Enjoy the freshest local produce—and be part of something good. Red Tomato is proud to bring you the best of the region’s bounty, picked at peak ripeness and naturally packed with the intense flavor and good nutrition that comes from healthy soil, clean water and warm sunshine. Better still, Red Tomato’s delicious and nourishing produce is grown using sustainable, ecological practices by hands-in-the-earth farmers who really care about the land. So when you pick Red Tomato, you’re choosing the freshest, juiciest fruits and vegetables—and helping to build a better, smarter food system. That’s what righteous produce is all about!
A leafy green that packs a punch!
Variously called “rocket” by the British and Australians, “roquette” by the French, and “rucola” by the Italians, arugula is native to the Mediterranean region, where it was once believed to have aphrodisiac qualities by the ancient Romans and Egyptians. Still a favorite in Italian dishes, arugula’s peppery, mustard-like flavor tastes best when eaten raw (a classic example being light salad with shaved parmesan) or slightly cooked (topping a prosciutto pizza fresh out of the oven). Full of vitamins A and C, and iron, arugula is a bright addition to any summer meal, pairing well with a wide variety of food, from pasta to seafood to fresh veggies.
Choose bright or deep green leaves with no sign of wilting. Smaller leaves generally have a milder flavor than larger leaves, and arugula grown in the field (versus a greenhouse) will have a stronger flavor. Wash well to remove any sand or dirt, and cut off stems and any yellowed leaves before eating. Store arugula in the crisper wrapped in a damp paper towel, inside a slightly open plastic bag, and use within 1-2 days.
This harbinger of summer signals a season of bounty with its bright and grassy-green flavor.
Best eaten when fresh, local asparagus will waken the taste buds of localvores who have been lulled into routine by the depths of winter. Often one of the first crops to come into season, asparagus, a relative of the lily family, comes in 300 varieties, and can be green, white and purple. For about six weeks each spring, spears emerge and can grow as much as 10 inches a day under ideal conditions. Left alone and given its druthers, an asparagus plant would grow tall and boast fern or dill-like leaves and red berries and the stems would toughen and get woody. Get them while they are fresh, and you won’t be disappointed. Good on the grill, steamed or roasted, asparagus will brighten the room through May showers.
The jury is still out on which to choose – slender or chunky stalks as both will be deliciously flavorful if they are crisp and heavy. Avoid stalks with bruising, dry spots, splits or wrinkles. Tips should be tight and bright green. Store no longer than 2 days in the refrigerator. To prepare, snap off the ends of stalks, they can be woody, and peel lightly to the tip.
The ‘king of herbs’, Basil is a great complement to a variety of dishes.
As a member of the mint family, basil is a most refreshing herb. Originating in India and finding its true calling in the Mediterranean, basil is a superb complement to vegetables, cheeses, meats, and even desserts. Grown many ways by many people over the years, the ancient Greeks and Romans even believed that the only way to make basil grow was to curse at it while seeds were being planted. Thankfully the basil survived that treatment and today there are over 60 varieties each with distinct characteristics. With high levels of vitamin A and magnesium, basil is not only delicious but healthy too.
Basil can become bitter when the plant has ‘bolted’, or flowered, and should thus be harvested before this point. Avoid any basil with evidence of flowers. A bunch of basil should keep for a week in the refrigerator, or try keeping on your counter with the ends of the stalks placed in water. Excess basil can easily be frozen for storage, though it may blacken over time.
Beets – Golden, Red
Sadly stereotyped as soggy and canned, fresh beets are actually sweet, earthy, and incredibly delicious!
Beets are believed to be a vegetable from prehistory, once growing wild over vast swathes of the northern hemisphere, from Britain all the way to India. Initially just the leaves were appreciated for their taste while the roots were consigned to medicinal uses by the Romans and Greeks. Finally, in the third century AD, the roots were declared to taste “better than cabbage,” and for good reason! Beets contain more sucrose (sugar) than any other vegetable!
Now, beets of all varieties are enjoyed: recent hybrids have golden orange or white interiors, and some are layered inside with concentric rings of pink and white.
Beets can be boiled or steamed, but baking or roasting yields the sweetest, most intense flavor. Cooked beets can be used in a myriad of ways, and even thinly sliced raw beet is delicious in salads.
Buy beets with the stems and leaves attached: these should look fresh, a sign that the beets have been recently dug. Look for bulbs with smooth, unblemished, tight skin. Use leaves and stems within 2 days of purchase. Trimmed beets will keep, stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, for up to 10 days.
Competing with chickens for the best “bok”.
