If you care enough about flavor and freshness to buy produce from a roadside stand instead of a supermarket, you'll probably want to treat it well to retain the flavor and quality.
The most important thing you can do for your purchases is to get them home as fast as possible and into the refrigerator. While tomatoes, corn, zucchini, green beans - any and all fresh foods - may look wonderful in a bowl in the middle of the kitchen table or baking in the heat at a roadside stand, the warm air is doing them no good.
In fact, it is creating a slow but sure deterioration in flavor. Take corn for example. From the moment it is picked, its sugar starts to turn to starch. So the less time between field and pot, the greater the sweetness.
Warm temperatures also speed up the loss of nutrients. While these changes take place in the refrigerator, they do so at a much slower rate. And for spinach and other vegetables contain and nitrates, the quicker they are refrigerated the less time the nitrates have to turn to nitrates. These nitrates are the same as those found in processed meats, the subject of so much controversy at the moment, because they combine with another substance called amines to form a potent carcinogen, nitrosamines.
Most vegetables can be washed before they are refrigerated, but some, such as mushrooms, suffer if they stay wet too long. Others, like greens, stay crisper if they are washed, drained and then placed in a plastic bag with some moisture still clinging to them.
Here are instructions for selecting and storing most vegetables you will find at the stands this summer.
BEANS - Buy smooth crisp pods that snap easily and are free of blemishes. The pods should be well filled but with immature seeds.
Keep umwashed beans in plastic bags and use as soon as possible.
BEANS SPROUTS - But crisp looking sprouts with moist tips. Refrigerate in plastic bag and use as soon as possible. Wash when ready to use and drain well.
BEETS - Buy beets with firm flesh, deep rich color and good round shape. Small and medium beets are more tender than large one.
If beets have green tops, cut them off to within an inch or two of crown. Store in plastic bag in refrigerator.
CABBAGE - Buy firm heads that are heavy. Outer leaves should be crisp. Very white heads indicate old cabbage.
Refrigerate unwashed and uncut in plastic bag.
CARROTS - Buy firm, smooth, well-shaped carrots. The smaller they are, the younger and sweeter you'll find them. Green tops should be fresh looking.
Remove green tops before storing, unwashed, in plastic bags.
CORN - Buy ears with tight green husks that have dark brown silks. The kernels should be medium-size, firm and plump. There should be no spaces between the rows.
Store, unhusked, in damp paper towels in coldest part of the refrigerator and use as soon as possible.
CUCUMBERS - Buy well-shaped, firm and not too large cucumbers. They should be bright green.
If cucumbers have waxed skins (unlikely at a roadside stand), they should be peeled. Otherwise they can be washed thoroughly, left whole and placed in plastic bags in the refrigerator. Do not slice until ready to use.
LETTUCE AND OTHER GREENS - Buy crisp, blemish-free heads.Wash well and drain very well. Store in plastic bags with some moisture.
PARSLEY - Buy crisp parsley with bright green color. Wash well and shake dry. Store in well-sealed plastic bag.
SNOW PEAS - Buy brightly colored peas with pods through which the seeds are visible.
Store, unwashed, in tightly sealed, plastic bag. Use as soon as possible.
RADISHES - Buy well-formed, crisp, firm radishes. Medium size is best.
Wash and dry, store in refrigerator in plastic bags.
SUMMER SQUASH - Buy firm, fairly heavy for its size and free of blemishes. The skin should puncture easily with the fingernail.
Scrub skin; drain and store in plastic bags or in vegetable drawer in refrigerator.
TOMATOES - Buy ripe, firm, well-formed and free of blemishes.
Wash, drain well and store in warmest part of the refrigerator. Use as soon as possible.
Fresh vegetables are at their most delicious served either raw with a bit of salt or lightly steamed. But sometimes it is nice to blend them with other seasonings as in these recipes below. TOMATO ZUCCHINI CASSEROLE (6 to 8 servings) 3medium zucchini, sliced into ovals on the diagonal 1 large onion, sliced 3 large tomatoes, sliced 4 anchovy fillets, cut up 1 tablespoon capers 1 clove garlic, minced 1 teaspoon salt Freshly ground black pepper to taste 2 tablespoons fresh basil, minced, or 2 teaspoon dried basil 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese Butter
Rub shallow, oven-proof casserole with butter. Line dish with half of sliced zucchini, onions and tomatoes. Top with half of anchovies, capers, garlic, salt, pepper, basil and cheese. Dot with butter. Repeat layers. Dot with butter. Bake, uncovered, at 375 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes, until zucchini is tender. DILLY BEANS (6 to 8 servings) 6 to 8 cups green beans Salt 1/2 cup white vinegar 1/2 cup sugar 1/2 cup water 1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
Wash and snip ends of beans. Cut and cook in a very small amount of water, covered, just until tender. Rinse immediately under cold water to stop cooking process. Season with salt. While beans are cooling, combine remaining ingredients. Beat well and pour over beans. Marinate beans overnight in refrigerator. Drain and serve chilled. CUCUMBER WALNUT-SALAD (4 servings) 2 large cucumbers, peeled and chopped 2 onions plain yogurt 1 tablespoon olive oil 1/2 cup walnut pieces 1 teaspoon dry white wine 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill 1 clove garlic, minced White pepper to taste
Blend all ingredients but cucumbers and walnuts. When smooth add cucumbers. Place in refrigerator to chill, overnight, if desired. At last minutes stir in walnuts and serve. CARROTS WITH ORANGES
(4 servings) 1 pound carrots, scrapped and cut into julienne strips 1/2 teaspoon ginger Salt to taste 1 teaspoon brown sugar 1 tablespoon butter 2/4 cup orange juice 2 peeled, sectioned oranges
Place the carrots, ginger, salt, sugar, butter and orange juice in a saucepan. Slimmer 15 to 20 minutes, until carrots are tender. Add the oranges and cook just until oranges are heated through. CARRIE LEE NELSONS ROASTED PEPPER MUSHROOM SALAD (5 or 6 servings) 5 green pepper 1 pound mushrooms, washed, stems removed 2/2 cup oil and vinegar dressing Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Roast peppers at 450 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, until skins blister and brown. Cook, [WORD ILLEGIBLE] stems and seeds and slice peppers inot 3/6 inch thick [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Slice mushrooms reserve stems for other use. Combined peppers and mushrooms [WORD ILLEGIBLE] dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper. SESAME SQUASH (6 to 8 serving) 2 1/2 pounds summer squash, washed 1 large clove garlic, minced 2 tablespoons sesame seeds Salt taste 2/3 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese.
Thinly slice squash. Place slice in a large skillet with the garlic and just enough water to create steaming until squash is just tender. In a small skillet toss the sesame seeds over low heat, like popcora, until they brown. Set aside. When squash it cooked. Strain and mash thoroughly Add the sesame seeds, cheese and salt to taste. Stir well. Place over low heat cover and cook until cheese melts.Serve. HOT HERBED TOMATOES (4 servings) 1 pint cherry tomatoes 1/4 cup finely minced onion 1 clove garlic, finely minced 1/4 cup chopped parsley 1/4 teaspoon thyme, crumbled 1/2 cup soft bread crumbs Salt and freshly ground black pepper 1/2 cup olive or salad oil
Stem tomatoes and wash. Drain. Combined all remaining ingredients mix well. Arrange tomatoes in single layer in a lightly oiled, shallow baking dish. Sprinkle bread crumb mixture over tomatoes. Bake 6 to 8 minutes 425 degrees, or until tomatoes are tender.