Produce at its Peak: Colorful Picks

It’s definitely apple season in Minnesota. A coworker and I were reflecting on how lucky we are to have Hoch Orchard with its nearly infinite number of organic apple varieties. They change by the week, and sometimes we only have the more unusual kinds, like Akane and Golden Russet, for a few days. So if you’re an apple fan, it makes sense to pay close attention to that part of the department. Apples aren’t the only good thing around right now. Lately, the Produce department resembles Aladdin’s magic cave — it’s never more colorful around here than right now. Here’re a few notable jewels:

Blue potatoes from Wisconsin Growers: Hurrah! I can make my favorite potato dish. Potatoes, sliced thin on a mandoline, coated in a slurry of olive oil, shallots, thyme and a pinch of saffron, roasted with chopped pistachios. The combination of blue and green makes this dish especially appealing.

Ripe hot peppers, such as pimento, Jimmy Nardello, and cherry bomb. I’m not much of a chili connoisseur. However, I do like just a little rising heat combined with ripe sweet pepper, and in varying degrees, these peppers deliver. I’ll probably cut one into rounds and toss it with the sliced potatoes mentioned above. Ripe, hot peppers, as opposed to the green Jalapeños and serranos we always carry, are only seen at this time of year.

Last of the local corn. It’s not so tender as it is in the summer, and it may have lost some sweetness, but try it chopped in hunks, rolled in olive oil and a little cayenne, and roasted at the same time as the potatoes. It browns a little and gets quite chewy and savory. It’s just fine as is, but you could dress it up with grated cheese and crema for an approximation of Mexican style elote.

The small pome fruits. Very cute. At the time of this writing, we have tiny Seckel pears, which are sweet and hazelnut flavored in an astringent jacket — I’d recommend peeling them. Hopefully, they’ll be around for a while. They’re perfect for a rustic fruit and cheese plate. But if we don’t have them, there’s always the reliable chestnut apple. It’s like a full-sized apple condensed by half. They’re the perfect size for a child’s lunch.

Pomegranates. To open, slice just below the part that sticks up like a little crown. Then score the sides and pull apart. This technique is much more fun and less messy than just chopping the fruit in half. I’ve used chunks of pomegranate like this on a fruit plate, and the whole thing resembled those Dutch still-life paintings.

Local Raspberries. There’s really no way to avoid eating a whole container of these things — and why would you? The season is so short. Carpe diem! They are excellent with a little Crème fraîche.