Chickens are not the only ones that “bok” on farms! While bok choy, or Chinese broccoli, has always been a popular ingredient in Asian stir-fries and soups, it has only entered the Western food markets recently. Its leafy greens and slender white stalks resemble celery but it is actually a relative of the cabbage family. Its stalks are also edible and taste subtly sweet and fibrous. Bok choy also provides several health benefits, such as antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, and folate. Keep an eye out for baby bok choy, which looks like a miniature version of regular bok choy, both are offered by Red Tomato. Best of all, bok choy cooks quickly and can be served separately as a side dish with a bit of soy sauce or mixed in with other vegetables, such as eggplant, to create a delicious stir fry or hearty soup.
Purchase fresh bok choy with firm stalks and vibrant, intact leaves. Refrigerate unwashed bok choy in a plastic bag for up to two days.
The misunderstood memory from childhood
Brussels sprouts…These misunderstood compact buds are in reality quite easy to prepare – and delicious too! Unlike other brassicas (think cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli), Brussels grow in clusters along the stem of a central stalk, but share the same nutritional benefits – high in vitamin C, and also a great source of fiber, iron, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamin A. Brussels require cooler climates to grow which gives them a sweeter flavor, and mean that you can find them grown locally across most regions of the United States (and of course New England). When harvested during warmer temperatures Brussels take on a bitter flavor. When preparing them, you can boil or steam the sprouts if you plan to sauté them in order parcook them. They are done when just tender!
Look for firm, verdant green, and uniformly sized sprouts, with no splitting, browning or discoloration on the outer leaves. The smaller the sprouts, the sweeter and more tender! Wrap Brussels sprouts with a paper towel and keep in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Use as quickly as possible, as the longer you keep them, the more intense the flavor.
Cabbage – Green, Red, Napa
Red and green flavorful bundles of joy!
Cabbage is an often underappreciated member of the brassica family. Many people abstain from it after one too many servings of coleslaw containing more mayonnaise than cabbage. However, its high content of vitamin K and C should be enough incentive to give it another shot. Whether you are eating purple, green, white or savoy cabbage, it is delicious cooked, pickled, and raw. Its enormous leaves cluster together to create the cabbage “head”, which resembles the shape of a human head. The individual leaves taste delicious when added to soups or salads. In the United States cabbage is most commonly served raw, finely chopped, or shredded in salads and coleslaws. Another option is to pickle cabbage in vinegar to soften the leaves and mask its bitter and waxy texture. If you must stay away from cabbage in any salad or slaw form, try coring the cabbage, stuffing it with bacon and onions, and throwing it on the grill!
Purchase firm and crisp looking cabbage. Avoid heads with browning or limp leaves. Tightly wrap cabbage in plastic and store in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Much more than a base for “Ants on a Log”!
Used in dishes around the Mediterranean dating back as early as 1000 BC, celery is a plant high in fiber, nutrients and antioxidants while low in calories. Celery is beneficial to your blood pressure–it contains a compound that is beneficial to your blood pressure, and high in blood pressure. Celery adds great texture to salads and works well in soups, and homemade stocks. Juice celery for the perfect after-workout drink, as it is high in electrolytes potassium and sodium.
From the early 1800’s to the mid 1900’s celery was considered a staple of the Thanksgiving meal. Much of the popularity is attributed to the buzz that accompanied the plants arrival to the United States, and the fact that celery was to be eaten raw – something once considered a special treat!
Celery is also featured in an episode by the show Portlandia as a humble vegetable losing its relevance. Steve Buscemi plays a desperate celery salesman willing to make deals with the “Bacon Man” to help celery get back on top!
To keep celery crisp for over two weeks, keep it at its ideal humidity. Fresh celery contains just the right amount of water; wrap it in paper towel and keep it in a plastic bag in your fridge. The plastic bag will help contain its humidity while the paper towel will prevent too much moisture, which can result in rot. Don’t store your celery stalks upright in water for extended periods of time as they will become bloated and then limp, losing their crisp.
Chard – Red, Green, Rainbow
This delicious green grows in a gorgeous rainbow of colors!
Despite its name, Swiss chard is native to the Mediterranean region. Related to the beet root, the common variety of chard has white stalks, although rainbow chard, with brightly colored stalks of red, orange, and yellow, is also popular. Many people eat only the leaves of the plant, but the stalks are edible and can be steamed or blanched to include with any dish. A simple way to cook chard is to slice the leaves and boil them for five minutes, or until tender, and drain extremely well before eating. Chard also makes an excellent filler for foods like raviolis, quiches, and casseroles, or, alternatively, whole chard leaves can be blanched and used as wraps for other fillings. Sautéed in olive oil, eaten fresh in a salad, or included in a soup, chard is a versatile green that particularly complements Mediterranean flavors like garlic, lemon, olive, or cured meats. To top it off, chard is full of healthy nutrients like folate, vitamins A, K and C, magnesium, potassium, iron, and fiber.
