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!
Ranging from warm yellow to bright orange, ripe apricots taste exactly of their color.
The apricot season on the East Coast is very short, ranging from late June through early August. Apricots prefer climates with cold winters to bring about dormancy in the plants but flower early in the spring, causing them to be susceptible to spring frosts. Closely related to peaches and plums, apricots are small and juicy fruits with velvety skin (much like a peach without the fuzz). Apricots are high in anti-oxidants, beta carotene and fiber, making them the ideal snack!
Apricots taste best when tree-ripened–look for locally grown apricots that haven’t had to travel far distances to reach the grocery store. Apricots without any green—all orange or with just a blush of red– are ideal. Green apricots have been picked too early and likely will not ripen. Ripe apricots will be firm to the touch with a little give. Perfectly ripe apricots are very easy to eat–twist gently at their “seam” and they will split in half. If you’ve missed the ideal eating window don’t despair, use them in sauces, baked goods or anything that needs moisture and extra flavor!
Ripe apricots can store in the vegetable crisper for 2-3 days. Place unripe fruit in a paper bag with the top folded and down and leave to ripen. Otherwise store slightly unripe apricots at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, for up to 5 days.
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.
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.
Beans – Green, Wax
Green beans aren’t always green.
The green bean, also called string bean or snap bean, proudly sports a rich palette that ranges from a deep plumy purple to mottled cream and rust. Haricot verts are the French alter ego for this lanky legume, which are picked when the pods are between one and two inches long. The green in green bean actually refers to the vegetable being immature at harvest and not the color of the pod. This bean is one of the only members of its family that is consumed fresh, and the only one that is eaten pod and all. Fresh beans should be crisp and snap easily when bent. Cullinarily speaking, however, they are a most versatile vegetable. Steamed, sautéed, roasted, shredded, hot, cold, battered and fried, fried as chips or as the foundation of a casserole, green beans can go with virtually any meal.
Certified organic Red Tomato green beans may be available at your local retailer.
Green beans, green or not, should be firm with no bruises or dents and have a skin like peach fuzz. Store washed beans in the refrigerator, in a plastic bag or container, for up to four days. Remove stems and side strings just before eating.
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.
Blueberries are one of the few fruits which are native to the Northeast.
Delicate and difficult to pick, these tiny fruits make up for all the effort with each berry burst of dark, sweet juice laced with hints of lemon. In the wild, blueberries come in two varieties: low and high bush. Low bush plants cover the ground and due to the small size of the berries must be harvested by hand. High bush bear larger fruit making them slightly easier to harvest. The first cultivated varieties were developed from wild high bush plants by the daughter of a New Jersey cranberry grower in the 1900s. Considered a nutritional super food, blueberries contain high levels of cholesterol-lowering compounds, antioxidants, vitamin C, potassium, folate and dietary fiber.
Today, many varieties of blueberries are available at market. Those that are bred only for size, however, lack any substantial acid and can be somewhat bland. For the best flavor, keep an eye out for small berries that are dark in color. While they might be time consuming to pick, blueberries are a dream to prepare. Simply spread out the berries in a single layer, remove the stems and/or any bruised fruits, swirl the berries in a cold water bath, and spread to dry on a clean towel. Unwashed blueberries will keep in the refrigerator for 5-6 days and in the freezer for up to six months.
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.
This stately ambassador to healthy eating was prized by the Romans for its ability to green soups and stews.
Stellar in soups, under cheese sauce or raw in salads, broccoli shuns glitz and glamour in the face of consistent, tender buds and stems. Developed in the Mediterranean and prized for its springy, floral flavor, this toothsome member of the brassica family is more of a mealtime cast member than a seasonal extra. Unlike today’s most common varieties, crowned with tight greenish blue buds, ancient broccoli breeders prized specimens with royal purple flowers. Any way you slice it, broccoli is also a poster child for healthy eating – charged with as much calcium as a cup of milk and bursting with all kinds of vitamins and nutrients.
Certified organic Red Tomato broccoli may be available at your local retailer.
Look for broccoli heads with tight, dense buds and heavy stalks. Avoid any that trend yellow or show signs of flowering. Store broccoli in the refrigerator in a perforated or open plastic bag for three to four days. Wash right before using, as clinging water and moisture can make this sturdy veggie loose its staying power.
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.
Who knew a snowman’s nose could taste so good?
In a fantasy Academy Awards ceremony for produce, the carrot would be nominated as Best Supporting Vegetable. While not always taking the starring role, carrots play nice with almost everyone. Consider some of the carrot’s more famous roles: one leg in the tripod supporting much of French cuisine, mirepoix; most people’s first choice on your typical raw veggie platter; favorite food of America’s favorite bunny; and the odd-yet-perfect root vegetable that works well in a cake.
