If you are anything like me and you love crunchy, crispy, salty snacks, I invite you to try this delicious (and simple) recipe using kohlrabi!
Kohlrabi is one of the most underrated and forgotten vegetables in our winter produce line up. It is a cultivar of cabbage and is part root, part leafy greens. The root part can be eaten raw (think slaw) or cooked. The greens can be used as you would kale, collards or other winter greens. With so much versatility, it’s a wonder this root doesn’t get more love. Perhaps the recipe below will help to change all that!
Savory Kohlrabi Crisps
- 3 bulbs of kohlrabi (select those with unblemished leaves and bulbs that are not cracked)
- 1/4 cup of olive oil
- Salt (to taste)
- Preheat the oven to 250 degrees
- Peel the kohlrabi, taking off a significant portion of the outer layer. You want to remove the layer that looks fibrous as this will not soften and will remain stringy and unpleasant to eat. The inner core is where you will find the sweet “meat” of the plant. Save greens for another use.
- Once peeled, cut the bulb into ½ inch round lices to resemble chips.
- Toss the sliced kohlrabi in a bowl with 1/4 cup olive oil and 1 tsp of salt.
- Once coated (and glistening), place one layer of the kohlrabi on a sheet tray lined with a non-stick sheet (like this Silpat sheet) or coat the bottom of your sheet tray with cooking oil. Tip: the Silpat is less likely to stick to the veggie chips.
- Mix the kohlrabi around and rotate the tray every 15 to 20 minutes in order to cook each piece evenly.
- The total cooking time will range between 30 minutes and one hour depending on your oven and the size of your kohlrabi slices.
- The end result should be golden, chip-like crisps.
- Once they are cooked, remove them from the oven, slide them off the hot tray and onto a plate with paper towel (or cloth) to soak up some of the oil and cool. Toss with salt (to taste) immediately so that it soaks in while the crisps are hot.
If you end up baking these at home, please feel free to share your results with us on Instagram @naturalgroceryco
In our house, we refer to broccoli florets as “little trees.” We’ve done this since our son was starting to eat solid foods. He LOVES broccoli and other green vegetables to this day (now he’s five)!
With winter in full gear, broccoli becomes one of our winter staples. It’s in the brassica family (along with other cabbage) and is hearty enough to withstand the chilly winter weather.
The word broccoli has Italian origins and stems (pun intended) from the word “broccolo” which means cabbage sprout or flowering crest of the cabbage. The word broccolo is rooted (another pun!) in the Latin broccus which means “projecting.”
Now that we have the etymology covered, here’s one of our favorite ways to prepare our “little trees”:
Steamed Broccoli with Pistachio-Orange Dipping Sauce
Prepare the Broccoli:
Cut 2 heads of broccoli into bite sized pieces. Steam or blanch until just tender. Set your timer for 5 minutes then test a piece with a fork, or knife point. When cooking the broccoli, remember to lightly salt the water, and that the broccoli will continue to cook with residual heat once you remove them from the steam or water, so you want them to be almost ready when you remove them to cool.
Prepare the Pistachio & Orange Sauce:
- 2 Valencia oranges
- 2 cups roasted, salted pistachios (shelled)
- 1 tbsp. Champagne vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
- 1 small clove of garlic
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. water
- ¼ cup olive oil
- Juice the oranges.
- Combine all ingredients in the blender. Blend on high.
- Taste the mixture, adjust for thickness (consistency) and salt levels.
If it tastes flat, add a teaspoon more vinegar and a dash of salt. If it tastes too sharp (indicating too much garlic), add the juice of another 1/2 orange and another handful of pistachios.
The consistency of the dip should be like hummus. Add olive oil and water to adjust as needed.
This recipe will be a little different each time you make it because all these ingredients vary… oranges are different sizes and have different amounts of juice, garlic is more or less potent depending on its age and olive oils are different depending on varietal and harvest date. So, play with your ratios each time. Taste along the way. Try the sauce with the steamed broccoli to get the full flavor profile.
