Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cherries, Cherries, & A Cherry Pitter

Apricots, plums, blueberries, nectarines, peaches... but it still cherry time through June.  So enjoy some Bing and Rainier cherries but don't forget to try Brooks and Tieton.  My family has been enjoying all of these varieties.   

After getting tired of cutting and digging out the pit of cherries for my toddler I considered purchasing a cherry pitter, but I try not to buy any gadget/appliance that only has one purpose.  Oops, I guess my ice cream maker and Chinese hot pot fall into that category. 

In the end I never got around to looking for one.  But my mother-in-law surprised me with a cherry (de)pitter that pits four cherries at a time.  The Cherry-It by Progressive avoids splatters that a single pitter might make.

It's alittle big and it doesn't store flat if locked or unlocked (not sure what the point of that feature is because neither position keep the prongs in a closed position). 
Its designed to hold 4 large cherries or 4 small cherries but 8 can't be pitted at the same time.  If you put a small cherry in a large hole, it will get pitted but more of the flesh will get "pitted" too. 
It works like a guillotine.  After pressed, four metal prongs with a plus shaped tip snap down and spring back up.  Here are the pitted cherries minus one (someone couldn't wait until I took the picture).  It's easy to use and wash so we use it often when we have cherries.  It sure beats pitting them one by one, and now I get to enjoy them as well. 

Sunday, June 13, 2010


My First Impression: That's a strange vegetable. 
Gotcha! It's a FRUIT called Cherimoya.  I came across this little green brain shaped tropical fruit in May at the end of its season, so I hope you don't feel teased that you'll have to wait until next year to try it. 

Well I wanted to spotlight this little fruit when it was still available but I couldn't remember what it was called even after asking twice.  When I tried to convince my husband to taste it, his simple question of  "What's it called?" resulted in words like "chitamoo" and "chatanuga" coming out out mouth.  Not a very convincing first impression.  But when I told him I splurged at $5.00lb that was convincing enough for him to try it. 
At the FM,  I was eavesdropping (to learn of course) on another cherimoya newbie.  The vendor described it as a mix of mango, pineapple, and banana.  After seeing our interest, he broke out a knife and gave us a sample.  Yum-o, just like candy.   

When I purchased my cherimoya, it still needed a day or two to ripen until it felt like a ripe avocado.  I think mine was alittle over ripened.  This variety of cherimoya had thin smooth skin. 
Once cut, it gave off a refreshing sweet aroma to reveal dime-sized brown seeds nestled among the white flesh.  The texture was kind of mushy (might of been over ripened) but melted in your mouth.  It tasted very sweet and tropical but not like a pineapple, mango, or banana.  Maybe I should make myself a smoothie to see if it taste like all three because none of those flavors stand out it in a cherimoya.  

My whole family thought it was very tasty, but by the end we were alittle overwhelmed by the fruit's sweetness.  Maybe as a sherbet or mixed in a fruit salad next year. 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Farmer's Market at Irvine Historical Park

This week I went to the FM located behind Katie Wheeler Library in Irvine, CA. I wasn't quite prepared with my weekly shopping list for my menu but we were all out of fruit. I decided to meet up with another stay-at-home mom and make a morning of it by going to the library, walking to the farmer's market, and then ending up with a short drive to Tustin Sports Park for lunch and play time.

There are several ways to access the market, you can park at the end of Old Myford Rd (small lot) and the market will be on your right when you exit or if you park at the library, walk to the entrance on the backside of the library building--a palm tree lined path curves towards two opened rod iron gates and opens up into the market.

The market is still fairly small with about 15 vendors. There are some familiar faces like Berumen Boyz Farm and others that I haven't commonly seen including Ray's Ranch of Temecula, Bolani Afghan food, and SMART Fish Co.

Since it wasn't very crowded, I was also able to spend time sampling hummus from BabaFoods, a frequent vendor at many FMs. A basket of cut pita bread in small bags with of 11 chilled squirt bottles of hummus were very inviting.  Some unique flavors included avocado and cilantro, fresh cilantro and jalapeno, and sundried tomato and basil. I actually hate hummus especially garlic hummus so I skipped the roasted garlic and garlic and artichoke for obvious reasons.

Now I started by asking, "Which hummus would someone like if they hated hummus?" The vendor looked alittle perplexed but gave me a try of pesto sundried tomato, it was good. Another "regular" of the FM recommended the roasted bell pepper, nope. Then I tried the avocado and cilantro.  Eureka! Now who would care if I found a hummus I liked or not? That's what I love about the farmer's market. Don't forget the pita bread and chips. Any 3 items for $10.

