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July, 2011

Nectarines a True Summer Treat

By Mark Mulcahy

During the summer, people’s thoughts turn to picnics, barbeques and gathering around the fire pit. Which means we think about eating wonderful Melissa’s produce, right?

White Peaches
For me a real sign that summer is here is the arrival of organic nectarines! Yea!

I mean what’s not to like? First off the word ‘nectarine’ means sweet as nectar and Melissa’s organic nectarines rarely disappoint. Sweet, juicy and bursting with flavor, nectarines are as good for you as they taste. Nectarines are a powerful source of bioflavonoids that fight free radicals. Because of their bright red and yellow color they are also a very good source of antioxidants, which are especially good at fighting cancer and other diseases.

You may wonder if the nectarine is a fuzzless peach or a hybrid. While they are a close relative of the peach that originated in China over 2,000 years ago, some historians believe the nectarine may actually predate the peach. Either way we can thank David Fairchild of the Department of Agriculture for introducing them to the United States in 1906. Which make lots of fruit lovers very happy today. While the nectarine is grown in other states, 95% of the nectarines grown in the United States are grown in California. And Melissa’s buys from one of the best organic nectarine growers around. Another reason you might want to consider buying Melissa’s organic nectarines is because non-organic Nectarines often test high in pesticide residues and are among the top 20 on the EWG’s (Environmental Working Group) pesticide residue list which is taken from the USDA’s own pesticide reporting.

How to you choose and ripen them?

Choose Melissa’s organic nectarines with a smooth, red colored skin which are fragrant and that give slightly to the touch. Handle with care as they bruise easily, which leads to a faster breakdown when you get them home How you ripen and store them is very important, nobody likes mushy nectarines. Firm nectarines will ripen on your counter in 2 -3 days at room temp. To ripen firm nectarines faster, put them in a brown bag and store at room temp. alone or with an apple to allow their natural ethylene gas to ripen the nectarines. They could ripen in one to two days so keep an eye on them.

After they are ripe?

Nectarines will keep in the crisper of the refrigerator for at least a week when stored in a plastic bag. Once they are ripe, they can be enjoyed in so many ways. As is, they are a perfect addition to any lunch or snack, or sliced they can be added to fruit salads or yogurt. Nectarines may also be baked, grilled, puréed or made into preserves and jam. They can even be the hit of a wonderful summer salad. I was reading the buy fresh buy local newsletter bfbl@caff.org the other day and found this amazing salad that would be perfect for a brunch or light dinner.

Salad
2 white nectarines, sliced into thin wedges
A few handfuls of your favorite leafy greens, (I’m still loving the arugula right now)
a nice sized shallot, sliced thin
about 1/3 cup crumbled ripe cheese of choice. (I choose Stilton)
2/3 cup walnuts or pecans
1/2 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. butter
1/4 t salt

Dressing (makes extra):
2/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup champagne vinegar
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. herbs de Province
Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine all dressing ingredients and shake up in a jar. Heat oil in a pan on medium low. Add nuts, spices and salt and stir until warm. Add honey and stir gently until the whole thing is sticky and toasty.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Watch it closely and be careful not to burn it. Wash and dry the greens and arrange in bowl. Arrange nectarine slices on top, toasted nuts, sliced shallots, and crumbled cheese. Spoon dressing over the salad, toss just before eating. This salad is so good you might want to make it just before you serve it to your guests as you could end up eating all yourself.