If you have a little one in your house, this is a great recipe to make together. At this point our son instructs us on salt level, acidity and overall balance. And he LOVES dipping his “little trees” into this sauce!
See you soon,
Yams or Sweet Potatoes?
We all love to make yams for Thanksgiving, but did you know that you are actually eating sweet potatoes? In the United States we refer to an orange fleshed sweet potato as a yam, but they are really two completely different species. The true yam does not grow in the northern hemisphere. They are only grown in the Caribbean, Africa and parts of Asia. The Yam can grown up to 150lbs and 4.5′ in length. Their flesh ranges in color from white to yellow to pink and they have a very thick, scaly, alligator like skin.
Their flesh is also very starchy and dry. Yams are more closely related to lilies and grasses than they are to sweet potatoes, which are in the morning glory family.
Sweet potatoes are native to tropical regions of South America. Peruvian sweet potato remnants dating as far back as 8000 BC have been found. You can eat them raw, baked, boiled, steamed, roasted, broiled, grilled, fried and just about any other way you can think of!
At The Natural Grocery Company, we have a variety of different sweet potatoes to
choose from year round. The orange flesh varieties are known as “moist fleshed” and the white
fleshed varieties are known as “dry fleshed.” Here are the types we carry at both our stores:
Garnet-An orange fleshed variety that is the most popular. This is the traditional “yam” we eat at
Thanksgiving. With a dark red skin and bright pumpkin colored flesh, this sweet potato is great
prepared almost any way. It is very sweet and has a nice creamy, velvety texture when cooked.
Jewel and Beauregard-Both types have an orange flesh. These varieties have tan skin and tend
to be a little sweeter than the Garnet. I like to use the Beauregard in my sweet potato pie recipe.
It is very moist when cooked and has a texture that is not as velvety as the Garnet. Great for
making sweet potato fries or chips!
Hannah– This variety has a light tan, almost white skin with white flesh. The white flesh is
crumbly and has the texture of a russet potato when cooked. This year, I will be making a
Hannah sweet potato pie with cardamom and vanilla.
Japanese– Also a white fleshed variety, this sweet potato has a very dark purple skin. Because of
its drier texture, I like to slice these, drizzle with olive oil, cinnamon and cayenne and bake at
350 degrees until they soften and turn a golden brown color. They are also nice in soups.
Purple Stokes/ Okinawa sweet potato- This super food variety is my favorite! With a bluish
purple skin and deep royal purple flesh, this sweet potato has a texture very similar to the Garnet
but has an extra sweet earthiness to the taste. Originally from the Americas, this variety was
introduced to Japan in the 14th century and has become a staple on the Island of Okinawa where
it is eaten almost every day. This is believed to be the reason why Okinawa has the largest
percentage of people living over the age of 100 (more than any other country). This variety has
150% more antioxidants than blueberries and is wonderful prepared almost any way. Try using
these in a pie (beautiful) or mashed instead of regular potatoes. Add some extra antioxidants to
your Thanksgiving table!
By Casey Goode, Produce Manger at ECNG
Pomegranate: The Apple With Many Seeds
The word pomegranate translates from Latin to ” the apple with many seeds’, but did you know that it is actually classified as a berry? There are over 760 different varieties of pomegranates worldwide and some of these trees can grow to be more than 200 years old! This super fruit can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 months but at my house they don’t last more than a couple of days before we crack into them! There are a few different ways to eat a pomegranate, but my favorite way is to cut it in half along the equator, turn them flesh side down over a bowl of cold water and smack it with a wooden spoon until all of the arils’ fall out. The arils will sink to the bottom of the bowl while the pith, or white part, will float. The arils will keep in the refrigerator for about 4-5 days and can be eaten by themselves or sprinkled on top of a salad, over yogurt or mixed into a rice pilaf with chopped walnuts. If you don’t mind a mess, you can also juice them using a citrus juicer!
