Late sum­mer to early fall is a per­fect time to pick and high­light bell pep­pers. They tend to thrive in the hot Cal­i­for­nia sun, so the recent heat wave was not a deter­rent to these col­or­ful beau­ties.

The 2020 Wash­ing­ton state apple har­vest is just under­way. This season’s crop looks to be stel­lar and close to last year’s size in vol­ume.

Apple farm­ers keep grow­ing larger crop sizes and more vari­eties to please the world­wide con­sumer demand of this favorite fruit.

For the sec­ond straight year, Gala apples will be the high­est vol­ume vari­ety pro­duced at 23 per­cent. Red Deli­cious is pro­jected at 17 per­cent, fol­lowed by Fuji apples at 14 per­cent. Granny Smith and Hon­ey­crisp are at 13 per­cent each of total pro­duc­tion.

This year, new­com­ers Cos­mic Crisp is fore­casted to come in at 1.2 per­cent of the total crop and Cripps Pink at 5 per­cent. Pretty good for the new­bies.

Organic apple pro­duc­tion is on track to be about 16 per­cent of the total, or 21 mil­lion boxes. This is up from 15 mil­lion boxes in the 2019 apple crop. By the way, not all organic pro­duc­tion is ulti­mately packed, sold and mar­keted as organ­i­cally grown.

Read more: “A“mazing →

Late sum­mer to early fall is a per­fect time to pick and high­light bell pep­pers. They tend to thrive in the hot Cal­i­for­nia sun, so the recent heat wave was not a deter­rent to these col­or­ful beau­ties.

Orig­i­nat­ing in South and Cen­tral Amer­ica, Colum­bus brought them back to Europe in the 15th cen­tury. They soon became culi­nary stars across the globe.

Bell pep­pers are part of the chile fam­ily. Unlike their spicier coun­ter­parts (ser­ra­nos, jalapeños and habaneros), they do not con­tain cap­saicin, the com­pound that gives chile pep­pers their heat.

At their peak in late sum­mer and early fall, bell pep­pers are avail­able in a rain­bow of col­ors. Their mild fla­vor and sat­is­fy­ing crunch make serv­ing them raw a pop­u­lar choice. Sal­ads and fresh veg­gie plates are dressed up with bright bell pep­per rings or juli­enned strips.

Roast­ing, grilling, bak­ing, or stir-​frying them brings out a deeper, sweeter taste. Their hol­low cav­ity and sturdy walls makes them ideal for stuff­ing. This menu appli­ca­tion seems to fit right in with the tran­si­tion of sum­mer to fall.

There are two major fac­tors that deter­mine a bell pepper’s color. One. The time of har­vest­ing and the degree of ripeness at har­vest time. Two. The pep­per vari­etal.

All bell pep­pers start out green and change color as they mature. If it’s not picked, a green pep­per may become yel­low, orange, or red, depend­ing on its vari­etal. The longer the fruit stays on the vine, the sweeter it becomes. Addi­tional time on the plant also means that more nutri­tional value is gained.

Since they were less ripe when picked, green bell pep­pers have a longer shelf life, but are less nutrient-​dense than bell pep­pers that have matured to other colors.

Read more: Pep­per Picks →

Labor Day 2020 comes in the midst of a global pan­demic and an era of essen­tial work­ers.

Since early March, front-​line work­ers, across mul­ti­ple indus­tries, have faced unprece­dented con­di­tions to per­form our most cru­cial ser­vices.

Typ­i­cally, Labor Day marks the offi­cial “end of sum­mer” fes­tiv­i­ties, vaca­tions and leisure pas­times. Kids go back to school and fam­i­lies set­tle in with more struc­tured rou­tines.

Sport­ing events, con­certs and back­yard bar­be­cues are Amer­i­can high­lights from Labor Days past. Not this year. Card­board cutouts will suf­fice to enter­tain base­ball fans and online vir­tual con­certs intend to ser­e­nade lis­ten­ers.

Back­yard grilling will be served to a restricted num­ber of peo­ple. No crowds or large par­ties allowed this year. Gath­er­ings will be lim­ited. Amaz­ingly, those respon­si­ble for feed­ing Amer­i­cans have shown remark­able resilience.

Farm­ers in Cal­i­for­nia have bat­tled destruc­tive fires through­out major grow­ing regions this sea­son. Still, they con­tinue to har­vest, pack and ship.

