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Produce News

Wheatsville wants to provide you the opportunity to eat a ‘rainbow on every plate’ for every meal. Well, this is where the rainbow begins. On any given day we have about 80% organic products but this department changes every single day. We source primarily from local distributors and farmers so when the crop is ready - they bring it in. You can see the constant stream of fresh goodness coming through our back door. Heck, you’ve probably had to pull around their truck looking for a parking spot.

Once those fresh vegetables come in, we carefully prep them so that not only do they look good on the shelf but they last longer in your fridge. We only buy fruits and vegetables that are seasonal. That means you’re not going to find watermelons in the winter. And we are constantly looking for ways to support local food cultivation. Now that we think about it, maybe our produce is the end of the rainbow!

Tomato, Mozzarella, and Basil! Oh, my!

There's great news in the the Produce Department. Organic fresh bunched basil from Buena Tierra Farm has arrived and it is amazingly incredibly wonderfully awesome! To keep it as fresh and fragrant as possible we keep the basil in enclosed room temperature containers for better basil hydration. Look for it near the tomato displays in Produce.

Even if basil isn't on your current shopping list, the next time you're in the Co-op, lift the lid on the Buena Tierra basil container and unleash an avalanche of deep rich basil aroma. It is the best. And I haven't even gotten to the actual eating of it yet. That's even better.

Wheatsville Produce Coordinator, Ralf Hernandez, takes a tour of Buena Tierra's battery powered tractor.

I am a huge fan of basil in general, but the Buena Tierra Basil is really extraordinary. Fresh, local and organic, it is lovingly hand bunched and ready to make you and your favorite basil recipe extremely happy. The classic combo of basil, tomato and fresh mozzarella is a personal favorite of mine. I love to make cute little appetizer stacks of tomato, basil and fresh mozzarella drizzled with a flavorful cold-pressed olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. If I'm wanting something more substantial, I'll go with a grilled caprese sandwich on a fabulous Wheatsville Bakehouse Baguette. I lightly chop the basil and add some fresh garlic, olive oil and sea salt then just layer in with tomato and mozzarella slices and into the grilling pan. Both of these quick recipes are super easy, super delicious and super snazzy.

Be sure to check out the Buena Tierra Basil next time you stop by for a visit. You and your stomach will be glad you did.

Buena Tierra Farms is owned and operated by Steve Kramer and Carey Burkett in Fredonia, TX.


Citrus Sunshine in Winter

Growing up in Michigan in the 70s was, among other things, ridiculously cold. I’ve definitely seen enough snow and ice to last a lifetime. But one thing I did always love was fresh citrus in the wintertime. It always felt like I was unwrapping a sunny gift from summer in the middle of cold dark winter. Thankfully, now that I’m living in Texas, my winters have gotten much warmer, and better yet, the citrus has gotten much better. My two favorites are the Cara Cara orange and the Texas Rio Red grapefruit.

The Cara Cara orange is hands down the best orange I’ve ever had. It was discovered at Hacienda Cara Cara in Venezuela in 1976. It was a natural mutation the occurred on a Washington navel orange tree. It quickly made its way to Florida and then found a growing home in California. It is sweeter than the average orange and the flesh has a beautiful almost red color. Sweet, juicy and low acid make this the perfect orange for a quick snack. If you’ve never tried one, I highly recommend you find out what you’ve been missing. You’ll be glad you did.

My other favorite is the Texas Rio Red Grapefruit. Local and organic are two of my favorite qualities in a produce item and this grapefruit has both of those things going for it. It was developed in the Rio Grande Valley at the Texas A&M Citrus Center and is grown at G & S Groves in McAllen, Texas. Most importantly, it is absolutely delicious. It is a bit larger than a standard commercial grapefruit, is super juicy, has a deep red flesh, and has just enough sweetness to balance out the underlying tartness. As a grapefruit eating kiddo in Michigan, I’d always scoop a little sugar on my grapefruit. With the Rio Red however, sugar is not needed at all. I section them and eat them like an over-sized orange. They are, like all things from Texas, awesome.

So swing on by your friendly neighborhood Wheatsville Produce department and try one of these wonderful winter citrus selections. They’ll brighten up your day and unleash a little summer sun into our chilly winter air. Stay warm out there!