Choose chard with shiny, firm leaves (no wilting or yellowed leaves) and crisp, firm stalks. Store in a perforated plastic bag or wrapped in a damp paper towel in a bag in the crisper for up to 3 days. Wash well to clean off any dirt and don’t store too long, as chard is easily bruised.
One of the oldest – and most popular! – herbs in the world.
Cilantro is one of the world’s oldest herbs. It dates back some 5000 years BC and is actually one of the “bitter herbs” of the traditional Jewish Passover feast. The entire plant can be used; the seeds are dried and used as a spice known as coriander, the fresh stems and leaves are used in salads, curries, and soups, and in Southeast Asian cooking the roots are incorporated into wet spice pastes. It is so versatile in so many cuisines that it is known, in addition to its Spanish “Cilantro” as coriander, Chinese parsley, and Mexican parsley.
Cilantro does not store well, so should be used within 1-2 days or so of purchase and refrigerated in an airtight container until needed. When purchasing, look for bunches with bright green, unblemished leaves; avoid overly limp bunches or leaves with yellowing or sliminess.
Best known as a southern green, this vegetable is grown throughout the world.
Collard greens are a mild-flavored leafy vegetable and a staple of Southern cooking. Scientifically speaking, they are in the cabbage family though in taste are very similar to kale; the name “collard” is a shortened form of the word “colewort” or “cabbage plant.” They are high in vitamins A, K and C and a good source of calcium, folate, and fiber. The plant is grown for its large, edible leaves as well as a garden ornamental in countries around the world.
Choose collard greens with smooth leaves, sturdy stems and a healthy green color. Place unwashed collard greens in a paper towel and then store in a plastic bag. Place in a refrigerator and use within a week or two.
So much more than a common weed!
Most people think of dandelions as the yellow flowering weeds that run rampant in backyards and sidewalks, but a distant relative of that suburban pest is a wonderfully nutritious cooking green. Dandelion greens are full of vitamins A and K, as well as calcium and iron, and also promote good digestion, kidney and bladder function. The name dandelion is a derivation of the French phrase “dent de lion,” meaning “lion’s tooth,” which describes the jagged, long leaves of this green. With a somewhat bitter taste, dandelion greens are best sautéed or steamed and included in stir fries, soups, salads, or frittatas. They are also good raw, although cooking them diminishes the bitterness of their flavor.
Look for dandelion greens with bright green and tender leaves. They will last a few days if kept in a plastic bag in the crisper of the refrigerator.
This soothing herb will offer summer flavor to any dish!
Did you know that dill comes from a Norse word meaning “to lull” or “to soothe”? In the Middle Ages, dill was used as a common cure for colic, and the Greeks placed dill over their eyes to fall asleep. Dill’s calming effect stems from oil in the herb that causes some relaxation of the muscles. The herb’s believed powers of relief could be the origination of its frequent use in pickling cucumbers, which are hard to digest for some. Both dill leaves and dill seeds are edible, although the leaves have a sweeter flavor similar to that of fennel or celery, while the seeds are slightly spicier. In addition to pickles, dill’s clean flavor also pairs well with raw cucumbers, as well as soups, cream sauces, potatoes, egg dishes, salad dressings, mild cheeses, and fish.
To avoid wilting, dill should be stored slightly wet, wrapped in a damp paper towel, and in a sealed bag in the crisper for up to 5 days. When dill is cooked, it can quickly lose some of its anise flavor, so it is best to add it during the final step of making a dish. Dill can also be frozen for up to 8 weeks; while the flavor will diminish and the dill may turn a darker green, it will still be tastier than dried dill.
The prickly vegetable that grows in the dark.
When ordering salads in upscale restaurants, sometimes the lettuce looks mangled. This thin, pale, and ragged lettuce is actually a premium green that is quite challenging to grow. Unlike most vegetables, endives grow in dark, cool, and humid places. The end result is a delicious, bitter, and mildly spicy lettuce that is often called “frisée” or “blanched curly white endive”. If endives grow in sunlight, they resemble miniature Romaine hearts with a slightly sweet and nutty flavor and are typically called “endive spears”. Even though most varieties grow in the dark, endives are still nutrient dense in vitamin K and A. Considering how strange this member of the compositae family is, its preparation in meals is surprisingly simple. All types of endives can be eaten raw in salads. Endive spears can be used to serve other food, similar to peanut butter on celery sticks. Add one heaping teaspoon of your favorite tuna fish, smoked salmon, or quinoa salad onto an endive spear as a delightful finger food appetizer.
