Boy, I can't get away from my roots. When I look around and see all those wonderful summer fruits and vegetables, my heart begins to react. Yeah, it is true fruits and vegetables can do that to you if you've lived with them all your life and then get separated from them. I do see them in the markets, but I don't own them like I did when I was in my own business.
I became a little lonely today, so I stopped in at Miles Market in Solon, Ohio. It's one of my favorite stores and I do admit I am prejudiced about that because I advertised this market on my former radio show, "Maury's Market" for 30 years. I've watched it grow and in my opinion it is one of the best overall food markets in Cleveland.
This doesn't reflect in any way on Heinen's, Giant Eagle, Dave's, Marc's, or the West Side Market. I can talk about any of those markets any time anyone is interested. I must remind everyone that Frank Cangemi is probably the most knowledgeable produce man in the Greater Cleveland area. The market reflects that knowledge. But, I don't want to talk about the market today.
Instead, what I want to do is to let you in on some of the good things that are happening. I chose Miles Market because they have top notch selections of all kinds of fruits and vegetables, some of which may not be found anywhere else.
Let's begin with the cherries. They are coming through beautifully! Cherries should be refrigerated at once. For good protection to maintain freshness, layer them in a plastic container with lots of paper towels separating the layers. They will stay fresh longer that way. This works for grapes and strawberries too. Also, don't miss out on the Royal Ann cherries. They are multi-colored, but more than that, they taste like heaven!
Next, for a taste of summertime, try the bi-colored corn coming out of Florida. It's highly perishable. Note, corn can stay fresh tasting longer if you keep the green cover on when storing. This corn owes its success to genetic engineering. I have lots of history with corn since it was once one of my specialties when I was in the business. During the peak season, I used to sell 3 - 4 thousand baskets of locally grown corn every week.
Now, I'm looking at the peach selection. This is most interesting! There are half a dozen varieties to choose from. Southern peaches, California white peaches also the flat exotic peach, and others. It's just too bad though that we've turned away from the freestone varieties.
For some odd reason nectarines always seem to do better. You'll enjoy your fruit more if you allow 2 - 3 days for ripening.
Most all of the shipped fruit is picked green. Plums and apricots follow these same rules. Black plums dominate at the moment, but you are in for some wonderful tasting plums as the season progresses. The Plucot -'½ plum, ½ apricot - is the dream fruit for now. In fact, better than anything you've ever tasted.
Apricots are iffy. You have to hit a late variety that has full color. I have not seen any to meet that standard to date. Ripen at room temperature. If they ripen too rapidly, refrigerate at once. They will hold up for a couple of days.
So, let me give you a rundown of what to expect in the next week or so. Outstanding cantaloupes from California, cross honey dews out for now. Watermelons, seedless mostly. For the first time in years I've seen the long striped variety that once was so popular weighing about 30 lbs for $12.95. That is what Frank is using for cutting up quarters and they really look good. Take note, cantaloupes must be ripened for 2-3 days. Honey dews never change; if they are not ripe to begin with, they will remain hard.
Red and white seedless grapes, still at their peak of goodness. The red variety seems to be sweeter. I saw some Comice Pears, that famous exotic variety and the imported Packham Pears that look almost like the Bartlett variety. They looked hard, needing ripening. The Bosc (brown pear), you can't beat it for flavor. I know it isn't orange season with all these summer fruits, but the Valencia's sure taste juicy and sweet.
If you're looking for exotic fruit, try the Lychees, an old Chinese standby. You'll be surprised at the taste. How about that great selection of all the hot peppers: jalapenos, hot banana, Scotch Habernos, red chili, and pumblunos. I didn't see any dried red peppers, that's a story in itself. Dried peppers hanging on a string are a beautiful sight, but hot as hell!
Don't miss out on the Vidalia sweet onions. I can't have a meal without them. Onions that really are sweet and don't make you cry when you prepare them.
I warn you, you'll not get a good tasting tomato until the homegrown varieties are ready, late August and September, a few in July. The Camperi variety is the answer, available mostly at Costco, Heinen's, and Whole Foods.
The grape cherry tomatoes are O.K., but a fair substitute I guess. I'll not say more, that is one of my sore spots. I had hoped to do a lecture on the industrialization of the tomato, but there were no takers! How could that be with so many poor tasting varieties arriving every day? Almost not one of them worthy of the name!
Miles Market features the Zumba brand, which is good, but priced too high for the amount you get. I saw some cactus pears, kumquats, tomatillos, passion fruit, fresh rhubarb, Boston head lettuce, and the best looking artichokes I've seen this year. Look for tightly formed, fresh green artichokes-must be solid and attractive looking.
We've got the best part of summer fruits coming in the next few weeks. You can look for the fruit to improve in taste as we move forward. July 4th week is peak for most everything. Locally grown vegetables and truck garden varieties will begin harvesting in July, peaking in August. Don't be surprised to find that the farm market produce that you purchase at these stands will generally be higher priced. However, if you are a foodie, you'll notice the difference in taste at once!
Refrigeration and transportation make a big difference in how food tastes. That's what makes it more expensive. A refrigerator should be used just for temporary storage, not for longstanding periods. It also diminishes in its nutritional content every day in a refrigerator.
I haven't mentioned apples at all, but there are still many good, hard varieties available. I'm going to stick to my old standbys such as Galas, Pink Lady, Granny Smith, and I am introducing you to the Braeburn variety. You'll find this variety hard with a sharp bite and that true apple taste that separates it from the others. Fuji's deserve a second look, but there are too many variables for me to promote it.
Let me finish by telling you that Johnny Appleseed planted apple trees wherever he thought there could be a village or town. It's not true that the apple was planted for its fruit. It made good apple cider with a high degree of alcohol.
Remember, it takes alcohol to make the world go around. Did you know that?
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