A Little Box of Sunshine!
By Mark Mulcahy
For many, March is still tied too closely to winter’s frigid fingers to generate a lot of excitement for springtime produce. Don’t get left in the cold this month when you can dive into a sea of citrus and enliven your mood and taste buds with Melissa’s wide array of organic citrus.
March is a magnificent month for Melissa’s organic Minneola’s, meiwas, blood oranges and both of your favorite oranges. And each has its own special flavor and texture that will make even the least of produce buyers limber with excitement. Let’s start with organic Minneola tangelos; some of you may also know them as a “honey bell." These springtime favorites are generally large, bright orange and somewhat bell or ornament shaped. Your customers will love them because Minneola tangelos are seedless and have just the right balance of tang to sweet. They get their unique taste because they are a cross between a Duncan grapefruit and a Dancy tangerine. But they aren’t the only citrus to crow about.
This month is when Melissa’s organic kumquats are at their best, especially the Meiwa, which are round in shape and are often referred to as "sweet” kumquats. Kumquats are entirely edible with a thin, sweet skin and a zesty flavored flesh. While commonly used in desserts, my favorite way to eat them is whole. Want to have a little fun with your kids, partner or workmates? Show them how they’ll get the best flavor from these little gold gems of the citrus family. Have them place the kumquat between the palms of their hands and roll gently until soft and pliable. Then have them pop them in their mouths. This action releases the essential oils that are in the rind, which makes for a deliciously sweet first bite and great smelling hands. If they didn't like them before, they certainly will now.
Produce tip: Good quality kumquats should be firm with a bright or deep orange color. Soft or shriveled fruit is a sign of age and should be avoided.
Want to do something fun for a friend who may have the chilly snow blues? Pack up a box of sunshine full of Melissa’s organic blood oranges, pink grapefruit, Kishu mandarins, navels and Valencias and send them to the Midwest or East coast. I guarantee you will get a whole lot of warmth from the gesture and a boatload of smiles, and OMG’s via phone calls or social media in return.
But it’s not all about citrus. March is the time to start turning your thoughts to all the springtime favorites like asparagus, fresh peas, fennel, and strawberries, of course. When push comes to shove, fresh greens like arugula, dandelion and spinach are the real spring treat.
If the weather is still cool in your area a salad may not yet have much appeal to your customers. But don’t let that stop you from telling them how to enjoy their tantalizing flavors or nutritional benefits. I suggest that if they are just beginning to eat greens, you may want to steer them toward the milder greens like chard and spinach first to see how they like them. Then you can move them on to the more peppery flavored arugula, or slightly bitter dandelion. My springtime favorite is Mizuna. Mizuna greens have tender frilly leaves, a bright new grass color and a pleasant, peppery or tangy flavor. They are great on sandwiches in salad, or slightly braised. Like all leafy greens, they are filled with vitamins A, C, potassium and calcium, and are great for stimulating your digestive system.
My other favorite is arugula, aka salad rocket. This cooler time of year it has less of its fiery flavor—which can be a little much for some folks—and allows those who dare to try, the experience of its wonderful, nutty flavor. This is the flavor that will win them over, so they can appreciate it raw in salads or as complement to pinto beans. Once you are hooked with the flavor you can feel even better with this little tidbit: With eight times as much calcium content as iceberg lettuce, more vitamin C than any other salad green and the same cancer-fighting powers of broccoli, arugula is a green to notice and notice and notice again.
Enjoy the spring and boxes of sunshine!