Sunday, December 28, 2008

Episode 18 - Banana Tips

On this episode I demonstrate three of my favorite tips regarding bananas.

Can you put bananas in the refrigerator? How about putting them in the freezer?

Learn how to extend the life of your bananas and a tip that is simple yet somewhat magical. It really works!

These tips and more on this episode of the Produce Picker Podcast.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Choosing and Storing Potatoes and "New" Potatoes

Make sure when choosing potatoes that the skin of the potato is not sprouting, wrinkled, or soft (see right).

Whether you're choosing a brown (i.e. russet, baking), white potato, or yellow (i.e. yukon) potato check to make sure that the skin does not appear to be green (see below. Bottom right potato shows greening).

When potatoes are exposed to light, as they are in grocery stores and farmers markets, they begin to build up toxins. This process will manifest itself on the potato as a greening of the skin. It may appear that the green color is coming from under the native color (i.e. brown, yellow, white) of the potato. A potato that is sprouting, wrinkled, soft and/or appears to have a green coloring under its skin is bad. Eating too many green potatoes can actually be toxic to your system and make you sick. So next time you're choosing potatoes make sure to take a good look at its skin coloring and avoid the green. If you find that you have a section of your potato that has a green coloring you can go ahead and cut out this section before cooking or simply discard the potato.

fun fact: Bagged potatoes often come in a tinted, brown colored bag. These bags are designed to help reduce the potato's exposure to light thus reducing the chances that the potato will become toxic (green).

Have you heard the term "new" potatoes? Often times people think this refers to the size of the potato. A "new" potato actually means just what it sounds like, new. These are potatoes that have been harvested earlier than normal which often results in a thinner, softer, more tender skin. While these potatoes are generally smaller in size, the term "new" potato does not necessarily mean each "new" potato will be small. Sometimes called "creamers" and/or "fingerlings" (see right, do you see any bad ones?), "new" potatoes come in many colors such as red, purple, yellow, and white. Often times you can tell a "new" potato because its skin will flake off easily. Run your thumb accross the surface of a "new" potato and you'll notice that the skin comes off easily or parts of the skin may already be missing.

Make sure to store your potatoes in a cool, dry and dark environment. Avoid putting them in the refrigerator (many people do this) as it will only make the potato have an uncharacteristic sweet flavor (because the starch turns to sugar) and can result in them turning a dark color once cooked. Potatoes that are stored properly at around 50 degrees can last up to a couple of months!

Ray a.k.a. The Produce Picker

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images provided by Flickr community (ideath, chickeninthewoods, Laura Bell) via creative commons license.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Episode 17 - Persimmons

It's Fall which means it's time for Persimmons!

In season from September through December, the Fuyu persimmon also known as Sharon fruit should be chosen while still firm. Fuyu's should have a nice overall orange coloring with a smooth, tight skin and a green, leafy top.

If your Fuyu persimmon is still a little green in color, let it ripen on the counter until it has reached an overall orange coloring but not so long that the skin becomes shriveled or starts to become soft. Fuyu's are best eaten while still firm. They will have a consistency something close to an apple or pear.

The two most commonly found persimmons are the Fuyu, which you can see in this episode, and the Hachiya (right) which is generally used for cooking.

Use the Fuyu persimmon as a garnish in salads or deserts or simply eat out of hand after washing and peeling away the skin.

*no cameras were harmed in the making of this podcast. In fact, I didn't even really hit the camera with the persimmon at all;)

Hachiya persimmon picture courtesy flickr user: bsterling via cc license.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Episode 16 - Picking Pumpkins - A Halloween Special

In this episode of the Produce Picker Podcast we leave the kitchen and go outside to the pumpkin patch to find out how kids pick perfect pumpkins!

Join us on this special Halloween edition and send us your pictures of your perfect pumpkins!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Food Newscast

Time for another edition of Food Newscast - Your source for fresh fruit and veggie headlines.

This episode features a two little girls being banned for running their own produce stand, farmers markets now accepting food stamps, people looking for economic relief in their own backyards, and the irradiation of lettuce and spinach.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Produce Picker on Emeril Green this Thursday!

Thursday September 4th at 8:30pm EST is the day!

The Produce Picker Podcast will be featured on this Thursday's episode of Emeril Green. The title of the episode is called "Vegging Out" which is a reference to the ingredients we used to prepare all the dishes we made. In fact we made all our dishes primarily out of vegetables and fruit. I think you'll enjoy the recipes, I know I did. They were all delicious and some surprisingly so.

