Season: February to June
Flavor: Its flavor is mildly sulphuric, mostly sweet and slightly nutty, more-so when grilled.
Storage: Store asparagus in a bag in the refrigerator, preferably in the crisper between 32 and 36 degrees F. Properly stored asparagus can last between 1 and 2 weeks. Things can go downhill for asparagus pretty rapidly, especially the tips, so try to eat it as soon as possible. If you must wait, you can preserve your spring-y bounty by trimming the ends of the stalks and standing the bunch (still bound together — if you bought them loose, then tie them up for balance) in a cup of water in the refrigerator.
How to use: Some people peel asparagus, but unless you are dealing with exceptionally woody stalks, it is generally unnecessary. However, you absolutely should trim the end of each spear. The question is, how much should you trim before preparing? This tip takes the guesswork out of trimming: Grasp a stalk with one hand around the root end at its furthest point, and the other about mid-way down the stalk and gently bend. Wherever it breaks is where it should be trimmed to.
Don’t be afraid of Jumbo/XL/Large Asparagus! Fat asparagus is actually more tender than thin. Each stalk has the same amount of support fibers, so Large Asparagus stalk has more flesh in between those fibers.
The most important thing — by far — about preparing asparagus is not to overcook it. It is delicious raw, shaved or sliced quite thin, steamed or roasted or grilled (which enhances its nutty flavor).
Nutrition: Like most green vegetables, asparagus is good for you. Among its healthful properties are folate, Vitamin C, potassium, inulin (which is said to be “prebiotic” and is known to aid in digestion), anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and possibly anti-cancer effects.
Forbidden Farms is located in Santa Barbara County, CA.
Season: May to July (Forbidden Farm yields an early crop even for California!)
Flavor: Blueberries walk the line between tart and sweet, although cultivated varieties are now bred for increasing sweetness and large, plump fruits. Depending on the varietal, the berries may be very small (see: lowbush/wild varieties) or quite large and plump, and the color may vary from sky blue to deep, dusky purple. Wild varieties tend to have a more concentrated blueberry flavor, while cultivated varieties tend to be juicier.
Look for firm, dry, plump blueberries with smooth skin and no shriveled or moldy bits. Pass on greenish or red blueberries — this generally means that they are underripe. Some blueberries may have a faint white powdery coating (called “bloom”) that is naturally occurring and helps to protect the berries.
Storage: If you plan to use your blueberries within a day, store them right on the counter. Otherwise, stick them, unwashed, in the fridge in the container they came in. They will keep for up to a week. Take a quick look-through for any damaged berries and remove them before storing — damaged blueberries invite moisture and mold that can quickly ruin an entire container of the fruit.
How to use: Naturally, blueberries are delicious eaten out of hand, but they also add sweet-tart depth to lots of dishes, both sweet and savory.
On the savory side, blueberries pair deliciously with pork and duck. Toss a handful of berries into a green salad; or try gently mixing in some of the fruit with whole grain dishes, like quinoa or wheat berries. Blueberries are also quite delicious with cheese — team up blueberry preserves or fresh berries with goat cheese or harder, strong cheeses like Manchego for a sweet-salty-tangy flavor combo.
But where blueberries really shine is in desserts, their natural acidity providing a welcome counterbalance to baked goods, puddings and other sweet treats. Of course, there are the ubiquitous (but no less awesome) blueberry muffins and pies. Blueberries are also awesome in smoothies and in parfaits. Also try subbing dried blueberries for raisins in cookie and other dessert recipes.
- Have you ever baked a batch of blueberry muffins, only to discover that your blueberries have turned green? This is because the pigments in blueberries (primarily anthocyanins) turn green when cooked with alkaline ingredients like baking soda. To correct this problem, add a bit of acid to the mixture, in the form of buttermilk or yogurt, and/or use less baking soda.