Purchase curly endive and endive spears that are bright, fresh, and unwilted. Select frisée that is pale green and crisp and preferably sold on ice. Store all types of endives in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to five days.
It looks like lettuce, but this leafy veggie can be served hot or cold.
Escarole, a variety of endive (another bitter-tasting green), was first grown nearly 5,000 years ago and used by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans as a salad vegetable. It was also considered medicinal, thought to help with digestion. Escarole looks very much like butterhead lettuce but the leaves are fleshier, with jagged, pointy edges versus the softer ruffle of lettuce. It has a nutty, somewhat bitter taste that becomes progressively mellower towards the inner leaves. This green makes a flavorful, textural addition to salads and sandwiches as well as hot dishes; braising in particular brings out the best in its flavor. It is an excellent source of folate, vitamins A and C, iron, magnesium, potassium, thiamin, and riboflavin.
Escarole should be stored in the refrigerator and used within a week.
Alternately shunned and revered throughout history, garlic is now firmly established as an essential cooking staple.
For years, garlic was used only medicinally or as a food for the poor, but now the notion of cooking without garlic is near inconceivable; its sweet pungency adds an incomparable flavor to cuisines worldwide. Indeed, near-mystical powers have been attributed to garlic, from Eleanor Roosevelt who consumed chocolate-coated garlic pills every morning to help her memory, to Pliny the Elder who mixed garlic with wine and spices to improve his manly vigor. The Central Europeans and Indians even used garlic to ward off demons and vampires.
One subspecies of garlic is Hardneck, a category that includes Rocambole, Porcelain, and Purple Stripe. Hardnecks are recognizable by their hard central stalk and the uniformity of the cloves. They also have less of an outer bulb wrapper which makes them more sensitive and reduces their shelf life.
in a loosely wrapped plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Or, cut into pieces and freeze for six months.
These curly stalks are garlic’s mild-mannered offspring.
Garlic scapes are the immature flower stalks of garlic plants. Long, thin, and pliable, they are often removed to facilitate the growth of the garlic bulb and sold separately. The tenderness and mildness of scapes make them extremely versatile; use them as a tasty addition to stir-fry, pesto, scrambled eggs, pizza, soups, or anything that benefits from a subtle garlic flavor.
Store unwashed scapes in a loosely wrapped plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Or, cut into pieces and freeze for six months
Kale – Curly, Lacinato
What it lacks in tenderness it makes up for in nutrients!
Kale is said to have originated from curly-leafed cabbage, now known as Sabellian kale, which grew in Greece in the fourth century BC. It gained much popularity over time, becoming one of the most common green vegetables in all of Europe. Eventually, in the 19th century, Russian traders introduced kale into Canada, and then into the United States. Today there are many kale varieties with a spectrum of leaf shapes and colors which range from light through dark green and violet-green to violet-brown.
Kale has more nutritional value for fewer calories than almost any other food around, containing extremely high levels of vitamins K, A, and C, as well as the phytochemical lutein which helps protect the eyes.
Place unwashed kale in a plastic bag and keep it in the vegetable crisper of your refrigerator for up to a week. Bear in mind, however, the taste becomes stronger with prolonged storage. For extended preservation, wash and dry kale well. Mince or chop by hand or in a food processor. Place kale in a bag or container and freeze. Minced, frozen kale can be used just like raw kale since it thaws almost instantly.
Lettuce – Boston, Red Leaf, Green Leaf
Lettuces, of which there are many, many varieties, originated in Asia Minor and have been eaten raw or cooked since the fifth century.
Members of the sunflower family, lettuces are almost 95% water. The other 5% however, contains high concentrations of vitamins A and C, betacarotene, folate and calcium. There are four types of lettuce: butterhead, crisphead, looseleaf and romaine. Boston lettuce is a prime example of a butterhead with small, round, loose heads and buttery soft leaves. The most famous crisphead, Iceburg lettuce exemplifies this kind of veggie with crisp, tightly wrapped leaves that are pale in color. Red and green leaf lettuce are both looseleaf varieties, featuring tender, delicate leaves that branch from a single stalk. Looseleaf lettuces vary widely in color; for example Cherokee lettuce has dark plumy red leaves. Romaine lettuce is possibly the most popular variety in the United States. Well known for its starring role in Caesar salad, Romaine has crisp leaves that form an oblong head of lettuce. Hearts are often sold separately. Baby lettuces are exactly what they seem; young lettuce plants harvested just at the moment of maximum tenderness and flavor.
