Posted by Patrick on October 09, 2013
ASK PATRICK IN PRODUCE:
I’ve been given spaghetti squash and a strange green hard winter squash. My local squash-farmer says they’re delicious, but I don’t know how to cook them, and I am afraid that one of them may take over my house and replace my family with alien replicants.
- Confused by Cucurbita, Jackson, MS
The best way to ensure that your family isn’t replaced with pod-people look alikes by rogue vegetables is proper preparation of the squash in question.
In the summer, this is incredibly easy. Entire cookbooks are stuffed with stuffed squash recipes. Frankly, though, that’s not what you’re looking for.
That big yellow monster is the spaghetti squash, aka vegetable marrow, aka Cucurbita pepo variety fastigata..
This is not some soft summer squash, this is no nutty zucchini. Nor is it a creamy butternut, or hearty green acorn squash. No, this is a strange beast indeed.
But, you must overcome your trepidation, lest you disappoint that humble and generous squash farmer. Take heed of my advice, for it will serve you well.
First, preheat your stove to about 400 degrees. For smaller squash you may tend towards 350, for larger squash make sure you’re at or slightly above 400.
Get a very sharp knife and stab your squash a few times. You’re going to be cooking it whole, so if you don’t puncture the hard skin, you may have an oven full of exploded squash. While “Squash Explosion” is a great band name, it’s a terrible thing to have happen in your oven.
This takes about an hour. Again, slightly longer for larger squash, slightly less time for smaller ones. Your cooking time may vary, but it will be close to one hour. With larger squash you may want to turn it over or roll it around a few times. When the rind wrinkles, the squash sags, and the skin looks a little burned, you’re good to go.
With utmost caution you must remove the squash from the oven. Make sure you’ve got great oven mitts. Let it sit cooling on the counter for 10 minutes or more, then cut it in half latitudinally, at the “equator.” Try to make one continuous cut.
Now, you have two halves of a spaghetti squash. Scoop out the seeds. You can put them on a tray and bake them, or make seed and macaroni art, or feed them to birds. Your choice.
Take a fork, and stab the flesh! The flesh should give way easily. If not, just put it back in the oven for 10 minutes, split side down on an oiled pan. Take your fork, then jab and pull the strands towards the hollow in the squash, from the stem end to the blossom end. Repeat as necessary, until you’ve got a mass of spaghetti-style “noodles.”
These noodles don’t have a ton of flavor. They go great with tomato sauce, white sauce, pesto, or a simple coating of butter, salt, and pepper.
You can make asian-style noodle dishes with them, using hot peppers, garlic, and oil. Throw curry on top of them. Make noodle soup. Really, anything you can do with a pot of noodles, you can do with a pile of spaghetti squash noodles. They have a mild, slightly nutty acorn-squash flavor, and a nice bit of crunch.
Now, you’ll notice that you have a hard green winter squash left on your kitchen counter. It probably hasn’t moved, but I can’t recommend chopping and cooking one squash in front of another.
You’ll want to cook this one differently. Cut it longways, first. Remove the woody stem to make this process much easier. Scoop out any seeds with a spoon. They likely won’t be big enough to eat, but if they are, feel free to coat them in oil, salt them, and bake them on a dish.
Preheat the oven to 350. Patiently. Spend the time chatting with your squash farmer. Call up your family and hang up on them when the oven timer goes off - it’s your time, use it as you will.
Or, you can take your squash halves and add a dab of butter to the hollow squash. You can use almost any oil you want, but I like butter. Coconut oil adds an exotic sweetness, but olive oil will likely burn.
Place your squash halves in the oven, cut side up, and roast away. Depending on the size, it can take anywhere from 10 to 40 minutes. Just wait for the top to bubble and brown and the skin to wrinkle and crumple.
Now remove this from the oven, and scoop out the soft flesh with a spoon. If it is too hard to easily scoop, bake it some more!
I hope this answers your questions about squash and saves the lives of your family. Remember, squash are delicious, nutritious, and affordable. Therefore we must be eternally vigilant and always eat as many of them as we can possibly manage.
NEXT TIME: “Dear Patrick, I’m a 1700’s sailor trying to circumnavigate the globe. Do you have any advice?”
Posted by shelby on October 09, 2013
Jeff Haddock, our new Cold Goods Manager, is employee of the month. He just recently stepped into this role and has been working extremely hard, despite becoming a father for the first time just a few short weeks ago! Let Jeff know what a great job he’s doing next time you shop.
Posted by shelby on October 09, 2013
Thanks to the generosity of Rainbow shoppers through our Roundup program, we presented a check of $542.06 to Mississippi Spay and Neuter yesterday. We can do amazing things when we all work together! Remember to “Round Up” to the nearest dollar when you shop. All of the donated funds will go to the chosen Roundup recipient, which changes monthly.
Posted by Patrick on September 18, 2013
People love apples. It’s the most popular fruit in our produce department, and the second most popular fruit item in the US, rarely beating out the mighty banana. I’ve always heard that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. I know that doesn’t work for everyone, but I do have a pretty good throwing arm. While they certainly won’t cure blunt trauma from thrown fruit, each apple packs a serious punch of fiber and nutrition in a package that contains very little sugar.
I have seen sugar-phobia scaring people away from the fruit, and that is a shame. Your average apple contains approximately 20-25 grams of sugar. This can sound like a lot, but it’s not (and the apple comes in under 100 calories) - especially when you consider the fact that each apple provides you with about 20% of your daily fiber intake, and zero fat.
Plus, the burst of fiber the apple gives allows the body time to properly absorb and utilize the all-natural fructose contained within, giving you sustained energy in a nutrient-rich package.
