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March, 2010

Bananas, Pineapples and Mangoes, Oh My!

By Mark Mulcahy

It’s March and we’ve all been eating organic apples, pears, and citrus for the past few months
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Of course if you have been eating these from Melissa’s, you’ve been eating the best tasting and highest quality produce available, and yet you still may be looking for something more to satisfy your produce desires.
Organic Strawberries
There are organic strawberries to fill a major gap in your produce diet this time of year, yet some of us still need something else bridge the gap to May when organic cherries, grapes, and early melons start to grace produce departments. So what do you do? Fortunately Melissa’s has a solution for you. March is a perfect time to indulge in organic tropical fruit. Melissa’s has organic bananas, juicy mangoes, and ripe pineapple, along with all of your other Melissa’s organic favorites.

Let’s start with organic mangoes, I know you see them during most of the year, but the organic Ataulfo mango is one that is especially abundant during this time of year. Now you may love Haden, or Keitt (sounds like sweet) or even Tommy Atkins, but I’ll lay you dollars to donuts that if you haven’t had an Ataulfo you may have been missing the best mango of all.

These beauties originated from a Hawaiian seedling and are a direct descendant of the Manila variety, which is why they are often referred to as Manila mangoes as well. You can’t miss them in the produce department, because they look so much different than the other mangoes you’d normally find. The fruit has a flat, oblong almost “s” shape, and ranges in color from light greenish yellow to deep rich gold when ripe. I think they kind of look like little baby chicks, but I do have a very active imagination. And their sweet, rich flavor, with its subtle citrus tang makes them absolutely delicious. And that’s not all; their flesh is virtually stringless with a texture close to butter when ripe, which leads many Melissa’s customers to say, “These have got to be the best mangos I have ever eaten!”

Pineapples
These could easily carry you through this month, but if you need something else, pick a Melissa’s organic pineapple. Many people pluck a leaf from the top to see if it is ripe; while this will tell you if the leaf is loose, it does not tell you if the pineapple is ready. Another thing to note is that once the fresh pineapple is cut from the plant, it will not ripen any further. It may change color, but it will not get any sweeter. Ripe organic pineapples should have green, fresh leaves, be plump, and feel heavy for their size. And as always, believe your nose! A ripe pineapple should have a strong, sweet scent, if it smells at all fermented, then leave it be. Depending on the variety, pineapples can range in color from green to gold so look into their eyes to find the truth. They should have eyes (the little puffy squares that cover the fruit) that are bright and shiny. Lastly, feel the bottom; it should yield to medium pressure and have no signs of mold. If all these things are right, then you’ve got a good one.

Now that you are a pineapple pro, I won’t be surprised if I overhear you giving lessons on picking the right one to someone else! Lastly, we come to America’s favorite fruit the banana. I think the organic yellow, aka Cavendish, bananas that Melissa’s offers are sweeter than their conventional supermarket counterparts, but I could just be biased towards organic. I guess you’ll have to decide. Do a taste test of your own. Once you’ve decided, I recommend that you break out from the usual banana eating routine: on cereal, in smoothies, etc., and make yourself some banana walnut pancakes, mmm- mmm. I had some the other morning and couldn’t believe how great they were. I savored every bite and wanted to remind everyone how good they can be. Below is a recipe I adapted from http://www.mrbreakfast.com. Does the produce gap between March and May feel better now? I hope so! As far as I’m concerned, I’m looking forward to eating lots of bananas, pineapples and mangoes, oh my.
Banana
Banana Walnut Pancakes
(4 servings)

1 medium banana (the riper the better) – cut into slices
1 cup flour
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup crushed walnuts
1 large egg - beaten
2 Tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

In a separate medium bowl, mix together buttermilk, egg, cooking oil and vanilla. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix well. Pour 1/2-cup portions onto a heated (medium-high), greased griddle or large frying pan. Turn the pancakes when the visible side starts to show a lot of bubbles. Add banana slices and walnuts. Turn over and cook other side until golden brown. Serve with butter and syrup, or my favorite way – with plain organic yogurt.