On the table, and with­out much inter­rup­tion, we con­tinue to eat our fresh pro­duce. Mel­ons, toma­toes, sweet corn, cook­ing veg­eta­bles and salad ingre­di­ents mag­i­cally find there way to the gro­cers and restaurants.

Read more: Essen­tial Labor →

It’s not always easy to get inspired to cook. Even with a myr­iad of inter­net tuto­ri­als on grilling, sum­mer sautéing, and roast­ing, it’s some­times dif­fi­cult to muster any real cook­ing enthu­si­asm.

More meals are now being pre­pared at home dur­ing our stay in and stay safe pro­to­cols. There is no time like the present to dust off the stacks and piles of gifted or pur­chased cook books col­lected over the years.

Most have a trusted “go to” copy of Joy of Cook­ing or The Sil­ver Palate. Tat­tered, stained and gen­er­ally worn with pages lit­er­ally falling from the bind­ing, our most used ones are not in mint con­di­tion. How about the rest of the group? They are pris­tine, hardly cracked and wait­ing patiently for some kitchen love.

Now is the time to intro­duce your­self to the quiet of kitchen ther­apy. Recon­nect to fam­ily roots. Chan­nel the grand­mother or aun­tie in those more dif­fi­cult recipes we’ve always wanted to tackle.

Explore new places through the smells, plates and tastes of Africa, China, India, Mex­ico, Spain and Morocco. Go any­where in the world while con­fined to the com­forts of home.

There is also the mat­ter of mas­ter­ing cer­tain cook­ing tech­niques. Rolling, pinch­ing, knead­ing and brais­ing sur­prise us with pie, dumplings, bread or spicy veg­etable entrees and sides.

Read more: Cook the Books →

Food is cul­ture. Every­thing hav­ing to do with food — from cul­ti­va­tion and prepa­ra­tion to con­sump­tion, reflect cer­tain aspects of dif­fer­ent cul­tures.

Indian cui­sine con­sists of a vari­ety of regional and tra­di­tional dishes native to India. Given the diver­sity in soil, cli­mate, cus­toms, eth­nic groups, and occu­pa­tions, these cuisines vary sub­stan­tially.

A climb­ing food trend is the pop­u­lar­ity of Indian restau­rants. Depend­ing on the influ­ences of regional dif­fer­ences, spe­cific spices, herbs, veg­eta­bles, and fruits are used. These are based on what may have been avail­able in the home­land regions.

Indian food is heav­ily influ­enced by reli­gion, in par­tic­u­lar Hin­duism. The cui­sine is also shaped by cen­turies of Islamic rule, par­tic­u­larly the Mughal rule. Samosas and pilafs are exam­ples.

Exotic ingre­di­ents and a full range of fla­vors– spicy, sweet, sour and hot, make it a desir­able and excit­ing food explo­ration.

Famil­iar spices that are com­mon to many Indian dishes — cumin, corian­der, turmeric, and gin­ger, pro­vide numer­ous ways of using them and com­bin­ing them. There are at least thirty other spices behind those four.

Read more: Curry Curry →

Going “back to school” amid COVID con­di­tions is any­thing but nor­mal. As health offi­cials, par­ents and school lead­ers decide on what safe learn­ing looks like, there is the loom­ing ques­tion of “what’s for lunch”?

Through­out the past sev­eral months, many school dis­tricts have been able to pro­vide grab and go lunches and some­times break­fast to appre­cia­tive fam­i­lies.

In many cases, these meals are the only or most sub­stan­tial nutri­tion a child might expect that day.

The USDA funds sev­eral meal and nutri­tion pro­grams. These pro­grams oper­ate in pub­lic and non­profit pri­vate schools and res­i­den­tial child care insti­tu­tions. Most pro­vide nutri­tion­ally bal­anced, low-​cost or free meals to chil­dren each and every school day. The orig­i­nal pro­gram was estab­lished under the National School Lunch Act, signed by Pres­i­dent Harry Tru­man in 1946.

Sev­enty four years later, food inse­cu­rity for school aged kids is even greater. Roughly, 30 mil­lion stu­dents eat school lunch every day and 22 mil­lion of these chil­dren rely on free or reduced-​price school lunch.

School lunch and break­fast are free for house­holds under 130% of the fed­eral poverty level and reduced cost for house­holds under 185% of poverty. The Fed­eral Poverty Line is $26,200 for a fam­ily of four in 2020.

Read more: Lunch Box Relief →