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in season june/july: Tiny Tomatoes

tiny tomatoes

As small as a dime and not much bigger than a quarter, these tiny tomatoes are proof that good things come in small packages and are tasty too.

Where to find. These little delectable bites are waiting for you in the produce aisle! As the growing season unfolds, availability of the smaller varieties increases. This summer, you'll find tomatoes as small as currants in gardens, farmers markets, and some grocery stores.

How to Store. Treat these guys just like you would any other tomato—which means the fridge is off limits. Don't be fooled by their small size—they come with a sturdy, firm skin that gives them lasting power on the kitchen counter.

Cherry vs. Grape. These two varieties are roughly the same size, although the grape tomatoes' oblong shape gives them a visual distinction. Cherry tomatoes are juicier and sweeter than grape tomatoes, whose dense flesh makes them excellent for longer cooking.

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in season january/february: Kumquats

Kumquats

November to March is the ideal growing period for this cherry-sized fruit. They can be enjoyed fresh, added in salads, candied, or as a garnish.

Choosing. Look for kumquats that are firm and bright orange in color. They must be allowed to fully ripen on the tree before being picked, so avoid those that have a greenish tint.

Storing. Kumquats can be stored at room temperature for 3–4 days; can last up to two weeks in the fridge; and if frozen, kumquat puree can be stored for six months.

Preparing. Wash in a bowl of cool water and gently pat dry. Gently roll or squeeze between the fingers to unify the sweet ingredients with the tart pulp. Then go ahead and eat the whole thing—peel included! You may want to pass on the seeds as they have a bitter taste similar to orange seeds.

Health benefits. Kumquats provide potassium, vitamin A, are rich in vitamin C, and are a good source of fiber.

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in season july/august: Sweet Cherries

Radish salad

While several varieties of sweet cherries exist, Bing and Ranier are the most common varieties found, especially in Iowa. Bing cherries are firm, juicy, plump, and a deep red color with a distinctive heart shape when ripe. They continue to soften and become sweeter with age. Rainier cherries are large, yellow with a blush of red, and quite sweet. For any variety, look for shiny, plump cherries with vivid colors and fresh green stems.

Cherries make an excellent snack and are also a favorite for many summertime desserts. They are baked into pies, cakes, cobblers, and crisps and made into sauces to drizzle over ice cream on a hot day. Throw them in your smoothie for a dose of antioxidants and a little tartness with a touch of sweet. You'll have to wash thoroughly and remove the pits before eating or using in a recipe (there are gadgets for this, but either way, expect to have red fingers afterward).

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in season april/may: Simply 'Radishing'

Radish salad

As we come off of winter eating—those heavy, saucy comfort foods—we look forward to the start of fresh eating. The peak harvest time for many favorite fruits and veggies starts in the spring and carries into summer. One of the peak springtime veggies that may be often overlooked is the radish.

Radishes, a member of the mustard family, add a distinct bite to your salad without adding many calories. They boast many health benefits, too, and are high in vitamin C, phosphorus and zinc. They’re comprised mainly of water, so they help with hydration and keep your skin looking its best throughout the spring and summer!

If the idea of biting into a whole, raw radish turns you off, try other preparations, such as marinating thin slices in a mixture of sugar and vinegar for a sweet and sour quick pickles or soy sauce for an Asian-style flair. Sautéing for a minute or two with butter, salt, pepper, and dill will take away some of its characteristic “heat.” Add some drama to your favorite potato, egg, or pasta salads with diced radish. And don’t forget the radish on your crudité tray—its bright red color will be sure to dress up your hors d’oeuvres table!

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in season february/march: Winter Produce


As you wait patiently for spring and the hustle and bustle of Farmers Markets, take note of a few vitamin-packed leafy greens that are in season during these last remaining winter months.

