Several members of my family were here for a bit of summer vacation. I’m sad for them when they go back, not so much because they are going back to oppressive heat but because they just don’t have access to the wonderful fruits and vegetables we get here at the farmers markets. Like avocado’s. There are actually many different varieties with different seasons. Right now we can get giant Nabals, other times Bacon or Fuente. In between there are the Haas. Interesting fact: Avocados don’t get ripe on the trees, they need to be picked and then get soft in 10 days or so.
But beyond having access to the farmers markets, there is also some work needed once you get home. Especially when the farmers market is just once a week, and you want to eat fruits and vegetables every day! And you don’t want to face furry, slimy or smelly things in your kitchen later in the week.
Here are some of the things that I do to keep the farmers market bounty under control:
1. All greens (lettuce, kale, chard, herbs) get washed, spun dry in the salad spinner, and put on towels (cotton or paper). Pick out any bruised or yellow pieces. The towels get rolled up with the greens, and put into a plastic bag. The air is gently pushed out, and the bag sealed (I normally use twist ties). These get tossed in the fridge.
2. Root vegetables (carrots, turnips, radishes, beets) get the tops removed. For beet tops, treat them as greens (see step 1). The vegetables go into a clear plastic baggie. If they are especially dirty, wash, but make sure they are dry so as to not rot. They go into the refrigerator.
3. Other green vegetables – green beans, zucchini, broccoli, etc. Don’t wash, but again, I like to put into a clear bag. I really hate the big white bags most farmer’s market vendors have – they take up a lot of room, and you can’t see what you have. I generally just put the vegetables loose into my market bag when I get them and bag when I’m home, but this doesn’t work for things like green beans.
4. Things that need to ripen (avocado’s, tomatoes, peaches and other stone fruit): Put on the counter, I have an assortment of ceramic plates and shallow bowls to keep organized. Important: these things need to be checked EVERY day, and either get eaten (best) or put into the refrigerator. Tomatoes should just be eaten – only refrigerate as a last resort, as the flavor goes away and they get watery.
5. Anything especially tender (like berries) get checked (anything slightly mushed in transit should be eaten right then and there) and put into the fridge. Unless you are lucky enough to need to eat them that day.
And yes, it takes me more time to do this than actually shop, but I find that greens get eaten when I don’t have to stop and wash them, things that I see get used (or tossed at the first sign of slime), and the perfectly ripe fruit makes nieces very happy.
The NY Times recently published a story with similar advice to deal with summer’s bounty with advice to do even more when you bring them into the house! I don’t start roasting vegetables when I get home, but I do try to immediately figure out what to do with any oddball stuff. When my brother was here, I picked up some okra – got home and found this recipe for okra pickles. I substituted cider vinegar for white, used mustard seed instead of pickling spice, and a dry red pepper instead of the jalapeno and cayenne pepper (but other than that, followed the recipe). I thought they were pretty yummy (even if a little bit slimy).
Back to avocado’s: Nothing says love like a big bowl of guacamole:
This is a general guideline; adjust to your own taste and what you have on hand:
Onion: ¼ to ½ cup finely chopped
Garlic: one small clove, finely chopped. Optional.
Something red: One medium tomato or ½ red bell, chopped
Something hot: 1+ jalapeños or a teaspoon of chili powder or other pepper to taste
Spice: about a ½ teaspoon of cumin
Salt: a good pinch, guessing about ¼ to ½ teaspoon
Avocado: about 3 normal sized Hass, but substitute any variety.
Acid: juice of a couple of limes or a lemon.
Cilantro: like a ¼ cup or so, finely chopped. Use as much or little as you want.
Put everything into a bowl. For the avocados, cut in half, remove pit, cross cut in the shell, then scoop out with a spoon. Squeeze the citrus on the avocado to keep the avocado from turning brown. Mix with a fork, gently mashing the avocado, making sure to leave some chunks. (If the avocados are less ripe, be a bit less gentle). Taste – add more heat, salt, acid as needed (if serving with chips, use a chip to taste). Serve immediately, or press plastic wrap directly on the surface and store in the fridge.