Browsing Food for Thought

The Kitchen Think: Fall Into Apples


Bailey, Baldwin, Beacon, Cortland… sounds like roll call at an east coast prep school.

Every autumn I’m amazed at the varieties of apples I find at the farmer’s market. It’s like falling through the looking glass. The packaging is basically the same…round, red, green, yellow, or some combination thereof… but the taste is mind-blowingly different.

Grocery stores used to carry two, perhaps three types of apples: Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and McIntosh. Sometimes Jonathan or Granny Smith would work their way into the crowd at certain times of year. Now, and especially in the fall, it’s like you’ve stepped into an orchard: Honeycrisp, Empire, Fuji, Macoun, Gala and Winesap… just to name a few.

There are thousands of apple varieties (more than 7,500 worldwide to be exact), from sugary-sweet to lip-puckering tart. Here is a mini-primer on a few you might not be familiar with, but may run across in the markets in the coming weeks.

Remember, all apples are created equal—delicious at their peak—but that doesn’t mean they can all be used equally. Different apples are good for different things!

(Many thanks to the folks at Boyer Nurseries and Orchards, Inc. in Biglerville, Pa. for the fantastic images of the individual apples!)

Arkansas Black

Arkansas Black is deep red, almost black. It tastes tart and crunchy. Great for eating.

Baldwin Apple

Baldwin has a yellow based skin, flushed with orange and striped red. Taste crisp, fresh and sweet. Great for eating, cooking and juice.

Cortland Apples

Cortland is mostly red with some yellow blush. These are crunchy apples with pale, snow white flesh… perfect for eating, cooking or juice.


Enterprise apples are cardinal red with a saffron yellow under color. They have a tough skin and the flavor is juicy, rich and spicy. They make great Candy Apples!

Lady Sweet

Lady Sweet apples are small, with a thin, smooth greenish yellow skin splashed with red blush. Tender, crisp, sweet and very aromatic, they are great for eating and cooking.

Mutsu (aka Crispin)

Mutsu apples had a name change a few years back to “Crispin.” These apples are initially green, but turn yellow as they ripen. Firm, crisp and juicy with a sweet flavor, these are perfect “eating” apples.

SweeTango… I love the name and I love the taste. These are deep red over a yellow background. Crunchy, juicy, sweet and balanced with just a hint of acid. Great for eating.

Twenty Ouncer

Twenty Ouncer is a huge apple with a green base overlaid with broad red stripes. Tender and sweet, these are great for baking and juice.

So… how do you like them apples? (I know, I know. But I just had to say it.)






The Kitchen Think: Waste Not, Want Not


Donny Osmond was wrong: One bad apple CAN spoil the whole bunch.

I hate throwing away fruits and vegetables because I didn’t store them properly and they languished, forgotten in the fridge. Mold grows rapidly and contaminates everything quickly. Strawberries are a good example: One day they look fine, but by the next afternoon they’re fuzzy and white.

I guess the first rule here is: Buy with a plan in mind and buy only what you are going to use that week. Whatever you buy, eat the most perishable items first. The asparagus you buy today won’t last until the end of the week. It may still be green, but it will have lost a lot of its nutrients and flavor.

The second rule is pretty important, too. Make sure all your fruits and vegetables get along and play nice. I’m serious. Certain fruits and veggies give off high levels of natural ethylene gas, an odorless, colorless ripening agent, so they shouldn’t be stored with some produce because it accelerates spoilage.

Vegetarian Times has a great online article describing which fruits and veggies should be refrigerated and which should be kept separated so they don’t ripen other produce too fast and cause spoilage.  Here’s a brief recap:


  • Tomatoes
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Avocados
  • Unripe bananas
  • Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Winter squash
  • Garlic


  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Figs
  • Honeydew


  • Ripe Bananas
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Lettuce
  • Peppers
  • Squash
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Watermelon

Finally, one of the worst things you can do for any type of fresh produce is store it sealed in an airtight bag (in the fridge, on the counter or in the pantry) where it can’t breathe. Store the fruits and veggies loose in the crisper (that’s the bin above the meat storage bin in your refrigerator) or put them in a brown paper bag or an open plastic bag so they don’t suffocate.

So, next time you’re putting the fruits and veggies away, try humming the chorus to that old Offspring song, “You gotta keep ‘em separated…”


The Kitchen Think: The Next Big Thing?