Tune in if you can. They will also be running several repeats of the episode the following week. Check your local listings for the Planet Green channel and the "Vegging Out" episode. Let me know what you think! In fact I'll be seeing it for the first time along with everyone else and even though I was right there, I have no idea what they will show. We shot for about 20 hours total for a 1/2 hour episode. Kind of scary! Who knows what will turn up:)

As a celebration, I will be hosting a live premiere party via the web. If you can't see the episode because you don't get the channel or just want to join in the fun while you watch, check out my live broadcast at:

We should be broadcasting live at least an hour before the show premieres at 8:30pm EST with a live taping of a new Produce Picker Podcast episode and a few celebratory drinks and BBQ. I hope to see you there!

Thanks for all the support!


P.S. If you are twitter you can follow me @producepicker for updates and tips.
Or become a fan of the show at Facebook.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Viewer Question Answered (Stringy Avocados)

It's time again to answer another viewer question. Periodically I receive emails from viewers of the Produce Picker Podcast searching for answers to their produce questions. I try to answer each of these emails as thoroughly as possible however only the person who has asked the question tends to benefit from the answer.

The purpose of the show as well as this blog has always been to share my knowledge with as many people as possible. To this end I'm sharing some of the emails I receive and my responses to them in the hopes of helping out others who might have the same questions. I hope this benefits all of you. Enjoy and always feel free to send in your own questions, comments, and/or tips!

Laura sent in a question about stringy avocados, she asks:

Just saw the avocado episode on MIRO - first time watching. all great BUT,
sometimes I buy several unripe avocados, wait for them to ripen and then refrigerate.
When I pull it out to eat, sometimes it is stringy and strange inside - as if it had started to grow or something and one that looks and feels identical is fine to eat! What's going on?
Thanks so much to Laura for sending in this great question. I have seen this before as well and yet it was a challenge to just come up with the answer on my own. So I put in a special inquiry to my friends at the California Avocado Commission and they provided me with a great answer to Laura's question, Erin replied:

The "stringiness" you describe is a relatively rare occurrence generally found in fruit from immature trees. Because the avocado has grown in popularity world-wide, so has the need for new orchards. On occasion young vigorously growing trees may produce a few fruit with fibers, mostly near the stem end. It is impossible for growers to predict which fruit is affected but we know that the phenomenon is relatively rare and passes as the trees grow. The fibers are natural cellulose and edible, although of course the texture of the pulp near the stem end may be less appealing when fibers are present. Simply pushing the pulp from affected fruit through a coarse strainer will separate the fibers from affected fruit. Using the mashed fruit in guacamole or dip recipes will allow you to fully utilize any fruit showing this phenomenon.

Thanks again to
Erin at the California Avocado Commission for the great insight.

As a parting note I commented to Laura that
her method of picking avocados unripe, letting them ripen on the counter and then refrigerating them until use, is a good one. Buying them unripe gives you a chance to get them before a bunch of other people get their hands on them, pressing all over your avocado thus bruising it before you buy it. Also placing them in the fridge only after they are ripe gives you a longer shelf life. So, good job there.

Thanks again to Laura and Erin for providing great content for this blog post. I hope everyone learned something about avocados and perhaps feels inspired to submit a question of their own or comment on this post. Thanks for reading!

Here's the Choosing Avocados Episode:

Ray a.k.a. The Produce Picker

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picture provided by Flickr user Will Merydith

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Episode 14 - Cactus Pear Fruit

On this episode I take a look at the cactus pear or prickly pear fruit. It has many names but its own unique flavor. This episode will introduce you to the cactus pear and show you the best way to peel and eat it.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Produce Picker Goes to the Emeril Show!

Hi everyone, big news!

Ray a.k.a. The Produce Picker was chosen to be on an episode of Emeril's new show "Emeril Green."

Discovery channel has launched a new channel called "Planet Green." Emeril's new show "Emeril Green" will begin showing on July 14th (check your local listings for the channel). The new show will focus on the importance of organic foods and sustainable farming.

Filmed entirely at a Virginia based Whole Foods, Emeril Green will feature grocery shoppers who have a cooking dilemma. It will be Emeril's job to solve these problems for each individual shopper. What was my cooking dilemma you ask? Well that, along with what we cooked ,sounds like a good teaser that will hopefully make you want to watch the show. Of course if you look closely enough at the picture you might get the answer to at least one of those questions.