The benefits of eating carrots are well publicized. The poster child for beta-carotene, carrots provide nutrients that protect eyesight as you age. The polyacetylenes in carrots are thought to help inhibit the growth of cancer cells in the colon. And they are packed with vitamin A, antioxidants, and other vitamins and minerals.
Carrots are distinctively sweet, with a floral aroma. They are a widely versatile ingredient, capable of flavoring everything from stews to cakes, and work well raw or cooked in most any fashion. Carrots are available in many colors, but the well known orange carrot is by far the most popular.
Baby carrots, the carrot’s pipsqueak cousins, can either be just that — baby carrots — or more often “baby-cut” carrots, which are fully grown, sometimes imperfect carrots cut down and rounded off to shape.
Carrot greens should be removed (they’re edible though!). Unwashed carrots store well, for several months, in a cool (38-40 degrees), moist place.
Once the food of kings, cauliflower rewards a delicate touch with nourishing and toothsome dishes.
Originally cultivated in the Middle East, cauliflower is well loved by chefs and eaters alike from India to France. Cauliflower is a near cousin to broccoli but is significantly more sensitive and requires the delicate touch of an experienced farmer. Made up of tightly clustered flower buds, known as curds, this emissary of the brassica family, does well in curries and stews. More recent recipes invite cauliflower to stand in for potatoes to reinvent gratins and creamy mashes. While most varieties are white (purple, yellow and green sorts are just gaining speed) don’t be fooled by its pale color, cauliflower rivals citrus fruits in vitamin C and other cancer fighting antioxidants.
Like broccoli, look for heads with tight, dense buds and heavy stalks. Leaves should be green and firmly attached. Store, stem side down, in the refrigerator for up to five days. Older heads may show black spotting from spoilage or water damage. In general, cool lightly or until just tender, if cooked too long cauliflower can release photochemicals that have an odor reminiscent of sulphur. Likewise, if cauliflower is cooked in cast iron or aluminum cookware the florets can take on a brownish hue.
The ugly duckling of root vegetables.
Your mother told you never to judge a book by its cover, right? The next time you encounter celeriac is the next time to exercise that advice.
Celeriac is a knobby, globular root. Also known as celery root, it is just that — the root of a variety of celery plant grown for its tasty root rather than for the stalks. Celeriac is mostly relegated to the savory: stews, creamy soups, casseroles and mashed as you would potatoes. It tastes very much like an earthy celery, and works well in most recipes where you’d normally use a potato (better yet: use them together!).
Don’t let celeriac’s knobbiness faze you. Remove the funky exterior with a strong peeler or a sharp paring knife to reveal its creamy off-white flesh. From there, culinary options abound. You’ll feel all the better about your celeriac-filled meal, as if you’ve fought off an vegetative ogre to earn it.
Unwashed celeriac stores well for several months if you remove the stems. Keep it in a dark, cold (32-40 degrees) place, like a root cellar or vegetable drawer in the refrigerator.
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.
Cherries – Tart
Cherries are the prima donnas of the stone fruit family.
In a time when many fruits are grown year-round, cherries remain persistently seasonal and sensitive to the elements. A late rain or a frost during the spring bloom period can eliminate entire harvests. A good harvest of juicy sweet cherries or plump sour cherries will make the most callous fans forget the travails of seasons past. Cherries vary in color from purple black to creamy white with a rosy blush. Nutritionally speaking, cherries are loaded with cancer-fighting antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds and melatonin, which helps regulate the body’s internal clock. Tart cherries are smaller and best appreciated in sweet treats like pie or jam. Fresh from the tree, pickled, canned, baked, dried or preserved, cherries are a culinary gem.
When selecting cherries, take the time to find only the firmest, plumpest, shiniest fruits. Avoid cherries with dry, brown stems, bruises, cuts or moldy spots. Cherries are highly perishable and must be kept cool until eating. Sour cherries will keep for up to two weeks. All varieties can be frozen successfully.
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.
Invite your sweet tooth to dinner and celebrate the dog days with a couple rounds of corn on the cob.
The fresher, the better! Sweet corn contains a greater ratio of sugar to starch than any other vegetable but those sugars don’t stick around – up to 25% can be lost in the first 24 hours after harvest. Corn has been staple of the Americas for countless centuries. In fact, fossilized remains of corn have been dated back 80,000 years old. One of the three sisters (corn, beans, squash), corn was at the center of Native American agrarian society. Second only to rice, in worldwide cultivation, corn comes in five primary varieties and sweet corn is the most popular. The kernels, each a solitary burst of sweet, are generally yellow or white or a mixture thereof. When corn is in season, it is a welcome addition to almost any summer recipe. Hot or cold, dried or fried – sweet corn reins supreme when the dog days of summer stroll by.
