Tuesday, October 02, 2007

the produce post


I had a few summer wishes that hadn't come true until very recently, which is why I have been obnoxiously clinging on to the passing season. Among these, raspberry picking, blueberry picking, peach picking, one last trip to the beach, one last BBQ, one last road trip. Well you've seen some of these happen lately (hello raspberries! nice to meet you BBQ!). It's too late for me to pick blueberries this season. Whew! Just admitting that is liberating! In this post, I bring you some more items that I've been ticking off my summer checklist, bringing me closer and closer to accepting the end of that season and the beginning of another.


Behold...



Peaches! I had been wanting to go peach-picking for weeks. Not only would picking the peaches ourselves be more fun, but it would be way more cost-effective than buying them at the market. My environmentalist and frugal tendencies would nudge me in this direction. But the closest peach orchards to us were about an hour away. So... how many fossil fuels am I willing to burn for the idyllic thrill of picking fresh local peaches? Support local farmers and save money, but drive 150 miles round-trip, put out carbon emissions, spend $20 on gas? Decisions, decisions.



Fortunately, the decision was made for me one Saturday at the farmers market, when I met a man selling this huge bushel of "seconds." They were seconds not because they were overripe or damaged, but because they were cosmetically compromised by hail! Basically, I got a box of ugly buy perfectly delicious peaches for $5. Local, meet the farmer? Check. Cheap? Check. Lots of peaches to have fun with? Check and check.



At the market, we also got a huge basket of these tiny plums, which as you can see in the photo above, were about the size of large grape tomatoes. I kept wanting to use the plums to cook or bake something fabulous, but they were just so damn tasty to pop into my mouth. Somehow, Daiku and I went through these before anything got made. Going delirious with a huge glut of produce and eat them all before you can make anything with them? Check!



One of the best buys we have made from the market in recent memory is the world's biggest and best bunch of spinach ever. See that huge bunch I'm holding up in the above photo? That was only, say, 1/8 of the entire bag. We had so much spinach, that we used some almost every day, but didn't finish it for over a week! We kept fearing that it would go bad, but this never happened. Basically, this was fresh local spinach, pulled out by the root, so it stood up to refrigeration admirably. We used it for pizza topping, pasta, soup, salad, and more, as you've seen in my last few posts.



But the coolest thing that came from the spinach was... green smoothies! I've always wanted to experiment with throwing greens into smoothies. I've made smoothies with powdered spirulina, and I've juiced kale, but I had never gathered up the courage to just throw a bunch of greens into a smoothie until now. I figured the spinach was so fresh, tasty, and tender that now was as good a time as any to try it.



And boy, was it good! As you can see from these photos, the spinach completely dissolves in the smoothie, so there are no chunks hanging around. There is also no lingering flavor- all the spinach leaves behind is this beautiful emerald color. I was amazed at how much spinach I could cram into a small smoothie. So for breakfast, I could have 2 or more servings of greens (in addition to the banana, soy yogurt, orange juice and other goodies I threw in there) before the day had even begun. It felt really virtuous and good. Get a huge amount of perfect produce, enough to experiment with? Check!



With all these lovely summer produce experiences, I have been comforted enough to finally let autumn in. The photo above is from our second apple-picking excursion. It's so fun to bring home a huge amount of apples, and now that different varieties are coming in, there's even more we can do with them. In future posts, I will share the crisps, juices, pies, and sauces these apples have been yielding, but for now, I want to share my apple theory with you.



You see, when I go apple picking, I always pick these apples with the freckly markings on them. Not only do I love imperfect produce, but I'm convinced that these are the apples with the best flavor and texture. So far, I haven't been proven wrong. See, this is the fun of picking your own, whatever the produce item might be: getting to see the charming, quirky, irregular, or ugly fruit that you might never encounter in a supermarket. It adds immeasurable pleasure to the eating experience to come to terms with your food in its original context.

What about you? Do you have any "theories" about what makes the best-tasting produce? Are there any rituals or superstitions that you have to share about how you go about gathering the food you eat? Share them with me!



one year ago today: on 2 October 2006 I asked, what's on your skin?


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22 comments:

urban vegan said...

Look at your cornucopia of beautiful produce!

I've been meaning to try a green smoothie...one of these days.

I like any produce--as long as it's not spoiled or not too gigantic. People always marvel at gigantic prouce (Look at the size of this "zucchini!"), but I always wonder what made it so unnaturally large.

Vegan_Noodle said...

Oh yum, green smoothies!

What a plethora of produce! Is there a place you go on the net to figure out where you can pick local produce? Besides the farmers markets here in Houston, I don't know of places you can drive to to do your own picking. Must research...

Chris said...

That smoothie is awesome! As is the rest of your produce. I've never thought about greens in my shake but now I might just have to give it a try.

Jody from VegChic said...

Lucky find on those peaches Bazu.

I've got some sourdough feeding right now so I can make some pizza thanks to your other post.

We picked up some neat little plums like that at a farmer's market in RI near my house.

Yeah, I was also surprised to find green smoothies actually taste just fine. I'm thinking I tested kale, but can't recall now.

SaraJane said...

I'm so jealous of your peaches! I had been meaning to get some fresh local peaches, too and never got around to it. :(

As for the produce - I always try and pick the ones that are funny shaped or ones that I think other people would normally pass by. Especially if they are like apples and have a variation of colors on them and aren't all fakey and uniform. I am convinced that those are the sad veggies/fruits and they need to be loved. That and they were funny shaped so that I would know to pick them because they are clearly the most tasty.

