Monday, March 30, 2009

Passionate Fruits?

Thanks to its name, the passion fruit shows up on a lot of Valentine's Day menus. But what's passionate about the passion fruit? Well, we hate to disillusion all you romantics out there, but the name has nothing to do with its powers as an aphrodisiac. The fruit of this tropical vine was dubbed the passion fruit by Catholic friars arriving in its Brazilian homeland, who saw Christian symbolism in the shape and markings of the flowers.

As Elizabeth Schneider writers in her book, Uncommon Fruits and Vegetables, "The complex and remarkably beautiful flowers are the origin of this name, with different parts of the bloom representing the wounds, crucifixion nails, crown of thorns, and the Apostles." Some of the friars even saw the vine as justification for their missionary work; to them, it was clearly put there to bring the indigenous populations to Christianity.

That's a lot of symbolic freight for one plant to carry. Luckily, no matter how you look at the plant, the passion fruit itself is a delicious, sweet-tart treat that has been enjoyed all around the world for centuries.

The easiest way to eat your passion fruit is to cut off the top and scoop out the jelly-like golden pulp with a spoon. The small black seeds are edible and pleasantly crunchy, although they can be sieved out for a more elegant presentation. Let the fruit soften and get a little wrinkly before eating for the fullest flavor and aroma.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Recipe-Chunky Guacamole

Let your avocados ripen at room temperature until they have a little “give” when gently squeezed. Always cover any leftover cut avocado tightly, since they will oxidize and turn brown when exposed to air.

2 ripe avocados
juice of 1 lime (or to taste)
1/4 tsp salt
1 jalapeno or serrano pepper, minced (optional)
1 scallion, chopped (or 1 tbsp minced red onion)
1/4 tsp cumin
3 or 4 sprigs cilantro, chopped
1 tomato, seeded and diced

Cut avocado in half and remove pit. Scoop out flesh and mash roughly. Sprinkle with salt, lime juice, minced hot pepper, scallion, and cumin. Stir together well. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more salt, lime juice, or cumin as needed. Just before serving, stir in most of the chopped cilantro and diced tomato. Sprinkle with a little more chopped cilantro and serve. Baby carrots, celery sticks, and red bell pepper strips make great healthy “dippers”!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

CSA Newsletter: Food Not Lawns 3 22 09

Food Not Lawns is the catchy title of a very useful book. In it, subtitled How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden and Your Neighborhood into a Community, author Heather Coburn Flores makes a persuasive case for homeowners to turn their home turf into edible gardens. Whether you’ve got a front yard, a back yard, or even just a sunny strip along the side: one you get beyond the green lawn, the potential for really going green expands with every square foot of soil.

There are decorative edible flowers, like nasturtiums, that can grow between rows of vegetables. A trellis lush with climbing bean vines draws in bees and hummingbirds while forming a natural screen for privacy--much more delicious than a board fence or box hedge. (Scarlett runners produce prodigiously, first bright-red flowers, then succulent flat beans which can be eaten fresh or left to mature into bright pink-and-black shelling beans.)

Children find root vegetables irresistible--the mystery of what’s hidden under the soil, the surprise that something as ordinary as a carrot or a radish actually lives deep in the dirt, the thrill of pulling on a handful of leaves and yanking out a full-grown carrot or fat red beet.

Even the Obamas are taking Flores’ advice. Not the whole White House lawn, but one section (over by the girls’ swing set) is going to be turned into an organic garden. It will double as an edible schoolyard for local D.C. schoolchildren, who’s not only get to weed and water but will take their harvest into the White House kitchens and learn how to cook (and eat) their dirt-fresh bounty.

By doing this, the Obamas set a great example for families all across the country. Maybe you don’t have the space to grow all your own squash and potatoes. But you can probably grow several months of salads, courtesy of a pack of mixed salad-green seeds, a sprawling cherry tomato plant, perhaps a sugar-snap pea vine or two. Kids who’ve gotten dirty planting, watering, poking at and picking their own vegetables are much more likely to eat (and like) their veggies. Why not plant some seeds today and see what grows?


Avocados? Tomatoes? Isn’t this supposed to be a fruit CSA? By common definition, both avocados and tomatoes are, technically, fruit, even if you wouldn’t bake them in a pie. (Although we have seen--and tasted--both green-tomato and creamy avocado-chocolate pies!) Much like a peach or a cherry, the avocado’s single pit contains all its tree’s genetic information.

Given enough time and space, you could grow your own avocado tree from the avocado in your box this week--although it’s probably more feasible to grow a simple houseplant instead. After you’ve eaten your avocado, poke three or four toothpicks into the pit, equally spaced like spokes on a wheel. Use the toothpicks to suspend the pit (wide side down) over a glass of water, keeping the bottom submerged. Watch the roots grow from the pit; when you’ve got a sturdy-looking tangle, plant in a generous-sized pot with the tip of the pit sticking out of the soil.

These organic tomatoes got a jump on summer by growing in warm greenhouses rather than out in the chilly spring breezes.

So, what's in the box this week?

Avocado ~ Haas Eco-Farms, Temecula, CA

Grapefruit~ Star Ruby
South Texas Organics, Mission, TX

Apple~ Fuji
Deneven Apples, Santa Cruz, CA or Bruce Rider, Watsonville, CA

Orange ~ Navel
Eco-Farms, Temecula, CA

Tangelo ~ Minneola
Eco-Farms, Temecula, CA

Wilgenburg Greenhouses, Dinuba, CA

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Kumquat Reading

Hope you've been enjoying your kumquats this week! The San Francisco Chronicle recently featured these sweet-tart fruits in a short article filled with with some interesting history and facts, including intriguing ideas from local restaurants. Range uses them in a salad with smoked trout, while the Chez Panisse Cafe tops Page mandarin sherbet with candied kumquats. There's even a bakery in New York City called the Kumquat Cupcakery.
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