Tips for Selecting the Best Produce


Beautiful woman buying kale at a farmers market

 

If you have ever purchased produce only to have it turn moldy or mushy a few days later, the fruits or vegetables you selected may not have been in the best shape to begin with. By selecting the right produce at the grocery store or farmers market, you avoid wasting money while also maximizing the shelf life of your food.

 

As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to stay away from pre-bagged or pre-cut produce. Pre-packaged produce is often smaller and pre-cut varieties simply won’t last as long. Picking your produce individually will result in better flavors and textures.

 

Follow these tips for picking your fruits and vegetables.

 

Fruits

Apples: Fruits should be firm, colorful, shiny and free of bruises or punctures.

 

Apricots: Select aromatic fruits with no green spots and slight give with gentle pressure.


Bananas:
 Select fruit that is yellow all over with no green or brown spots.

Berries:
 Look out for mold and mushy berries.
     Blackberries & Raspberries: Full and juicy, but not leaking.
     Blueberries: Select firm ones and avoid berries with red or green areas.
     Strawberries: Select colorful strawberries with green stems. Fruit should be fragrant and shiny, as well.

Cantaloupe:
 Select aromatic fruit that is heavy for its size.

Cherries:
 Select plump, firm cherries that look dark and glossy with green stems.

Figs:
 Avoid selecting dirty, bumpy or broken fruits.

Grapefruit:
 Select a deeply colored fruit with a slightly reddish hue and a heavy, plump feel.

Grapes:
 Search for grapes that are firmly attached to flexible stems. Grapes should be deeply colored, firm and plump.

Kiwi:
 Select fragrant, plump fruit. If you want ripe fruit, select the ones that yield to gentle pressure, or pick firm ones and ripen at home for a few days.

Lemons & Limes:
 The best citrus will be bright and feel heavy for its size. Avoid discoloration and overly thick peels.

Mangoes:
 Selecting mangoes is best done by feel rather than color. The softer the mango, the riper it is. The stem end should be lightly scented.

Oranges: 
Fruit should be heavy for its size. Also look for smooth, firm and thin peels.

Peaches: 
Select aromatic fruit that is soft, but not mushy.

Pears: 
Ripe pears should give a little when pressed gently at the top.

Persimmons: 
Select smooth and plump fruit. The skin should be bright and glossy.

Pineapples:
 Search for large fruit with bright green leaves. The outside should be firm.

Plums: 
Select plums that are firm and heavy for their size.

Pomegranates: 
Darker colored pomegranates will be sweeter than those that are pink, which will taste tart. Fruit should be heavy and firm.

Watermelon:
 Select heavy, firm watermelon. When tapped, the inside should sound hollow.

 

Vegetables

Asparagus: Choose asparagus with firm, green stalks and tightly closed tips with no signs of flowering.

Avocados:
 If you’re looking for an unripe avocado, select a firm one that doesn’t give to gentle pressure. If you want to purchase a ripe avocado, choose a bumpy dark-green one.

Corn: 
Keep an eye out for plump corn with sticky, brown tassels.

Cucumber:
 Bright, firm cucumbers with even color are the best to take home. Keep an eye out for dullness, soft spots and bruises.

Eggplant: 
Select smooth, shiny eggplants with deep, uniform color. The vegetables should be heavy for their size, and the smaller eggplants are generally sweeter.

Garlic: 
Choose garlic that is plump and heavy without broken skin or soft spots.

Herbs: 
Select fresh herbs that are fragrant and do not appear wilted.

Lettuce: 
The outer leaves of a lettuce head should be intact and firm, and the whole head should be somewhat heavy.

 

Okra: The best okra will be bright green with no bruises or dark spots.

Onions:
 Select firm onions with papery skins that are still intact. Store at room temperature.

Peppers: 
Select shiny, firm, wrinkle-free peppers.

Potatoes:
 Select firm potatoes with no sprouts, slits, green tinge or wrinkles. Store at room temperature.

Rhubarb: 
The stalks of the rhubarb should be stiff and not limp. There should be no cracks or blemishes, and leaves should be small. Be sure to remove the leaves before you store rhubarb as they are toxic.

Sugar Snap Peas: 
The pods of sugar snap peas should be medium to dark green in color and feel firm and plump.

Tomatoes: 
Avoid fruit that is bruised, cracked or wrinkled. The leaves should be bright green, and the tomatoes should be heavy and smooth.