Want to be in on the next big foodie trend? Then get your hands on a digit shaped fruit with translucent caviar-looking pulp, bursting with a fresh lemon-lime citrus flavor.

Finger Limes anyone?

image by Shanley Farms

The Fancy Food Show, the huge annual specialty food convention that showcases the obvious and the odd, is up and running in Washington, D.C. We’re seeing some weird and wonderful items that will be hitting the mainstream marketplace soon, like finger limes (they’re also known as caviar limes).

The cluster of hundreds of crunchy juicy beads (they’ve been compared to citrus Pop Rocks) at the fruit’s core can be pink, red or, more typically, light green. I have a feeling that the fascination for finger limes will be a lot like it was when pomegranates hit the mainstream market big-time a decade ago… and we all know how that craze took off.

The long, purplish or greenish-black thin skinned fruit (that is technically is not in the lemon or lime family) is native to the rain forests of eastern Australia, but it’s now being grown in California. Shanley Farms,  which sits in the San Joaquin Valley, produced their first commercial-size crop last year, which is about when American chefs started pairing the micro-citrus with seafood and other dishes.

The rest of us will be able to get our hands on some when the season begins in October (it runs through December). But these little babies won’t be cheap. Last year they were about $15 to $20 for 6 ounces… which puts them in the fresh porcini mushroom price category.

If you find them and decide to splurge a little, the easiest way to use the fruit is to cut it in half and squeeze out the droplets like toothpaste from a tube. Use it to top oysters, beef, tuna or salmon carpaccio or anywhere you want an explosion of lemon-lime tartness!

image by Shanley Farms



The Kitchen Think: Lettuce Try Something New!


When Mama was growing up, there was only one kind of lettuce: Iceberg. That’s it. It was shredded for tacos, wedged for salads (with Green Goddess dressing!) and leafed for sandwiches. Even fancy-do restaurants with salad bars had only one kind of lettuce: Iceberg.

But then, the world changed. Romaine, mesclun and field greens began showing up on restaurant menus and making special guest appearances in supermarkets. And naturally, just when we think we can identify what’s in that bag of pre-washed greens, the lettuce world is rocked by something completely new and different…

The Amazing Wall of Lettuce.

Last week’s farmer’s market find was 45 (that’s right forty-five) different types of lettuce at Henry’s Farm.  This isn’t just lettuce… these are buttery, tender tastes of early summer that are feather light with delicate earthy goodness.

Intimidating, eh? Not if you’re willing to step out of your comfort zone and experiment a little. Toto, we’re not in Kansas any more…

Actually, Henry’s Farm is a real family farm that is worked by three generations of Henry Brockman’s family in Central Illinois. Henry doesn’t grow only lettuce, but more than 650 varieties of vegetables. Some of them are pretty eclectic, with similarly eclectic names, such as “Purple Podded Shelling Peas” and “Egyptian Walking Onions.”

But back to The Amazing Wall of Lettuce. These are some of the varieties that filled our basket (literally… Henry has these old fashioned wooden peach baskets that customers use to collect their produce):

Oaky Red Splash– Oak shaped leaves speckled with red flecks… an amazing juicy, sweet flavor!

Galisse– Soft and sweet with a delicate pale green color.


Kalura– A great foil to the softer lettuce because of the sweet Romaine crunch!

Joker– We bought it because of the name and because it is a cousin of the Jester lettuce! The light green leaves are splashed with red with a firm crisp texture.

These are heirloom lettuces, so they are a bit more delicate than the grocery store variety. You’ll be tempted, but don’t go hog-wild… buy only what you think you’ll be able to eat within three or four days. Romaine will last a little longer, but the butterheads are wimps.

Rinse the lettuce just before serving in very cold water and pat dry with a clean towel or paper towels. If the leaves seem a little limp, immerse them in iced water for a few minutes. Don’t drown them in salad dressing, either, a light vinaigrette is all you really need or just a little squeeze of lemon and tiny pinch of salt.

Forty-five (45!!!) different kinds of lettuce provides you with a lot of opportunity to try a myriad of combinations. So live a little…besides, Iceberg lettuce is soooo yesterday.



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I’m Christina Chavez

I was a TV journalist for many years, but with a house full of kids I decided to come off the road, go to culinary school and follow my passion for cooking. Mama’s High Strung is all about food… everything from creative recipe ideas to some really cool kitchen gadgets and cooking tips. I live in Chicago, but I love to travel and write about my food discoveries! You can reach me by email: