Asparagus are varieties that maintain their quintessential textural and flavor qualities even at mature sizes. They have plump pale green stalks with knobby scales and tree shaped tips. They are firm in texture with balsam aromatics and their flavor is grassy, nutty and earthy sweet.
Asparagus are available year-round, the peak of this crop's season is in spring. Ontario crops are sparse due to the unique farming techniques.
All asparagus spears should be snapped at their natural breaking or bending point. Discard the lower parts as they are more fibrous and woody. Jumbo asparagus can be sauteed, steamed, boiled, baked and fried. Spring ingredients such as morel mushrooms, green garlic, wild ramps, fennel, leeks, young lettuces and citruses such as lemon and grapefruit are most suitable pairings. Other complimentary ingredients include aged nutty cheeses such as pecorino and alpine cheeses, bacon, sausage, lamb, proscuitto, cream, eggs, butter, shallots, herbs such as thyme, basil and chervil, yeasty breads like sourdough and wheat and grains such as aborio rice, quinoa and farro.
Hass avocados have a pebbly skin that ripens from green to deep purple or nearly black, and they can vary in size from 5 to 12 ounces. Although the skin is thick, it is relatively easy to peel. The flesh closest to the skin is pale green, and as it nears the medium-sized central stone it develops a yellow undertone. The flesh is soft, creamy, and barely fibrous, with good oil content. The flavor is rich and nutty with a slightly sweet finish.
Hass avocados are available year-round.
Avocados are most often used raw, as the tannins in the fruit can result in a bitter flavor after prolonged cooking or exposure to direct heat. Avoid broiling, and add avocado toward the end of cooked applications. Avocados can be mashed, cubed, sliced, pureed, or halved and stuffed. Add avocado slices to sandwiches or salads, or mash with lime juice, onion, tomato, cilantro, salt, and other spices to make guacamole. The high fat content of avocados pairs well with acidic fruit and vegetables, like tomatoes. To prepare the avocado for use, cut in half lengthwise around the central stone, twist the two halves in opposite directions to separate, then remove the pit with a spoon and peel away skin. Store avocados at room temperature until fully mature. Whole, ripe avocados will keep for two to three days in the refrigerator, while cut avocados will keep for a day or two. Avocado flesh darkens when exposed to air, so to prevent discoloration sprinkle cut avocados with lemon juice or vinegar and cover in plastic wrap before refrigerating.
Green beans are long and flat and can grow up to ten inches in length, though will be at their best flavor and texture when picked at six to eight inches. The bean pods are smooth and have a bright green exterior which encases a crisp, slightly juicy interior and petite undeveloped seeds or beans. These beans are typically consumed when they are immature and tender, older beans will become too fibrous for consumption. Many green bean varieties need to be stringed first to remove the long string that runs along the sides of the bean. There are some newer varieties of green beans though that have been breed for convenience to be string-less. The green bean plants are also known for their vibrant scarlet and white blooms which are edible as well and offer a fresh and light bean flavor.
English green beans are available in the summer and early fall months. With some availability year-round.
Green beans are most often served cooked unless picked when very young and immature at which point they can be utilized like snap beans. The beans are typically first stringed then cut into short lengths using a knife or bean slicer. The cut beans can be boiled, steamed, baked, sauteed and braised. Chopped beans can be added to quiche, curry, stews, sautes and casseroles. The flowers of the English Runner bean plant can be consumed as well and are popularly used as a garnish or added to salads. Their flavor pairs well with onion, leeks, potatoes, lemon, garlic, peaches, vinegar, butter, mustard, cumin, ginger, curry, nutmeg, tarragon, parmesan cheese, bacon, white fish and lamb. English Runner beans should be stored in the refrigerator and are best if used within two to three days.