Yellow Squash:
 Select firm, small to medium squash, as the large ones contain too much water or fiber.

Zucchini:
 Be on the lookout for firm, shiny vegetables free of cuts and bruises. Pick out the ones that aren’t too big.

 

For a list of North Texas farmers markets to shop fresh, local fruits and veggies, visit Farmers Markets Offer Fresh Local Fare.

Celebrate Hatch Chile Season


Screen Shot 2017-08-09 at 12.28.34 PM

‘Tis the season for one of the Southwest’s most-anticipated flavors to return to the forefront of kitchens and restaurants alike, and we have to say … we’re pretty excited.
 
That’s right, it’s Hatch chile season.
 
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Hatch chile, they are directly related to Anaheim peppers, but instead are grown in New Mexico’s Hatch Valley. Some are mild, with heat levels similar to Anaheim or poblano peppers, but others can be as hot as their smaller serrano counterparts.
 
"Once a year, the supermarkets are flooded with Hatch Chile Peppers. Once roasted this spicy vegetable makes beautiful soups and stews."
Hatch aficionados believe the New Mexico soil and climate cause these peppers to be more flavorful and spicier than the widely distributed Anaheim peppers. Unlike Anaheim peppers, Hatch chile have one growing season per year and are harvested each August and September.
 
Rows of Chile in a field near Hatch, NM.
These spicy, versatile peppers are essentially treated like their own food group in Texas, and what better way to celebrate their existence than an entire festival?
 
From August 9 to 22,  Central Market’s 22nd-Annual Hatch Chile Festival will transform each location into a “Land of EnHATCHment,” where you can find an extensive roundup of pre-packaged Hatch products and fresh Hatch fare. This year, the lineup includes Hatch dark chocolate, Hatch popcorn, Hatch beer, and Absinthe & Hatch salami.

Central Market Hatch Chile Dark Chocolate Bar 3 OZ
Photo courtesy of Central Market

 
 

Take a trip to the bakery for items such as cheddar Hatch pepper bread or Hatch sourdough, or visit the deli counter to snag some Hatch tamales, Hatch crab cakes, and Hatch-stuffed chicken breasts.

 
In celebration of the return of the Hatch chile, below are some tips from our friends at Central Market on how to pick, roast and store your chiles.
 
CM_Hatch_festivals_how-to_1
Photo courtesy of Central Market
 
How to Roast & Store Hatch Chiles
By: Central Market

*We recommend that you wear gloves while working with Hatch Chiles.
 
You can roast chiles either over a grill or in your broiler oven. Be sure to puncture the skin with a fork or knife before roasting to a golden brown on both sides.
 
Oven-roasted chile is as close to flame-roasted as you can get. Preheat your oven to 425°. Place chiles in oven for 15-20 minutes until soft. When roasted, the chile skins will begin to blister. Allow peppers to “sweat” a while before you peel them to use in a recipe.
 
Then peel the skin and serve, or add to your favorite recipe.
 
If you are going to freeze your roasted Hatch peppers, allow to cool completely. We recommend leaving skins on and seeds and veins intact. So much of the pepper flavor is in the skins and seeds, so leaving this on should give you a more flavorful pepper after thawing. Simply slip 4 to 5 whole peppers into a freezer ziplock baggie, squeezing the excess air out as you zip the bag shut. These can be stored in your freezer to use all year long, until the next Hatch season rolls around.
 
It’s easy to peel your roasted Hatch peppers by laying the whole pepper flat on a cutting board. Holding the stem with one hand and running the sharp edge of a knife across the skin will scrape the charred skin right off.
 
Note: Some folks like to skin (and even chop) their peppers prior to freezing. They say that it makes it easier and quicker to add to recipes.
 
—-
 
This year, we had the pleasure of visiting Central Market to taste some recipes in which you can utilize these potent peppers.
 
Homemade Iced Tea with Lemons and Mint
 
Hatch Pepper Simple Syrup

Ingredients:
*8 Hatch peppers, chopped with seeds removed
*1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
*1 cup water
 
Directions: In a large saucepan, dissolve 1 cup sugar in 1 cup water over medium heat. When sugar is dissolved, bring to medium-high heat and add Hatch peppers. After 3 to 5 minutes (peppers should be flexible but not soft), remove from heat and steep for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain peppers, reserving liquid as the syrup.
 
