Back To Basics – Prepare, Store & Cook
How to prepare, store, and cook those vegetables & fruits
Apples place several in a paper bag at room temperature for a few days. Unrefrigerated apples produce natural ethylene gas, and thus ripen themselves.
Apricots must be stored in the refrigerator unless you plan to eat them within 24 hours. They will get overripe if you leave them unchilled for longer.
Arugula: should be washed before eating, and then spun dry. Stored in a plastic bag, it keeps for 3-4 days.
Asparagus: Store asparagus for just a few days in a wrapped plastic bag — keep moist. To prepare, “snap”off the tough ends and cook whole or cut into pieces. Soak the asparagus briefly to remove any silt. Traditionally, asparagus is cooked standing up, in a bunch, with the tips out of the water. But you can steam or saute briefly, until just tender — or add to soup just before removing from heat.
Don’t overcook your asparagus! ‘Gras should be crisp but tender, never soft or mushy unless cooked in soup or pureed. Thin asparagus will cook faster than fat asparagus, and you will probably get some of each from us during the course of the season. That means you will always have to be vigilant about cooking it carefully. The simplest way is to steam it, but if you feel like buying an asparagus cooker, more power to you. By the way, thin asparagus is not “baby” asparagus and fat spears are not “old and tough”. Fat asparagus can be more tender than thin, but it’s not quite as versatile. And don’t be surprised to see purple colored spears in your boxes either — it’s a different variety, but can be used exactly the same way. Store all ‘gras in the fridge, in plastic.
Basil: is challenging to keep for more than a few days. Try putting the stems in a cup full of water, in the fridge, covered with a plastic bag. If it starts to turn black, you can pull off all the leaves and freeze for later use in sauce. Or make pesto but leave out the cheese, and freeze.
Beets: The secret to beets is to cook them before you need them. Just steam for 30 minutes or until tender, then soak in cold water and slip off the skins. Store in the fridge for 3-5 days, and add to a last minute salad or soup. Try adding finely chopped orange peel and a little juice to the vinaigrette.
Beet Greens: BEET greens are also loaded with nutrition, so make sure to eat them, too. Use within a few days for best results. Saute garlic and add the greens with 1/2 C. of water, then cook until tender. The roots will keep for several weeks in the fridge. To cook, boil, steam, or bake. Then peel the skins, dress lightly with a vinagrette, and add to salads.
Broccoli: Should be stored in the refrigerator in a plastic bag. Use within 4 days or freeze. Purple Broccoli turns green when you cook it, and apart from color, is identical to regular broccoli. Remember to peel and slice your broccoli stems and include them in whatever you cook.
Butternut Squash stores for several months at room temperature. To prepare, slice in half lengthwise and bake face down on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees until soft. Discard the seeds and skin. It can be eaten as-is, made into a sweet mash by adding maple syrup and cinnamon, or used in savory dishes like soups, gratins and stews. It is loaded with Vitamin A.
Cabbage: fresh cabbage is crunchy and sweet, and is loaded with nutrients. If cooking, just saute briefly, so it retains its crispness. Use raw in salads, where it will soak up flavors and stay crunchy. Avoid boiling it into paste or soaking it with fattening mayonnaise. See also Red Cabbage…
Cauliflower is extremely sensitive to bruising, so we leave the leaves on for you. Don’t remove them until just before cooking, and the collies will last 4-5 days in your fridge in plastic. Cut the head into individual florets. To cook, steam or cook as per kale (10 to 15 minutes). The cauliflower is done when the stalks of the florets turn light green.
Canteloupe and other melons should be kept at room temperature until cut or until they become very fragrant. Then, they may be refrigerated for up to 5 days, but will keep best if cut and stored in a plastic container.
Carrots: Scarlet Nantes are so-called “core-less” carrots — the inspiration for those bogus “baby peeled” carrots you get in bags at the supermarket. They are very tender and don’t store for long without going limp. Remove the tops immediately and store in a plastic bag, or better yet, in a sealed container full of water for easy snacking. These are best for eating raw, out of hand or in salads. Cook only briefly, if you must.
Chard is like very tender beet greens. Cut the stems out and cook separately — about 5 minutes, then add the leaves. Cook the leaves until just tender. Chard can also be substituted for spinach.