Gold beets are medium to large in size and are globular to round with a slightly flattened, irregular shape. The roots are connected to long and crisp, leafy green stems that are also edible and have a flavor similar to spinach and swiss chard. The root?s skin is semi-rough, covered in marks, russet, and scratches, and ranges in color from a deep orange to a mixture of gold, brown, and pale yellow. The skin is also firm with many small hairs covering the surface. Underneath the skin, the flesh is bright yellow to gold, dense, and aqueous with pale concentric rings. When raw, Gold beets are crunchy, and when cooked, they develop a tender, smooth consistency with a very mild and sweet flavor.
Gold beets are available year-round, with a peak season in the spring.
Gold beets can be consumed raw and are popularly shaved, shredded, julienned, or spiralized into salads, slaws, and soups. They can also be pickled for extended use, pureed for sauces, or blended into smoothies. When utilized in cooked preparations, Gold beets can be steamed with lemon juice, roasted for a caramelized consistency, or sliced and baked into thin chips. It is important to note that the skin should be removed before eating and is easily peeled once cooked. Gold beets may also be used as a red beet substitute is some recipes. In addition to the roots, Gold beet leaves are edible and are lightly sauteed, served as a side dish, layered under cooked meats, or tossed into a salad. Gold beets pair well with cheeses such as goat, feta, and manchego, meats such as poultry, fish, and bacon, apples, fennel, herbs such as dill, parsley, and mint, citrus, potatoes, shallots, vinegar, and walnuts. The roots will keep 2-3 weeks with the leaves removed and stored in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator, and up to one week when stored with the tops still attached. The green leaves will only keep 1-2 days once removed from the roots and stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Red beets vary in size, typically averaging 3-7 centimeters in diameter, and have a globular to ovate shape with a small taproot extending from the non-stem end. The firm skin is dark red to purple and is semi-smooth with tiny root hairs, russet, and scrapes covering the surface. Each beet varies in texture and shape depending on growing conditions. Underneath the surface, the flesh is a deep crimson and is dense, aqueous, and crunchy. When cooked, Red beets develop a tender, soft texture with a mildly sweet, earthy flavor. The beet plant also grows leafy stalks that are edible and have a taste similar to Swiss chard.
Red beets are available year-round.
Red beets are popularly consumed raw in salads or are utilized in cooked applications such as roasting, steaming, frying, and boiling. It is important to note that Red beets will bleed a dark red hue when raw or cooked, and this liquid has the potential to stain surfaces and skin. The roots can be roasted and incorporated into soups, burgers, and quiche, cooked into pasta, blended into sauces, or sliced thinly into wedges and fried into chips. Red beets can also be mixed into hummus or used in baked goods such as cupcakes, cheesecake, tarts, and brownies. In addition to the roots, the leaves are also edible, commonly sauteed or used in salads, and are prized for their tender, crisp texture. Red beets pair well with fruits such as raspberries, blueberries, pears, and avocados, greens such as kale, spinach, arugula, and pea shoots, cheeses such as pecorino, goat, brie, and gorgonzola, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts. The roots will keep 2-3 weeks with the leaves removed and stored in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. With the leaves still attached the roots will keep up to one week. The green leaves will only keep 1-2 days once removed from the roots and stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Brussels sprouts are compact rounded leaves tightly bound into individual spherical-shaped heads ranging in diameter of one to two inches when mature. Their leaves range from sea green to fern green, some varieties featuring blushed violet red tips. They offer the flavors of the earth and the bitter sweetness of cabbage. The younger the Brussels sprouts carry a sweeter more palatable flavor.
Brussels sprouts are available year-round.
Classic cooking methods for Brussels sprouts include roasting, braising or pan frying them in butter with savory accoutrements such as garlic, shallots, thyme, rosemary and sage. Brussels sprouts take on the accompanying flavors which gives them more depth and appeal while also bringing sweetness to the Brussels sprouts. Slow roasting the sprouts in oil or butter is a great way to remove the sprout's natural bitterness. The smaller the sprout, the more sweet and the less bitter tendencies it will have. Brussels sprouts can be added to casseroles, gratins, soups and they are a great addition to Winter roasted vegetable medleys. They can also be tossed into a warm winter greens salad. Other choice culinary companions include bacon, pork belly, cheese, cream, duck fat, eggs, ham, grapefruit, olive oil,cider vinegar, lemon, hollandaise, maple, mushrooms, mustard, nutmeg, pepper, pistachios and pancetta.
Green cabbage has numerous pale green leaves that are thick and broad with prominent veins and a slightly waxy finish. They overlap to form a dense round to oblate ball and can measure 15 to 18 centimeters in diameter and may weigh up to 10 pounds or 3.6 kilograms each. The leaves are firm when raw and tender when cooked. Green cabbage offers a sweet, grassy flavor with a mustard like finish referred to as ?cruciferous,? a trademark characteristic of Brassicas.
Green cabbage is available year-round.
Green cabbage can be eaten raw, cooked and pickled. It is often showcased in coleslaw's, braising greens and salad mixes. Green cabbage can be juiced, wilted, braised, roasted, stir-fried and grilled. It pairs well with rich ingredients such as pork, cream, aged and blue cheeses, butter, eggs, olive oil avocados and nuts. Other companion ingredients include citrus, mango, chilies, garlic, shelling beans, faro, sausages, mushrooms, ginger, fennel, shallots and light-bodied vinegar's. Green cabbage is used to make sauerkraut and in Asia is often pickled. Large leaves are used as wrappers for cabbage rolls or as bread alternatives for sandwich wraps. The head can be cut into slices, coated with oil, salt and pepper and then grilled. Store heads of Green cabbage in the refrigerator for up to a month. Cut pieces can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.
Red cabbage is distinguished by its coloring, texture and flavor. Like Green cabbage it is rounded and wrapped in tightly wound waxy leaves. The leaves are more violet and Burgundian versus true red. Their flavor is far more bold, cruciferous and peppery versus green cabbage. Red cabbage lacks water weight, which makes its leaves chewier and coarser than Chinese cabbage varieties.
Red cabbage is available year-round.
Red cabbage is a staple within the European and New World culinary landscape. It is used in preparations both raw and cooked. It is often pickled fresh and made into sauerkraut. Red cabbage is complimented by varying textures and flavors rich, bold and spicy, such as stewed and grilled meats, cream, olive oil, butter, eggs and cheeses, avocados and chilies. Other companion ingredients include citrus, nuts, garlic, shelling beans, farro, sausages, mushrooms, ginger, fennel, shallots and light-bodied vinegar's.
Cauliflower is made up of tightly bound clusters of florets that form a dense head, similar to that of broccoli. Resembling a classic tree in shape the clusters sprout from stems which are attached to a singular central white trunk. The stems and trunk are firm and tender and the florets have a dense yet soft and crumbly texture. Its flavor is mild with subtle nutty and sweet nuances, a taste which is amplified when roasted. The entire cauliflower, its leaves, trunk, stems and florets are all edible.
Cauliflower is available year-round with a peak season during late winter months.
Cauliflower can be eaten raw or prepared in several ways including, steamed, roasted, fried and pickled. To prevent cauliflower and other white-fleshed vegetables such as salsify and celeriac from turning brown before cooking, soak the cauliflower in milk and water with a dose of lemon juice. Cauliflower?s relatively mild flavor pairs well with strong spices such as cardamom, cumin, curry, saffron, garlic, onion, ginger, sea salt and pepper. Once boiled or steamed, it can be pureed in to a velvety texture appropriate for soups, side dishes and incorporated into sauces. Use within a few days of purchase for optimal freshness, texture and flavor.
Most likely the Pascal or Utah varieties, celery can grow to optimal heights from 18" to 24". It has wide parsley-like green leaves and thick, juicy, ribbed stalks that join at a common base above the root. Celery, at its best, has a juicy and crunchy flesh with a mild salty flavor. Although celery is most often used for its stalks, its leaves are edible as well and have a concentrated celery-flavor.