Store whole heads in plastic bags in the refrigerator. Crispheads and Romaine will last up to a week while butter heads and looseleaf lettuces will only keep for three or four days. To refresh wilted lettuce or wash leaves in advance, rinse in a sink or large bowl with cold water. Drain and dry in small batches, in a salad spinner if you have one, and refrigerate the clean leaves between towels in a plastic bag or airtight container.
Lettuce – Romaine
Romaine lettuce is a staple of a snappy summer salad, discovered by the Romans on the Greek Island of Cos.
Sometimes referred to as Cos lettuce, Romaine boasts layers of crisp, elongated leaves which are supported by a distinctive rib that spans their length. The leaves range in color from deep green to red or bronze. With 5,000 years of history, this classic vegetable may be the oldest variety of cultivated lettuce. And for good reason! With a subtle sweet and sometimes nutty flavor, Romaine lettuce can be paired easily with most salad fixings. Most known for its staring role in the Caesar salad, this hearty lettuce has the spine to support even the creamiest of dressings. The core of a head of Romaine contains the smallest, crispiest, and most tender leaves, which are sold on their own as Romaine Hearts. Red Tomato Romaine Hearts and heads are picked, packed and chilled the day before delivery. In New England, Romaine rings in summer as the first type of lettuce that is available locally.
Certified organic Red Tomato Romaine may be available at your local retailer.
Store unwashed, whole heads in the refrigerator, in a plastic bag to retain natural moisture and maximum nutrients. Romaine hearts and heads will keep for up to one week. To wash, rinse, never soak, before using and set to dry on a clean tea towel or give your Romaine a twirl in a salad spinner.
Don’t call me a sprout.
Yes, they have a bit of a foofoo reputation; more vegan cafe than mama’s kitchen. And yes, they are pricey little vegetable greens, compared to their full-sized kin. But microgreens are becoming ever more popular for good reason: studies by the USDA Agricultural Research Service found that microgreens contain about five times more vitamins and carotenoids than mature vegetables. They make a tasty, crunchy addition to many dishes, especially sandwiches and salads.
Microgreens are immature plants harvested within about two weeks of sprouting. Common vegetables eaten as microgreens include arugula, sunflower, cilantro, kale, mustard, chard, cabbage, radish, beet, and peas, though that list is not nearly exhaustive. Often several different varieties are tossed together to make microgreens mixes, combining complementary flavors, nutrients or both. Microgreens tend towards spicy or zesty flavors, since they are mostly used as an addition to a dish.
Sprouts and baby greens are easily confused with microgreens, but each has defining differences. Sprouts are seeds sprouted in wet and dark conditions; the entire plant – seed, root and stem – is eaten. Sprouts do not develop the same intensity of color or flavor of microgreens due to their growing conditions. Baby greens are more developed plants than microgreens, though still harvested when immature. Though there’s no official distinction between baby and micro, growers usually base it on leaf development. Microgreens have fully developed cotyledons (the two small leaves, contained in the seed embryo, that first emerge after germination) and may also have their first true leaves. Baby greens will always have true leaves.
Use microgreens similarly to herbs. They add interesting taste and a nutritional boost to whatever you may be eating. Microgreens also make a great salad green just on their own. Eat them raw to avoid losing water-soluble nutrients.
Keep in the refrigerator in a dry, airtight container with a paper towel. Eat as soon as possible; within a week if stored well.
Spice up your cooking with the cool flavor of mint!
While most people are familiar with the common varieties of spearmint and peppermint, there are over 600 existing varieties of mint. The Romans may have been the first to use mint as an ingredient in cooking, but they also found other uses for it, like spreading the leaves in their homes to keep away pests. Mint is a very popular ingredient in Asian and Middle Eastern cooking, given how it complements many of the primary flavors of those cuisines. Mint is also commonly used in desserts and drinks, fitting in especially well during hot summer months (think mint ice cream, mint lemonade, or mint juleps). Spearmint and peppermint remain the most commonly used varieties; peppermint has a stronger flavor, but spearmint has more versatility in the kitchen. Peppermint leaves are squat with jagged edges, and spearmint leaves are longer (spearlike, in fact!) with a more crinkled appearance.
Choose bunches of mint that are bright green, and store wrapped in a damp paper towel in a loosely closed plastic bag in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Note that the cool flavor of mint comes from the oil menthol, so cut or tear at the last possible moment to avoid losing that crisp flavor.
Mother of the world’s favorite condiment– it’s got to be good.
Most Americans slather their sandwiches in mustard without ever pondering where the condiment comes from. The mustard plant is a member of the Brassica family. It has a long and thin stem, wide dark green, serrated leaves, and delicate yellow flowers. While the mustard plant is best known for its ground up seeds, the leaves are also edible and delicious! Fresh mustard greens enliven any salad with their sharp peppery flavor, and they add a dash of spice when sautéed in stir-fries. When steamed, these greens are believed to help lower cholesterol levels. Mustard greens are most likely harvested during the fall and spring. They are also a substantial source of protein, so be sure to add mustard greens to all of your favorite recipes!