You see, when you consume fructose (the sugar in fruit), it doesn’t metabolize like glucose and your other sugars. Glucose and sucrose go into the blood and get used by the body directly. Fructose has to go to the liver first, where unused sugar is rapidly turned to fat on the liver, which is a bad thing.
But eating an apple is not a bad thing, despite the fact that it’s loaded with fructose. Why?
Well, when you eat an apple, it’s full of fiber, which keeps the fructose moving slowly through the large intestine, which pulls it into the bloodstream. Therefore, the fiber prevents the sugar-spike that’s so detrimental to your health, all while providing you with sustained healthy energy throughout the day.
So the lowly apple is as ever-deserving of the “superfood” moniker as are many high profile high-dollar meal-makers.
Plus, they’re portable, delicious, and can stand short periods without refrigeration, making them an excellent supply for school lunches and mid-day snacks.
Sometimes, they’ll gang up on you.
But, where do apples come from?
Okay, so, that’s easy. But apple trees are not. Most seeds from an apple tree do not “breed true,” an apple seed may grow a fruit that does not at all resemble it’s parent apple - throwing out seeds from one variety may result in fruit that is sour, inedible, or gnarled. These wild types are often referred to as “spitters,” which is what you’ll do if you take a bite.
Old timers had a use for these sour apples, squeezing out the juice and fermenting it into delicious apple cider. These days, apples are grown specifically for cider cultivation.
Now when an apple farmer finds a particularly good wild variety, or breeds an interesting hybrid, or even finds a magically delicious branch on an otherwise un-tasty tree, he doesn’t go to the apple to save the seeds. No, he takes a cutting, creating a genetic clone of the original tasty fruit-bearing plant.
Entire farms are made from the cuttings of a single tree, endless rows of identical plants putting out the same fruit each time.
Well, almost. You see, plant genetics can be as intertwined and variegated as a Pearl River briar bog. So while an entire tree might produce nothing but pure bred Fuji apples, a single branch might suddenly mutate into something tastier, plumper, or suddenly green. It’s called a “Bud Sport,” which is not a game you play with friends.
The cast of ‘‘House’’ was here a moment ago.
Those of you who have an inkling into the evolutionary arms race between plant and pest may see a problem with this arrangement: The pests constantly come up with new exciting ways to prey on the identical apple trees, which, all being the same genetic specimens, are always vulnerable.
So in many a farm setting, apples are heavily treated with pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and more, including antibiotics. This routinely places apples in “dirty dozen” lists of fruits and vegetables of which it is most important to buy organic.
You may ask yourself, “Wait, antibiotics in trees?”
Yes. The disease Fire Blight,which is caused by bacteria doing what they do, can wipe out an entire apple or pear orchard in a single season. Since it takes 12 years to get a pear tree to maturity and six for an apple tree, most orchardists rely on antibiotics to sustain their crops. This is currently leading to antibiotic-resistant strains of fire blight, and the use of antibiotics is so widespread that, currently, even organic operators are allowed to use two types of antibiotic on apple and pear crops, under the National Organic Plan.
You may have heard about this, for example, in our good friend Jim Pathfinder Ewing’s piece in the Jackson Free Press.
However, I should stress that most crops of organic apples are not treated by antibiotics at all. Even when they are infected by fire blight, under the National Organic Plan there is a strict permitting process for determining need and making sure that other controls are attempted first.
While the overuse of antibiotics is a real social and scientific concern, you the eater shouldn’t worry about getting these antibiotics into your system from eating organic apples. Fire blight occurs at blooming time, not at fruiting time, so the fruit itself is never sprayed. The antibiotics used have an incredibly short life in the field, breaking down into harmless compounds within the day. Tests to find these antibiotics and their residues in fruit have never found any, either.
So, I wouldn’t let this worrisome news prevent you from enjoying a nice healthy organic apple. But if you’re concerned, as I am, about antibiotic overuse and resistance, you can feel better knowing that, thanks to concerned citizens and public pressure, the rules allowing antibiotic treatment of pears and apples are going to end after the 2014 crop, after which you can be sure that your organic apples and pears have never been treated with antibiotics.
This is not the first time I’ve stopped an entire class of medical school students from graduating.
Posted by shelby on September 06, 2013
Rainbow’s Employee of the Month is Cass from our Health & Beauty Department. Cass has worked extremely hard during the renovation of her department, and the work isn’t finished yet!
Posted by shelby on August 26, 2013
The school year has started! We know that providing healthy meals for your kids can involve a lot of work and planning, so Patrick and Shelby created Rainbow Real Meals to help make your job a little easier.
Real Meals are wholesome lunch ideas that feature our organic Rainbow produce and our favorite recipes.
All Real Meals are plant-based, but can be adjusted for your child’s dietary preferences.
Carribean Red Beans and Rice
Dinosaur Egg Pluot (Dapple Dandy Pluot)
Wilted Dinosaur (Lacinato) Kale
Cook covered for a few minutes in a lightly oiled pan on medium heat until kale is wilted.
Dinosaur Egg Pluots
Quinoa Salad with Apples and Almonds
TIP: Try this salad with our tart and crisp pink pearl apples. They are delicious and are pink inside!
Pita Bread Sandwich with Hummus and Sliced Veggies
(Try thin slices of carrot, cucumber and red or yellow bell pepper)
Sesame Noodle Salad
Tip: try adding cashews or other nuts for extra protein. You can also add tofu chunks or veggie chicken! Our favorite chicken substitute is made by Gardein and available in the frozen section.
Flavor Grenade Pluot
Flavor Grenade Pluots
Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich
Sliced Bell Peppers
Until next week- Bon Appétit!