Chile peppers have been cultivated for more than 7,000 years, used extensively by the Incas and the Aztecs. Today, they are used by many ethnic groups, in their daily cooking preparations. There are many varieties of fresh chile peppers: Yellow (or Caribe), Pasilla (or Poblano), Red and green Fresnos, Habanero, Chilaca, Thai, Scotch Bonnet, Banana Wax, Hungarian Wax, Jalapeño, Anaheim, and Serrano, to name a few. Chile peppers get their heat from ‘capsaicin’, an oil they contain that can burn your eyes and mouth. The hottest of all chiles is the habanero chile, which is off the heat scale in comparison to the others. As a general rule of thumb, the smaller the chile, the stronger the heat. Also, when preparing chiles, if you remove the seeds and inner ribs, the chile will have a milder taste. We also suggest wearing gloves and being careful to not touch your eyes.
Chile peppers add a delightful flavor to any dish. Try them in eggs, soups, stir-fries, sauces or even breads. They are very versatile...and you can use more or less, according to your taste. Chiles should be refrigerated and used immediately for best flavor. They are low calorie and are a great substitute for salty seasonings.
Chayote squash is also known as a mirliton. It is native to Mexico and Central America, but grown worldwide. Most chayote is a light green color, but it is also available in a less familiar white variety. Chayote contains one large seed in the center of the squash, which can be eaten after it is cooked, but generally it is discarded. Very popular among Hispanics, chayote is often prepared diced and sautéed as a side dish. First the skin is peeled, then the squash is used in a variety of ways: raw in salads, sprinkled with lemon or lime juice, boiled, steamed, sautéed, in soups or stews, on skewers or even in chutneys. Chayote lasts several weeks in the refrigerator and is available year-round. Chayote squash are low in calories (about 28 per 3 oz.) and provide Vitamins A and C.
Jicama is a very popular vegetable in today’s produce department. Generally thought to be used primarily by Hispanics, it is also popular among Asians and Americans. Sometimes called a ‘yam bean’, jicama is shaped like a large turnip, but the taste is reminiscent of a potato combined with a water chestnut. It is a very versatile vegetable and can be eaten raw in salads or served with dips, as well as roasted, grilled, boiled or mashed like a regular potato. Jicama is also a great substitute for water chestnuts, with the same juicy, crunchy flesh that stays firm when slightly cooked. Jicama must be peeled before being used, and should be stored in a cool, dry place. It should last several weeks when stored properly. Jicama is very low in calories (about 22 per 3 oz.), and is an excellent source of Vitamin A and a good source of Vitamin C and iron.
The Tomatillo is sometimes referred to as a Mexican husk tomato. They are thought to be native to Mexico, but no one is certain. Tomatillos are grown in California and a few other areas, as well as in Mexico. They are very popular for making green salsa. Tomatillos are actually a fruit, but like a regular tomato, are used like a vegetable. The best way to store tomatillos is with the husk on, in the refrigerator. They should keep for at least one week. They are an excellent source of vitamin A and C and are very low in calories.
This versatile herb is popular in several regions: China, Southeast Asia, India, Latin America, and the Middle East. It is also known as coriander or Chinese parsley. In the past, cilantro has also been used as a medicinal herb for stomach ailments. It can also be used to mask “garlic breath” after eating; just chew on a sprig or two. Cilantro is used in salsas, pestos, sauces, salads and more. It is one of the most versatile herbs around, and is available year-round. Cilantro, like any other herb, should be kept in the refrigerator. To keep it at its freshest, rinse each bunch, then wrap in dry paper towels and store in a loose plastic bag.
Melissa’s Baby Red Beets are ready to use without the trouble of trimming, peeling and steaming. We have taken all the mess out and left only the good stuff in! These delicious baby red beets taste so fresh because of our innovative packaging to keep the freshness in and the bitterness out. No one will ever know these beets came out of a package! These tasty beets come from France, a country well known for beets. We don’t add any additives or preservatives-they are all natural to keep that great tasting flavor until the very end!
Baby Red Beets should be kept in the refrigerator and used once opened. Beets are very nutritious, a great source of fiber, have no cholesterol and are low calorie. They will add color and flavor to your main dish, salad or side dish.
Pearl Onions are members of the lily family. They are thought to have originated in Southern Europe. Pearl Onions are available in three colors: White, red and gold. They are available all year around and Melissa’s offers them packaged several ways. Pearl onions are a mild onion, about 1-inch in diameter. They have a papery skin and look like a miniature regular onion. Pearl Onions are very popular around the holidays. They are generally used in vegetable sautés, casseroles or creamed in a side dish. . Pearl onions are great on skewers or in sauces too.
To peel pearl onions, blanch them in boiling water, and then plunge them into cold water. Cut off the root end, and squeeze the onion out of the skin. It is very simple and easy for such a delicious treat. Pearls should be stored in a cool dry place, just as you would a large onion. They are very low calorie, and very low sodium with some iron and vitamin C.