Sweet Italian Chicken Sausage

Italian Sausage has become a staple in the American kitchen. Many stores have their own flavor profile of this sausage but stick with a few basic spices and herbs to create that familiar taste. Fennel, oregano and garlic are some of the basic building blocks in most Italian Sausage. It gets called sweet, simply because there are no chili flakes in it to make it "hot". This sausage lends itself well to meatballs or meat sauces, whether they are slow simmered red sauces or something more light like a vinegarette, it always goes well with pasta and parmesan or mozzerella stuffed into manicotti.

Another excellent way to use this sausage is in the classic Southwestern dish, Stuffed Bell Peppers. Be sure to brown the sausage and put it in a halved pepper and cover with cheese. Roast them in the oven or put them on the grill until your cheese is nice and melted. You still want some structure to the red bells and a little sweet crunch adds some great texture so try not to over cook them. Blue Cheeses would would go nicely crumbled over the sausage. The Cheese department has the Maytag Blue, a spicier fancy blue cheese that would compliment the fennel and oregano notes of the sausage and the sweetness of the Red Bell Pepper. I'm just sayin' ...


Pork on the Grill

While pork is one of the most recent additions to the world of cultivated meats, it has become a staple in world cuisine. Cultures all over the world have varying preparations of hams and bacon. Pork ribs are what most people are thinking of when you say the word ribs. Whole pigs cooked under ground are a part of celebrating family and friends all over the world.

Pork is mild enough to take on almost any flavor you would like to add, but can carry it's own with the simplicity of salt and pepper. Grilling is almost always made better on the bone. The Pork T-Bone, one part Tenderloin and two parts strip steak, is a great place to start. Let your steaks get to room temperature to ensure even cooking and liberally salt and pepper.

Pork is a great medium for marrying different flavors to create more exciting profiles like spicy and sweet, savory and sweet, coffee and orange juice, savory and fruit and I think you get the picture. Honey and mustard based marinades are great on pork. Get some of our fresh in season peaches and grill them along side your pork chops or make delicious chutneys and compotes to sauce your pork chops.

Using dried chili's in your marinades is a great way to add heat and some of the more subtle floral flavors in the chili's. A sweet component will bring these flavors out even more. This would be a great way to use the fresh turmeric in the produce department. A marinade of a modest chunk of turmeric (an inch, inch and a half)  and ginger with a few cloves of garlic, the juice of an orange, the scrapings of 3 or so tamarinds (fresh pods are in the produce department or the paste is on isle two)  and a few pinches of salt with enough oil to make a rich liquid is a fantastic mixture of sour and sweet and earthy. Use some of the marinade to reduce for a sauce when it comes time to put those chops on a plate. Pork is a pretty forgiving meat to try out your own creations and the grill is the best way to bring them to fruition.


Farm Visit to Flower Farmer Scott!

Lila the Wonder Pup Supervises All Flower Picking

Wandering up to visit Flower Farmer Scott in Cedar Creek, it looks like any other small country house, with half-started and half-finished projects laying around, some resource pile here and there. If it weren't for the tibetan prayer flags on the porch, I might have driven right by! But as I wandered down the hill towards the back of the property, Scott's flower field came into view.... The area under cultivation isn't large, about a half an acre, but standing amongst the hip-high larkspur and snapdragons, there is an expansive feeling that encapsulates you in the majesty of these flowers as various pollinators flutter about.

Scott Harris has been farming off an on for the last twenty-five years, and for the past three he's been Flower Farmer Scott. It's easy to see why he choose flower farming. Most of the flower trade is filled with nasty chemicals, and involves shipping flowers hundreds of miles, but on a flood plane field in Central Texas, Scott can grow these beautiful flowers that look great for weeks without using chemical inputs. In fact, his soil building process isn't even labor intensive. Several of the varieties Scott grows are perennials that go dormant in the winter. Where he grows annuals, he simply tills them under in the fall and starts a cover crop to be tilled in again after the last frost.

The Dianthus has all been picked.

Flower Farmer Scott can be found Saturday mornings at the SFC Downtown Farmer's Market and Sundays at the Mueller Farmer's Market. And of course, you can find his lovely bouquets of dianthus, larkspur, and english status at Wheatsville everyday from 7:30 am to 11pm.

Before I left, Scott showed me his secret to long-lasting bouquets: put a tablespoon of white vinegar per gallon of water in the vase! It helps prevent bacteria and mold growth.

Just for fun, here's a photo of Scott's living room after a day of picking flowers:

From all of us at Wheatsville, and our friend Flower Farmer Scott, HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!

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