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WHAT'S IN SEASON?
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In Season for December
December is a month full of delicious seasonal produce, and plenty of opportunities to use it! Take advantage of fresh fruits and vegetables in your baked goods and holiday dishes. Fresh citrus also makes a lovely holiday gift. Fill an attractive bowl or basket with fresh oranges, grapefruit, mandarins or a combination of a few varieties.
December is the tail end of apple season and your last chance for apples fresh off the tree. 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.
Broccoli is one of the most healthful foods you can eat. It is packed with a rich supply of important vitamins and nutrients and it contains the phytochemical sulforaphane, which helps reduce the risk of cancer. Fresh, in season broccoli should have a crisp texture and clean, refreshing flavor. It is delicious lightly steamed and sprinkled with lemon pepper.
- • Grilled Whitefish with Dijon Mustard Crust
- • Beef 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.
Brussels sprouts pack plenty of nutritional value into a small package. They contain the cancer-fighting qualities of other cruciferous vegetables, along with good amounts of folate (folic acid), potassium, vitamin K, and a small amount of beta-carotene. A delicious addition to stews and pot roasts.
Trivia:Brussels sprouts, a member of the mustard family, are native to Europe.| Brussels sprouts were cultivated and developed primarily by the French and the Belgians who provided the name.
Chestnuts have a flavor that is rich and "meaty," and since they are a starchy food, they can be served as a vegetable. These are a popular addition to holiday dishes, including stuffing, and they are delicious roasted and eaten out of the shell. They are only available fresh for a short time.
Collards are one of the milder greens with a pleasantly bitter flavor that is somewhere between cabbage and kale. They are rich in beta-carotene and supply a good amount of folate (folic acid)--a disease-fighting B vitamin--and a substantial amount of calcium.
Only about 10 percent of the commercial crop is sold fresh, and the rest are frozen or canned. This is the time of year to enjoy fresh cranberries. Fresh cranberries freeze very well, so buy an extra bag or two early in the season for use later on when they are not as plentiful in stores.
Trivia:Cranberry sauce was an invention of American Indians who cooked cranberries with honey or maple sugar, to eat with their meat. The plant is native to peat and bog areas of northern latitudes around the globe. American berries are unique for their large size and commercial production is confined to North America.
Tips:Since cranberries are very seasonal, it is helpful to know that they can be frozen. For example, buy an extra bag or two during Thanksgiving and freeze them if you like to make your own cranberry sauce for Christmas dinner. Do not thaw frozen cranberries. Simply rinse with cold water and use immediately after removing them from the freezer. Frozen berries are best in glazes and sauces.
Fennel may look like a plump bunch of celery, but its flavor certainly sets it apart. Fennel has a mild sweet flavor akin to licorice or anise. Fennel is a delicious and refreshing snack eaten raw, and roasted it makes a lovely side dish to many meat entrees. It is also a great addition to stew.
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.
Leeks have a milder and sweeter flavor than onions and a crunchy texture when cooked, making them a delicious side dish served on their own. Leeks are surprisingly nutritious, supplying more vitamins and minerals than an equal-sized serving of onions or scallions.
This delicious little treat has been called the Satsuma Tangerine, the Satsuma Mandarin, and less commonly, the Satsuma Orange. Satsumas are one of the most anticipated citrus fruits of the season. A great snack for kids and adults alike, these delightful little oranges are so sweet and juicy, you may not be able to stop once you get started. Thankfully, they are very neat and easy to eat. A box of these tasty little citrus fruits is a traditional holiday gift.
Juicy and sweet and renowned for their high concentration of vitamin C, oranges make the perfect snack and add a special tang to many recipes; it is no wonder they are one of the most popular fruits in the world.
This pear has crunchy, yet tender flesh and a sweet-spiced flavor. If you have not tried a Bosc, you will be surprised and pleased. For a light spring dessert, try these pears baked or poached.
- • 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.
This fall fruit has a glossy orange-red skin that resembles a tomato. When ripe, the persimmon possesses a rich, sweet, spicy flavor. Persimmons are well worth trying not only for their exceptional flavor but also for their beta-carotene; they also have some vitamin C and potassium.
Not just for fall decorations, pumpkins provide some fine eating, as well as plenty of good nutrition. Pumpkins are rich in fiber, potassium, riboflavin, and vitamins C and E, and they are particularly rich in carotenoid pigments such as alpha-carotene, beta carotene, and lutein. Look for smaller varieties that are sold specifically for cooking.
While the vibrant colors of fall foliage is the ultimate symbol of the changing seasons, the arrival of unique and colorful hard squashes is a close second! Hard squashes come in a rainbow of earthy colors, and more shapes, sizes, tastes, and textures than you can count.
- • Chunky Three-Bean Chili
- • Pork and Pasta Skillet Supper
- • Maple-Glazed Rib Roast with Roasted Acorn Squash
Trivia:The Massachusett Indian word for "eaten raw" is "Askutasquash." An important Indian food, few white men shared the desire to eat squash raw, until the past few years when raw summer squash types began to appear in salads.| Squash was unknown in Europe until early explorers returned from America with squash seeds.
Sweet potatoes are one of nature's truly perfect foods! They're low in calories, high in fiber, great for people who are carbohydrate sensitive, and packed with vitamins and minerals. Plus, the rich, flavorful flesh of the sweet potato is so versatile, and delicious.