So how did I even get the chance to be on the show in the first place? When I heard they were filming the show near me I sent an email explaining what it is I do on my own show, Produce Picker Podcast. They were interested and extended me the opportunity to audition. Next thing I knew they wanted me to be on an episode and after two long but fun days filming we finished the episode that I will appear on which will premiere sometime in July (details to follow).

Make sure to follow this blog by subscribing (check the left hand corner of this blog) to be notified when and where the episode will air. As soon as they tell me, I will update here so everyone else will know. You can also follow all my happenings and news on Twitter @producepicker. Click the link to sign up and follow my updates. Twitter is a great way to keep up with the news of your favorite people on the Internet.

Thanks to everyone who has followed me thus far. My little show and a strong following has really taken me places! Thanks again.

Ray a.k.a. The Produce Picker

become a friend of the show on Facebook or MySpace!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Episode 13 - Kiwano Melon

In this episode of The Produce Picker Podcast I introduce you to a unique, tropical fruit, the Kiwano Melon.

Enjoy the many uses of the Kiwano or just use it as a conversation piece. Either way the Kiwano is an interesting and fun fruit.

Show Transcript:

Welcome to another episode of the produce picker podcast, on todays episode we're going to take a look at an interesting and little lesser known fruit, the Kiwano melon.

Native to the Kalahari desert in Africa, the Kiwano Melon goes by many names. Some of these are the horned melon and you can see why when you look at this little guy...the African horned cucumber which will be a little more evident when we cut this open = an English tomato = a hedged gourd = jelly melon = and a melano.

Now grown in New Zealand and California, the Kiwano melon is widely available year round.

You'll want to choose Kiwanos that are bright orange and don't have any bruises or or soft spots. Look for the melon which has its horns most intact as this is a good indication of its freshness or that at the very least it hasn't been mishandled.

I guess the biggest question besides what is it would be what do you do with it, what do you use it for? Well, the Kiwano actually has many uses.

Use the Kiwano in desserts as a topping for cheesecakes, flans, mousses, soufflés, and sundaes It can also be an added as an ingredient to smoothies. Also try the Kiwano in fresh fruit salads or served as a garnish with roasted meats.

The Seeds of the Kiwano are edible and the shells can be used in a unique way. Hollow out the shells and use them as unique serving bowls for your deserts such as sorbets. I'm going to cut this guy open so you can see its unique insides and show you how you can use it to serve up unique deserts.

Another great use for the Kiwano is simply as decoration. Place this fruit on your table and its sure to start conversation. its one of a kind look and contrasting colors, the bright orange on the outside and the luminescent green of its interior are a sure fire way to get your dinner guests talking.

Now lets look how to cut open the Kiwano and what to do with it once you've got it open.

Here's where the Kiwano really shines. notice the bright green jelly like texture of the Kiwano. The taste is similar to bananas and lime with a hint of tartness and perhaps a little cucumber thrown in. Quite unique in appearance and taste.

You'll find the Kiwano melon in the produce department usually located next to other unique, tropical fruits such as star fruit, red tamarillos, persimmons, lechee nuts and other specialty fruit. You can store the Kiwano for up to a week on your counter top as this is a fairly sturdy item that shouldn't be placed in the refrigerator.

Selected still pictures used in this episode provided by:
red tamarillo
lychee nut

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Viewer Question Answered (Celery Root)

Often times I receive emails from viewers of Produce Picker Podcast about items either featured on the show or just something they want to know more about. I answer each of these emails as thoroughly as possible however only the person who has asked the question tends to benefit from the answer.
The purpose of the show as well as this blog has always been to share my knowledge with as many people as possible. To this end I'm going to start sharing the answers to the questions asked by the viewers of the show as well as the readers of this blog. I hope this benefits all of you. Enjoy and always feel free to participate.

Linda in Virginia wrote in with her question. She writes,

I just love this site of yours! Thanks sooooooooooo much for it. I am learning a lot and I love to cook but there are things I don't even know what they are or how to cook them at the grocery store like celery root. I don't see it on your list of veggies could you tell me a little about this one? Thanks again. I'll visit your site a lot and share with my family too.

Thanks so much for the email and compliments on the site. I really love to hear from people who watch the show, I'm assuming you saw the show (Produce Picker Podcast) as well? The web site and blog are really here to support the show and grows as I put out new episodes. Sorry there are no pictures or info on celery root. I've included a picture and some info here.