Pomegranate season is from September to February in the Northern Hemisphere. This has earned it the nickname “The Jewel of Winter. The pomegranate is native to Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Northern India, Bengal, and Southern Asia and is cultivated widely throughout the Middle East, India, Southeast Asia, and parts of Africa. The pomegranate was first introduced to California by Spanish settlers in 1769. Pomegranate concentrate is a popular ingredient used in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean recipes. The juice is concentrated to about 250% stronger to form a thick sauce (grenadine). When added in cooking, it gives unique flavor and intense sweet taste. Grenadine is used to make cocktails, sorbets, and in several mouth-watering Middle-Eastern dishes. The city of Granada, Spain is named after the Spanish word for pomegranate, “Granada.” In early English, the pomegranate was called the “apple of Grenada.”
Pomegranates are not only delicious, they have amazing health benefits as well! There are two unique substances in pomegranates that are responsible for most of their health benefits. The first is Punicalagins. Punicalagins are extremely powerful antioxidants found in the juice and peel of a pomegranate. They are so powerful that pomegranate juice has been found to have three times the antioxidant activity of red wine and green tea! Pomegranate extract and powder is typically made from the peel, due to its high antioxidant and punicalagin content (almost 3 times the amount found in the juice). The next is Punicic Acid. Punicic acid, also known as pomegranate seed oil, is the main fatty acid in the arils (seeds). Punicic acid also contains unique polyunsaturated oil, an omega 5 fatty acid, which has strong anti-inflammatory properties. The oil fends off free radicals to keep skin aging at bay. It also provides protection against sun damage. Pomegranate seed oil provides relief to people suffering from eczema, psoriasis and sunburn. The anti-inflammatory properties of the oil calm irritation and redness of the skin. It also heals wounds and restores skin health. The juice is also a good source of many vital B-complex groups of vitamins such as pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5), folates, pyridoxine and vitamin K, and minerals like calcium, copper, potassium, and manganese.
So far this season we have had 3 varieties for sale. Early Foothill, Sweet Israeli and Wonderful. Come in and grab some of these awesome miracle fruits and try them out in a new recipe! They are also great to use as a natural food coloring when baking up your favorite cakes or cookies!
By Casey Goode, Produce Manager at ECNG
Every year at the Natural Grocery Company we bring in different types of organic, local heirloom and biodynamic apples, most of which we get from The Apple Farm in Philo, CA and Filigreen Farms in Booneville, CA. At the peak of the season we may have more than 50 different types of apples available at our El Cerrito store, with more varieties to come as the season changes. Right now we have 44 varieties at El Cerrito Natural Grocery Co. From The Apple Farms’ Ashmead’s Kernal, Roxbury Russet and Belle De Boskoops to Filigreen Farm’s Kidds Orange Red, Red Gravenstein and Pink Sparkle. With all of these apples in abundance one might ask, what makes these two farms and their apples so special? They are both certified Biodynamic, a method of organic farming originally developed by Rudolf Steiner that is described as a holistic understanding of agricultural processes. This type of farming has an astrological sowing and planting calendar. Choosing to plant, cultivate or harvest based on both the phase of the moon and the astrological constellation the moon is passing through. One of the first sustainable agriculture movements, it treats soil fertility, plant growth and livestock care as equally interrelated tasks emphasizing spiritual perspectives. The whole farm is conceived of as an organism. Soil, plant, animal, human. Biodynamic farmers focus on the open pollination of seeds (with farmers thereby growing their own seed) and the development of locally adapted varieties. Biodynamic Farming has about 20% smaller yields than traditional organic farming but the flavors really stand out! Some think of it as Organic 2.0!
Now, about those apples! Ashmead’s Kernal and Roxbury Russet are funny looking apples. Their rough brown skin looks like that of a russet potato. They are juicy and tart and as they age and start to soften and wrinkle, their flavors intensify. Look for these to make an outstanding juice or applesauce! Belle De Boskoops are tart and fragrant. They are a great cooking apple as they tend to hold their shape. They also have four times the vitamin C as a Granny Smith! Kidds Orange Red is aromatic, sweet and sharp. Great for juicing, drying and eating out of hand. It is also one of the parents of the Gala apple. Red Gravenstein is a natural mutation of the Gravenstein apple. Extremly floral with a sweet/tart taste, this is one of my absolute favorite apples. The Red Gravenstein is a little sweeter than the Gravenstein and is a great cooking apple. Try making a pie using half Red Gravenstein and half Belle De Boskoops! Pink Sparkle is a variety that is new to The Natural Grocery Company. Just under the skin, there are lovely pink polka dots in the flesh! Traditionally used in cooking, this apple purees well, so it would be great to make an applesauce or apple butter! Tart and slightly sweet, this apple looks like it was grown upside down with a broad base and narrows near the stem.
