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Posts by Ralf Hernandez

Pear Guide

Green D’Anjou

Flavor: Sweetly mellow
Texture: smooth and juicy
Uses: eating out of hand, baking, poaching, and roasting




Red D’anjou

Flavor: Sweeter than a green D’anjou, mellow flavor
Texture: Smooth and juicy
Uses: Eating out of hand, baking, poaching, and roasting




Bartlett

Flavor: Sweet and mild with subtle citrus notes
Texture: When ripe (bright yellow color), smooth and extremely juicy
Uses: Ripe – Eating out of hand
Slightly green: pureeing, baking, or canning




Red Bartlett

Flavor: Really flavorful and sweet when ripe
Texture: Smooth and juicy
Uses: Ripe: Eating out of hand,
Slightly green: pureeing, baking, or canning




Bosc

Flavor: Bold, with an earthy sweetness
Texture: Frm and crisp
Uses: Best for poaching and baking; also good eating out of hand








Concorde

Flavor: Sweet with a hint of vanilla
Texture: Firm but not crisp texture
Uses: Baking, poaching, salads (doesn’t brown as quickly), Eating out of hand





Comice

Flavor: Mild and earthy
Texture: Smooth and luscious
Uses: Eating out of hand, poaching, pairing with cheese





Starkrimson

Flavor: Mild and sweet, with a subtle floral aroma
Texture: Smooth and juicy
Uses: Eating out of hand, baked




Tosca

Flavor: Sweet and juicy
Texture: Smooth and crisp
Uses: Eating out of hand, salads, poaching, baked

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Apple Guide

As a shopper entering the produce aisle, you are hit with a staggering variety of colors, shapes, and sizes; it really is a beautiful thing. We are very fortunate, as variety is such a wonderful privilege to have. The majority of folks have a good idea of what they like and what they are looking for when they shop. In the spirit of fun and adventure, we have developed an apple guide to help usher you through some of the more common and popular varieties we carry at Wheatsville. You can match your preferences and needs with a different variety than your regular “go to” apple. Here they are in deliberately unbiased alphabetical order:

Braeburn

Color varies from orange to red over a yellow background. Tart/sweet flavor, with a hard/crisp texture. Great for snacking and baking.

Fuji

This variety was introduced to the U.S. from Japan in the 1980s; currently, the U.S. produces more of this extremely popular apple. Fuji’s have a very sweet flavor with a hard/crisp texture. Excellent for snacking, baking, and salads.

Gala

Pinkish-orange stripes over a yellow background. Gala’s are sweet, with a delicate crisp texture. These have been one of the most popular apples at Wheatsville, and are primarily used for snacking and salads.

Gingergold

Golden color with a pinky blush. The flavor is sweet with subtle spicy notes and the texture is soft. They are great for baking or in salads.

Golden Delicious

Considered an all-purpose apple. Mellow sweet flavor with a delicate crispness. Great for snacking and baking. Really good for salads, as their flesh stays white longer than other apples.

Granny Smith

Green skin, with a really tart flavor. They have a hard/crisp texture. Great for salads and snacking. The apple for most pie bakers.

Honeycrisp

A relatively new and wildly popular apple; people frequently ask for these by name at the beginning of apple season. Excellent crisp texture with a juicy and sweet flavor. These are not as commonly cultivated as other apples (supply is lower but the demand is really high), which translates into a higher price.

Macintosh

These classic apples are deep red with a burst of golden/green around the stem and dappled gold "sparks". They are sweet/tart, crisp and juicy. Great for juicing and for snacking.

Pink Lady

Vibrantly colored pink skin. Firm and crisp flesh, with a fantastic tangy/tart flavor. These are my favorite apple for snacking. They also hold up really well when baked.

Of course, throughout the season we have other apple varieties (ambrosia, Jonagold, etc.) available, but this should be a good start at broadening your apple horizons. As always, please ask your friendly produce clerk for recommendations and samples.

Apple Recipes

Spiced Apple Bundt Cake

Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes; 20 minutes active. Servings: 12

This nutty apple cake is perfect topped with a maple syrup glaze, too.

Pecan Filling Ingredients

1 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 tsp cinnamon

Cake Batter Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups peeled and diced tart apples

Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • 1. To make the pecan filling, mix together the pecans, sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.
  • For the cake batter, whisk together the flours, sugars, salt, baking soda and spices in large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, oil, applesauce and vanilla. Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and stir just until blended. Fold in the diced apples.
  • 2. Grease the Bundt pan, spoon half the batter into the bottom of the pan, sprinkle evenly with the pecan filling and top with the remaining batter. Place in the oven and bake for 45-50 minutes. Check for doneness and continue baking if needed. Let the cake cool in the pan before turning it out
  • Serving Suggestion

Perfect for a casual gathering, this cake is extra-special when glazed. Just mix together 3/4 cup powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon each of maple syrup and apple juice (or milk) and drizzle it over the cooled cake. Top with chopped pecans if desired.

Gingered Beet and Apple Salad

Total Time: 30 minutes.  Servings: 6

A great recipe for beet fans and beet hesitaters alike.