Baby Spinach Baby spinach. The “baby” term comes from the early plant growth stage at harvest, usually only 15-35 days after planting. It has small leaves, a tender texture, and a sweeter taste than that of mature spinach.
Kohlrabi Kohlrabi. This green or purple bulbous veggie combines the crispness of cabbage with the bite of turnips and radishes. The leaves are dark and leafy like kale and can be used in the same preparations.
Bok Choy Bok choy. Common in Chinese cooking, bok choy is packed with vitamins and nutrients. The hearty stalk and leaves hold up well in heated dishes, such as stir fry.
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in season november/december: Sweet Potatoes


Sweet Potatoes

No more yams. The holidays are upon us, a time for gatherings with friends and family—and that orange goop covered in marshmallows that gets politely passed around the table without takers. The days of candied yam casserole are behind us; it’s time to take back the sweet potato. Although its history dates back more than 10,000 years, the sweet potato has been cultivated in the United States for fewer than 100 years. And due to recent discoveries about its health benefits, the sweet potato is gaining popularity.

Nutrient-rich staple. This orange-hued tuber has a host of dietary benefits that can make it a more nutritious alternative to the standard potato. Although higher in sugar (and therefore calories) than regular potatoes, sweet potatoes contain high amounts of vitamin A—almost 300% of our daily recommended value. Additionally, they contain antioxidants, anti-inflammatory nutrients, and blood sugar-regulating nutrients.

Beyond the holiday table. Sweet potatoes are used in everything from hearty soups to breads to pies. Their texture makes them a suitable replacement for regular potatoes in most recipes, and their flavor and color allow them to take the place of pumpkin. The sweetness relates well to desserts but also balances savory dishes. Many restaurants are even jumping on board by serving sweet potato fries, tots, and baked sweet potatoes (but steer clear of the toppings and dips that turn this healthful side into a calorie-laden dessert).

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in season october/november: Zucchini


Zucchini

Newfound popularity. Although Central and South American inhabitants have been cultivating zucchini for several thousand years, it does not have a long history in the United States. This Italian summer squash has become increasingly popular over the last 30 years, however, due in part to its versatility and ease of growing in home gardens.

Versatility. Few vegetables are as adaptable to different cuisines as zucchini. Its mild flavor and pleasing texture make it a great addition to salads and stir-fries. The moisture contained within the flesh makes it a delicious substitution for some of the fat in baked cakes and breads. Thinly sliced zucchini ribbons can be used in place of pasta in dishes such as primavera and lasagna. It’s hardy enough to stand up to direct heat on a grill and delicate enough to offer a pleasing mix of softness and crunch when steamed. Even zucchini blossoms stuffed with a creamy filling and fried until crispy have found a place in the culinary world.

Selection and Storage. Zucchinis can exceed 18 inches in length, but they can become bitter and thicker-skinned as they grow larger. Choose zucchinis less than 8 inches long for optimal texture and flavor. They should have bright green skin without soft spots or blemishes. Zucchini will remain fresh in the refrigerator for up to five days. Even if peeling, thoroughly wash and pat dry before cooking or eating.

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in season august/september: Grapes


Grapes

Superfood. Although it's often overshadowed by more exotic fruits (think pomegranate and açaí berry), the common grape truly deserves superfood status. A type of berry with a leathery skin and soft flesh, the grape is a good source of many essential nutrients and antioxidants, which promote bone and heart health, and anti-inflammatory, antiaging, and antimicrobial benefits.

Widespread cultivation. Grape production has a long history—the first evidence of domestic cultivation goes back to 5000 B.C. Today grapes are widely available and harvested on every continent except Antarctica. There are more than 8,000 documented grape varieties, which include table grapes produced for consumption, wine grapes, and raisin grapes.

Preparations. Grapes are available year-round at the grocery store, but the size, flavor, and price are more satisfying in these late-summer months. Grapes are a staple in summer fruit salads and a great finger food for quick snacking. But grapes are good for more than raw preparations—they can be roasted, grilled, smoked, and pickled with the best of them. Or, if your idea of a good grape is the kind that has been squished and fermented, enjoy a glass of vino at a local winery to get your fix.

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in season july/august: Sweet Corn


Sweet Corn

Iowa summer icon. There is perhaps no more prominent icon of the Iowa summer than sweet corn—there are festivals dedicated to it, after all! Sweet corn is not only a delicious side dish on or off the cob, it can also be incorporated into recipes from spicy relishes to cool ice cream.

Peak freshness. Take advantage of the abundant sweet corn carts and farmer's markets during the summer months—the ears are usually picked that morning, allowing you to enjoy the kernels at peak freshness. Corn that is not eaten the day it's picked should be kept in the refrigerator or cut off the cob and frozen to lock in that delicious sweetness.

Healthful tastes. A good source of fiber and several vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, sweet corn can promote heart health, boost memory, and protect against eye disease. However, smothering your sweet corn with salt and melted butter quickly reduces its health benefits. Replacing butter with olive oil is a heart-smart way to reduce saturated fat. Because the inherent sweetness of corn stands up well to spices and seasonings, experiment with some of these flavors or come up with your own:

  • Sprinkle with cayenne or ground chile pepper for a some heat
  • Go southern with a Cajun seasoning blend
  • Squeeze fresh lemon juice for a refreshing twist
  • Add garlic and cracked black pepper for an Italian take
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in season may/june: Peas


Peas

All in the family. Peas are a group within the legume family that contains several varieties: English and baby peas (known as shelling peas) have an inedible, fibrous pod that is removed before consumption; snow peas, which are often used in stir-fry, are eaten whole and have tiny, nearly imperceptible seeds; and snap peas are fuller with more mature seeds but also have edible pods. Although technically peas, split peas, chickpeas, and black-eyed peas are usually grouped with lentils because they are typically dried.

Peas, please! Peas are low-fat and nutrient-rich. They are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, fiber, and protein. The high levels of antioxidants promote anti-aging benefits, a strong immune system, and heightened energy, and they are beneficial for regulating blood sugar in a diabetes diet.

Selecting and preparing. When buying fresh, choose peas with smooth, bright green pods. To prepare whole pea pods, snap off the tips and remove any tough strings. Steam them briefly, then shock in ice water to stop the cooking and retain a vibrant color. Remove the shells of English peas right before cooking by squeezing the pod along the seam to pop out the seeds. Peas are one of the most versatile ingredients and are a great addition to soups and stews, casseroles, pasta salads, and puréed into sauces. They also make a great high-fiber, low-calorie snack or side dish.

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in season april/may: Rhubarb


Rhubarb

Fruit or vegetable? Rhubarb is known for its bright red color, sour taste, and stringy texture. Because it is most often used in desserts, rhubarb is usually considered a fruit, even though it is botanically classified as a vegetable. Since it is too sour for most palates, it’s usually heavily sweetened and combined with berries or other fruits.

Grows like a weed. In temperate climates like Iowa’s, rhubarb grows quickly and easily and requires relatively little attention. It responds well to fertilizer and needs occasional watering but has a low risk of damage by insects and disease. Although it shouldn’t be harvested the first year and has minimal yield the second year, by the third year the plant will continue to produce a high yield throughout the spring, summer, and into the early fall.

Enjoying rhubarb. Look for crisp, unblemished stalks for consumption— the leaves are toxic and cannot be eaten. Rhubarb adds a wonderful tartness to many sweet treats. It is great in pie, cobbler, and jam and as a topping for cake or ice cream. To make a simple rhubarb sauce, heat ½ cup sugar and ½ cup water to boiling, then add 4 cups diced rhubarb, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is tender and slightly transparent.

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in season february/march: Turnips


turnips

Benefits. With so many useful preparations and health benefits, the turnip has an undeserved reputation. A member of the mustard family, the turnip is related to the radish and many of the leafy greens we eat, such as arugula, cabbage, and kale. Like its root relatives, turnips are a great addition to a healthful diet—they are high in antioxidants, including beta-carotene and vitamins A, C, and E, and a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, potassium, and fiber.

