Produce

Stroll through our produce department and you will find some new fresh faves – some returning for the season, some brand new to Valley Natural Foods – and all might not be quite what you expect!  Amaranth Greens Those into the ancient grains may recognize Amaranth seeds, but the leaves of the plant are also edible and are enjoyed around the world in countries like India, Indonesia and Malaysia. While Amaranth leaves have a slight bitterness to them when eaten raw in salads, they are most often used in cooked dishes such as stir fry and stews.  The red-colored greens are high in protein, iron and dietary fiber, among other amino acids such as Lysine.  Mini Red and Yellow watermelons Back in living color – red and yellow mini watermelons make their return to Valley! A perfect one-person size, the standard red and slightly-sweeter

The latest superstars to arrive on our produce shelves are these colorful and somewhat odd-shaped, exciting fruit varieties. Dragon Fruit This pointy, odd-looking, edible fruit of a cactus species is also known as Pitaya. The inside flesh will either be bright white or deep red, and both types have a similar texture to kiwi fruit, with very mild, subtle flavors. The thin leathery "dragon-like" skin is very easy to slice or peel off the soft, inner flesh. For a refreshing and exciting fruit salad idea, cube up some mango, pineapple and jicama; toss together in a bowl. Top the fruit mixture with slices of peeled dragon fruit to give your tasty tropical fruit salad a very subtle white or vivid red color pop. Star Fruit The mildly tart-tasting, multi-ridged greenish-yellow star fruit is popular throughout Southeast Asia, Australia, South America, Hawaii and Florida. Star fruit is completely ripe when the skin appears mostly yellow, with some brown spots

Grapes have always been the perfect summertime treat. Sweet and juicy with a pleasant pop, no party fruit tray would be complete without them, and their size makes for convenient eating on-the-go or straight out of the fridge. But let’s face it – while tasty, the basic options of Red vs. Green (and sometimes Black) haven’t made for much excitement over the years. Growers such as Divine Flavors have begun to change the grape landscape with new and exciting varieties that are unexpected in shape, color and flavor. And the best part is - they are certified organic!  Cotton Candy Grapes Cotton candy: an image that spins up memories of county fairs, parades, circuses and baseball games – not to mention sticky fingers. Let’s face it, as fondly as we remember the sweet taste of cotton candy, the confection consists of sugar and

It's that time of year when those beautiful, beloved and tasty heirloom tomatoes start showing up on supermarket shelves. In our northern region, enjoying heirloom tomatoes in early summer may mean they might be trucked in from warmer southern states.  However, with access to local providers like Wisconsin Growers Cooperative, locally grown and fully ripe heirloom tomatoes are available right now! You may be wondering how that is even possible, coming from a neighbor state that shares the same northern climate as Minnesota with short-growing seasons? Wisconsin Growers Cooperative is a unique farming community involving 35-40 small-scale Amish farmers located in Western Wisconsin, where farming practices favor horse-drawn plows and hand tools over fossil-fueled machinery to grow their produce. They use labor-intensive methods which allow them to harvest both early and late season vegetables. It’s what sets this farming cooperative apart, making them truly unique in our northern region. According to Al Weinrich, sales manager for Wisconsin Growers Cooperative, two

Remember when smoothies were something akin to a fruit milkshake? In the past, many smoothies were heavy on the flavor and sugar. Commercial fruit smoothies were more like a dessert than a health tonic. By: Charli Mills, Editor, Living Naturally (Valley Natural Foods' print publication). Featured in the Spring 2016 Living Naturally edition. Click here to view the entire issue. Photo by: Melissa Berg What was once a syrupy new fad at the mall food court has evolved into a powerful way to deliver a balanced meal or snack when time is crunched. Today’s smoothies are of the healthy variety made with fruits and vegetables. You can even blend spinach into the mix and no one will ever know. Careful using kale, though. Because it is a heartier leaf, it doesn’t blend as well and might be noticed. Other healthy additions to any smoothie include chia seeds, flax seeds, raw protein powders and veggies. Whey protein and wheat germ are good,

When glancing at this picture, one would think this strange, yellow apparatus is part of a Halloween display, perhaps representing some ghoulishly freakish goblin fingers. Yet I bet the last thing you would guess is that this large yellow spindly thing is edible and that it is actually a fruit. Called Buddha fingers or Buddha's hand, this fruit is a member of the citrus family although it looks nothing like an orange, lemon or lime. It also features bright yellow, segmented finger-like sections with a thick peel, which can infiltrate any room with a strong, fragrant, citrus aroma. In fact, in Asian countries, a primary use for this fruit is as an air freshener along with it being the base of perfumes and fragrances. Yet similar to traditional citrus, one can eat Buddha's hand, but not necessarily directly as people commonly

And the time to plant is quickly arriving.  In our area, potato planting happens mid-April, as soon as the soil warms and 1-2 weeks before the last frost date.  The ideal potato-planting soil is loose, well-drained and slightly acidic.  At least six hours of sunlight are needed. The day before you plant, cut the larger potatoes into pieces with one “eye” (dormant bud) per piece.  Let the pieces dry overnight.  Small potatoes (1-1.5” diameter) can be planted whole. Dig a shallow trench (6-8 inches) and mix compost into the bottom of it.  Replace some of the soil, in order to set the potato pieces 3-6 inches deep, with the eye facing up. Plant each piece 12 inches from each other, and if you’re planting more than one row, keep 30-36 inches between the rows.  Cover the potatoes with the soil you took

A friend of mine visited the horticultural building at the State Fair a few years ago and struck up a conversation about growing grapes. After discussing site selection, varieties, soil conditions, trellis construction, pruning and trimming, the woman leaned over the counter and said: “Just stick them in the ground. They’re weeds. They’ll grow.” A perfect message, it turns out. The vines will grow easily and will produce grapes, yes, without much effort or knowledge. With a little info and preparation, however, the homeowner can achieve ‘commercial production’, maximizing outputs on limited space. To give some scope: “commercial production” = 60 clusters/vine growing across an 8-ft span = 1 ½ gallons of grape juice = 1 gallon of wine. What you need is a bit of land you intend to stay connected with for a few years, the ability to sustain delayed gratification,