While the weather in Ithaca seems to remain as cold as ever, the first day of spring has already come and gone, which means it’s the perfect time to stock up on fresh, in-season produce from Anabel’s! Keep reading to learn about the cultural history of some of our most popular late winter and early spring produce, as well as the best ways to store and prepare them.
The most popular vegetable in the Brassica family (which also includes Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower), broccoli was domesticated from wild cabbage thousands of years ago, and as such is referred to as a man-made vegetable. Broccoli’s peak season is during the cooler months, from October to April, which means they’re especially fresh right now!
Storage: Keep unwashed in a loose plastic bag in the vegetable crisper compartment of your fridge and use within 5 days for optimal quality, or blanch and freeze it for up to one year (at or below 0°F).
Preparation: Cut the florets into smaller pieces and enjoy raw, or cooked: you can steam them for 3-4 minutes, simmer in one inch of boiling water for 3-4 minutes, or stir-fry until bright green and crisp. Anabel’s recommends using basil, dill, garlic, oregano, or thyme to enhance the flavor of your broccoli!
Nutritional Value: Broccoli are a great source of vitamin C, fiber, and potassium.
Anabel’s Price: $1.75/head
Despite being another in-season cold-weather crop and member of the Brassica family native to Europe and Asia Minor, kale has only recently seen an increase in popularity, supposedly thanks to a publicist for the mysterious American Kale Association, who has promoted its transition from an old-fashioned cabbage to a staple of modern “clean” eats.
Selection: Look for a deep green color and firm leaves. Smaller bunches are usually more tender. Be sure to try some of Cornell’s own hydroponically grown kale, now in stock!
Storage: Keep unwashed and wrapped with damp paper towels in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper of your fridge for up to 5 days.
Preparation: Wash kale with vinegar and water, then dry with a paper towel and fold in half for cutting, removing the spine if too tough to cut. Eat raw, steamed, sautéed, roasted, or boiled – Anabel’s recommends using lemon juice and olive oil as seasoning.
Anabel’s is one of only a few locations in Ithaca that carries plantains, the starchier relative of the banana. They have long been a staple food in tropical cultures – where they thrive year-round – such as the Malay Archipelago, West and Central Africa, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.
Selection: The sweeter you want your plantain to be, the darker the color. Look for firmness in green plantains and softness in yellow or darker plantains. Watch out for moldy or cracked peels.
Storage: Keep at room temperature in a well-ventilated area. Green plantains ripen over several days to weeks, but can be stored in a paper bag to accelerate the process.
Preparation: To peel, cut off both ends, slice down the length of the plantain, and peel off in one piece. Dark-colored plantains can be eaten as is, while green plantains are best for frying and yellow plantains are ideal for casseroles and fritters. Check out Anabel’s tostones recipe in store!
Nutritional Value: Plantains are a good source of potassium and vitamins A and C.
Anabel’s Price: $1.19/lb
Strawberries are just beginning to come into season, and our purchasing managers have made sure we have a fresh stock just in time for spring! Surprisingly, these berries are part of the rose family, and were first cultivated in the 1600s. Currently, California is the highest-producing state for strawberries, accounting for 80% of total US production.
Selection: Look for shiny, firm, bright red berries with green caps that are still intact.
Storage: Keep unwashed in refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Preparation: Wash with cold water and remove caps. Eat them as is, or use them in smoothies (look for Anabel’s smoothie guide in store!), pies, jams, or as a garnish on other desserts.
Although sweet potatoes are nearing the end of their peak season, Anabel’s still has an abundance of these surprisingly distant relatives to the potato (sweet potatoes are part of the morning glory family, while potatoes are in the nightshade family). Native to Central and South America, both the dry- and moist-flesh varieties can be substituted for potatoes in almost any dish.
Storage: Keep in a dry, dark, cool environment (< 55°F) for up to 4 weeks – but it’s best to use them within 1 week. Do not refrigerate! Refrigeration will produce hard, bitter potatoes.
Preparation: Scrub under warm water with a vegetable brush (unpeeled) or peel before preparing. They can easily be prepared in a dorm microwave – just pierce the potato with a fork to allow for venting, and microwave for several minutes until tender, turning over halfway through cooking. Otherwise, they can be prepared in any way you would prepare a regular potato. If you don’t have any ideas, check out Anabel’s Sweet Smashed Potatoes recipe!
Nutritional Value: Sweet potatoes are a great source of fiber and potassium, as well as vitamins A and C.