Buying and storing. Turnips should be firm, blemish-free, and heavy for their size with a bright violet ring around the top of the bulb, although baby turnips may not have developed the color yet. To ensure the freshest selection, choose turnips with the leaves still attached. Remove the leaves before storing—they can be cleaned and stored like any other salad green. Place the bulbs in a plastic bag and store in the crisper drawer.

Give them a try. Baby turnips, which are milder and sweeter, are good served raw as crudités or salad toppings. Roasting tames the strong flavor of mature turnips, and the peppery flavor goes well when mixed with other root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, and sweet potatoes. Turnips are also a great addition to soups and stews. The greens can be used in place of any other leafy green in salads.

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in season january/february: Acorn Squash

acorn squash

Characteristics. The acorn squash is one of the most popular members of the winter squash family. The squash looks like a ribbed acorn, with an ovoid shape and defined point. Squash is low in calories (until loaded with butter and brown sugar!) and is a great source of fiber and beta-carotene, making it a healthful addition to any winter meal.

Choosing and storing. The perfect acorn squash should be firm and heavy for its size and have a balance of green and orange color on its rind. It can be stored at room temperature for up to two weeks but should be refrigerated once cut or cooked.

Preparation. The most basic preparation of acorn squash is to halve it lengthwise and roast, flesh sides up, for about 1 hour in a 400°F oven. To spice it up a bit, add butter and cinnamon, nutmeg, or brown sugar. It can also make a good replacement in butternut squash, pumpkin, and sweet potato recipes.

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in season november/december: Citrus

citrus

The Basics. Grapefruits, oranges, lemons and limes are among the kitchen’s most versatile ingredients and can be used to flavor meat and vegetable dishes as well as dressings, drinks, and sweets. Citrus juice will add acidity while zest will contribute floral brightness. The fruits range in flavor from tart (lime) to sweet (orange) and are packed with vitamin C—one orange has a day’s worth. Florida produces about 70% of citrus consumed in the United States.

Buying and storing. Choose fruit that is firm, shiny, heavy and bruise- and blemish-free. Store at room temperature, up to 1 week, or refrigerate, up to 2 weeks. Before zesting, remove any waxy coating by washing the skin lightly. To get juice flowing, press and roll uncut fruit firmly on a work surface. Freeze juice in ice trays then store in zip-top bags, up to 3 months.

To use and cook. The sour undertones in citrus enhance almost all other flavors. Lemon juice is an excellent substitute for salt—a squeeze will brighten dips, sauces, and stews. The high acid content of lemon and lime juices tenderize meat, so they are great in marinades. Orange or grapefruit segments are terrific in a variety of salads. These tart fruits have a sweet side, too: citrus juice makes for luscious custards, sorbets, and glazes.

Don't throw out those peels! The citrus peel, or zest, contains concentrated oils that pack a powerful punch. Create your own infused olive oils or brew with tea or soups for added flavor. Candied citrus peels make great garnishes for desserts. Or you can toss a few peels into your garbage disposal for that fresh citrus scent.

 

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in season october/november: Pears

pears

The Basics. Pears play well in both sweet and savory dishes, making them an excellent addition to any grocery cart or farmers' market basket. There are more than 5,000 named varieties grown worldwide, but only a few of these are cultivated here in the United States.

Varieties. Anjou and Bartlett pears are widely available and very versatile—they're great baked into desserts or eaten as a snack. You can even mix up the color by choosing the red version of these varieties. Comice pears are very sweet and have creamy flesh. A ripe Comice may exude lots of juice when cooked, adding too much moisture to some dishes. Cook with those that are slightly underripe, or enjoy them raw partnered with cured meats or aged cheeses. Bosc pears, which are nuttier in flavor, are firmer and denser, so they're perfect for sautéing, poaching, or layering in a sandwich.

Buying and Storing. When shopping for pears, choose firm ones. Because most pear varieties are harvested when mature but not yet ripe, they typically need 2 to 4 days at cool room temperature to become soft and fragrant. A pear is one of the few fruits that ripens from the inside out, so check for ripeness at the thinner stem end—the flesh should yield to gentle pressure. Once completely ripe, you can transfer pears to the refrigerator and use within 2 to 3 days.