Celery root is indeed just as it sounds, a root vegetable related to celery. However, the root you buy in the store is grown specifically for the root and is not where your store bought celery comes from.
To prepare it you peel away the tough outer layer and inside you'll find a creamy white flesh which can be cooked and used in "soups and stews; it can also be mashed or used in casseroles, gratins, and baked dishes."
It has the flavor of celery and parsley. "It can also be grated, julienned, or shredded and added raw to salads."
Also the green stalk part is not consumed but "the hollow stalk of the upper plant can be cut into drinking straw lengths, rinsed out, and used for tomato drinks such as the Bloody Mary. The tomato juice moving through the stalk is lightly permeated with the celery flavor."
You want to avoid choosing celery root that has soft spots. Thanks again for spreading the word and I hope this information helped.

Look forward to other viewer questions answered and send me the questions about fresh fruits and vegetables that you want answered. Also if you have a celery root recipe that you enjoy please submit it in response to this blog post and I'll include it here!

Thanks again Linda for your question,

Ray a.k.a. The Produce Picker

picture provided by a_sorense on flickr

Monday, March 24, 2008

Episode 12 - Produce Bob's Seasonal Picks - Week of: 03/23/08

Video thumbnail. Click to play
Click To Play

Another installment of Produce Bob's Seasonal Picks. This time Ray The Produce Picker and Produce Bob discuss the transition from winter fruits and veggies to spring produce.

This episode focuses on the artichoke and mango. Join us and learn something you didn't know about both of these wonderful, in season produce items.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Episode 11 - Product Demo - OXO Apple Divider

The first in a series of episodes where I demonstrate how to use fruit and vegetable related products. These products are designed to make the process of preparing fruits and veggies easier. I only present products which I have used at work or home and believe to be of the best quality.

Each product shown is available for purchase here at the blog. Simply click on the product in the featured products section located on the left sidebar. I hope you enjoy this new segment designed to introduce you to some of the interesting products that are available for fruits and vegetables.

Don't forget to send an email to for your chance to WIN the OXO apple divider featured on this episode. All you have to do is send an email telling me which apple you like best and perhaps why. Thanks for watching!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Episode 10 - Produce Bob's Seasonal Picks

The Produce Picker Podcast presents Produce Bob's Seasonal Picks. An audio segment hosted by Ray "The Produce Picker" and Produce Bob Gates.

Ray and Bob take you through current "in season" fruits and vegetables and Bob picks his favorites of the week. This week it's grapefruit and leeks.

This episode is an enhanced audio podcast which means pictures of the items mentioned in the show will show up on the screen.

((Ignore this part, it's just a test link.))My Odeo Channel (odeo/e9acc0b3a5f84d9f)

Produce Picker Podcast Featured in The Produce News

If you remember back a few weeks ago I mentioned that Produce Picker Podcast was chosen as a feature story in the produce industry trade paper The Produce News.

I was interviewed by Tim Linden, a writer for The Produce News, about my career as a produce clerk and how that led to the creation of my show Produce Picker Podcast.
Well that article has been published in hard copy and online. As promised here is that article for anyone who is interested in reading the story and learning a little more about me and the show.

Thanks Tim for a great article, thanks to Mr. Groh (editor for The Produce News) for choosing myself and the show to profile, and thanks to everyone who watches the show and participates in this blog!

CLICK HERE TO READ: TECHNOLOGY AT WORK: Produce clerk bridging the information gap with podcasts
by Tim Linden


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Tips for Eating Better in '08 (In Response to the Janurary Poll)

During the month of January I ran a poll that asked "Did your New Years resolution include eating better in 2008?"

Results of that poll showed that 88% of those who responded answered "yes" they did make a New Years resolution to eat better.

In response to that poll, in celebration of Primary season '08 (it's voting day '08 here in D.C.) and as a thank you for participating, I wanted to offer up some tips that I've found useful from around the web to help those who said they were interested in eating healthier in '08. I hope these tips will help you to either start or stick to your resolution!