Ingredients

1 pound beets, peeled
1 apple (about 1/2 pound)
1/4 pound carrots, peeled
1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced
2 Tbs apple cider
2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs fresh ginger, minced
2 Tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste


Preparation

1. Using the shredding blade of a food processor or a grater, shred the beets, apple, and carrots. Mix well with the remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately or refrigerate to let the flavors blend.
2. Try using other varieties of beets, like golden or chiogga beets,for an even more colorful salad.

Serving Suggestion

Pair this sweet vegetable slaw with salty or spicy dishes flavored with miso or tamari, or serve as a side to hot-and-sour soup or pork.

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New Local Greens: LEAF SAFARI

We’re excited to now carry delicious, fresh, nutrient-dense, sustainably grown salads and greens from Leaf Safari. They started, while in college, with a 9000 square foot operation growing only basil. They have grown to nearly four times in size at their current location in Manor, Texas.


You can find six different varieties on the shelves in the Wheatsville produce department. All the Leaf Safari greens we carry are harvested, with their roots still intact, within hours of placing the order. This means nothing but the freshest product in every box, as the lettuces and greens are still living. In June, I had a brief Q&A with the friendly folks at Leaf Safari:

Ralf: Could you describe your facilities and explain the growing process?
Leaf Safari: We have a 34,000 square foot hydroponic greenhouse facility that is Primus Certified, pesticide-free, and sustainable in Manor, Texas. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water without soil. Everything is grown in a greenhouse, no pesticides are used, and there is no harmful agricultural runoff or water waste. Crops are completely environmentally friendly and are able to be grown year round. We believe that hydroponics is the future of farming. This farming method uses 90% less water than traditional farming and reduces our farm’s carbon footprint.

Ralf: What is your favorite product you guys sell?
Leaf Safari: Our favorite products are the Living Baby Kale (mild, nutty flavor and tender yet crisp texture) and the Living Superfood (spicy and nutrient dense). Also, our picking and packing crew always ask to take home the baby lettuces!

Ralf: What is your favorite thing about Wheatsville?
Leaf Safari: The people working at the stores are consistently AWESOME! Wheatsville truly has a “local” neighborhood feel. We feel that we are contributing to our community in a positive way after shopping at Wheatsville.

Ralf: Any interesting facts about your business that you would like to share?
Leaf Safari: We use ladybugs as a natural pest control method. We release 18,000 ladybugs per month. When released it is a giant swarm that sometimes form clusters on our hands/arms like you see in a movie or on TV. Any other bug would creep me out, but not the ladybugs.

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Winter Greens Guide

Kale Curly, Lacinato, or Red

Attributes: Loads of vitamins A and C. Retains its general shape and texture when cooked. Does not “cook down” like other greens. Slightly bitter raw.
Uses: Sauté, wilt in soups, add to raw salads, steam.

Chard: Red, Rainbow, Swiss, Green

Attributes: Mild, pleasant flavor is good raw in salads. Resilient enough to be used in gratins. Don’t discard the stalks, they have great flavor and crunch!
Uses: Raw in salads, sauté, steam, gratins

Spinach

Attributes: Delicate, mild flavor. Packed with calcium, vitamins A and C.
Uses: Extremely versatile; mild flavor is not overpowering when incorporated into dishes. Raw in salads, sauté, in pasta. Delicate nature means little preparation and short cooking time.

Collard Greens

Attributes: Rich in fiber. A Southern cooking staple. Hearty, chewy texture and a stronger, cabbage-like taste.
Uses: Steam, sauté, braise with ham, bake with Gruyere in a gratin.

Dandelion Greens

Attributes: High in calcium, vitamins A, C, and K.
Uses: Steamed or sauté. Pairs well with rich flavors like bacon, potatoes, goat cheese.

Bok Choy

Attributes: Tender and mild flavored. Packed with Vitamin C.
Uses: A “go to” Asian green. Stir fry, eat raw in salads, raw in slaw.

Mustard Greens

Attributes: Southern cooking staple. Peppery flavor mellows out the longer you cook it. Remove the stalks when cooking.
Uses: Sauté, steam, braise. Often used in Southern and Indian cuisine. Adds a peppery bite to dishes.

Try out this fantastic recipe from Bon Appétit:

Collard Green & Radish Slaw with Crispy Shallots

Ingredients
2 small shallots, sliced into rings
6 TBS vegetable oil
kosher salt
1 bunch collard greens (about 10 oz.), center ribs and stems removed, thinly sliced crosswise
6 small radishes, trimmed, sliced
2 TBS white wine vinegar
freshly ground black pepper

Preparation (Total time: 20 minutes)
Cook shallots and oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until shallots are golden, 8–10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer shallots to a paper towel–lined plate; season with salt. Transfer oil to a small bowl and let cool.

Combine collard greens, radishes, and vinegar in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with shallot oil and toss to coat. Top with crispy shallots.

Do Ahead: Crispy shallots can be made 2 hours ahead. Store shallots and oil separately at room temperature. Servings: 4

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What is That?!?