Select ears of corn that are bright in color and feel firm and perky in your hand. Silks should be slightly sticky — never dry or brittle. Avoid ears with yellowing husks or that feel light for their size. Store in the refrigerator for up to two days.
Belonging to the same botanical family as melons and gourds, cucumbers evoke visions of summer. Choose carefully and your taste buds will be rewarded by the herbal, sweet flavor of a well-raised cucumber.
Cucumbers, like tomatoes, have been the victims of modern cultivation practices which dictate that they be uniform in size but often lacking in flavor. Luckily, far-ranging cucumber varieties do exist, from one-inch gherkins to mammoth 20-inch English “telegraphs,” in an assortment of colors and shapes. Cucumbers contain silica, an essential component of healthy connective tissue. Because it is so good for the skin, cucumber has been used for centuries to treat dermatitis, sunburn, and eye-swelling. In addition, it contains significant amounts of ascorbic and caffeic acids, meaning that despite its largely watery composition, it is helpful in preventing fluid retention.
Select cucumbers that are heavy for their size, firm, and unblemished. Bypass those that show softness or wrinkling on the ends, or yellowing. Store unwashed cucumbers in the vegetable crisper, rather than the coldest part of the refrigerator, in a ventilated plastic bag.
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.
This East Asian native has been a vital source of protein for over 5,000 years.
Edamame, or soybeans, were first grown in China but the word “Edamame” is Japanese, meaning “branched bean.” Today soybeans are grown both for their sweet, delicately-flavored seeds and for other uses including tofu, miso, soy milk, and soy sauce. Soybean crops are also used widely for animal feed as well as nitrogen-fixing cover crops.
The soybean is the only vegetable to contain all nine essential amino acids, making it a source of complete protein. In fact, soybeans can produce up to fifteen times more protein per acre than land set aside for meat production. Other nutrients include antioxidants, phytochemicals, essential fatty acids, calcium, and B vitamins.
Fresh soybeans should have bright green pods with healthy-looking furry down. Avoid those that look dried, withered, or whose seeds rattle when the pods are shaken. Refrigerate in a ventilated plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Whole pods can also be frozen.
Eggplant – Italian, Heirloom
This once maligned veggie fruit, is now a prize ingredient in five-star recipes hailing from China to the Mediterranean.
From green to white, to purple and fuschia graffiti, modern eggplant has come a long way from its ancient reputation as a poisonous wolf in sheep’s clothing from the Nightshade family. Turkish cooks claim an authoritative status on the topic of eggplant, with over 1,000 recipes to choose from. French, Italian and Spanish gourmands are not far off with eggplant dishes known world wide for their rich meaty texture and sweet, subtle flavor. Eggplant can be enjoyed roasted, whole or cubed, grilled, sautéed, or baked but never raw. Traditional preparation calls for cutting, salting, and rinsing pieces or slices before cooking. Food scientists believe that salting collapses air pockets making the flesh less likely to absorb oil when cooked.
Red Tomato varieties include Dancer (Purple), Beatrice (Purple), Italian (Bi-color), Prosperosa (Purple), Khandeshi (Green and White), Purple Rain (Purple and White), Listada de Gandia (Purple and White), and Ghostbuster (White).
Eggplants are best when fresh, as aging tends to make for woody flesh and a slightly bitter flavor. Look for eggplants that are firm and heavy with a tight, shiny skin. Avoid any specimens that are wrinkled, bruised or soft. Store eggplants at cool room temperature and avoid refrigeration which can cause browning and changes in the flavor.
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.
Here’s a bright idea: try a bulb of fennel.
Ever notice the bowl of candy-coated seeds at the host stand of an Indian restaurant? That’s mukhwas, an after-meal treat meant to freshen the breath and aid in digestion. Mukhwas (mukh = mouth; vas = smell) is predominantly fennel seeds.
So why eat a vegetable known as an exotic mouthwash? For the same reason we eat any vegetable: it’s delicious and healthful. Fennel packs that rare anise/licorice taste. It works well — both the bulb and foliage — raw when shaved or sliced thinly into salads. The bulb can also be grilled or roasted, both caramelizing effects which sweeten and tone down the anise flavor.
Fennel’s greatest attribute may be its storied history. The vegetable plays a part in several Greek myths, and to this day is attributed with a wide range of medicinal qualities, from improving eyesight to increasing breast milk production. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow honors fennel in his poem The Goblet of Life:Above the lowly plants it towers,
The fennel, with its yellow flowers,
And in an earlier age than ours
Was gifted with the wondrous powers,
Lost vision to restore. It gave new strength, and fearless mood;
And gladiators, fierce and rude,
Mingled it in their daily food;
And he who battled and subdued,
A wreath of fennel wore.