Pears, Cheese and Wine. Pears, cheese and wine have a natural affinity, and together they create a classic combination of tastes and textures. To make a successful match, the secret is to understand the 'personality' of your pear. Each pear variety has its own distinct flavor and texture, so you should begin by picking the pear you want to spotlight. Next, select a cheese that will be enhanced by the pear, and finally, choose a wine to complete the tasty trifecta.

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in season august/september: Watermelon

watermelon

Nothing says summer like fresh, juicy watermelon, and no wonder—at 92% water, no other food will quench your thirst like this aptly-named fruit. Peak watermelon time is mid-June to September, when it is the sweetest.

Choosing. Look for a firm, symmetrical watermelon heavy for its size, with no
bruises, cuts, or dents.

The next step may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s key: look for a distinct pale yellow or cream-colored spot on the bottom of the melon. This is where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun. If it doesn’t have this colored spot, it was probably picked prematurely. Watermelons don’t ripen much after harvesting, so avoid those without the tell-tale spot, as they won’t reach full flavor.

Preparing. Always wash the rind before cutting. If the melon doesn’t fit under the kitchen faucet, wipe it down with a wet towel.

Using. There are a myriad of uncommon uses for watermelon. Make something unexpected!

• For a surprising salad, combine sweet watermelon chunks with fresh tomato, thinly sliced red onion, and red wine vinaigrette. Add salt, black pepper, sugar, and olive oil
to taste.

• Don’t throw away those rinds—create old-fashioned watermelon rind pickles. Several pickling recipes can be found online.

• For a twist on the BLT, add pesto sauce, cheddar cheese, and a thick slice of watermelon to the classic bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich.

• Make a watermelon cake! Cut a 3-inch-thick slice from the center of the melon and carve into a fun shape. Add frosting or whipped cream to the top and decorate with blueberries and slices of strawberries or kiwi fruit.

 

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in season july/august: Cucumbers

cucumbers

No wonder cucumbers are a summer favorite: the inner temperature of a cucumber can be up to 20 degrees cooler than the outside air. Cool as a cucumber, indeed!

The cucumber is one of the most widely cultivated foods in the world and can be found in cuisine almost everywhere. Because of the wide variety, you may find cucumbers that are white, yellow, or orange, and even oval or round in shape. Although usually thought of as a vegetable, it’s hard to remember that this familiar green food is really a fruit.

Selecting.

The ideal cucumber is bright to dark green and firm with rounded ends. Skip those with withered ends, soft spots, or are yellowing. Cukes are very sensitive to heat, so buy only those that are refrigerated.

Storing.

Cucumbers will keep for many days in the refrigerator crisper. Most purchased at the grocery store will be waxed to seal in moisture, so store them unwashed to keep this seal. Tightly wrap un-waxed cucumbers in plastic wrap to keep their moisture. Cucumbers will wilt and become limp if not chilled.

Enjoying.

Besides the usual appearance in salads, why not try some new ways to use cukes?

• Purée cucumbers, tomatoes, green peppers, and onions to make a cold gazpacho soup
.
• Purchase a “refrigerator type” pickle mix at the supermarket and make your own pickles.

• Peel and slice cucumbers, roll in cornmeal, and fry for a crispy treat.

• Cut the crusts off of white bread slices, spread with cream cheese, and add peeled, sliced cucumbers for an English cucumber sandwich.

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in season may/june: Asparagus

asparagus


Now is the time to get fresh asparagus at the farmer’s market. Don’t pass up this healthy, delectable vegetable.

Choosing. Look for firm spears with closed, compact tips which are deep green or purplish in color. Select bunches with similar sized spears so they will all cook at the same rate. A one pound bunch of asparagus (about 12 – 15 spears) serves 2 – 4 people.

Storing. Fresh asparagus should be kept clean, cold, and covered. Trim ¼ inch off the stem, wash in warm water, and pat dry. Wrap the stem ends in a moist paper towel and refrigerate. For the best flavor and texture, use asparagus within a day or two.