Cherries: Cherries should be kept refrigerated until eaten, in a plastic or paper bag.
Cilantro stores like basil — in water, covered with plastic, in the fridge. Do not cook, as heat destroys its flavor. Add to dishes just before serving.
Cucumbers: Our cucumbers are not waxed and must be stored in the refrigerator in a plastic bag, or they will become limp overnight.
Dino kale: Kale is tops among greens for vitamin and mineral content, and when grown in the winter, it is not bitter or spicy. Store kale in a plastic bag in the fridge. To cook, trim the tough stems, then chop roughly or mince. Steam for 5-8 minutes, until tender but not pasty. Or, saute leeks or green onions, then add the kale and water or broth. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Add salt or tamari.
Fava Beans: Shell the beans by splitting the pods down the middle. Throw the beans in a pot of boiling water, and when the water returns to a boil, remove and rinse under cool water. Peel the tough skin from each bean and pop the tender kernels out. Add to pasta, soup, or salads just before serving, or use in a puree.
Figs: Fresh FIGS are extremely perishable. Eat them within two days of getting your box, or risk disappointment! Keep refrigerated.
Green Garlic: This is a young garlic plant, used like a green onion but with a fresh garlic flavor. It can be used raw or cooked, and one stem is equivalent to one or two cloves of dried garlic. Carefully rinse the area between the leaves and stem, then use the entire plant.You use it just like green onions – either cooked or raw, both white and green parts. Green garlic is a gourmet delicacy that chefs eagerly await every year, and pay a pretty penny to get. You, as Terra Firma subscribers, will get it all through the spring just for belonging to our CSA.
Garlic : Store cured garlic in a well-ventilated spot outside of the refrigerator.
Grapes: At Terra Firma we don’t wash our grapes, so you will probably want to at home. We sometimes use natural and certified organic sulfur dust to control mildew on our grapes, which is an allergen for some people. We will advise you in the newsletter any time that the grapes may have sulfur residue on them. More frequently, you will notice white spotting on the black grapes, which is a residue of the garlic oil that is our preferred fungicide.
Green Onions: To remove the skins from GREEN ONIONS: Just before using, cut the each onion at the base. The dried skin will pull off quickly and easily with the roots this way. You can use the green and white parts.
Kale: KALE should be stored in a plastic bag in the fridge. To prepare, saute with onions or garlic and a little water until tender; steam; or add to soup in the last ten minutes of cooking. It is loaded with iron and calcium.
Kiwi : Fruit are ripe when they give slightly to the touch. To ripen firm kiwis, place in a paper bag at room temperature —preferably with an apple — until it ripens in 2-3 days. Keep ripe kiwi in the fridge until you eat them. To eat, peel the skin and cut into slices, or squeeze until the skin bursts and eat from the inside out. Kiwis can be used in salsa or as a substitute for tomatoes in some dishes.
Leeks need to be cleaned before cooking. Cut the leaves off where they meet the shaft, then cut an “X“ halfway into the shaft and rinse under water. Leeks must be cooked to eat, preferably slowly, over low heat — they have a lower water content than onions and burn more easily. They can be substituted for onions in any recipe. Some people will eat them raw in salads.
Mandarin Oranges keep better at room temperature, unless your house is heated above 75 degrees. They will keep at least a week. Add to stir fry, soup or stew for a surprising tanginess.
Melons can stay at room temperature for 2-3 days before cutting. See the notes on watermelons….
Navel Oranges: keep best in the fridge. They make good juice, but it will turn bitter after a few days, so juicers should squeeze it fresh and drink it quick.
Nectarines: Nectarines are a cross between peaches and plums. We harvest them firm-ripe. If eaten this way, they taste mostly like plums — juicy and crunchy but fairly tart. If you allow them to finish ripening and soften up a bit, they develop more of a peach texture. Nectarines can be stored in the fridge for up to a week, unlike peaches. See Peaches.
New Potatoes: Treat new potatoes as fresh produce — store in the fridge in a plastic bag, away from light. Because the skins are still soft, the potatoes will be scuffed by our handling them. Use them within five days to ensure good results. Look for specific “new” potato recipes, or substitute for regular potatoes in any recipe except Baked Potatoes and French Fries. New potatoes aren’t starchy enough for these types of uses.