Nutrition: Blueberries are one of the world’s healthiest fruits. Not only are they a good source of Vitamin K, Vitamin C and manganese; they are also high in fiber and relatively low in calories. The little blue fruits are naturally rich in polyphenols, antioxidant chemicals that are increasingly linked to big-time health benefits, including in cardiovascular health, brain functioning (including memory) and even cancer prevention.
Season: February to November
Flavor: Arugula is a peppery, nutty salad green with a sharp and bitter bite, like watercress. Be on the lookout for firm leaves without any yellow or signs of mushiness. Mass-produced “baby” arugula in pre-washed sacks tends to be very mild. “Wild arugula” is another variety with lacier leaves and a more assertive flavor.
Storage: Store in a container or bag to preserve freshness. For arugula with the roots attached, wrap a moist towel around the roots and store in a bag. Store in vegetable drawer or crisper around 32 to 36 degrees F.
How to use: Bunched arugula is notoriously sandy. Remove the root ends and place leaves in a large bowl. Fill halfway with cold water. Lift arugula out of the bowl and discard sandy water. Repeat, until water is free of sand, three to four times.
If using arugula raw, make sure leaves are thoroughly dry, because wet arugula does not take to vinaigrette very well and quickly clumps up. The best way to do this is with a salad spinner.
Arugula can be eaten raw or cooked. Arugula is great in salads with other greens, oil and vinegar. Arugula can be lightly sautéed and added to pasta dishes, vegetable medleys, etc.
Nutrition: Arugula is rich in vitamin C and potassium
Season: Year Round in California
Flavor: Bok choy has a mild, cabbage-like flavor. As with most dark leafy greens, the green part of bok choy has a slightly bitter mineral flavor which can give way to an even, mild and “nutty” flavor. The white stalk is full of water and has a crunchy yet juicy texture. There are a fair amount minerals in the stalk so do use it!
Storage: Store in the vegetable bin of your refrigerator (32 to 36 degrees Fahrenheit) in a paper or perforated plastic bag. Do not wash until you are ready to use. Use within 3-4 days. If you use a non-perforated plastic bag it may keep up to a week but do watch to make sure it doesn’t go bad.
How to use: Separate the vegetable, no matter what size, into stalks and leaves. Cook the stalks first, time depending on size, then add the leaves, which typically take no more than two minutes to wilt. It quickly cooks, especially baby bok choy, and is commonly sautéed with garlic, chili flake, and soy sauce. Bok choy is classically used in Chinese and Japanese cooking, and is a great addition in stir-fry, curries, and soups. You can also cut it thinly and add it to salads, as you would any cabbage. Grilling works well but make sure you layer the leaves on top of something else so they don’t dry out before the stalks are cooked!
Although it will forever be known first and foremost as a Chinese green, the vegetable has worked its way into many cuisines around the world, particularly in the Caribbean, the result of the massive Chinese diaspora of the 19th century. Don’t be surprised if you see “pak choi” or “joy choy” on menus or in markets in Trinidad, Guyana, Jamaica or Cuba. Some of these are the many varietals of bok choy and sometimes the names are used interchangeably.
Nutrition: Bok choy is a good source of Vitamin C, potassium and calcium. It is also a great source of beta-carotene, which is a precursor to Vitamin A. For those who do not eat meat or dairy, which are naturally rich in Vitamin A, these dark leafy greens can help fill the gap. Plus, one cup contains just 20 calories!
LAST DAY TO PRE-ORDER IS WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31, 2021
The Annex is making Easter Dinner this year!
As always we use the finest organic ingredients! You may order an entire ham meal for six people or an entire vegetarian meal for six people, individual meals, quiches for brunch and sides. This year we have made it possible for you to order online via our website. You can choose to pick-up at any of our three locations Saturday, April 3 beginning at 9:00am through Sunday, April 4 at 7:30pm.
You may also order in-store at any of our locations or call us to place your order. If calling, please call the location from which you wish to pick-up your items.
The Annex 510-526-5150
Berkeley Natural Grocery 510-526-2456
El Cerrito Natural Grocery 510-526-1155
Thank you for making The Natural Grocery Company a part of your Easter celebration!