For those trying to start - BlogHer food editor Alanna Kellogg offers up some great tips:

Make it fun. Make it do-able. Make it a project. A project? How about a vegetable in a new way every single day for a month? (Hey! It worked for me. And it's how I started blogging in 2005.) But trust me, it's also a decidedly ambitious goal. Instead, how about trying one new vegetable a month, or one new recipe a week? If eating more vegetables is a family project, think about your own version of a Great Big Vegetable Challenge.
Move vegetables to the center of the plate. I mean this both figuratively and literally. First, the figurative. When planning the week's menus, start with the vegetable, then plan the meal around it, as in, "Tonight we're having roasted asparagus. Let's see, that would taste great with roasted salmon." Now the literal. Place the asparagus in the center of the plate, letting it star. Then place the salmon to the side. Doing this visually modifies what stands out, what's more important.
Add vegetables in unexpected ways. Add chopped spinach or Swiss chard to tuna salad. Add quick-sautéed vegetables to cooked rice. Add grated carrots to meatloaf. Read the full article at
For those of you looking to maintain your resolution to eat healthier - Dee Dee Smith at has some good tips:
Always serve a salad with each meal. You can serve a fruit cup, spring salad or even coleslaw for variety. Add fresh fruit like strawberries or tangerines to greens for a really tasty salad. In addition to increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables, you will probably eat less of the main course possibly resulting in weight loss as well.
Make up your own vegetable and/or fruit baggies for snacks. In small baggies place spears of broccoli, cauliflower, baby carrots and celery sticks. For a little flavor, use ranch dressing as a dip. Make up fruit bags by putting slices of apples, oranges and pears along with grapes, cherries, etc. in a baggie. Kids can dip fruit in strawberry yogurt as a special treat. Having the baggies will make it easy for you or your kids to grab a healthy snack. These also make great snacks for school and/or work.

Get many servings of fruit by making fruit smoothies. These are great for breakfast, a snack or even a delicious dessert. For some healthy smoothie recipes, check out this Suite 101 article. Read this article in its entirety at

Stay tuned to the Produce Picker Podcast for all new segments such as Produce Bob's Seasonal Picks which will keep you informed about what's in season now and what you should be buying on your next trip to the market.

Consuming in season produce will not only make your recipes taste sweeter but could be just the boost in variety that you need in order to maintain your resolution to eat better in the new year.

Thanks to everyone who has subscribed to the blog, podcast or both thus far. I'm having a great time coming up with new ideas to keep you informed about fresh fruits and vegetables and your feedback thus far has been great. Keep those emails coming (thanks Bob for your question about Bell Fruit. Check the comment section of the Food Newscast blog post for the response)!

If you haven't already you can easily subscribe to this blog or the Produce Picker Podcast by simply adding your email (which remains private) in the box located in the upper left hand corner of this blog. For the more tech savvy viewers you can also subscribe via RSS. Subscribing ensures that you'll get all the newest information released here and on the Produce Picker Podcast automatically. No need to check back. You'll be notified instantly via email whenever there is new content!

Thanks again and remember...Pick Right, Pick Ripe, Every Time with The Produce Picker.

picture provided by jpwbee

Friday, February 8, 2008

Episode 9 - How to Choose and Cut a Cantaloupe

Hi everyone. It's time for another episode of the Produce Picker Podcast. On this episode you'll learn how to choose that perfectly ripe cantaloupe from your local market. I also show you a fast and effective way to cut open your cantaloupe while getting the highest yield of fruit possible.
Below the show you can find the entire episode transcript in case you'd like an easy way to review the steps involved. Enjoy and let me know what you think by pressing the comment button below this post.

Episode 9 - Produce Picker Podcast - How to Choose and Cut a Cantaloupe (transcript)

The first thing to pay attention to when choosing a cantaloupe is its overall shape and color. It should be nice and round with no flat sides, impressions or dents. Your cantaloupe should have a nice overall netting with creamy yellow to orange undertones.

Next you want to notice the weight of the cantaloupe, it should feel heavy for its size. While you are holding the cantaloupe make sure to check all sides for blemish including but not limited to soft spots, cracking and mold.

A very good indicator to how sweet your cantaloupe might be is to check the stem area. Notice on this cantaloupe there is a deep impression where the vine used to be connected to the melon. The cantaloupe is fresh when this appears green as opposed to brown or black. Also make sure there are no jagged edges in the stem area. You can see here this one is very smooth. A cantaloupe that has jagged edges in the stem area indicates that it was picked too soon and that cantaloupe will never fully ripen.

Finally when choosing a ripe cantaloupe you'll want to feel the area just around the stem. If you want to eat the cantaloupe the same day you buy it then this area should give when you apply pressure.