Come in and taste a new kind of apple as we will be getting in more varieties every week! This really is a special time of year at The Natural Grocery Company. I don’t know of any other stores in the area that can come anywhere close to carrying this many varieties of local organic apples. Can you?
By, Casey Goode, Produce Manager at ECNG
Every summer our customers and employees anxiously await the arrival of the best tasting tomatoes we have all year. The Dry Farmed Early Girl. But what is dry farming and why do these tomatoes taste so much better than the others? Dry farmed tomatoes are planted during the last rains of spring and never watered again. Their root systems go deep (up to 30 feet) into rich organic earth to get water. This extensive root system also picks up extra minerals, thus creating a very flavorful tomato. Dry farming is all about conserving and retaining soil moisture to support the crops without supplemental irrigation. A drawback is that dry farming creates smaller yields to those crops grown using irrigation, but the flavors can’t be beat! Dry farmed tomatoes are usually smaller because the plant spends a lot of it’s growth potential on it’s root system. This causes the plant to produce an intensely flavored, meaty tomato.
There are also environmental benefits to dry farming. Dry-farmed growers are reducing water use by not irrigating. Further, as water resources in California become scarcer and more strictly regulated, growers will also find themselves exempt from these water regulations, since they are not using irrigation water, or, in most cases, water for frost protection. Dry farming is the way crops were grown in the United States more than 100 years ago. Tomatoes are also not the only crop that are dry farmed. Right now we have local Dry farmed Macintosh apples from Watsonville and a great selection of dry farmed wines at the Annex! Among these are 3 wines from Yamakiri Vineyards here in California. Papillion de Nuit, a Syrah, is grown on the Mendocino ridge. Yamakiri Sauvignon Blanc is grown in the Yorkville Highlands and the Yamakiri Rose is grown in the Anderson Valley. There is also a dry farmed, Biodynamic wine at the Annex right now. Enrique Mendoza’s La Tremenda is grown in Alicante, Spain.
Come on down to The Natural Grocery Company and stock up on all of our dry farmed goodness! Remember, dry farming = great flavors!
By, Casey Goode, ECNG Produce Manager
By Casey Goode, ECNG Produce Manager
During the summer months, we at the Natural Grocery Company carry a wide selection of different types of organic melons. Big or small, yellow, green or white fleshed, we have it all! There is something for everyone here, but how does one pick the right varietal and choose the right melon? Here are a few tips and tricks that I have learned to pick the best melon. We will be getting in more varieties as the summer months progress into fall.
These elongated melons are coming to us from Jeffrey Mettler Farms in Bakersfield Ca. The best way to pick a seeded watermelon (one that has black seeds inside) is to check for the wasp stings! Wasps will sniff out a sweet melon and sting it to release some of the sweet nectar. Look for a line of tiny brown dots on the rind with small drops of black candy seeping out. This method has always worked for me when choosing a seeded watermelon. Watermelons, unlike cantaloupes, have to be harvested when ripe as they do not continue to ripen after being picked.
Our seedless (red fleshed) watermelons are coming from Rundle Family Farms in Fresno.