Since mustard greens shrink when cooked, buy one bunch for every two people. Purchase mustard greens that look fresh and crisp, and avoid bunches that smell too pungently or have wilted leaves. It is normal for mustard greens to be slightly brown. Wash greens and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to five days.
Onions – Cippolini, Red, Yellow
So delicious, they may bring a tear to your eye
Dating back to prehistoric times, the onion likely originated in Asia, but is now widely cultivated and used all around the world. There are hundreds of different varieties of onions, many of which are sold by general type, instead of specific variety.
Cippolini: These smaller, flat onions may look like a pancake version of their more rotund cousins, however they are far sweeter, lending themselves well to roasting and caramelization. Of Italian origin, different varieties will have skin ranging from yellow to light brown, but won’t be as sweet as shallots. Cippolini tend to be more perishable than other varieties, and should be used with some degree of immediacy.
Red: The relative mild taste of the red onion lends itself well to being used raw – which is why you see it in many salads, dressings, fresh salsas, and on your favorite grinder. Red onions can be cooked, but don’t hold up well when making a stew or roast. Instead, opt for the more robust yellow onion.
Yellow: Almost 3/4 of all onions used fall under the category of yellow onion. Those with the classic brown or yellow skin are a good all-purpose onion, and can be used interchangeably in a recipe. These onions hold up well under most cooking conditions, and can be used for stewing, frying, roasting – really anything except raw!
Onions that have started to sprout will begin to taste bitter, so look for those that are dry, firm, and have a thin skin. Looking to lessen the tears during cutting? The only thing the cooking community seems to agree on is using the sharpest knife you have (in order to damage the cells of the onion less), and to refrigerate onions for a few minutes before chopping.
Onions of all varieties can store well, but keeping them in a woven bag or metal basket in a cool, dark area with good ventilation will help ward off rot. Avoid storing onions with potato’s or in other places of high moisture, as this can cause the onions to spoil.
Not just a pizza topping.
The Greeks so cherished this herb that they named it oregano, or “joy of the mountain.” World War II veterans agreed, sparking demand for the “pizza herb” once back in the states. Maybe best known as a pizza spice, oregano has a wide range of culinary and medicinal uses.
Beyond pizza, oregano is most commonly paired with roasted meat, fish and vegetables in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines. Turkish kebab restaurants usually keep some dried oregano on the table, just like your local pizza joint. Oregano has a zesty, pungent, slightly sweet flavor with a strong aroma when dried or in cooking. It pairs well with tomatoes, which have the sweet acidity to match oregano’s floral pungency.
Oregano has antiseptic properties, and has been used for centuries to treat bacterial infections of the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems.
Mexican oregano is similar to oregano, but of a different plant family. Mexican oregano is stronger flavored and less floral, making it an easier pair with spicy foods.
Fresh Red Tomato oregano brings new life to dishes tired from the standard dried stuff. Add it to your cooking today! Or do as the Romans and Greeks did: fashion oregano laurels for the bride and groom, or just to wear around the house.
Keep fresh oregano on your counter, with the stems submerged in a glass of water. Do not wash until just before use. Dried oregano should be kept in an airtight container in a dark, cool place.
Parsley – Flat, Curly
This familiar herb enhances savory food worldwide, from the Mediterranean to France.
Parsley, which is native to the Mediterranean, must surely be one of the world’s most versatile and well-used herbs – there are few savory dishes that do not benefit from its clean, grassy flavor and vivid green appearance. There are two main culinary varieties of this herb: curly-leafed parsley and flat-leafed Italian parsley. The latter has a stronger flavor, but the two are more or less interchangeable. Parsley is one of the most nutritious herbs, containing large quantities of vitamins A and C, as well as significant amounts of potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron. Even the Romans, who ate parsley, knew it was very good for them; believing it relieved drunkenness, they placed bouquets of the herb on the banqueting table to absorb “wine vapors.”
Curly-leafed parsley needs thorough washing to remove any trapped dirt and can be washed and then dried in a salad spinner. Store parsley with its stalks in a container of water in the refrigerator and with a plastic bag sealing the cup and leaves. It can also be stored wrapped in damp paper towels, then loosely sealed in a plastic bag. It will keep for about 4 days.
Spicing things up since the Ancient Greece.