Nancy's Shopping Stroller-Cart
Here's what else I bought: Bing cherries, blueberries, plums, yellow nectarines, apricots, strawberries, avocados, red leaf lettuce, white corn, cilantro, cauliflower, and broccoli.  I know that's a lot of fruit, but I couldn't resist. 
Truthfully I hate vegetables aren't my favorite.  I grew up eating all things orange (Cheetos) and white (french fries) so I had no taste for real food.  Surprisedly, my 2 year old eats more vegetables and fruits now than what I ate my whole childhood. 

But the FM gently persuades me to "eat your vegetables" and now veggies share half my plate with my blessing.  Oh the wonders of FMs--an appreciation for real food. 

If you're a FM newbie or just need some real food, give the Irvine Historical Park (Katie Wheeler Library) Farmer's Market a try on Tuesdays from 9-1pm rain or shine. It's an easy way to ease into shopping without the crowds and you can ask all the questions you want.  

Want a peek at who's there? This list is based on my observations while chasing a two-year old hoarding strawberry samples, so it is not exhaustive.

Agricultural Vendors:
  • Berumen Boyz Farm 
  • Berumen Farm
  • Orange County Produce Conventional & Organic Fruits & Vegetables
  • Ricardo Salazar Produce
  • Fruits (Bakersfield)
  • Rosendahl Farms (Fresno)--aprium, pluots
  • Hopkins Agriculture (Bakersfield)--Roasted/Seasoned almonds & rainier cherries
  • Ray's Ranch of Temecula--Organic fruits, raw honey, bee pollen, free range eggs, goat's milk
  • Roasted Peanuts (Santa Ana)--roasted peanuts, prepackaged nuts and dried fruits
Artisans & Purveyors
  • Bolani East and West Foods Afghan Foods (Concord)--Bolani, sauces, hummus
  • Mangi Con Amore (Irvine)--gelato, ravioli
  • The Taste of Real Bread (San Clemente)--fresh bread packed in brown bags
  • SMART Fish Co.--seafood
  • Baba Foods (San Diego)--hummus, Mediterranean food
  • Gourmet Tamales (Santa Ana)--Fresh prepackaged gluten-free tamales, chips, salsa
  • Jumbo Tamales (Inglewood)--Cooked tamales
My Deal of the Day
2 free oranges and $1.00 huge red leaf lettuce

Monday, May 17, 2010

Our Home Garden

I love the idea of food growing out of ground with just soil, water, and sun. Well then, why not grow my own food? Alas I live in the suburbs with what can hardly be called a front and side yard, more like a L-shaped alley. But in this little space my husband, the gardener, has managed to grow in containers: herbs, swiss chard, bok choy, tomatoes, and our new addition of a blueberry bush which I'm sure my 2 year old will consume before all of them ripen. Even with my husband's best efforts, none of it goes very far with a growing family, so I rely on farmers' markets (FM) and they rely on me.

A certified California FM means everything is grown in California and by the farmers who are selling it at the market. Food is frequently inspected by the county agricultural commissioner; growers and their farms are inspected to see if what is sold is actually grown at the farm. If the farmer is a certified organic grower, then probes are also used to test produce for pesticides. How's that for quality control!

Farmers' Markets offer a variety of fruits and vegetables compared to what is commonly sold in supermarkets and often times you'll learn that the peaches you're buying were just picked that morning when they were ripe. It's also local and grown with little or no pesticides used and to me, fruits and veggies just taste better and are healthier.

8lb cabbage $1.00

I also interact with genuine farmers who take pride in what they sell.  Although the grower didn't want to be photographed, he wanted me to take a picture of this almost 8lb cabbage that was grown organically. I asked him how it can grow so big without fertilizers or pesticides in which he said they don't need it, he'll grow squash in the same place where the fava beans grew. (My husband clarified that fava beans give off nitrogen and provide nutrients to the soil, sounds good to me.)

Not willing to just travel for fruits and veggies? FMs sell herbs, grass-fed beef, seafood, nuts, hummus, prepared foods, fresh baked bread, desserts, tamales, plants, cage-free eggs, crafts, and many unique items.

 "No share!" quoted from a 2 year old.

Best of samples and there's plenty for everyone so "no share" indeed.