Friday, April 27, 2012

Produce notes from Allen....72 local items!

Here are a few questions submitted by members:

"What is Kale good for?" 

I told her that the value of a food is found in what is important to the eater.  I told her various uses and she repeated, "What is Kale good for?"  Since I think that food is good for eating, and don't think of the health applications of one vegetable over another, I didn't realize right away that she was asking about the benefits of Kale eating.  I told her about vitamins A and C, and fiber, and she then said, "I eat Collards; why should I eat Kale?" I told her that I believed that they were nutritionally fairly equivalent, that she might like to try something different.  She said "You haven't convinced me; I'm sticking with Collards".  I wasn't trying to convince her.  I do believe that you can't go wrong eating vegetables and if you are choosing between vegetables, you really can't go wrong.

"Why are we buying Pears individually wrapped in paper?  Is this really the best packaging?  I'd really like to know."

Nearly 100% of all delicate skin Pears, east or west coast, North or South America, come wrapped in tissue paper (or bagged in plastic).  One consistent exception is that none of our locally grown Pears (the minimally treated ones from Hepworth Farm) are ever individually wrapped.  We buy these local pears from late summer until early winter.  Even during that time nearly 100% of the organic Pears that we buy will be wrapped in paper.  Another exception to individually wrapping is the Bosc variety, often shipped unwrapped because of its thicker skin.  Most Pears are thin skinned, unlike Apples, so the saying that "one rotten Apple can spoil the whole barrel" should really have been said about Pears.  This practice is probably more than a century old.  There are stories of people lining up at their grocer during the depression hoping that their grocer will give them the tissue papers that Pears were wrapped in, toilet paper being unaffordable for so many.  The wrappers from Cactus Pears were reserved for their least favorite customers.

"What is a new potato? Are red potatoes the same as new potatoes?"

Writers about food and authors of recipes are often confused, and confusing, about this.  No wonder that so many people are.  Very often, when you find New Potatoes on a menu, or in a cookbook, what really is being referred to is small Red Potatoes.  In fact, any freshly dug Potato, early in the harvest, red or not, is a New Potato.  That Potato may be harvested when the tuber is immature, and the skin still thin and flaky.  One key characteristic of New Potatoes is that they are very moist, making them unsuitable for baking or frying.  Another is that their sugar content is higher, the sugar not yet having converted to starch as much as it will when they age.  Just as puppies are baby dogs, not a type of dog, New Potatoes are young Potatoes, not a type.  As such, New Potatoes are available from spring into early summer.  At the coop we are eating the last of last year's crop, and will soon have the first of this year's new crop.  They will all be new, but they won't all be small or red.

Allen Zimmerman - Produce Buyer - General Coordinator