Preparing. Cooking times will vary depending on the spear diameter. Thinner spears require less cooking time while thicker spears may take a little longer.

Approximate Asparagus Cooking Times:
Boil: 2 – 5 minutes
Steam: 4 – 8 minutes
Microwave: 3 – 5 minutes
Stir-Fry: 3 – 7 minutes
Grill: 8 – 10 minutes
Roast: 5 – 8 minutes

Serving.
• Toss asparagus with pasta, olive oil, thyme, tarragon, and rosemary for a
real treat.
• Roast asparagus tossed in olive oil, crushed garlic, salt, and pepper.
• Add herbs and spices such as chives, parsley, chervil, savory, or tarragon into
melted butter and pour over asparagus.

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in season april/may: Pineapple

pineapple


Pineapple season runs from March through June; why not pick up a couple at the grocery store and celebrate one of our favorite tropical fruits?

Choosing. Look for pineapples that are heavy for their size, and free of soft spots, bruises, or darkened “eyes.” Pineapple stops ripening as soon as it is picked, so choose fruit with a fragrant sweet smell at the stem end. Skip over any that smell musty, sour, or fermented.

Preparing. Pineapple can be cut and peeled in a variety of ways. No matter how you proceed, the first step is always to remove the crown and the base of the fruit with a knife.

To peel the pineapple, place it base side down, cut off the skin, and carve out any remaining “eyes” with the tip of your knife. Or, cut the pineapple into quarters, remove the core, and use your knife to separate the fruit from the rind.

Serving.
• Mix diced pineapple and chili peppers for an easy to prepare salsa that is a delicious complement to fish.

• Drizzle maple syrup on pineapple slices and broil until brown. Serve plain or with yogurt.

• Chopped pineapple, grated fennel and cashews go well together, especially as a side dish to chicken.

• Make a run-of-the-mill cheese ball tropical by adding fresh pineapple to cream cheese, shredded cedar cheese, chopped pecans and dried apricots, crystallized ginger, and flaked coconut.

• Combine diced pineapple with chopped shrimp, grated ginger, and a little olive oil. Season to taste and serve on a bed of romaine lettuce.

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in season february/march: Avacados

avacados


Sometimes called the Alligator Pear due to its green skin and pear shape, the avocado fruit is sodium and cholesterol-free with only five grams of fat per serving, (mostly the good-for-you monounsaturated kind). Once the food of royalty, avocados can be found in foods as diverse as salads and smoothies to ice cream and dessert drinks.

Choosing. When looking for a ripe avocado, choose fruit that is firm, yet yields to gentle pressure. If you don’t plan to use it in a few days, pick a hard, unripened fruit. To speed the ripening process, place the avocado in a paper bag along with an apple or banana.

Keeping the brown away. Want to help prevent the browning that occurs when avocado flesh comes in contact with oxygen in the air? Try sprinkling the exposed surface with lemon or lime juice, then store the cut fruit in an air-tight container in your refrigerator. Put avocado slices in a bowl of ice water up to an hour to stop browning before serving.

Fast fixes. Here are some quick takes on how to enjoy the silky smooth texture and rich nutty flavor of the avocado:

• Spread ripe avocados on bread as a healthy replacement for mayonnaise when making a sandwich.

• Combine sliced avocado with fennel, oranges and fresh mint for a tasty salad.

• Whip up no-cook, easy kabobs by threading avocado chunks, salami wedges, cherry tomatoes, mini mozzarella cheese balls, and Kalamata olives onto skewers and mist with olive oil.

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in season january/february: Tangerines

tangerines


GOOD FOR YOU. Everyone knows that citrus fruit, including tangerines, are a good source of vitamin C, and now new research from the University of Western Ontario has discovered a substance in tangerine skins that not only prevents obesity in mice, but also offers protection against type 2 diabetes, and even atherosclerosis, the underlying disease responsible for most heart attacks and strokes. The research is published in the journal Diabetes.

