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Produce Profile by Mark "Guido The Gardner" ® Ferro
Guido's Easter Fixins'
A late Easter 2003 is very good news for growers of fresh edibles. As a look out any window can tell you, spring weather can be a bit testy. Sunny one day, wet and cloudy the next. Let's give you a brief rundown on some of the goodies that should be sparkling for your Easter dining pleasure.

The strawberry crop has gotten off to a great start. We've had a California grown strawberry, first originating from the Oxnard area and now from points further north, for a couple of months already.

And yes, a late Easter gives us more time into the season for good strawberries.

One problem has been the sporadic but quite noticeable precipitation. (We also had a major bout of wind a couple of weeks ago.) But there are plenty of strawberries already in the pipeline for any holiday dining.

Spring Peas
A look in my wet backyard garden reminded me of the joys of fresh spring peas. And thank you my dearest bean sprout of a daughter for pointing out that Papa's peas are VERY tall. (Yes, some higher netting may be in order!)

Another week, and the Guido household should be enjoying fresh snow, sugar snap and English peas. The popular, flat podded Chinese snow or sugar peas are coming, not only from my backyard, but also from the coast of central California and the quality has been pretty fine. Look for straight, flat pods without noticeable peas formed inside. Mature snow peas, as evidenced by developed, mature peas tend to be tough.

The sugar snap pea, developed about twenty years ago, is also an edible podded pea. But this variety must be mature and plump to have full flavor. This variety is available either stringless, (without the papery cap on the stem) or au natural. They are also real common in pre-packed mixed veggie packs.

To string a sugar snap hold it flat between your fingers then snap the cap, (it's called a calyx) and pull it to the bottom. Both strings on either side of the pea should peel away. Sugar snaps can be prepared like snow peas and are especially good when par boiled and served chilled.

Old fashioned English peas, those being the peas you need to shell from the pod, are also around and make a great addition to any kind of cold salad. These are really best when eaten fresh instead of cooked.

Asparagus & Artichokes
The asparagus crop has been rolling in from Mexico, southern California, Salinas Valley and now from our most local spot, the Stockton delta. Here's what I just finished making this morning for a produce training class I need to give in about ninety minutes (no lie, I need to hustle!)

It's in conjunction with an artichoke recipe I given a couple of times already, but hey, this is real produce life.

Sort Of Steamed Artichokes With Asparagus As A Bonus

The point of this recipe is to infuse generous amounts of flavor into the artichoke, without getting the whole thing waterlogged.

  • First, slice off the stem and the top half inch of so of the 'choke.
  • Next , carefully open it up with your fingers.
  • In a pot, I put in a splash of balsamic vinegar, a glug of an olive oil based salad dressing, (it had a citrus flavor theme) some dried oregano and some lemon pepper, oh, half a chopped onion.
  • To that I added enough water to bring the liquid level to half way up the artichoke.
    Remember the 'choke sits on the cut leave tips with the stem butt in the air. I turned up the heat and cooked them until I could easily pierce the base of the STEM-UP artichoke.
  • Folks, sub in any liquid/flavoring combo you like. They can be eaten hot or chill them for later.
  • Now back to the asparagus. After I removed the cooked 'chokes from this liquid, I brought it back up to a boil and put in the cleaned asparagus.
  • You can always cut the asparagus into pieces if you like.
  • I boiled them in this very flavorful liquid for about three minutes. Do NOT overcook!
  • Then I drained out the liquid and chilled the cooked asparagus under cold running water in order to stop the cooking. Done.

You can also steam asparagus in a flavorful liquid, using a steamer basket. But I think you lose some flavor that way.

Both artichokes and asparagus are primo currently so this two-for-one cooking routine works efficiently. Both veggies store well cooked in the refer for a couple of days so don't be shy.

Go easy on the marshmallow chickies and jelly beans.

MANGIA!