Radishes grow in all colors and sizes. The most common radishes are small bright red fireballs that pack a strong punch of spice! There is also a less common winter black variety, which is larger and shaped like a light bulb. Radishes are root vegetables and members of the Brassica family. Their flavor is a mixture between mustard greens and jicama. In every crisp bite you can also detect subtle earthy notes, which remind you that these spicy spheres develop underground! Radishes are a cool weather crop and are easy to cultivate in most climates. Considering that societies have eaten radishes since Ancient Greece, our methods of preparation remain astonishingly simple. Radishes are usually eaten in raw slivers or whole dipped in honey, but they can also be steamed, pickled, roasted or sautéed. This versatile vegetable complements refreshing salads and robust roasts. Best of all, instead of sipping on imported orange juice when you feel a cold coming on, chomp down on some radishes for your vitamin C fix!
Purchase bright, firm, and blemish and crack free radishes. It is preferable to buy radishes with their tops attached, and they too should look crisp and fresh. At home, remove the tops, place in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Pucker up for this vegetable in fruit’s clothing!
Cultivated in China as a medicinal crop, rhubarb became an important European commodity by the 17th century when it out priced such highly valuable crops as cinnamon and opium. Varieties destined for the plate were developed as ingredients for savory meat stews and drinks in the Middle East. The 19th century brought rhubarb to New England and into many of the desserts that we treasure today. The tangy, earthy flavor of rhubarb is well paired with strawberries or raspberries, citrus, cinnamon and honey. In climates with cold winters and cool growing season, rhubarb is a hearty field crop that suffers little from pest damage or disease. This quirky vegetable, is usually the first “fruit” of the season. Rhubarb ranges in color from deep ruby red to a mossy green. Color does not indicate ripeness or quality—merely offers colorful diversity to its fans.
Rhubarb should not be sold with its leaves because they contain high concentrations of oxalic acid which is poisonous to people. The stalks contain significantly lower levels but to avoid any health risk, it should never be consumed raw. Choose stalks that are firm with a glossy finish. Avoid any thick stalks, as they may be fibrous or tough. Trim off any leaves before wrapping in plastic and storing in the refrigerator for up to a week. Trim off any rough edges or brown spots before cooking.
Add some fragrance to your favorite dish.
Shakespeare’s character Ophelia reminds us that it’s for remembrance. How else can we use rosemary? Well, it’s also said to promote hair growth when applied to the scalp… but we at Red Tomato are more interested in its culinary uses.
Rosemary is a highly fragrant perennial herb with small evergreen needles. Its flavor is richly pine-like and somewhat astringent, which serves as a unique contribution to savory dishes. Fresh rosemary is predominantly used in two ways: as individual leaves added to a dish, or as a whole sprig which is removed prior to serving.
Try rosemary with roasted meats, especially lamb, turkey and chicken. Roasted potatoes also benefit from a sprig of rosemary or a smattering of its leaves. Or infuse a sprig or two into a bottle of olive oil for dunking bread or topping salads.
However you use it, try to find farm fresh rosemary for an upgrade over the dried herb in a jar.
Keep rosemary in the refrigerator, wrapped loosely in a warmer zone, such as on the door. Do not rinse until just before using.
Less lauded today than in history, but still a valuable ingredient.
Sage enjoyed a lofty reputation in the Middle Ages, when it was used to treat a variety of ailments, burned to ward off evil and grown abundantly in monastery herb gardens.
Popular in Britain, sage is included in some European and Middle Eastern cuisines. Traditionally sage and onion flavor the stuffing served alongside roast fowl on Thanksgiving and Christmas in America and the UK. Sage leaves accompany roast fish and meats well, lending them a soft, sweet flavor. Try adding a few leaves to cream or tomato sauces too.
Sage has a soft, delicate flavor that is best added toward the end of the cooking process. Doing so will allow it to lend its best contribution to your dish.
Wrap fresh sage leaves with a damp paper towel and store in your refrigerator. Alternately, place in a small container on your counter with the stems submerged in water. The leaves should keep well for up to a week. Dried sage should be kept in an airtight container in a dark, cool place.
Made famous by comic strip character Popeye, spinach is now best known for its nutritional value and culinary versatility.
Eaten since antiquity, spinach is thought to have originated in the temperate climes of ancient Persia, where it is still eaten in vast quantities as an integral part of the modern-day Iranian diet. Indeed, in the Arab world, spinach is considered the “prince of vegetables.” From Persia, spinach traveled eastward to China. The Moors took spinach with them to Spain in the twelfth century, but it did not really find favor in Europe until the sixteenth century. It is an excellent source of vitamin C, betacarotene, folate, and calcium.