EAST TO EAT. Because tangerines have a looser peel than oranges, they are easy eat, making them an ideal snack for busy, on-the-go lifestyles. When using whole tangerine segments in dishes, remove any seeds by snipping the center of the segment and gently squeezing.

A SWEET SURPRISE. Add fresh tangerine segments to salads, desserts, and main dishes, or use freshly grated tangerine peel to add an exotic flavor and sweetness to beef, chicken, pork, or fish. Toss tangerine segments into coleslaw or tuna salad for an unexpected and colorful treat!

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in season april/may: Morel Mushrooms

morel mushrooms


FUNGUS AMONG US. While Minnesota may claim the morel as its state mushroom, Iowa also has its fair share cropping up wild in early spring. These mushrooms have a honeycombed cone shape. The
darker the mushroom, the stronger the flavor.

DRYLAND FISH. A popular way to eat morels is to slice the mushroom lengthwise, then bread and fry it. For a healthful twist, saute with peas and asparagus and serve over pasta.

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in season may/june: Carrots

carrots

in season may/june: Strawberries

strawberries


THE BASICS. The U.S. is now number one in production of strawberries, first cultivated in France. Look for bright red berries with no white or green around the stem and no bruises.

HULL ‘EM. Just before using, wash the berries and then hull: Insert the tip of a paring knife close to the stem, slightly angled to the center, and cut around the stem. Pull out the stem and core and you’re good to go.

DAILY DOSE. Pop those berries in raw: Just a 1-cup serving equals more than 140% of the vitamin C you need in a day. For a twist, try them in a salad or on toast with goat cheese for a pretty and sweet reward.

TENNIS, ANYONE? Strawberries and cream is consumed during Wimbledon every summer. Drink with Pimm’s spritzers while you watch!

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in season july/august:
Blueberries

blueberries


DID YOU KNOW?
July is National Blueberry Month! Blueberries are one of the few fruits native to North America. North America is the world's leading blueberry producer, accounting for nearly 90% of world production. The North American harvest runs from mid-April through early October, with peak harvest in July.

THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH. Antioxidants are thought to help protect the body against the chronic diseases associated with the aging process. Based on data from the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, blueberries are among the fruits with the highest antioxidant activity. So eat up! You’ll look 18 again before you know it.

Green Beans

green beans

THE MIGHTY BEAN. Also known as snap or string beans, green beans are available all year, with a peak season from May to October. There are over 130 varieties of green beans, and they are nearly universal in distribution. Green beans have enough fiber to help lower cholesterol and are good sources of iron and potassium.

BEAN ME UP. Green beans can be steamed, boiled, stir-fried, and baked in casseroles. To avoid overcooking green beans into a mushy mess, try sauteing for 2 to 4 minutes over medium-high heat in a bit of olive oil and salt for a fresh take. Or just eat them the lazy way: Pop ’em whole—the entire pod is edible and deliciously sweet.

Berries

berries


SO MANY OPTIONS. Carrots are quite versatile, showing up as crudites for dip, sauteed with onions and celery for a number of soup bases, braised with chicken, and even
as the star in carrot cake.

CHOOSING. This root veggie is in season now through October. Choose firm, deep orange carrots with bright green tops. To store, cut off tops and keep in the crisper for up to two weeks.

OPTIMAL NUTRITION.  The orange in carrots comes from beta-carotene, which is said to help to reduce the risk of heart disease. However, eating raw carrots releases only 3 percent of the beta-carotene into your system. So before you pop those little puppies, consider cooking them beforehand.

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in season august/september:
Tomatoes

tomatoes


FRUIT OR VEGGIE?
It’s the timeless question we’ve all heard. The answer remains ambiguous because it depends on who is answering. A chef will argue that a tomato is a vegetable; it’s used in main dishes and soups, not desserts. Any scientist will tell you it’s a fruit; a tomato is the ovary, together with its seeds, of a flowering plant: Therefore, it must be a fruit. But ask the Supreme Court of 1883, who concurred with the chefs. But we won’t get into that.