Onions: For yellow onions see update below… Store cured onions and garlic in a well-ventilated spot outside of the refrigerator. Cut onions can be stored in the fridge in a plastic bag for up to a week. TFF ONIONS are sweet varieties. The reds can be eaten raw, and both kinds are great grilled, roasted, or for any other use.
Peaches: We harvest peaches as close to ripeness as possible while still being firm enough to ship. They will not rarely arrive in your box ready to eat, but rather will take a day or two to finish ripening at room temperature. NEVER refrigerate your peaches, as the temperature of most home refrigerators will turn the fruit mealy within 12 hours. See Nectarines.
Peppers: Store in a plastic bag, in the fridge. Peppers will shrivel if stored for more than 4 days, except when cut and kept in water.
Fuyu Persimmons: Store at room temperature. Refrigerator speeds ripening and will make them soft.
Pomegranate: To eat, cut a circle around the stem-end, then break into sections. Don’t try this while driving. Or cut in half and juice with a standard juicer, like oranges but messier.
Potatoes will sprout at room temperature. Keep in plastic or paper bag in the fridge. Even in the fridge, spuds should be kept in a place with little or no exposure to light (produce drawer) otherwise they may develop bitter green skin.
Pumpkins: TFF pumpkins are not for eating. Do not put carved, Jack O’Lantern PUMPKINS from Terra Firma on your head and ride on horseback through your neighborhood.
Red Cabbage: Some times red cabbage may have a white waxy substance covering some of the leaves. It develops when the cabbage is exposed to extremely cold temperatures, a sort of scarring from freezing.
Red Chard: Remember that chard is two vegetables in one – the stalks are crunchy like celery but sweeter, and the leaves are cooked like spinach. The trick is to separate the stems while cleaning, and cook them for 2-3 minutes first. Then add the leaves, which need just a minute or two or steaming or sauting to soften them up. Any longer and you’re likely to get a pasty mess.
Red Kale: Kale is tops among greens for vitamin and mineral content, and right now it happens to be at its flavor peak — sweet and tender. Store kale in a plastic bag in the fridge. To cook, trim the tough stems, then chop roughly or mince. Steam for 5-8 minutes, under tender but not pasty. Or saute leeks or green onions, then add the kale and water or broth, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Add salt or tamari.
Rosemary: can also easily be dried by hanging up inside, which will make the flavor stronger, and change the texture. Use in roasted vegetable dishs, soups, or poultry dishes.
Salad mix is washed once at the farm, but should be washed again before eating, and then spun dry. Stored in a plastic bag, it keeps for 3-4 days.
Spinach: Our small spinach can be used either raw or lightly cooked. But always soak it in water rather than rinsing it, as the crumpled leaves have a tendency to resist washing. Lift the leaves out of the soaking bowl, then empty the water. Winter SPINACH is sweet and tender. But whether cooking or using it in salads, make sure to soak in a bowl of water once or twice first to ensure a grit-free experience.
Spring Onions: Store all fresh onions and garlic in plastic in the fridge. Cut the leaves off where they meet the stem and discard; slice the rest in rounds or half rounds and cook until tender. To get the most flavor, allow the onions to caramelize slightly. Spring onions can be substituted for regular onions in almost any dish, however, they will cook down more due to their higher water content.
Squash: Butternut squash: Squash is cooked and used similarly to sweet potatoes. The easiest preparation is to cut it in half lengthwise, place face down on a cookie sheet and bake at 425 degrees until easily pierced with a fork. Discard the seeds and scoop the flesh out from the skin, then add to a seasoned broth with other vegetables for a creamy soup, or use to make pumpkin pie or other deserts. Butternut is both sweeter and less stringy than pumpkin.
Strawberries: Store our tender berries in a sealed plastic container in the fridge, or simply place in a bowl on the kitchen table where they will be quickly consumed. If, for some reason, they seem to be breaking down before you can eat them, toss them in a blender with ice, sugar, and lemon juice for a quick smoothie. Add tequila and you’ve got a margarita. Add rum and you have a daiquiri.
Sweet Corn loses sugar every day after it is harvested. You can cook it all at once and then keep it in the fridge, reheating the ears briefly as you need them. Otherwise, store in the fridge in a plastic bag to preserve moisture. Boil water, throw the ears in, and remove as soon as the water returns to a boil.