If that doesn’t convince you to try fennel, nothing will.
Choose fennel bulbs that are a crisp white or palest green. Fennel will keep in a refrigerator’s vegetable crisper for up to a week, though its flavor will become milder over time.
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.
Don’t worry, this bizarre plant tastes much better than it looks.
With a swollen, globe shaped stem that squats just above the ground, kohlrabi is one of the stranger plants to grace the fields of our farms. Its overall appearance resembles a turnip with protruding stalks topped by broccoli-like leaves, and its name translates from German as “cabbage turnip”. With colors ranging from green to purple, kohlrabi has a crisp sweet flavor that is great raw, or lightly steamed or sautéed. Not technically a root vegetable, the main edible part of a kohlrabi is the fleshy, swollen aboveground stem. The leaves are also edible and resemble turnip greens. Containing significant amounts of bone-building compounds calcium, iron, and phosphorous as well as Vitamins A and C, kohlrabi is definitely a case of “do not judge a book by its cover”. What it lacks in beauty, it makes up in taste!
Bigger kohlrabi have a tendency to be woody, so medium to small sized globes hold the best flavor. The leaves are edible but should be stored separately from the roots. While the leaves will only keep for a few days, once separated the root can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks.
From Roman emperors to Welsh warriors, leeks have an ancient and honorable place in vegetable history.
A member of the Allium family, the same as onions and garlic, Leeks are native to Central Asia and are now harvested across the world. Having run the gamut of culinary opinions from a delicacy for emperors to the “poor man’s asparagus” and back again, leeks are a versatile and hardy vegetable. Cold-resistant, leeks can survive freezing solid and then thawing again. Their flavor even improves after frost. Leeks are known to lower cholesterol levels as well as blood pressure, and were prized by the ancient Greeks and Romans for their throat-soothing effects. In fact the Roman emperor Nero used to eat leeks every day to maintain his singing voice! They are also a national emblem of Wales, having once been worn by Welsh soldiers in battle to distinguish themselves from the Saxons. Commonly used in soups, leeks offer a subtler and sweeter flavor than to that of onions.
Leeks can last in a refrigerator for up to one week but should be kept inside a loosely sealed plastic bag, as their odor can be absorbed by soft fruits. They should be stored with the tough green tops removed, but leaves still attached.
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.
Take a turn with this member of the cucumber family and you’ll feel like doing the Brazilian tango that shares its name.
Found in Northeastern Brazilian salads and soups, and cooked with beef dishes, the maxixe, a vegetable very similar to cucumber (Cucumis sativus), is thought to have originated in Africa or possibly the West Indies, which is why it is also known as West Indian gherkin. Its sometimes prickly skin has also lent this cuke the name Bur cucumber. Red Tomato worked with Frank Mangan and Maria Moreira of the University of Massachusetts Department of Plant, Soil and Insect Sciences to bring maxixe to neighborhoods in the Northeast, as part of their effort to increase consumer access to locally grown world crops.
Select maxixe that are firm, heavy for their size, and unblemished. Look particularly for signs of softness or wrinkles at the ends, which is an indication of aging. Store maxixe unwashed in the refrigerator in a well ventilated plastic bag. Be careful not to keep your maxixe in the coldest part of your fridge, they prefer more moderate temperatures.
Photo: Alex Galimberti, seekingsustenance.wordpress.com
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.
What do you get when you cross a peach with a plum? We’re not sure, but it’s definitely not a nectarine.
Contrary to the popular peach-plum myth, nectarines are actually smooth-skinned, fuzzless peaches. Sometimes nectarines can even grow on peach trees as naturally-mutated growths, called bud sports.
Nectarines, like their peach brethren, are yellow or white skinned and can have cling-stones or free-stones. Cling-stones are available earlier in the season, free-stones later. Nectarines should be sweet and juicy. Lyman Orchards, one of our nectarine growers, suggests choosing nectarines with a creamy or golden color, fragrant, with a firm but not hard texture. Being peaches themselves, nectarines can be used in any recipe where you’d normally use a peach.
Once picked, nectarines will become softer and juicier, but they won’t get any sweeter. Let your nose tell you if the fruit is sweet enough – you can tell by the fragrance. Pick nectarines slightly firmer than you’d like if you won’t be eating them immediately.
Fully ripe nectarines can be stored in the refrigerator for several days. Let them come to room temperature before eating for the best taste. Until nectarines are ripe, store them at room temperature, avoiding any extreme heat. Nectarines hold up well to freezing and canning too.
Embrace the challenge
When thinking about okra one typically envisions southern cooking, and doesn’t picture okra thriving in New England. However, with gaining popularity more and more are embracing the delicious addition to many dishes. Its characteristic juices can give it a gummy, almost slimy texture, which can cause serious trepidation for the okra novice. We understand, but the flavor should not be overlooked! Okra can be somewhat sweet, rumored to remind people of a mix between eggplant and asparagus. It is most common to encounter okra in southern classics such as gumbo, but its uses are wide ranging. Okra does not take long to cook; it can be steamed in 3 minutes or braised to release more of its characteristic gummy juice (used to thicken and add flavor to gumbo). When purchasing okra, look for the freshest you can find – a crisp clean snap is a good indicator. Avoid those that are dry or limp.
Okra can be stored for a few days in the crisper, but should be used as quickly as possible!
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.
Peaches – White, Yellow, Donut
When was the last time you had a soft juicy sweet tender peach? A real “kitchen-sink peach”; the kind you want to lean over a sink to eat when you bite into it and the juices burst out.
Originally cultivated in China over 2,500 years ago, the peach traveled west to Persia and was met with such enthusiasm that many assumed it was a native fruit. Once on its journey westward, the peach won over Spain and from there the Americas. There are many varieties of peach but they all share a fuzzy skin and sweet, sumptuous flesh in yellow or white. Spring and early summer peaches are most often clingstone peaches which do not give up their pit easily and are often canned or poached. Later in the peach season, freestones take the spotlight. These peaches separate nicely from the pit and can be halved or sliced for a more refined presentation. The tremendous popularity of the peach is supported by its incredible versatility. Whether they are baked, roasted, canned, macerated, sliced, grilled, pickled or fresh off the branch peaches are sheer pleasure to eat.
Our peach growers are part of the Eco Stonefruit program, using the most advanced ecological and Integrated Pest Management methods to produce delicious fruit. The orchards are certified annually by the IPM Institute of North America.
Peaches are best enjoyed when picked ripe. A ripe peach can still be hard but the sugars will have matured. Follow your nose, the aroma will call out to you when you find a ripe peach. Peaches will soften off the tree but will not continue to ripen once picked. You can soften them by placing your peaches stem side down in a dark cool room. Once, properly softened, peaches can be stored in the refrigerator for one or two days. Be sure to bring them back to room temperature before eating.
Pears – Bartlett, Bosc, Asian, Clapp
Pears have graced dessert menus the world round since the beginning of recorded history.
Pears boast sweet, buttery flesh and an unparalleled juicy texture. There are over 6,000 named pears. Some of our favorite pears include the Bartlett, Bosc and Clapp varieties. The Bartlett pear is the most widely planted pear in the United States and well renown for its soft, sweet flavor. Originally from Europe where it is known as Williams Bon Chrétien or Williams, this pear is medium in size and most pear-like in shape. When ripe, its skin is golden yellow with hints of blush. The Bosc, or Beurre Bosc, has a more dense body that is rich and aromatic. Commonly used in baked goods, this pear is easily recognized for its bronze color and gracefully attenuated neck. The Clapp pear is an heirloom that was developed in Dorchester, MA in the mid 1800s. The story of the Clapp pear’s invention is so near and dear to the community that it is commemorated in the form of a 11.5 foot tall bronze statue in Edward Everett Square. A cross between the Flemish Beauty Pear and a Bartlett, this local favorite is one of the very first pears of the season to ripen. With golden green skin and hints of pineapple flavor, a Clapp pear will announce the season with gusto.
Pears are picked when mature but hard. They soften when kept at room temperature for 3-10 days depending on the variety. Placing hard pears in a paper bag will speed up the softening process. To increase their life, hard pears can be stored loose, in a single layer, in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Remove and soften as needed. Color does not indicate ripeness in a pear. To test for eatability, lightly press the neck of the fruit, if it gives ever so slightly it is ready to be enjoyed.
Peas – Sugar Snap, English
The subject of Peas continues to absorb all others; the anxiety to eat them, the pleasure of having eaten them, and the desire to eat them again, are the three great matters which have been discussed by our Princes for four days past.
–Madame de Maintenon 1696, on the court of Louis XIV
First cultivated by Renaissance gardeners in the 1600’s, sugar snap peas were considered to be a rare and decadent treat. Their cultivation was “perfected” in 1979, the result of a cross between snow peas and shelling peas. Today they embody the best of both worlds when it comes to taste and texture in the pea family. Like their English relatives (often called “Garden” or “English” peas) sugar snap pea pods are filled with small, sweet seeds. With a smaller, curved, edible pod, the sugar snap pea stands out from its predecessors. Their seeds are as large and tender as an English shelling pea, but their shells are edible, like the smaller, less robust snow pea. Sugar snap peas are plump and crisp, with velvety, bright green skin.
