WHAT’S IN SEASON?
BY BARBARA KOBSAR • ILLUSTRATION BY MARGO RIVERA-WEISS
Choosing produce harvested at its peak is your sure bet for flavor and freshness.
In season now, pomegranates and sweet potatoes are two must-haves during Thanksgiving month. Pomegranate seeds enhance the appearance and taste of many dishes, and the juice is great in beverages and jellies. Sweet potatoes—baked, boiled, or mashed—sit nicely alongside that turkey, but cooked into a carrot-ginger soup, they just make us feel good—literally: Each sweet potato is loaded with A, B, and C vitamins and is a significant source of fiber.
California leads the world in the production of almonds and walnuts, and we’re catching up with pistachios. Shop the local farmers’ markets for new-crop shelled and in-shell nuts for snacking or for use in holiday stuffings, soups, salads, and baked goods. And don’t miss the blood orange this season: Its tropical taste—with a hint of raspberry—makes it perfect for juicing and using in glazes, marinades, and sorbets.
Kale deserves its top super-food billing: Fighting cancer, lowering cholesterol, and assisting eye health are just a few of the benefits it imparts. Choose bunches that look the freshest to make kale chips, salads, soups and pastas. Smaller leaves are tender and milder in flavor. This is also fennel season. The licorice flavor of Florence fennel (finocchio or sweet anise) is strongest in its seeds and leaves, but is quite mild in its 3- to 4-inch broad, bulbous base. As spring unfolds, look out around our East Bay landscape as the wild fennel sprouts its feathery leaves and then bears its large umbels of yellow flowers that produce the oval, greenish brown fennel seeds.
Spring radishes are successfully grown on a year-round schedule in cooler regions of the country. Small, red, globe-shaped Cherry Belles are most common, but many other shapes and sizes are found at the farmers’ markets. The oblong, white-topped French Breakfast radishes, the 5 to 6 inch tapered White Icicle, and an Easter Egg hybrid, which intermingles shades of red, white, violet, and pink round roots, are all intriguing.