Sweet Potatoes keep for one to two weeks at room temperature. Do not refrigerate.
Tomatoes should never be stored in the fridge, unless you plan to make sauce with them. It will make them mealy. Keep your ‘maters in a cool, well-ventilated spot and eat them as they ripen.
We grow over 30 varieties of tomatoes, not including cherry tomatoes and Early Girls (our standard “red” tomato). We do this partly in a search for “perfection”, and partly out of gullibility. Heirloom tomatoes are truly an addiction. All these tomatoes are soft to the touch when ready to eat, so if you’re not sure what color it should be, always use the touch test to determine ripeness.
Brandywine tomatoes are a specific variety of beefsteak tomato (a type of tomato which is large, meaty and dense) with a dark pink color, a matte skin that can look almost bruised, and what has been called a perfect balance between acidity and sweetness. Acidity is what gives tomatoes their “tomato flavor”, sweetness makes the flavor go down smoothly. We do grow the actual variety “Brandywine”. But we also grow several other varieties that look and taste quite similar to the Brandywine. Some ripen earlier, some ripen later. We do this to mute the tendency that most heirloom tomatoes, Brandywine included, have to produce large “flushes” of fruit in a period of just a few days and then very little again until the next flush. To maintain our sanity, we call all of these varieties “Brandywine”. Confused yet?
Cherokee Purple: This is a beefsteak variety with a shiny, dark purple/brownish skin with green overtones. The flesh is also quite dark, and is moister than the Brandywine. It is also a much more acidic tomato, yet still quite sweet. The result is a very intense, lush tomato flavor. We grow several varieties that are close in appearance and flavor to the Cherokee. Black Brandywine is a similar, but distinct variety — a brown and green colored beefsteak, still quite acidic, but even juicier than the Cherokee. It often has a ‘button’ shape in the blossom end.
Black Prince is a dark brown/greenish salad tomato, much smaller than a beefsteak with a more liquid center. This is one of our favorite tomatoes at the farm, and may be the single best tomato we know of for eating on sandwiches. It is quite acidic, yet very sweet.
Marvel Stripe are the medium to very large beefsteaks that are yellow/orange with red stripes radiating through them. A very meaty tomato, these are also incredibly mild, with very little acid in them. If you like “low acid tomatoes” you will love these. They also make a great companion to a Cherokee Purple, since the flavors complement each other very well. Like the Brandywine, we also grow several similar varieties that we call “Marvel Stripe”.
Zebras: We have always grown Green Zebra, a small, round tomato that when ripe is green with yellow stripes. It is an acidic tomato with less sugar in it, making it a little tart. This year, we are also growing Red Zebras and their beefsteak cousins Marvel Zebras. Like their green cousins, these tomatoes are quite tangy.
German Green and Great White are beefsteak tomatoes that are, respectively, green and yellowish-white when fully ripe. They are both very juicy beefsteaks, very sweet tomatoes with just a touch of acid. A pink blush on the end indicates full ripeness.
Valencia is a bright orange tomato, medium sized and meaty, with an almost hollow core — yet, not a beefsteak. They are low acid and sweet.
Lemon Boy is a bright yellow tomato with a high acid content as well as lots of sugar. They can be medium sized to quite large, but they are always moist and juicy inside.
Organic WALNUTS are not fumigated with methyl bromide like conventional walnuts, and thus will spoil at room temperature.
Spicy Caramelized Walnuts – Also a repeat, by request. It’s a good idea to turn on your hood fan or open a window when you do this, since the capsicums in the hot pepper vaporize as soon as they hit the hot, ungreased pan. Otherwise, expect to clear the kitchen of any unwanted bystanders. Roughly chop 1 C. or more of walnuts, then toast in a skillet over medium heat. When the walnuts begin to brown slightly, add 1 Tbsp. brown sugar mixed with a few dashes of cayenne pepper, and quickly stir until the walnuts are coated. Remove from heat and toss with your favorite salad. I particularly enjoy them with sliced beets and gorgonzola cheese.
Watermelons– Store watermelons outside the fridge until cut – then cover and refrigerate. You can use plastic wrap – crispers are much better. A whole melon in the fridge will last much longer than one on the table.
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