Produce harvested at its peak is your sure bet for flavor and freshness.

 

Story and recipe by Barbara Kobsar
Illustration by Charmaine Koehler-Lodge

February

Your secret for turning drab to delicious this month is the tangy juice, zest, and pulp of winter’s lemons and limes. Choose a common Eureka or Lisbon lemon if you want tartness or the popular Meyer lemon (a tart lemon/sweet orange hybrid) for a sweeter, less-acidic fruit. Meyers are prized for marmalade since the pith isn’t very bitter and thus can be included in the recipe. Salads and salsas shine with slices of Meyer lemon tossed in, and Meyers make lemon bars sensational.

Limes can be more aromatic and less acidic than lemons. Most common is the large, bright-green Persian (Bearss or Tahiti) lime. Its flesh is juicy and fine-grained. The Mexican lime (Key lime) is small with a smooth, thin rind and an intense fragrance that makes it perfect for margaritas. Just plain intriguing is the Australian finger (or caviar) lime: Finger-like in shape, it brims with small, juice-filled bubbles that look a bit like fish eggs.

March

Avocados might seem bland in flavor, but we love their marvelously buttery texture, and they are becoming a year-round favorite as growers and consumers embrace lesser-known varieties like Fuerte, Zutano, and Pinkerton. The plump, oval-shaped Hass continues to reign supreme with its nutty flavor and smooth texture, prized in sandwiches, soups, hamburgers, and salads. The thick, pebbly skin of the Hass turns almost black as the fruit ripens. All avocados reach full maturity only after harvest, and this conveniently extends the season, since they can be left on the tree without affecting the quality. To speed up ripening, place the avocado in a loosely closed paper bag at room temperature and check daily.

April

California’s diverse growing regions provide new-harvest potatoes of all varieties during all seasons. These young potatoes are apt to land in my shopping basket because they keep their shape when cooked and cut. They’re also sweeter than mature potatoes since their sugar has not yet converted into starch. Creamers are small and waxy and show off their yellow, red, purple, or tan skin when baked, boiled, or steamed for a simple side dish. Larger potatoes such as russet or Yukon Gold are flakier when cooked and make the best baked potato. Fingerlings (heirloom varieties) are small with an elongated or crescent shape and skin colors in light tan, gold, purple, or red. Look for Russian Banana or Purple Peruvian fingerlings for a tastebud treat. ♦

Lime Curd

This simple lime curd is delicious swirled into oatmeal, served with scones, or used atop a dish of blueberries. I like to make it when I have Bearss limes, but any lime variety works.

Makes about 1½ cups

¼ cup butter
½ cup sugar
Juice and zest of 2 limes
2 large eggs, whisked

Melt butter in the top of a double boiler. Stir in sugar, juice, and zest. Gently whisk in eggs and cook over gently boiling water until mixture thickens (about 8 to 10 minutes). Stir occasionally. Pour into a bowl to cool before using. Can be stored in a covered jar in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Veteran journalist Barbara Kobsar has authored two cookbooks focusing on traditional home-cooked meals using local produce. You’ll find her each Sunday at the Walnut Creek market and on Saturdays at the Orinda and San Ramon markets selling her Cottage Kitchen jams and jellies made from farmers’ market produce.

Artist Charmaine Koehler-Lodge grows most of her family’s food in their rural Pennsylvania garden.