The best way to do this is to use your thumbs to apply pressure around the area just around the stem. A ripe cantaloupe will have some give without being too soft. The rest of the cantaloupe should still be fairly firm.

You can also smell the melon to help determine ripeness. The smell should be pleasant without being too strong. However in some produce departments melons are kept on a refrigerated case or in a refrigerated storage cooler and this could eliminate the smell of the cantaloupe. Because of this use smell only as a test to aid in choosing your melon but not as a definite indicator of ripeness.

Now lets look at a fast way to cut a cantaloupe while still getting the highest yield of fruit possible.

You might recognize this technique from episode 4 where we cut and cored a pineapple. We'll being using the same technique to remove the rind of this cantaloupe.

Begin by removing the top and bottom of the cantaloupe. This will provide you with a solid base with which to cut the melon decreasing the chance that the melon will slip out of your hand when cutting. Remember to always pay close attention and don't go too fast when using a knife to perform these techniques.

Now that you have a solid base to work from, take your knife and move it just to the inside of where the melon and rind meet. You want to make downward cuts, moving the knife with the shape of the melon in order to remove as much of the rind as possible while still leaving as much fruit as possible.

Perform this cutting technique around the entire melon and remove any pieces of rind left over by simply cutting them off.

Now you're left with a giant melon ball. Next we'll cut the melon in half and remove the seeds. You can use a spoon to scoop out the seeds inside the melon or simply cut and scrape them out with a knife.

Finally cut the melon into half inch to one inch sections. Rotate the pieces 90 degrees and cut again to make bite sized cubes. Another alternative to cutting the melon into slices or cubes would be to simply serve the melon halves by themselves or perhaps with ice cream or berries in the center. Really it's up to. Use your imagination and above all enjoy the sweet taste of your perfectly selected cantaloupe.

Monday, January 28, 2008

What Grade Do You Get? Guest Blogger Serena Shares Her Tips for Eating Healthier

Ok, so how many of you know that you should include more servings of fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables in your daily diet? Yes, just as I suspected all of you knew that one. Great, you received an A grade for this test question. Now onto your second test question. How many of you are eating the recommended daily amount of 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day? Aha, just as I thought, a minority of you. But if you are meeting the recommendation, congratulations and keep up the great work; however for a lot of you it looks like you are receiving a failing grade for this one, for now. As your dutiful nutrition professor I feel compelled to guide you toward an A grade.

I often ask my peers, mentors and students what is their personal disconnect between knowing and acting. The knowing being that fruits and vegetables are good for you and the acting being obtaining, preparing, and consuming them. What I have found is three reoccurring themes.

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables “go bad” too quickly.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables are too labor intensive to prepare.
  • I just don’t like the way they taste.

In order to address each of these barriers I have created a “study guide” so you can be well on your way to that desirable A grade.

Problem: Fresh fruits and vegetables “go bad” too quickly.

Solution: Simply buy less and buy fruits and vegetables that have a longer shelf-life. Start with an attainable goal of 1 serving of fresh fruit and 1 serving of fresh vegetables a day. In this way when you go to the grocery store you need only purchase 3 apples and a bunch of grapes to last a week. These specific fruits will last the week for a single person. (Hint: start with the grapes and keep them in your refrigerator). For your vegetables, bagged lettuce will last up to 7 days (or more) if stored properly and winter squash, onions, celery, cauliflower, and potatoes much longer.

Problem: Fresh fruits and vegetables are too labor intensive to prepare.

Solution: Purchase fruits and vegetables that are simple to prepare. Yams only need a scrub, time and a hot oven. Bagged lettuce only needs a quick rinse, tangy vinaigrette and handful of nuts. Apples and pears, merely need to be eaten. Additionally, over time, both farmers and grocers have adapted to our frenetic lifestyles, developing either new products like broccolini (a hybrid of broccoli that requires no chopping and only a quick steam or sauté) or value-added products such as prewashed and chopped green beans.

Problem: I just don’t like the way they taste.

Solution: All this requires is a sense of adventure. If you don’t enjoy Napa cabbage give the slightly sweeter (and very delicious) Savoy cabbage a try. Don’t relish the thought of steamed zucchini tossed with butter? Try it roasted with tomato sauce. By altering either the variety of vegetable or the method of preparation you should find a wide range of fruits and vegetables that you will not only enjoy, but dare I say crave.

