by: Betsy Peirce, Produce Manager
The best way to watch your budget and to maximize the flavor experience of your food is to eat it when it is in season. That being said, you likewise may not want to ever look at another carrot, rutabaga potato or winter squash this time of year, especially when you see so many delectable spring vegetables and fruits in the produce section at your local Co-op (ah hmmm). So if you are not literally eating in season for your particular part of the world, which is difficult in these here parts, then the next best thing is to eat what is in season in this country. So what is in season in the USA in March and April you ask? If you see it in the store does that mean it is in season? The short answer is NO!
Most vegetables are available year round- a lot of them are available year round from California. Some domestic staple items available year round are: broccoli, celery, carrots, cauliflower, lettuces, greens, leeks etc. Some specialty items which we only carry when they are in season are thought of as spring vegetables: asparagus, artichokes, peas, Swiss chard, etc. March and April are the season openers for many spring vegetables and that’s also when the prices are reasonable and the flavor is at its peak.
For some truly local food (but strangely not in season) don’t forget about Stone Creek Farm in Cresco. Fresh flavorful tomatoes and cucumbers can really whet your appetite for the upcoming summer season. We currently carry: greenhouse slicing tomatoes, hothouse cucumbers, salad greens and cherry tomatoes. They are all really tasty and far better than any of those items shipped from afar.
In the fruit department citrus is still going strong through April for some items, notably: navel oranges peak in March , also grapefruit, lemons, cara cara and blood oranges, Minneola tangelos, honey murcott tangerines are all in season through April (weather depending). Citrus season has been a banner one this year. Come eat your fill while they are plentiful.
One of the stars of the produce department in March and April is the fabulous Ataulfo mango. The mango is known as the King of fruit throughout the world. Mangoes are bursting with protective nutrients. The vitamin content depends upon the variety and maturity of the fruit, when the mango is green the amount of vitamin C is higher, as it ripens the amount of beta carotene (vitamin A) increases. The mango is a member of the Anachardiaceae family. Other distant relatives include the cashew, pistachio, Jamaica plum, poison ivy and poison oak. So if you are allergic to poison oak or Ivy you may also be allergic to mangoes.
Ataulfo, AKA Champagne mango is by far and away my favorite mango. These are yellow mangoes which are by far the sweetest and the smoothest. They are nearly fiberless and as a fellow produce manager once said “I can’t believe fruit can be so smooth—a Champagne mango can make a ripe honeydew melon seem grainy and a ripe summer peach stringy. It’s like 450-thread-count sheets for your tongue. Smooth.” They are best when they are a little wrinkly. Below is a healthy recipe with which to incorporate these delectable early spring treats (although they are amazing all on their own).
Curried Quinoa Salad with Mango
Bon Appétit | August 2005
Quinoa has more protein than any other grain; it’s delicious in this summer salad.
Yield: Makes 2 servings
1 cup quinoa (about 6 ounces)
1/4 cup canola oil
tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon mango chutney, chopped if chunky
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1 cup chopped peeled mango plus mango spears for garnish
1 cup chopped unpeeled English hothouse cucumber
5 tablespoons chopped green onions, divided
2 cups (packed) baby spinach
Cook quinoa in medium pot of boiling salted water over medium heat until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Drain well; cool. Transfer to medium bowl.
Meanwhile, whisk oil and next 4 ingredients in small bowl to blend. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.
Add chopped mango, cucumber, 4 tablespoons green onions, and 1/4 cup dressing to quinoa; toss to coat. Divide spinach between 2 plates. Spoon quinoa salad over spinach. Garnish with mango spears and 1 tablespoon green onions. Drizzle with remaining dressing; serve.
To chop a mango:
Cut mango in half lengthwise, slicing around the pit. Cut a half-inch grid into flesh of each half. Using your thumbs, push up skin side so cubes stick out. Slice off cubes at base.