Your mother was right about eating your peas: like other varieties, sugar snaps boast a wide variety of health benefits. Loaded with fiber and impressive amounts of iron and Vitamin A, peas are a great addition to any meal, raw or cooked. You’ll find sugar snap peas in season from early summer into the fall.
The freshest sugar snap peas will be a vibrant green and still have traces of the flower at the stem. Make sure they snap when broken. Ideally, sugar snap peas should be eaten as soon after being picked as possible. Peas will maintain their sweetness for about two days in a ventilated plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Peppers – Bell
Peppers, a distant cousin of the tomato, have been in cultivation in Central America since 3500 B.C.
Bell peppers, named for their shape, are the sweeter and less-pungent members of the capsicum family. While most peppers start out green, if left to ripen, most varieties develop brilliant color ranging from red, purple, white, orange, yellow and brown. Bell peppers, most traditionally sold and eaten green, contain a recessive gene that eliminates capsaicin from this particular variety which means they won’t make you sweat like their hot and spicy siblings. High in vitamin C across the board, bell peppers become more nutritious as they change color, with red bell peppers having three times the amount of vitamin C as green peppers. Young peppers, with tender skins, can be eaten raw in salads or crudités. More mature fruits are better served roasted, grilled, or peeled as their skins can be tough.
Always choose peppers with a tight, shiny surface that is free of blemishes, and are heavy for their size. Store them in a ventilated bag in the refrigerator for up to one week. Be sure that there is proper air circulation as they are prone to mold.
Peppers – Hot
Don’t let their size fool you, these diminutive peppers pack a hot and spicy punch.
Hot, or chili peppers come in many varieties ranging from the super-hot “ghost chile” to the milder banana pepper. All chili peppers get their varying levels of heat from capsaicin, the active component that produces the burning sensation in the mouth and throat. So hot that they’re even mildly antibacterial, chili peppers were used in Mayan pharmacopoeia as ingredients in herbal remedies. Chili peppers also contain high amounts of vitamins C and A, as well as heightened beta-carotene levels. The heat of chili peppers is measured in Scoville units, and increases as the size of the peppers decreases. Red chilies tend to be hotter than their green and yellow counterparts. Red Tomato works with growers who produce several different varieties of hot peppers, including:
Cubanelles (0-1,000 Scovilles)
Considered a sweet pepper, cubanelles are light green when unripe, turning to bright red if allowed to ripen. Usually 4-6 inches long and slightly banana-shaped, cubanelles are great fried stuffed or on sandwiches.
Jalapeno (2,500-8,000 Scovilles)
The world’s most common chili pepper, jalapenos are red or green and usually grow to 4-6 inches in length. Known as chipotle peppers when smoked, jalapenos can be used in a diverse array of culinary options.
Hungarian (5,000-15,000 Scovilles)
Hungarian peppers are yellow and usually around 8 inches long, with a waxy and crunchy skin. Tasting great pickled or fresh, Hungarians pack a decent punch but are very edible.
Serrano (5,000-23,000 Scovilles)
A smaller version of jalapeno peppers, serranos tend to be only an inch or two long. Ranging in color from red to brown, orange, or yellow serranos are typically roasted and make delicious sauces and salsas
Long Hot Portugal (5,000-30,000 Scovilles)
Hot Portugal peppers are, as one would expect, originally from Portugal. Six inches long and only ¾ of an inch thick, these hot red peppers make a great addition to many Latin American dishes.
Habanero (80,000-600,000 Scovilles)
Named after the Cuban city of La Habana, or Havana, habaneros are one of the hottest peppers around. Habaneros are small and thick with a rounded lantern shape. They can be yellow, orange or red and have a flavor with a hint of citrus to accompany their serious kick of spice
Always choose peppers with a tight, shiny surface that is free of blemishes, and are heavy for their size. Store them in a ventilated bag in the refrigerator for up to one week. Be sure that there is proper air circulation as they are prone to mold.
Plums – European (Prune)
Most plums fall into two different geographic families: the European or prune plum and the Asian or Japanese plum.
While both kinds are tasty just off the vine or featured in baked goods, the European plum is also delicious dried, in prune form. European plums can have purplish black or honey gold skins. The meat of the fruit is sweet and dense with coloring ranging from green to yellow. As a general rule, European plums are free-stone fruit which means they are easily separated from their pits. Plum skins can be tart but are easily removed by making a small cross shaped cut at the base, dipping in boiling water, followed by ice water. The skins should peel back easily.
In 2010, we launched a pilot Eco Stonefruit program to certify our peaches, nectarines, plums, and apricots. To read more download our protocol.
