Newsletters: 13 July, 2011

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 13 July, 2011. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

In the garden
The WSU Master Gardeners say July is a good time to start planning for fall and winter crops. Start broccoli, cabbage, and kale for transplanting; plant carrots, peas, and rutabagas directly. Normally beans, cucumbers, and summer squash come on in July but they may be a little late this year. Keep an eye on the zucchini, though, so they don’t sneak up on you and get too big for anything but zucchini bread before you pick them. There’s always Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor’s Porch night (8 Aug.) but the more you catch at the 6-inch stage, the quicker you’ll be able to get rid of the ones you missed.

This also a good time to stop watering your lawn and let it go dormant. It’ll get rather brown but I promise it’ll spring right back when the fall rains begin (whether you want it to or not), and you won’t have to mow it for most of August. That’ll give you more time for wandering the night with overgrown zucchini.

In the kitchen
I’m told July is Nectarine and Garlic Month — I hope that doesn’t mean we should eat them together! As tempted as I am to go hunting for recipes that use both (come to think of it, I may have one), I think it’s time for some more exotic (or at least unusual) summer drinks.

Bee sting
1 Tbsp honey, warmed if possible
1 Tbsp balsamic or raspberry vinegar
1.5 cup seltzer or sparkling water, chilled
ice cubes
Combine honey and vinegar; add water and stir once. Serve over ice.
Source unknown

Salty puppy
coarse salt
crushed ice
1 cup grapefruit juice
club soda, chilled
fresh mint, for garnish (optional)
Moisten rims of 2 glasses and dip in salt. Fill with ice and divide juice between them. Fill with club soda.
Source unknown

Lotus blossom
1 ripe banana, peeled and chunked
1 ripe peach, peeled, pitted, and chunked
1 ripe nectarine, ”
dash almond extract
24 oz. chilled ginger ale
Puree all ingredients except ginger ale until smooth. Pour ca. 1 c each into 5 tall glasses and fill with ginger ale. Stir gently.
Source unknown

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White Peach Raspberry Smoothie

2 cups chopped white peaches
1/2 cup chopped banana
1/4 cup raspberries
1/2 cup sweetened vanilla almond milk, or your preferred substitute
3-4 ice cubes
honey to taste

Place all ingredients except honey in a blender and process until smooth. Add honey to sweeten if necessary.

Adapted from The Clever Carrot

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Versión en español: this post is also available in Spanish.
Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.


native to: the Indo-Malaysian region
in season: all year

Bananas are members of the Musacaea family; although the plants can grow as tall as 26 ft., they’re not trees, they’re a tree-like herb arising from rhizomes, and the banana is actually a berry. Once a plant flowers it dies back and new plants develop from the rhizome. A bunch of bananas is called a hand, and, yes, that makes a single banana a finger. The plant needs 10-15 months without frost to produce a flower stalk, and all but the most hardy stop growing if the temperature drops below 53F or rises above 100F. Bananas grow best in full sun but bright sunlight can scorch both leaves and fruit. Although there are 50 recognized species of banana, mostly what you’ll get in the US is the Canevdish variety. Bananas probably originated in Malaysia, spreading throughout the Philippines and into India before being brought to Africa by Arabian traders. Portuguese explorers took them to the Americas in 1482, but they didn’t arrive in the US until the late 19th century. Even then, they were only available in port towns; if you’ve ever had your bananas thrown about by a careless checker you’ll understand why.

Bananas are picked green and should be stored at room temperature. Refrigerating bananas will keep them from ripening, even if you let them warm up again later. Frozen bananas will keep for about 2 months either pureed or peeled and wrapped in plastic. Banana peels, when carefully washed, are edible, most often boiled or fried although they can be eaten raw or included in a smoothie. Peels contain vitamins B6 and B12, magnesium, potassium, and bioactive compounds such as polyphenols and carotenoids.

Bananas themselves are starchy when green, sugary when ripe, and are high in potassium, which is important for preventing high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease, as well as being good for muscles, bones, and joints. They have a moderate glycemic index and are a good source of fiber, so are good for the digestion. They even have fructose-containing carbohydrates that are good for your gut bacteria. Those low glycemic carbs are great for athletes, providing energy and minerals like a sports drink without all that sugar water. Bananas are particularly good for children, being linked to lower risks of childhood leukemia and asthma. They also provide vitamins A, B6 and C, biotin, manganese, potassium, and copper. Bananas also contain tryptophan, although they’ve managed to escape turkey’s reputation for causing drowsiness. Tryptophan may play a role in preserving memory and preventing depression. Bananas’ B6 can reduce swelling, strengthen the nervous and immune systems, and help with weight loss.

Plantain bananas, usually eaten cooked, are starchier and treated more like a vegetable; they’re higher in beta-carotene than sweet bananas.

Eaten in huge quantities, bananas can raise blood sugar, cause headaches and sleepiness, and create unhealthily high levels of magnesium (which relaxes the muscles) and potassium (which causes hyperkalemia, the symptoms of which are muscle weakness, temporary paralysis, and irregular heartbeat). To avoid these problems, limit yourself to fewer than a dozen bananas per day. Beta-blockers can raise potassium levels, so if you’re taking those, you might even want to stay a little lower than that. If you ask me, though, if someone’s eating a dozen bananas a day they probabaly need professional help of some kind anyway.

Read more:
label-style nutrition information for raw bananas
the plant and its cultivation from California Rare Fruit Growers
Banana Boat Song on YouTube

Versión en español: this post is also available in Spanish.
Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.

Fish and bananas

This became a great favorite of mine in Bermuda, and is still my first choice for a festive solo dinner. It’s quite easy to make for one or two, but gets more complicated if you try to make a lot. Also, the bananas tend to stick and make a mess, so if possible choose a skillet that you can leave to soak overnight.

for each serving:
1/3-1/2 lb. mild white fish fillet*
butter or oil for cooking
1 Tbsp. slivered almonds (optional)
1-2 bananas, cut into 1/4 inch slices

Saute the fish in just enough butter or oil to prevent sticking over medium or medium-low heat, about 2 minutes per side or until lightly browned on the outside and opaque and cooked through inside. Remove to a plate and keep warm (i.e. drop a lid over it if the kitchen’s cold or the cat seems too interested).

Add more butter or oil to the skillet and cook the almonds (if using), stirring, for 2-3 minutes to brown lightly. Add the banana slices; cook, turning frequently and gently, until the bananas are softened and lightly browned, about 1 min. The bananas tend to stick as they cook, so use plenty of butter or oil. They will take on a golden color when done. Top the fish with the bananas. Garnish with snipped parsley or a sprig of cilantro if desired.

*Wahoo, snapper, or dolphinfish (mahi mahi) are common in Bermuda, but I’ve had good results with cod or halibut. It’s best to get a nice thick fillet; thinner fillets such as sole tend to break up when cooked, making a sort of hash (which is still good but not as pretty).

Adapted from:″ target=”_blank”>The 15-minute single gourmet / Paulette Mitchell. 1994. 0028609972.

Versión en español: this post is also available in Spanish.
Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.