We also have 2 other types of watermelon coming from Full Belly Farm in Guinda Ca. The other types are “Orchid”, which has a mild, sweet orange flesh, and “Yellow Doll” which has a sweet, slightly stronger flavor and the flesh is yellow in color. When picking a seedless watermelon, there are many different things to look for. These tips can be applied to other types of melon as well. First, pick a dull looking melon. A shiny appearance indicates an under ripe melon. (This also applies to Green Honeydew.) Second, find the field spot. This is the creamy spot on the rind of the melon where it has rested on the ground. This spot should be yellow, not white. The darker and bigger the spot, the longer it was on the vine sweetening up. If the spot is white or nonexistent, put it back as this will be an under ripe melon. Third, knock on it! A dull thud indicates an over ripe melon. You will get a dull thud if the flesh is soft, which you don’t want. Your knuckles should bounce off of the melon and the surface should be pretty hard-firm. Next, pick it up! The melon should feel heavy for its size. Compare it to other equally sized melons. Last, check the shape! Irregular bumps indicate it may have gotten inconsistent amounts of sun or water. These melons will usually have a big crack in the flesh inside.
We have both green and orange fleshed Honeydews right now. They are coming to us from Full Belly Farm in Guinda, Ca. Orange Honeydews are easy to pick because they will give off a strong sweet smell when they are ripe. Green Honeydews are a little trickier. Look for a dull rind that looks more white than green. Also, rub a couple of fingers back and forth on the rind. If it feels sticky or tacky after doing this, then it’s ripe!
With melons that have “netting” on the rind (see image below), always go in for a sniff. These types of melons will always have a sweet scent when ripe. Also, look for the background color. You want this to be yellow, not green. Other types of melons we carry with the netted rind are Galia, (bright yellow netted rind with a very sweet white-green flesh) and Goddess (white netted rind with super sweet orange flesh). These 2 types are a little softer in texture than a cantaloupe.
Piel De Sapo (skin of the frog)
Also known as the Santa Claus melon, these green, oval shaped melons should be a little soft to the touch, especially on the ends. Inside is a white flesh that tastes like mild green Honeydew.
This melon has a sweet flavor and is slightly tangier than green Honeydew. The flesh resembles the white flesh of a pear. When ripe, the rind has a slight waxy feel. The name comes from its bright yellow color, which resembles that of the canary.
Coming into the summer season, our produce departments receive new organic items almost every day. Come check out what’s in season and ask for a taste! Here are some of my favorites we have in stock at the moment.
The Polar Light Nectarine from Valliwide Organic Farms is fragrant and sweet. These juicy white nectarines are best when they give off their strong floral scent, but are still sweet when eaten firm. We will have these available through the summer.
The Spring Crest Peach from Full Belly Farm is my favorite early season cling peach. This heirloom variety has a strong sweet-tart yellow flesh and super fuzzy golden skin. Great eaten out of hand, or sliced up and served with Straus Greek yogurt!
Cot-N-Candy Apriums from Frog Hollow Farm are really a treat! These little jewels are about 2” in radius and have a very sweet, juicy flesh. Their skin is white with a bright pink blush. They are also free-stone, so you can gobble them up with no mess!
Right now we have 4 different varieties of Cherries (Rainier, Lapin, Bing and Benton), with more to come later in the season. My favorite so far has been the Benton variety from Ferrari Farms located in Linden, CA. These cherries are plump and sweet with a dark, almost black flesh. I pitted and froze 3 lbs of these when they came in!
The Black Knight Carrots from Full Belly Farm are gorgeous! Unlike other varieties of purple carrots that tend to be one solid color throughout, these tender roots have a deep purple skin with a creamy orange flesh. Try them sliced into coins on a salad or roasted with parsnips and rutabagas.
The first California Cucumbers of the season are here! The Mediterranean Cucumbers from T.D.Willey farms are crisp and nutty in flavor. They have a thin skin and small seeds. No need to peel. I like them sliced up and drizzled with lime and Himalayan pink salt as a snack.
Last but not least, the Red Lasoda potato from Full Belly Farms has to be my new favorite! This is one of many different varieties of new potatoes we have in stock at the moment. These young red potatoes have a skin so thin you can rub it off with your thumb. The semi-sweet flesh is pale yellow and has the smoothest, creamiest texture I have ever found in a potato! I like them cut in half and roasted with Burroughs Family Farms Olive Oil and fresh ground black pepper. Be sure to keep all new potatoes refrigerated until ready for use.