National Fruit and Vegetable Month
There’s an ever-growing parade of produce arriving at Orinda’s weekly farmers’ market to help celebrate National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month. It’s also time to celebrate dad on Father’s Day and grads on Graduation Day with some of the freshest choices in town.
Figs make their appearance in June with the fruit produced on last year’s new wood; the second harvest coming in August and September will be from the upcoming summer growth. Hundreds of varieties of figs offer a sweet, aromatic flesh and skin color ranging from purple black to almost white and shapes from round to oval. Here in California there are mainly four varieties to choose from – Black Mission, Kadota, Brown Turkey and Calimyrna.
Figs are not true fruits, but fleshy flowers, with their blossoms on the inside. They are completely edible except for the hard stem – if peeling is necessary be sure to chill the fruit first. Tree ripened figs are the sweetest – like those you find at the farmers’ markets.
Okra also begins its fresh season this month. Okra is a love-it-or-leave it vegetable synonymous with the word gumbo. Okra lends itself to the same methods of preparation as asparagus – simmering, steaming, or marinating. When left completely whole, its texture is fairly crisp, but once cut and cooked it releases a viscous substance that serves as a thickener. These slippery strings that form as okra cooks is a process called “roping” and is the result of the protein in the okra reacting to the heat. It does not affect the flavor and is prized by some in traditional gumbos, soups and stews.
The cherry season continues into its peak with the popular Bing and Rainier cherry varieties. Cherries do not ripen or improve in flavor after harvest. Choose the largest cherries that are firm and deeply colored for their variety. Those with fresh stems still attached are the best quality and store the longest.
Cherries require cold temperature and high humidity for optimum storage time. Place single layers of unwashed cherries between paper towels in a container. Cover and refrigerate for three to four days if necessary. Rinse in cool water and drain before serving.
Enjoy and see you at the market!
The Orinda market is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Orinda Way in front of the Community Park and Rite Aid. For more information, visit the website at http://www.cccfm.org where you can also sign up to hear about market specials sent right to your phone. Market Hotline: 925-431-8361.
CHERRY OATMEAL CRISP
2 cups sweet cherries, pitted
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
One half cup brown sugar
Three quarter cup flour
Three quarter cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
One quarter teaspoon EACH nutmeg and salt
One half cup butter at room temperature
Place cherries in a lightly greased and floured 8-inch square baking dish. Sprinkle lemon juice over cherries. Blend remaining ingredients together until crumbly. Sprinkle over cherries. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes until bubbly and golden brown. Serve hot or cold, plain or with ice cream or frozen yogurt. Serves 4.