Celery is available year-round.
Celery is commonly used as an aromatic, or in mire poix bases, but should not be overlooked as a vegetable. Cook diced celery with onions or apples, potatoes and cream and puree into soup. Braise sliced celery in vegetable stock and wine, or bake with cream and cheese into a gratin. Combine raw celery slices with citrus segments and grains for a cold salad. Stuff 3-4 inch slices of celery with cheese or hummus for an appetizer. Store celery, head intact, in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks
Yellow corn is a variety of sweet corn. Its ears are wrapped in tightly bound lime hued husks with silks and a tassel that extend out from the tip. The yellow kernels are packed in tight almost uniform rows. A single ear of corn can contain up to 400 kernels. Freshly harvested yellow corn at its peak ripeness is sweet, offering flavors of almond and sugar, the kernels so succulent, the skin pops as you bite into it. As the corn matures, the kernels lose their milky consistency giving way to a starchy and doughy consistency. At this point, the corn is considered a grain crop and is best suited for processing or feed-stock.
Yellow corn is available year-round.
The less sweet corn is cooked, the better the flavor and texture. Yellow corn can be roasted, grilled, blanched, steamed, or pureed. Its bright and sweet flavors lend well to pastas and salads. It pairs well with tomatoes, basil cilantro, lobster, pork, chilies, truffles, shelling beans, cream, nutty cheeses, peas, summer squashes, fennel, citrus and scallops. Yellow corn is dried and ground into flour for baked goods, tortillas, cereals and used as a crust/crisping agent for dishes both savory and sweet. Corn is also used for oil, as a sweetener in foods and beverages and as a base for beverage alcohol.
Hot House, commonly referred to as English, cucumbers are elongated, thin, and cylindrical with the ability to reach over 60 centimeters in length. The outer skin is forest green with a smooth and furrowed texture. The inner flesh is pale green to translucent white and contains many underdeveloped and non-bitter seeds. Hot House cucumbers have a mild and sweet flavor with a crisp texture.
Hot House cucumbers are available year-round.
Hot House cucumbers can be used in both raw and cooked applications. They can be sliced and used as a salad ingredient alongside mixed greens, kale's, and herbaceous greens such as arugula. Hot House cucumbers are a great textural component in pasta salads, sandwiches, dips, and sushi. They can be sliced lengthwise, width wise, diced, and julienned. Hot House cucumbers can also be grilled, pureed, pickled, or briefly cooked and added to soups. Complimentary ingredients include red and white fish, shellfish, lamb, beef, chilies, tomatoes, mint, oregano, yogurt, garlic, cumin, chicken, pork and fresh cheeses such as feta, ricotta and farmhouse style cheeses. Hot House cucumbers will keep up to a week when stored in the refrigerator.
Mini Persian cucumbers are cylindrical and squat, averaging only 10-15 centimeters in length. Its outer skin is dark green and thin with visible, shallow ridges. The inner flesh is light green with a firm and moist texture and very few, undeveloped seeds. Persian cucumbers provide a sweet and mild taste with a pronounced crunch.
Persian cucumbers are available year-round.
Persian cucumbers can be used in both raw and cooked applications. They can be used raw as a salad ingredient, chopped in salsas, and mixed in creamy dressings. It can also be used on Greek salad pizzas, cooked in a stir-fry, or juiced and used in cocktails and Popsicle recipes. Persian cucumbers are a great cooling ingredient in hot dishes and compliment roasted fish and lamb. Persian cucumbers pair well with mint, chilies, mustard, cumin, coriander, parsley, sprouts, watercress, jicama, melon, citrus and fresh cheeses such as chevre, feta, and cotija. Persian cucumbers will keep up to a week when wrapped and sealed in the refrigerator.