Over the past few years, you may have noticed something different in our produce department. Familiar, yet strange; appealing, yet mysterious. It appears at summertime, and it usually takes up residence near the more common summer favorites, such as peaches and nectarines. Upon closer inspection, the corresponding sign may have crazy sounding names: Flavorosa, Emerald Drop, Flavor Penguin(!), Geo Pride. The common factor in all of those crazy names is that they are all pluots, a fun and sometimes beautiful summer stone fruit.

Pluots have been around since the late 20th century, and are a cross of roughly 75% plum and 25% apricot. They have been described as having the flavor of a plum with the mouth feel of an apricot. Pluots come in various colors on the outside as well as the inside. They can have even coloration on the outer skin or a mottled look. With all of their finite differences, we have come to a consensus in the produce department that we are currently carrying our favorites, Dapple Dandy pluots (also an amazing name). A common nickname for these guys is “dinosaur eggs”, and one look and you can see why. They are a light, pinkish red on the outside with vibrant, almost beet-like, crimson hue to the flesh. They are sweet, tart, juicy, succulent, and super tasty fruit that need to be a regular addition to your summer snacking. Stop by the produce department and ask for a sample today.

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Fruit Compote

Did you know its National Ice Cream month? Former president Ronald Reagan declared July as the month, and called for the people of the United States to observe the month with “appropriate ceremonies and activities”. Thank you, President Reagan, as I like just about any reason/excuse to enjoy a bowl of ice cream.

Ice cream is delicious on its own, but if you’re looking to go the extra mile to fulfill your civic duties, a nice fruit topping from our produce department is the way to go. It can be as easy as slicing up some ripe Texas peaches or organic berries and calling it a day. Or, with just little extra work, you can elevate these already delicious fruit toppings by creating fruit compote (definition: fruit cooked in syrup). There are many recipes available online, with the basic technique being relatively the same: a couple of cups of fresh fruit, some sweetener (sugar, honey), maybe some lemon for a little acid, or vanilla extract for enhancing the flavor.

You combine the ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat until the fruit softens (about 12 minutes). Then you let it cool to room temperature and serve; it’s easy enough to make that you may have fun letting your kids help! Experiment with different ones until you find your favorite. Here are a couple of recipes from the web for you to try:

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Outdoors Living Indoors

Our eyes and sinuses have made us very aware that it is gardening season in Central Texas. We all love to get our hands dirty, landscape our yards and patios, and have a great time watching the (sometimes literally) fruits of our labor grow. We have been having a fantastic run this spring with beautiful organic starter plants from our local providers Gabriel Valley Farm and Lone Star Nursery. Why not bring some outdoor beauty inside your home also?

This late spring and early summer we will begin working closely with some of our local flower farmers to help make your living space even more beautiful. A long time Wheatsville collaborator, Flower Farmer Scott, will be providing us with more of his colorful, long lasting bouquets. These have been a customer and employee favorite for the last couple of years, and we are excited to bring back his beautiful arrangements. His bouquets are an easy way to liven up your home. We will also be working closely with Prickly Pair Farm, located in Lampasas, Texas.

Prickly Pair Farm are trying to get in to the retail business, and we are more than happy to help them accomplish this. We feel that helping newer local businesses get their feet wet is really important for our local economy, and we look forward to a long lasting relationship with them. You can currently find them at the Mueller’s Farmers Market on Sunday and the Cedar Park Farmers Market on Saturday.

But wait, there’s more! We will also have our friends at East Austin Succulents bringing us their amazing assortment of cacti and succulents for those who prefer some locally grown, heartier greenery. We really like what they do around here and if you get the chance you should visit them at their location in East Austin on 801 Tillery Street. Also look for an assortment of tropical foliage in small pots; there is such an amazing assortment of tropicals out there, I would get one of each if I had room in my humble home.

Coming in May — Houseplants!

Starting in May, we have a fantastic new addition to the Wheatsville produce department: house plants! We are really excited to bring you some new roommates for your home. House plants add a whole new dimension of warmth and coziness to your living environment.  Not only do they help purify the air in your home, they also bring an air of tranquility and relaxation, softening up the aesthetics of the rooms you put them in.

We have carefully selected varieties that are not only attractive but also easy to care for. With proper care and nurturing, your new house plant could become your companion for several years, perhaps accompanying you on a few moves in your life. Each plant will come with a care tag, giving you the basics on how to maintain your plant’s health. In addition to that, here are some basic house plant care tips.

  • Do not over water!  This is the most common cause of house plant problems.  It is much easier for a plant to recover from being dry than from being oversaturated. Follow the watering guide for the specific plant carefully. Before watering, stick your index finger about an inch into the soil to get a real “feel” for how moist the soil is.
  • Determine how much sunlight the room has. A simple test can be done with the shadow your hand makes on a piece of paper.  A well defined shadow means bright light, a fuzzy shadow means medium light, and a very faint shadow means low light.
  • Most plants like more humidity than your house has, so depending on the plant, misting water on the leaves with a water bottle could be a good idea.
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