I hope you found my study guide helpful. As your nutrition professor I would like to encourage all of you to study hard (i.e. eat more fruits and veggies), retake the exam following all that hard studying, and give yourself that A grade you deserve! You can do it. Just remember to start small and try different fruits and vegetables and/or find new ways to cook the classics. Good luck and happy studying!


-Serena Marie is a fourth year Nutritional Biology Doctoral Candidate at the University of California, Davis. Her primary research focuses on the genetics of body weight and the investigation of gene x diet interactions. Serena is adjunct faculty at Napa Valley College teaching, Nutrition Today, an introductory nutrition class for non-science majors and is a guest lecturer for Physiological Genomics and Clinical Nutrition at the University of California, Davis.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Episode 8 - Food Newscast

Food Newscast is here! Our first issue of Food Newscast includes stories about a vegetable orchestra (it's true, you can play music with veggies), NYC fruit and veggie carts, a tip for mothers to be, plus more. Check out the newest segment to the Produce Picker Podcast and let us know what you think. Feel free to comment below this post by selecting the comment tab or send emails to

To watch this episode in a bigger format visit

Saturday, January 12, 2008

How to Choose Apples and Some Insight Into the Wax Used to Make Them Shine

In previous tips and episodes of the Produce Picker Podcast (see Ep. 1) I've talked about things to look for when choosing perfect apples. To review, make sure when choosing apples that you follow these simple guidelines:

  • Apples should feel firm and heavy for their size
  • Be free of blemishes (bruises, soft spots, stem punctures)
  • Appear shiny with tight looking skin (which of course means passing the apple wrinkle test)
This final point, shiny looking skin is a result of a wax coating which occurs naturally on apples but has to be replaced after harvest. I've had several questions about what the wax is made of, why it's there, and is it safe to eat? Let me tell you a little about this waxy surface.

Before apples are picked from the tree they develop a waxy coating that helps to protect the apple from losing its moisture and prevents shriveling. However, after the apple is picked from the tree it gets washed at the orchard to remove any dirt, leaves, and other various debris picked up during harvest. Once the apple has reached the warehouse it has a wax applied back onto the apple to help protect it during the shipping process. Without this wax apples would show up to your local market severely depleted of moisture resulting in a soft and mussy apple, something I think we can all agree would not be very appealing or tasty for that matter.

So what exactly is the post harvest wax applied to apples made of and is it safe to eat? To begin with, yes it's safe to eat. According to the U.S. Apple Association all waxes applied to apples come from "natural ingredients and are certified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be safe to eat."
They come from natural sources including carnauba wax, from the leaves of a Brazilian palm; candellia wax, derived from reed-like desert plants of the genus Euphorbia; and food-grade shellac, which comes from a secretion of the lac bug found in India and Pakistan. These waxes are also approved for use as food additives for candy and pastries. (Now you know why your chocolate bars melt in your mouth but not in your hand…)
When applied to each apple the natural wax used by growers only consists of one or two drops of wax. According to the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association it only takes approximately one pound of this wax to cover up to 160,000 pieces of fruits and veggies.

So buff up an apple on your sleeve and enjoy the nice crunch of a juice filled McIntosh (pictured above) all the while knowing that the wax providing it's nice sheen and moist, flavorful taste is as natural as the apple itself and has been in use since the 1920's.

Additional resources for this article:
Washington Apple Commission and The U.S. Apple Association
Picture Provided by The U.S. Apple Association

Thanks for reading!

Ray a.k.a. The Produce Picker

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

How to Cut Open a Pomegranate - Episode 7 - Produce Picker Podcast

In this episode of the Produce Picker Podcast I'll teach you how to cut open a pomegranate and avoid the mess that is usually associated with getting the seeds out of a pomegranate.

Episode 7 - Transcript (this is new feature that allows you to read the episode and/or use it as a guide while opening a pomegranate).

First off let me welcome you back to another episode of the Produce Picker Podcast. I'd like to apologize that it has been so long since the last episode but with the holidays upon us, which also includes a birthday for me, that meant a pretty hectic schedule. But I'm back now and speaking of the holidays let's learn how to open an increasingly popular holiday fruit, the pomegranate.

I've put down a paper towel on my cutting board to help prevent staining the board. The juice of the pomegranate will stain pretty much anything it touches so you might want to take precautions to protect your clothing and your work area. You'll want to begin by removing (with a knife) the crown or top of the pomegranate. Move on to the bottom and do the same.