Hatch Pepper Sweet Tea
 
Ingredients:
*1/2 liter strong black tea
*1/4 to 1/2 cup Hatch pepper simple syrup
*Juice of two lemons
*1 bunch mint, lightly crushed
*Sugar, to taste
*Iced water
 

Directions: 
In a large pitcher, combine 1/4 cup Hatch simple syrup with tea — stir to mix thoroughly. Add lemon juice and mint, then add iced water to desired strength. Use additional Hatch syrup and sugar to reach desired heat and sweetness. Serve with a garnish of mint and lemon.

How to Pick Produce


Fruits and vegetables overhead assortment colorful background green, yellow to red

If you have ever purchased produce only to have it in turn moldy or mushy a few days later, the fruits or vegetables you selected may not have been in the best shape to begin with.

 

By selecting the right produce at the grocery store, you avoid wasting money while also maximizing the shelf life of your food.

 

As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to stay away from pre-bagged or pre-cut produce. Pre-bagged produce is often smaller, and pre-cut produce simply won’t last as long. Picking out your produce item-by-item will result in better flavors and textures.

 

Below is a guide on how to pick your fruits and vegetables.

 

*While avocados, tomatoes, and the like are technically fruits, we divided them by the categories under which they are typically considered.

 

Fruits
 
Apples: Fruits should be firm, colorful, shiny, and free of bruises or punctures.
 
Apricots: Select aromatic fruits with no green spots and a slight give with gentle pressure.

Bananas:
Select fruit that is yellow all over with no green or brown spots.

Berries:
Look out for mold and mushy berries.
     *Blackberries & Raspberries: Full and juicy, but not leaking.
     *Blueberries: Avoid berries with red or green areas. Select firm ones.
     *Strawberries: Select colorful strawberries with green stems. Fruit should be fragrant and shiny, as well.

Cantaloupe:
Select aromatic fruit that is heavy for its size.

Cherries:
Select plump, firm cherries that look dark and glossy and have green stems.

Figs:
Avoid selecting dirty, bumpy, or broken fruits.

Grapefruit:
Select a deeply colored fruit with a slightly reddish hue and a heavy, plump feel.

Grapes:
Search for grapes that are firmly attached to flexible stems. Grapes should be deeply colored, firm, and plump.

Kiwi:
Select fragrant, plump fruit. If you want ripe fruit, select the ones that yield to gentle pressure, or pick firm ones and ripen them at home for a few days.

Lemons and Limes:
The best citrus will be bright and feel heavy for their size. Avoid discoloration and overly thick peels.

Mangoes:
Selecting mangoes is best done by feel rather than color. The softer the mango, the riper it is. The stem end should be lightly scented.

Oranges:
Fruit should be heavy for its size. Also look for smooth, firm, and thin peels.

Peaches: 
Select aromatic fruit that is soft, but not mushy.

Pears: 
Ripe pears should give a little when pressed gently at the top.

Persimmons: 
Select smooth and plump fruit. The skin should be bright and glossy.

Pineapples:
 Search for large fruit with bright green leaves. The outside should be firm.

Plums:
Select plums that are firm and heavy for their size.

Pomegranates: 
Darker colored pomegranates will be sweeter than those that are pink, which will taste tart. Fruit should be heavy and firm.

Watermelon:
Select heavy, firm watermelon. When tapped, the inside should sound hollow.
 
Vegetables
 
Asparagus: Choose asparagus with firm, green stalks, and tightly closed tips with no signs of flowering.

Avocados:
If you’re looking for an unripe avocado, select a firm one that doesn’t give to gentle pressure. If you want to purchase a ripe avocado, pick out a bumpy dark-green one.

Corn: 
Keep an eye out for plump corn with sticky, brown tassels.

Cucumber:
Bright, firm cucumbers with even color are the best to take home. Keep an eye out for dullness, soft spots, and bruises.

Eggplant:
Select smooth, shiny eggplants with deep, uniform color. The vegetables should be heavy for their size, and the smaller eggplants are generally sweeter.

Garlic:
Choose garlic that is plump and heavy without broken skin or soft spots.

Herbs:
Select fresh herbs that are fragrant and do not appear wilted.

Lettuce: 
The outer leaves of a lettuce head should be intact and firm, and the whole head should be somewhat heavy.
 
Okra: The best okra will be bright green with no bruises or dark spots.