When buying bunches of spinach, look for those with broad, spade-shaped, jade leaves and undamaged stems. Spinach needs to be washed carefully in several changes of cold water to eliminate any muddy residue; first remove all the leaves and discard the stalks. A delicate green, prone to bruising and other leaf damage, spinach shouldn’t be stored for longer than two days in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
A summer favorite the world round, strawberries have captivated the palates of French Kings like Charles V, who had 5,000 strawberry plants in his garden at the Louvre as well as Native Americans who mixed crushed berries with cornmeal to make strawberry bread.
A member of the rose family, strawberries have a sweet, floral flavor that pairs well with chocolate, citrus, red wine and sweet vinegars. Far from being a guilty pleasure, these berries also contain more Vitamin C than oranges, high counts of folic acid and potassium, and ellagic acid – a cancer fighting compound. Strawberries are fragile to ship, delicate to grow and will only fully ripen on the vine. For that reason, they are at their best eaten straight from the field, warmed from the summer sun and slightly gritty with organic soil. Local berries in the store, or market, are a close second.
Red Tomato strawberry growers have been working steadily to eliminate organophosphate pesticides (OP’s) in their production. Our strawberry producers have also eliminated the use of another group of pesticides of concern: methyl bromide and methyl iodide.
When choosing strawberries, select only those that are plump and dark in color. Avoid berries with bruises, large green or white patches or moldy spots. Ripe, unwashed berries, can be covered loosely with plastic and stored in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. Be sure that they are not crowded in their container and that any soft berries are removed before storing. Before eating, bring the berries back to room temperature, rinse with cold water, and dry in a single layer on a clean towel.
Tangerines – Ojai Pixies
Sweet and seedless, Ojai Pixies are just the flavor explosion you’ve been looking for to brighten up your winter.
In the peak of winter, when fresh and local can be hard to come by, Red Tomato has teamed up with a network of 40+ family farmers in the Ojai Valley of California to find new markets for their uniquely sweet, seedless, and darn tasty Ojai Pixie tangerines. Pixies, a variety rarely seen on the East coast, were recently named to Slow Foods Ark of Taste catalog of over 200 delicious foods in danger of extinction. Always seedless and easy to peel, Ojai Pixies are picked at the peak of ripeness, which makes them stand out for their complex citrus flavor and mouthwatering sweetness.
For more information on the Ojai Pixies and the farmers who grow them, please visit their website.
Choose firm to semi-soft tangerines with deep orange color, heavy for size. Avoid soft spots and dull or brown color. Refrigerate tangerines for up to 2 weeks.
This “dragon herb” packs a monster flavor.
Have you been bitten by a dragon recently? Try tarragon for your wound. Also called Herbe au Dragon in France, tarragon has been used to treat a variety of bites and stings through the ages. Did we mention that Red Tomato is not officially licensed to offer medical advice?
Tarragon is a staple of French kitchen gardens. Bearnaise sauce, a derivation of Hollandaise, is a well known vessel for tarragon leaves. The herb pairs well with fish, chicken, eggs, mushrooms and vegetables. Be sparing in use; fresh tarragon leaves have a strong flavor which can overwhelm dishes.
A traditional use of tarragon is in the preparation of tarragon vinegar, an infusion of fresh tarragon leaves in the best white wine vinegar. Similarly, tarragon is a common pickling spice.
There is also a Russian variety, which is less aromatic and a bit harsher in taste. A popular Eurasian soft drink, Tarhun, is flavored primarily by tarragon.
Fresh tarragon has an anise taste which is lost when the herb is dried. Generally, tarragon’s flavorful volatile oils dissipate during drying, making tarragon a must-try fresh herb.
To store fresh tarragon for long periods, freeze or infuse into white wine vinegar. For shorter periods of storage, keep in the refrigerator or on your counter in a glass of water. Dried tarragon should store in an airtight container in a dark, cool place.
Turnips – Purple Top
A delicious way to “turn up” the flavor in your stews and roasts.
People have been cultivating and consuming turnips long before the construction of the Egyptian Pyramids. Turnips are a dense, root vegetable with a tough exterior and soft white interior. As a member of the brassica family, this vegetable is packed with vitamin C.
Turnips are sweetest and most crisp in the fall and spring. Unfortunately, turnips get a bad reputation as bitter and tough because many people only incorporate them into meals when they remember that their turnips are sitting idly in the produce drawer of the fridge. This practice does not do the turnip justice. These mild roots are delicious and can be prepared in several different ways. Turnips can be steamed and mashed up with butter to create a delicious puree, or thinly sliced, doused in salt and olive oil, and baked for a delicious turnip chip. They also complement any roast or stew when coarsely chopped or quartered.
Ideally purchase turnips that still have greens attached. They should feel firm and appear blemish-free. Refrigerate turnips in a plastic bag and consume within four days of purchase.