By Mira Reverente
Visions of spring greeted Calabasas market-goers last Saturday with some green delights. Along with longer days and rising temperatures, the arrival of new harvest from a local grower ushered in the new season.
Take a look and take your pick from our produce pickings:
These green globes were first developed in Sicily, Italy, and brought to California by Spanish settlers in the 1600s. Eighty percent of all artichokes are from Monterey County, specifically Castroville.
This versatile vegetable was abloom and abundant at the Underwood Family Farms stall. Priced at $1.50 each or four for $5.00, artichokes are usually available during winter and spring with the peak season from March to May, according to Tony Larios, an employee of the Moorpark and Somis-based grower.
Artichokes make good additions to appetizers, side dishes, salads and main dishes. Also usually served with a dip such as lemon butter or mayonnaise, this fat-free vegetable is a good source of vitamin C, folate and potassium.
Larios shared some buying tips. “Choose globes that are heavy, green and with compact leaves,” he said. Leaves that are too “open” may mean they’re past their prime. They can still be eaten but the leaves may be tough.
They are best used within four days of purchase. Larios advised against freezing them or they will turn brown.
Green is the most common variety in the US of this spear-like vegetable that belongs to the lily family. Other varieties are purple and white, with the color being determined by the amount of exposure to sunlight.
For $4 a pound, market-goers can also buy them at Underwood Family Farms. High in antioxidants and packed with multiple nutrients, asparagus can be grilled, boiled, pickled, sautéed, steamed or even served cold. Typically served as an appetizer or a side dish, they can also be added to omelets or Asian stir-fry dishes.
“Look for firm and crisp stalks, and heads that are not discolored,” Larios said. In addition, the ends should be moist and fresh, not dry or cracking. Wash before use, not before storage. For the best flavor and texture, asparagus is best eaten within three to four days of purchase.
Widely considered a vegetable, the avocado is actually a fruit. A member of the berry family, the avocado is one of California’s main crops, with 90 percent of the US avocado yield coming from the Golden State.
Hass is the most popular variety and Underwood Family Farms was selling the pebbly black variety for $1.50 each or three for $4. Sodium and cholesterol free, its faintly nutty flavor and smooth texture make it a popular addition to guacamole dip, salads, entrees, desserts and breads.
Avocados should feel heavy for their size, with no bruises or soft spots. They may be refrigerated or frozen, according to Larios. If refrigerated, they should be consumed within 10 days. To freeze, puree avocados with a tablespoon of lemon juice for every two avocados. Store in a tightly sealed container and consume within three to six months.
The Calabasas Farmers Market is open from 8 am to 1 pm every Saturday at 23504 Calabasas Road, across the street from the Sagebrush Cantina.