Onions:
Select firm onions with papery skins that are still intact. Store at room temperature.

Peppers:
Select shiny, wrinkle-free, firm peppers.

Potatoes:
Select firm potatoes with no sprouts, slits, green tinge, or wrinkles. Store at room temperature.

Rhubarb:
The stalks of the rhubarb should be stiff and not limp. There should be no cracks or blemishes, and leaves should be small. Be sure to remove the leaves before you store rhubarb, as they are toxic.

Sugar Snap Peas:
The pods of sugar snap peas should be medium to dark green in color and feel firm and plump.

Tomatoes: 
Avoid fruit that is bruised, cracked, or wrinkled. The leaves should be bright green, and the tomatoes should be heavy and smooth.

Yellow Squash:
Select firm, small to medium squash, as the large ones contain too much water or fiber.

Zucchini:
Be on the lookout for firm, shiny vegetables free of cuts and bruises. Pick out the ones that aren’t too big.

Taste the South with Central Market



 
Summer is around the corner, and we’re looking forward to backyard cookouts and bright, flavorful cuisine.
 
This season, Central Market is celebrating the South with its “Taste the South” event from May 17 to 30.
 
In stores, you’ll find a curated selection of artisan products from the Southern United States — from Carolina Blue Crab to Carolina Gold Rice Pudding.
 
In addition, the Chef’s Case will be transformed into a Southern showcase featuring Brunswick Stew, Hoppin’ John with Carolina Gold Rice, collard greens, Southern ham, pickled okra, boiled peanuts and Frogmore Stew just to name a few.
 
The event will also bring an incredible lineup of James Beard Award-winning chefs to the Central Market Cooking School. You can find a schedule of classes here.
 

To get in the spirit, we’re sharing with you a couple of Southern recipes that are perfect for your next summer potluck.

 

Sassy Slaw

 

Serving of coleslaw a healthy vibrant colourful salad made with shredded raw cabbage, carrots and onions

 
Ingredients:
*1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
*2 tablespoons sugar
*1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
*1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
*1/4 teaspoon celery seed
*2 tablespoons canola oil
*1/4 large green cabbage (about 1 lb) cored and finely shredded (about 3 cups)
*1/4 large red cabbage (about 1 lb) cored and finely shredded (about 3 cups)
*1 large carrot grated
*1 green onion trimmed and chopped
*1/2 jalapeño cored, seeded, and chopped
*2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
*Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

Instructions:
1. In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar, mustard, mustard powder, and celery seed. Heat over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside to cool slightly. Add the oil and whisk to combine.

 

2. In a large bowl, combine the green and red cabbage, carrot, green onion, jalapeño, and parsley and toss to combine. Pour over the reserved slightly cooled dressing. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until chilled, about 15 minutes. Toss, taste and adjust for seasoning again, then serve immediately.

 


 

Pickled Okra

Two jars of pickled okra rest on a primitive country chair.

Ingredients:
*1 9-piece canning kit, including canner, jar lifter, and canning rack
*7 1-pint canning jars
*2 1/2 pounds fresh okra
*7 small green chile peppers
*7 cloves garlic
*2 tablespoons dill seed (plus 1 teaspoon)
*4 cups white vinegar
*1/2 cup salt
*1/4 cup sugar

 
Instructions:
1. Bring canner half-full with water to a boil; simmer. Meanwhile, place jars in a large stockpot with water to cover; bring to a boil, and simmer. Place bands and lids in a large saucepan with water to cover; bring to a boil, and simmer. Remove hot jars, 1 at a time, using jar lifter.

 
2. Pack okra into hot jars, filling to 1⁄2 inch from top. Place 1 pepper, 1 garlic clove, and 1 teaspoon dill seeds in each jar. Bring vinegar, salt, sugar, and 4 cups water to a boil over medium-high heat. Pour over okra, filling to 1⁄2 inch from top.
 
3. Wipe jar rims; cover at once with metal lids, and screw on bands (snug but not too tight). Place jars in canning rack, and place in simmering water in canner. Add additional boiling water as needed to cover by 1 to 2 inches.
 
4. Bring water to a rolling boil; boil 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool jars in canner 5 minutes. Transfer jars to a cutting board; cool 12 to 24 hours. Test seals of jars by pressing center of each lid. If lids do not pop, jars are properly sealed. Store in a cool, dry place at room temperature up to 1 year.
 

Recipes courtesy of Central Market.