturity.
Tips:To ripen an avocado, place it in a sealed plastic bag with a ripe banana at room temperature. Another method is to bury the avocado completely in a jar of flour. Do not refrigerate avocados until they are ripe.
Broccoli is one of the most healthful foods you can eat--a real nutritional powerhouse. Along with a rich supply of vitamins and minerals--notably vitamin C, folate (folic acid), and potassium--it contains the phytochemical sulforaphane, which helps reduce the risk of cancer. In addition, broccoli contains a good amount of beta-carotene.
- • Grilled Whitefish with Dijon Mustard Crust
- • Chicken and Broccoli with Noodles
- • Mini Broccoli Cheddar Quiche
Trivia:Broccoli, a member of the mustard family, was known to early colonists who brought it from Europe where it originated in the wild form around the Mediterranean.
Tips:Don't make the mistake of discarding the broccoli stalk. Even the thickest stalk can be used and is quite delicious. Simply peel the outside skin from the stalk and cook as you would the rest of the broccoli. Cutting the stalks into thin slices and adding to stir-fry makes a great star-shaped addition to the appearance and texture of your meal.
May is the beginning of a relatively short season for these delicious cherries. These large, round, extra-sweet cherries have purple-red flesh and a deep red skin that verges on black when fully ripe. Delicious in cherry pie, if you bake it before you eat them all from the bowl!
- • Lemon-Pepper Ribeye Steaks with Roasted Tomatoes
- • Pineapple Upside-Down Cake with Cherries
- • Fresh Corn and Tomato Salad
Trivia:Bing is the leading variety, developed first in Oregon by a pioneer grower, just over 100 years ago, who named it for one of his Chinese workmen.
Fresh corn should be sweet, crisp, and juicy. It is best eaten as fresh as possible, as it starts to lose its sugar content immediately after harvesting. The most common way to prepare fresh corn on the cob is to boil it, but roasting is also an excellent way to prepare it. To roast corn in the husk, first pull back the husks so that you can remove the silk, then replace the husks and tie them with kitchen string. Soak the corn in cold water for five minutes. Place corn on the grill and cook, turning occasionally.
Trivia:Maize is the proper word for corn, taken from the Indians of the New World who introduced it to European explorers and settlers. The word corn goes back to Biblical days, and means any particle of grain or any small pellet of anything. In some lands, corn meant wheat; in others it meant barley or oats. Only Americans adopted the word to describe maize.|In many American dialects, the word for corn meant, "that which gives us life." Indeed, corn was the dietary staple of Indians. Aztec and Mayan civilizations were built on a corn economy, as corn provided food, currency, fuel, fodder for animals, silk for smoking, sugar and even fermented beverages.
Just in time for warm weather, cucumbers are not only crisp, but also cool and moist--attributes due to their exceptionally high water content. These are a delicious snack, and a refreshing addition to salads, sandwiches and cold soups such as gazpacho.
Trivia:The cucumber is an immigrant from southern Asia, coming in a fantastic assortment of sizes, colors and shapes.
Super nutritious, with a clean flavor that is tart, yet sweet, pink grapefruits make a great snack. They are also excellent paired with many varieties of fish, and are great for added zing in salads.The three major types of grapefruit include white, pink/red and Star Ruby/Rio Red. Each variety has it's own unique flavor nuances, but they all have a clean refreshing, sweet-tart flavor. Grapefruits are traditionally halved, then eaten with a spoon, but they can also be peeled or sliced and eaten like an orange. Grapefruits are excellent paired with many varieties of fish, and are great for added zing in salads.
Trivia:The principal ancestor of this subtropical evergreen was called pomelo, brought by a captain Shaddock to Barbados from the Malay Archipelago. The pomelo fruit, borne in clusters that gave rise to the name grapefruit, was also called shaddock, and is quite different from the grapefruit we know today. | In the mid-1700's, grapefruit was called, "Forbidden Fruit." |The West Indies were the point of origin for grapefruit, probably as a cross between the pomelo and an orange. It came to Florida in 1840 where a seedless fruit was found fifty years later and propagated to give us the Marsh Seedless variety.
Tips:Grapefruit keeps at room temperature for at least a week. For longer storage, refrigerate in a plastic bag or in the covered vegetable crisper.
Fresh green beans, a delicious warm weather favorite, are an excellent source of a variety of nutrients, most notably vitamin K (important for maintaining strong bones), with a whopping 122% of the daily value in one cup.
Slightly sweet, tangy lime juice and lime zest makes a delicious and refreshing addition to a variety of foods and beverages. Limes will keep up to six weeks when refrigerated, so there is no reason you should not always have a few limes on hand this summer.
The Packham is best eaten out of hand but it can also be baked or sauteed. Packhams do not change color when ripe. Your pear will be perfect to eat when it smells fragrant and yields to gentle pressure at the stem end.
- • Fresh Corn and Tomato Salad
- • Breakfast Pear and Bacon Grilled Cheese Sandwich
- • Flank Steak Strips with Pear-Fig Salad
Trivia:Pears are cousins of apples. American varieties come from Europe, where they migrated from central Asia. Early colonists brought the first trees to America where they thrived until blights became severe. Most pears are now grown west of the Rockies where diseases are less of a problem.
Tips:Ripen pears at room temperature in a sealed plastic bag with a couple of ripe bananas. When the pear is ripe, refrigerate until you are ready to eat it.
Despite its tough bristly appearance, fresh pineapple is very easy to prepare, (and well worth the work!). It is a similar process to cutting a melon into chunks or slices. Simply cut the lengthwise into quarters, then cut the quarters into slices. To prepare for fruit salad, cut skin off of the slices, then cut the fruit into smaller chunks.
Radishes are root vegetables with a distinctive flavor that range from the juicy crispness of the familiar red globe radish to the sharp bite of the turnip-shaped black radish. Radishes are usually eaten raw; however, they can be added to cooked dishes such as soups, or pickled, or heated and served as a whole vegetable. As with many other root vegetables, their green tops are edible and lend a peppery taste to salads.
Although it will not produce the magical effects that Popeye enjoyed, spinach is most definitely good for you. It is exceptionally rich in carotenoids, including beta-carotene and lutein, and also contains quercetin, a phytochemical with antioxidant properties. Spinach is rich in vitamins and minerals, particularly folate (folic acid), vitamin K, magnesium, and manganese; it also contains more protein than most vegetables.