Courtney said...

What a great find on those peaches at the market--I am so jealous!!

Aren't green smoothies so good?! You can hardly taste the spinach, no matter how much you cram in the blender...

Courtney

Kristen's Raw said...

I'm in love with green smoothies! Expecially when I put in fresh herbs like dill and rosemary. So much nutrition packed in those tiny little leaves. I have some recipes posted (Raw Vegan) on my blog you might like. Come on over and see them :)

Cheers!
www.KristensRaw.blogspot.com
www.KristensRaw.com

maybepigscanfly said...

oh the produce post... I just love it. I must admit that I've become a farmer's market slob- but hey it's all local and organic. So being the health conscious, environmentalist I am- it all works. Plus I love having a direct relationship with the farmers (beat that supermarkets!)

I too love the "reject" produce. I buy cheap apples every saturday from the "cosmetically unpleasing" bin and I get seconds tomatoes, which are all heirloom. It usually costs me 50 cents (give or take) for my tomatoes for the week (and I eat at least one a day). But wow those peaches- what a steal!

As for picking produce- in general I go for the medium size because I'm convinced they have the best flavor. Too big just makes me think supermarket pumped with steroids!

Ah the green smoothie, so great! I encourage you to try kale, chard or other greens too.

Great Post- but don't say goodbye to summer yet- I'm not ready!

Unilove said...

I'm not sure, but I thought you once posted on the camera specs you use...if you haven't, could you?

what camera type/model do you use, and what lens? Do you have special lighting or use house lighting?

your pics have become so fantastic, and it encourages photography moving from point-and-shoots to a quality SLR...

if you have the time and don't mind...

thanks!

unilove

bazu said...

Hi Unilove,

Thank you so much for your compliment- it means so much to me. Food photography has become a really satisfying hobby for me.
Unfortunately, I don't own an SLR- my photos all come from an old point & shoot Canon camera. Currently, I'm trying to save money for an SLR with a good lens. One way I've found to look for the best cameras is to scout Flickr for my favorite food photos to see what cameras they've used. Flickr is useful, because each photo is embedded with information on the camera that took it, and even the lens and settings.

bazu said...

P.S. I use natural daylight as often as possible, either by a window or outside on the deck (hence, you can see my backyard in almost all my food photos!) This is another reason I'm mourning the passing of summer- less daylight!
I'm currently working on making a DIY lightbox for indoor photography, though. There are lots of how-to tutorials on-line.

Thanks again for stopping by!

Emmie said...

I'm so envious! I love peaches and I'm sure I could have devoured that entire box. I'm sure of it!

That spinach looks perfect too. I just recently discovered I like spinach, but I guess I haven't wanted to like it, I remember spinach in school lunch too much, eew that stuff was icky.

Rural Vegan said...

I'm so jealous of your peaches. They are long gone in my neck of the woods, and then we had to stare at that beautiful peach upside down cake on VeganYumYum for a week. You could even make peach jam with that big box. So jealous!

The Little Vegan said...

Those plums look great-- at first I thought they were really plump blueberries!

I've never had a green smoothie... maybe I should get up the courage and try one ;o).

aTxVegn said...

What a bargain on the peaches! I love those puny plums too. I've never been too picky about how my fruits look on the outside, but I'm going to make a point to notice whether the blemished ones actually taste better.

SkippytheVegan said...

It may be silly, but I REALLY like buying produce from elderly farmers and especially the Amish & Mennonite families. There is a wonderful farmer market here in Bloomington, Indiana; we so fortunate to have local & organic produce several times a week. I have a lot of respect for the folks who have worked with the land for so long. They prove there is more than corn here! And I think the older farmers appreciate us young new hippies--we love their jokes!

Vivacious Vegan said...

I just typed this huge comment but Marty unplugged me and now it's gone. Wahh! Anyway, I was just saying I love green smoothies and I'm so glad you tried them. Whatever you do, don't use frozen spinach.

vko said...

Girl- you got the goods on the produce there. I am jealous.

Don't really have any good stories to share about my food gathering...though it does remind me of a guy on tv who collected all the little stickers off of fruit...

textual bulldog said...

so are so totally inspiring me to get to the farmer's market tomorrow morning! i would love to go fruit picking, but i have no idea whether that's something one can do where i am. i should look into it, for sure, because your raspberry and apple picking are making me jealous. and i love the $5 box of peaches. amazing! i also love spinach in my smoothies. i toss it into even fruit smoothies, and you can't even taste it. makes you feel virtuous indeed.

Johanna3 said...

i will love to pick fruits like that, well at least i have a papaya tree and i can pick some fruit. that spinach looks awesome!

Paula from Only Cookware said...

I really like the idea of those spinach smoothies. I have never been one for eating spinach. Yes I know it is good for me but to me it is extremely boring and tasteless unless it has some flavor added to it. So this is a great idea and I am going to try it. I will be putting spinach on my shopping list. I will probably have to build up to it and have way more banana etc in it than spinach but I will give it a go.

Natalie C. said...

Oh man... I absolutely love spinach juice. It's so good and refreshing, my mouth is watering just looking at that green goodness. I sometimes juice it without the pulp but the pulp has so many nutritional benefits that I'm starting to use it more.