Look for plums with a silver blush – this indicates freshness. Choose fruits that are plump and well colored. Search for those with a sweet aroma and that are just soft to the touch. Store plums at room temperature away from sunlight. To soften harder fruits, place them in a closed paper bag. Monitor their progress closely, as they should be eaten as soon as they soften.
Potatoes – Red, White, Yellow
The humble potato has no reason to be so.
The home of the potato — underground, in the dirt — makes for an apt metaphor of the vegetable’s public treatment. Potatoes suffer a lowly status among vegetables; the first word to describe them is often ‘starchy’. History remembers potato crop failure causing the Great Irish Famine, and contemporary foodies tend to prefer more exotic root vegetables (parsnips, yucca, celeriac) to the common potato. Though there were once dozens of potato varieties grown in the Northeast, very few can be found commercially today.
Potatoes deserve better treatment. They are a backbone of the global food system, the fourth largest crop after maize, wheat and rice. Widely diverse, they can be white, red, purple, blue or yellow, with varying degrees of sweetness and earthiness. Potatoes compare to bananas in potassium levels and even provide a significant serving of vitamin C.
Pay attention to starch content, which defines the ideal culinary use. Starchier potatoes are better for baking, mashing and frying, since they become light and fluffy when cooked. Major starchy potato varieties include Russets and Idahos. Less starchy potatoes (or waxy potatoes) hold their shape better in cooking. They work well boiled and roasted, or in soups and casseroles. Major waxy varieties are Fingerlings and LaRettes. There are also many varieties which bridge the starchy-waxy divide, which we call “all-purpose,” including Yukon Golds, Red Golds and All Blues.
The Washington State Potato Commission says “you can have potatoes for breakfast, lunch or dinner (or all three),” which is true enough, but we know where their priorities are… You should at least consider new, creative ways to enjoy regional varieties of this delicious traditional vegetable.
Keep potatoes in a cool (55 degrees), dark, ventilated space. Colder temperatures, such as those in a refrigerator, will cause potato starch to convert into sugar, creating a sweeter tuber at the expense of texture and color.
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.
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.
A staple of Asian cuisine, this elegant and tasty vegetable provides a similar flavor to onions, with a milder punch.
Originating in Asia, scallions are also known as green onions and sometimes (erroneously) spring onions. Their long green ends provide a striking contrast sitting on top of a bright white stem. The only onion used in traditional Japanese cuisine, scallions are a fragile vegetable not suited to long cooking. High in vitamins A and C, scallions are popular in stir-fries, as well as being great in salads and making a beautiful garnish.
Scallions should be stored in bunches wrapped in plastic wrap, and stored in the crisper section of the refrigerator. They should be used within 2-3 days.
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.
Squash – Summer
Summer squash, sometimes referred to as tender squash, are vine fruits that are harvested in the late spring and early summer.
They have tender skins, small edible seeds, and come in colors ranging from bright yellow, to dark green, to white. The most recognizable varieties include green and yellow zucchini (sometimes simply referred to as summer squash) and Pattypan which have a unique flattened sunburst shape. Some varieties, like the Goldbar zuchini, are known for their sweetness and deep buttery yellow color. Summer squash have a unique reputation for their prolific growth and abundant harvests. For this reason, people have found a myriad of uses for this simple food ranging from simply sautéed with olive oil and fresh herbs to grilled or roasted. Ever resourceful, bakers also feature squashes in cakes, breads and cookies. If you have a local source for summer squash, you also have a source for one of the most highly perishable delicacies of the summer growing seasons: squash blossoms. Stuffed with cheese, lightly battered, gently fried and sprinkled with fresh herbs, these summer blooms tell the story of summer in a single bite.
Due to their tender skins, slight blemishes or scratches are almost inevitable on summer squash. Choose those that are only slightly marked, firm and heavy for their size. Look for small to medium sized veggies. The biggest squashes may be tough, watery or lack flavor. Store wrapped in plastic, in the refrigerator, for up to three days. Wash right before using.
Taste like candy; look like potatoes.
Let’s get one thing straight: sweet potatoes and yams are not the same vegetable. Unless you’re shopping at an international market, you’re probably buying a sweet potato, not a yam.
Sweet potatoes are native to the tropical Americas. They were domesticated at least 5,000 years ago, when the sweet root served as a staple crop for Incan and pre-Incan cultures. Today, sweet potatoes are a widely diverse crop, ranging from yellow to red in appearance and firm or soft in texture. Some sweet potato varieties will remain firm when cooked; others will soften. These softening varieties provoke the yam v. sweet potato confusion, since yams (native to parts of Africa and Asia, where 95+% are grown today) also soften when cooked. African slaves, who noted the similarity between the newly developed soft sweet potatoes and their native yams, began calling them yams to differentiate the two varieties.