ENDLESS OPTIONS. Puréed into ketchup, diced into a salsa, fried up for a snack, cooked for spaghetti—tomatoes offer endless options that fit whatever you’re craving. 

GET ONLINE. Here are some great recipes using tomatoes:

Italian Garden Pizza
Blue Cheese, Tomato & Leek Galette
BLT Salad
Bruschetta Burgers

Peaches

peaches

HISTORY. While the majority of peaches we eat are from the United States or Italy, the origin of the fruit is Chinese. The fuzzy fruit, favored by Chinese kings and emperors, was written about as far back as the 10th century.

BAG IT. Peaches are ripe when they aren’t too hard or too soft and give to a bit of pressure. If they aren’t quite ripe enough, toss them in a brown bag and store at room temperature. A ripe peach is indicated by creamy to gold skin color. Once they’re ripe, place in the fridge crisper for up to six days.

LIFE’S A PEACH. Peaches are quite versatile, showing up in both sweet and savory dishes. As well as peach pie and peach ice cream, a classic peach dessert is Peach Melba. Or try topping your pork chops, chicken, or lamb with a simple peach, onion, and barbecue sauce mixture.

Melon

melon

SWEET TREAT. Because this lovely fruit needs heat to turn sweet, summer and early autumn are the best times to purchase fresh melons. Look for melons that are dull instead of shiny; the dullness is a sign of sugar content. Grab melons that feel heavy for their size and are fragrant. Give the melon a little tap. You’ll hear a hollow sound if it’s ripe. Always avoid melons with cracks or soft spots. Store whole melons in a cool spot; store cut wedges in plastic in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. 

HITS THE SPOT. Melon is great just cut up and eaten, but there are more creative ways to eat this juicy standout. Try it as the star in a cool melon soup or as a subtle sweet addition to your favorite salad. Try adding it to your next batch of salsa for a little more depth.

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in season october/november: Apples

apples


TIME OF THE SEASON.
A trip to the orchard is a must for getting into the spirit of fall. Iowa can take a bow as the birthplace of the Red Delicious.

CORE CURRICULUM. Leave apples for eating raw as a pretty autumn centerpiece. If you plan to cook or bake them, store in a
perforated plastic bag in the coldest part of the refrigerator.

RECIPES. Check out these delicious recipes using fresh apples:

Apple Salsa

Apple Brunch Pancakes

Brussels Sprouts

melon

AN UNWANTED RAP. Because so often these green morsels are boiled down to mush and stink up the entire house, kids turn up their noses and run out of the room (as do most adults). Brussels sprouts are quite delicious when cooked properly.

CHOOSE WISELY. Brussels sprouts are in season September through February. Look for bright green sprouts that are tightly closed with no blemishes. Try to choose sprouts that are uniformly small for uniform, faster cooking. Avoid any with yellowing, loose leaves. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.

A QUICK HOW-TO. First remove any loose leaves, then wash. Trim off the stem and halve from stem to top. Coat with olive oil and saute with a bit of salt and black pepper until browned, about 5 to 8 minutes. Finish with your choice of grated cheese and eat immediately; they are best right off the stove.

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in season november/december: Pumpkins

pumpkin


PUMPKIN POPULARITY. The Colonists embraced pumpkins soon after they found American Indians using the fruit, and soon pumpkin pie became a
national Thanksgiving tradition. Now one of the most popular crops in the United States, 1.5 billion pounds of the orange gourdlike fruit are produced each year. 

PUMPKIN POSSIBILITIES. Most parts of the pumpkin are edible, and it can be boiled, baked, steamed, roasted, or even chucked in a competition. Its orange flesh has a mild, sweet flavor and the seeds — called pepitas — are decidedly nutty when roasted. 

PICK & CHOOSE. The best pumpkins are heavy for their size and free from bruising. Store whole pumpkins at room temperature up to a month
or refrigerate up to three months. Pureed pumpkin is also available canned.

 

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