Next, score (lightly cut into) the sides of the pomegranate by taking your knife and pressing it into the tough skin of the pomegranate. You only need to cut deep enough to get through the red outer lining of the pomegranate until you hit the pith or white part just underneath the red exterior. You'll be making four cuts or scores into the pomegranate, one on each side, extending from the top to the bottom of the pomegranate.

Grab a large sized bowl and fill it with water. You'll be pulling the pomegranate apart and taking out its seeds underwater. Using this method allows for separation between the pith and the pomegranate seeds. It also produces less mess.

Now let's begin pulling apart the pomegranate and getting to our ultimate goal, the delicious seeds (the seed is actually inside a sac of juice known as the aril). Place your pomegranate into the bowl you just filled with water trying to work as much as you can underneath the surface of the water to limit the amount of juice that will inevitability squirt from the pomegranate, staining anything and everything around you.

Break the pomegranate into four sections pulling apart the sections along the cuts you made earlier in the pomegranate's skin. These sections should come apart relatively easy and just allow them to float in the bowl until you are ready to separate the seeds from the pith.

Now simply begin pulling the skin and pith away from the seeds of the pomegranate. The seeds will sink to the bottom while the pith will float to the top. Do this for all four sections until all or most of the seeds have been separated from the pomegranate.

Next simply remove the pith that is floating on top of the water either by hand or with a strainer of some sort. I recommend using a mesh strainer like the one pictured on the right (picture supplied by: in order to get as much of the pith out of the water as possible. Using this type of strainer known as a sieve makes it easier because of its handle, to get the strainer into the bowl and remove all the pith. I didn't have one handy at the time of filming and you'll notice I leave a few pieces remaining on top of the water. We can simply remove these after the water has been drained.

Empty the bowl of water and seeds into a larger strainer or colander with small holes. Take out any remaining pieces of pith that are still amongst the seeds. All that's left is to transfer the pomegranates seeds to whichever type of container you like and of course, a taste test. Yep, fresh pomegranate seeds are the way to go. It's worth the small amount of time and effort. Try this technique and live a healthier life with the antioxidant power of delicious pomegranate seeds and juice.

The Produce Picker Podcast can now be found on a variety of sites. We've built a profile page on each to introduce you to the show and keep in touch with each other. Choose your favorite site, sign on or sign up and become a friend of the show! Here is a list of various places to find the show. I hope to see you there soon!

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Ray a.k.a. The Produce Picker

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Prickly Pear Fruit, Cactus Fruit, Indian Fig... Whatever you call it it's an exotic treat done many ways

I recently answered a question from a person who was looking to find out how they should choose, eat, and prepare Prickly Pear fruit. Here is the advice I provided and some links to additional info and recipes for Prickly Pears.

Generally there are two common types of prickly pear fruit, the green and red cactus fruit. First try to choose (red) prickly pears that are reddish-orange to purple in color and free of mold spots as these tend to be the sweetest of the prickly pears.

The seeds are fine to eat just be careful when biting into them because these little guys are quite hard.

If you bought your prickly pear from the grocery store they are most likely without larger spines, however, there still remains very small, hard to see spines. You can try putting the pear in a bowl of cold water which helps to remove some of the spines but using something to hold the pear other than your bare hands is always recommended (highly recommended).
Often times the spines are so small you can't see them and this means that when they stick into your hand it will be hard to find them as well. I've spent too much time under a strong light with a pair or tweezers trying to pull these small, very painful spines out of my fingers.
Despite this minor hassle, the prickly pear fruit is worth checking out just remember to use something (plastic bag, paper towel, etc.) to pick up the fruit at the store and while preparing it to eat.

To get to the fruit/flesh simply cut off both ends of the pear (top and bottom), make an incision down the length of the pear cutting into the skin just until you get to the meat and then simply peel away the outer layer. You should be able to role the tough outer skin right off the meat of the fruit. Then enjoy anyway that you like. Check out this episode of Produce Picker Podcast which shows how this techique is done!

The flavor has been likened to kiwis, berries, or a tart watermelon but I don't seem to get this same impression, I'd rather just eat a kiwi. There are however several ways to prepare the prickly pear fruit which make it more interesting and quite flavorful. For instance check out this cool recipe for prickly pear sorbet!

Prickly Pear Sorbet Recipe

Andy Boy Cactus Pear Cheesecake

Prickly Pear Cactus Video

Photo By Wandering Chopsticks

Ray a.k.a. The Produce Picker