Sweet potatoes are also not potatoes, though the two are distantly related. Potatoes are in the nightshade family, while sweet potatoes, with their creeping, flowering vines, are part of the morning glory family.
But we don’t have to define sweet potatoes just for what they’re not. They are an oh-so-easy manifestation of the sweet/savory combo: just roast or bake them with a little butter. They are nutrient-dense, a great source of vitamin A and beta-carotene. The Center for Science in the Public Interest even rated sweet potatoes as the top nutritional vegetable. Be sure to eat the skins too — they are packed in fiber.
Sweet potatoes are even grown as ornamental plants, with beautiful small flowers, and the tuber has been used traditionally to make red dye.
When first harvested, sweet potatoes lack their distinctive sweet taste. They must be cured at high temperature and humidity for about a week, then stored at cooler temperatures for 6-8 weeks. This processing helps the sweet potatoes develop sugar-creating enzymes.
Sweet potatoes can store for months in the right conditions. Keep them in a dark, cool location, but not so cool as the vegetable drawer in your refrigerator. Around 55 degrees is better.
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.
Like a gift-wrapped tomato.
Tomatillos were domesticated by the Aztecs of Mexico, and they remain a culinary staple in Mexico to this day. Europeans had trouble domesticating them back home, instead favoring its brother, the tomato, which thrived around the Mediterranean Sea. Tomatillos are commonly used to make salsas verde, blended with chilies into tart, spicy sauces. They are also eaten fried, roasted and steamed, more rarely raw unless blended into salsa.
Within the tomatillo’s dull, papery, inedible husk hides a tart, green fruit; there are also red, purple and yellow varieties. Tomatillos have a high natural pectin content, making them traditional favorites for jam. (Tomatillos are also known as “jamberries”.)
Choose smaller tomatillos for the most sweetness. The fruit should be firm, slightly sticky and without blemishes when unwrapped.
Fully ripe tomatillos will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator. They also take well to freezing, especially when used for salsa — just remove the husks and place them in a freezer bag.
Tomatoes – Our namesake! The vegetable that’s really a fruit. This familiar, delectable member of the nightshade family comes in all sizes, shapes and colors, and a surprising range of flavors from spicy to sweet.
It’s full of antioxidants (good for you all over); lycopene (good for your heart and eyes); and rich in vitamins A and C. But who needs vitamins as a reason to eat something this mouthwatering and delicious, especially fresh from the summer garden (or field, in our case)!
We want to bring flavor back to retail tomatoes. Working with our expert tomato growers and regional scientists, Red Tomato launched a line of premium field tomatoes that rivals the flavor of good garden-grown tomatoes and commercial tomatoes before flavor was bred out of them.
Certified organic Red Tomato tomatoes may be available at your local retailer.
PLEASE! Don’t put those juicy, delicate things in the refrigerator. Tomatoes keep best stored at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, and away from fruits like apples. Ripe tomatoes will keep for several days. Refrigeration kills the flavor and stops the ripening process. If they are picked before ripe, set them on a windowsill or wrap them in newspaper and leave in a cool spot for a few days—the flavor won’t be as exquisite as vine-ripened, but it’s a good way to stretch the life of those last few jewels you want to pick before the first frost. Our Tomato motto: Eat them fresh, and eat them often.
Tomatoes – Heirloom
If you’ve ever felt that tomatoes have lost their magic, try calling out for a Wild Sweetie, Gardener’s Delight, Broad Ripple Yellow Currant, Eva Purple Ball or Djena Lee’s Golden Girl to awaken your senses. These fine ambassadors of the heirloom tomato dynasty will catch your eye with their astonishing colors, shapes and sizes — each one entirely unique. Beyond the visual riot, heirloom tomatoes offer your taste buds pure perfection. Each bite of an heirloom unveils layer upon layer of flavor — summer sweet or rich earthiness — that will always leave you wanting more. Growing heirloom tomatoes in such a way to ensure each variety lives up to its potential takes the loving care of an experienced farmer, like Jim Ward of Ward’s Berry Farm.
PLEASE! Don’t put those juicy, delicate things in the refrigerator. Tomatoes keep best stored at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, and away from fruits like apples. Ripe tomatoes will keep for several days. Refrigeration kills the flavor and stops the ripening process. If they are picked before ripe, set them on a windowsill or wrap them in newspaper and leave in a cool spot for a few days—the flavor won’t be as exquisite as vine-ripened, but it’s a good way to stretch the life of those last few jewels you want to pick before the first frost. Our tomato motto: Eat them fresh, and eat them often.
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.