Best of the local bounty

This article was originally published in August 2012

One of the greatest joys of the season is relishing the profusion of fresh, delicious fruits and vegetables from our local farmers. Bite into a juicy, ripe peach or heirloom tomato and experience the glorious taste of summer.


Organic Red Haven Peaches

Twin Springs Farm; Rice, Wash.

The splendid peach is a member of the rose family and is classified as a stone fruit, as are plums, cherries and apricots. They are high in vitamin A and a good source of vitamin C. Their flesh has a warm, succulent aroma that is usually white or yellow in color, and they’re at their peak here in August and September.

Buying and storing: Peaches should be free of bruises or hints of green, firm to the touch, with a flesh that yields to light pressure and smells sweet. They will continue to ripen at room temperature in a paper bag or with adequate circulation.

Uses: Peaches taste fabulous in salads, baked in crisps, and even grilled.\


Organic Slicing Cucumbers

Dungeness Organic Produce; Sequim, Wash.

These crisp gems are part of the Cucurbitaceae family that includes melons and squashes. They are high in vitamin K and include phytonutrients such as lignans and flavonoids that provide anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. For an attractive presentation, run fork tines along the length of cucumbers, or peel alternating sections of the skin so that some green remains.

Buying and storing tips: Select cucumbers that are firm, deep green and without soft spots. Store uncovered in the crisper and use within a few days of purchase.

Uses: Combine sliced cucumbers with seasoned rice vinegar, sliced green onions and a splash of mirin for a quick, delicious snack.


Organic Sweet Basil

Rents Due Ranch; Stanwood, Wash.

There are over 40 varieties of this delectable herb that is part of the mint family. The most common is sweet basil, which has a rich, mildly peppery and spicy taste. Basil is an excellent source of vitamin K; a very good source of calcium, iron and vitamin A; and a good source of fiber, magnesium, potassium and vitamin C.

Buying and storing tips: Basil should appear deep green, without any black spots or yellowing on the leaves. Wrap in a slightly damp paper towel before storing it in the refrigerator. Use within two or three days.

Uses: Famous for the role it plays in pesto, fresh basil also is tasty in salads or added at the last minute to soups.


Organic Zucchini

Rents Due Ranch; Stanwood, Wash.

Versatile and ubiquitous, zucchini is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family that includes melons and cucumbers. They are rich in vitamins C and E, beta-carotene and folic acid. There are many different varieties of summer squash, each with a different shape, size and flavor, but all summer squashes have an edible, soft outer shell. This also means they can’t be stored as long as winter squash.

Buying and storing tips: Select small to medium-size zucchini when possible, without blemishes or soft spots. Store loosely in a perforated vegetable bag or in an airtight container in the crisper. Zucchini can be stored for up to seven days.

Uses: Zucchini pairs well with many herbs, including marjoram, chives and basil. Grilling is one good method for cooking zucchini because the high heat sears them and some of their excess moisture is released.


Organic Heirloom Tomatoes

Inaba Produce Farms; Wapato, Wash.
and Pride of the Umpqua; Roseburg, Ore.

Tomatoes are part of the nightshade family, along with potatoes and chile peppers. A tomato is an “heirloom” when it is open-pollinated and its seeds have been saved over generations. There is renewed interest in heirlooms whose flavor — not looks — reign supreme. So as not to crush tomatoes, slice with a serrated knife.

Buying and storing tips: Choose tomatoes that are heavy for their size. Store unripe tomatoes at room temperature with good air circulation; ripe or cut tomatoes may be stored in the refrigerator, but they will suffer in taste and texture.

Uses: Tomatoes shine atop a sliced baguette, topped with fresh mozzarella, basil and a sprinkling of sea salt.


Organic Seedless Watermelon

Inaba Produce Farms; Wapato, Wash.

Watermelons are part of the botanical family Curcurbitaceae, along with cucumbers and squash. Their sweet flesh is typically red or yellow in color, or sometimes orange. This mouth-watering fruit is an excellent source of vitamins A and C and contains the most lycopene (an antioxidant) of any fresh fruit or vegetable. Did we mention that it’s fun to eat?

Buying and storing tips: Watermelons should feel heavy for their size. Store unripe ones at room temperature for a few days; ripe or cut watermelon should be stored, sealed, in the refrigerator.

Uses: Try a simple salad of watermelon, feta, basil and lime juice. View recipe »


Organic Bunch Carrots

Dungeness Organic Produce; Sequim, Wash.

Carrots are in the same family as parsley, celery, dill and fennel and are rich in vitamins A, C and K, as well as fiber and potassium. This crunchy, sweet root vegetable pairs well with orange, ginger, dill, chervil, mint and other herbs. “Bunch” carrots mean they still have their edible green tops attached.

Buying and storing tips: Look for firm carrots without streaks of green; green tops should not look wilted. Cut tops off before storing and store separately in plastic bags in the crisper. Carrots remain fresh at least two weeks.

Uses: Carrots roasted with a bit of olive oil and salt caramelize on the outside and remain tender within, yielding a savory, sweet treat.

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