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Joint venture

Anyone perusing newspaper advertisements for supermarkets recently probably has noticed some pretty good deals on produce. For example: -- Pears, 97 cents a pound. -- Hot house tomatoes on the vine, $1.38 a pound. -- Tree-ripe nectarines, $1.77 a...

Jeff Tiedeman
Jeff Tiedeman

Anyone perusing newspaper advertisements for supermarkets recently probably has noticed some pretty good deals on produce. For example:

-- Pears, 97 cents a pound.

-- Hot house tomatoes on the vine, $1.38 a pound.

-- Tree-ripe nectarines, $1.77 a pound.

-- Broccoli and cauliflower, two bunches for $4.

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-- Sweet red onions, 99 cents a pound.

-- Extra large green bell peppers, three for $1.

-- And perhaps the best buy, whole seedless watermelon, 20 cents a pound.

Lots of produce is in season during the summer, and it's no surprise that the vegetables in stores that are on sale now are ones that people grow around here in their gardens. You know, it's the old supply-and-demand thing. (You won't find supermarket produce this cheap during the winter.)

I jump all over the deals for fruit, since a lot of it can't be raised here, including pears, nectarines, oranges and bananas. And as far as watermelon goes, I've occasionally seen them at farmers markets, but it's hard to a pass up supermarket deals when the price is so right.

However, when it comes to vegetables during the summer, I have to stick with those from my garden or a farmers market. While the cost of home-grown veggies might be comparable with that of supermarket fare, you can't be beat the freshness (except for maybe the locally grown corn at my neighborhood grocery store). That's especially true of two of my favorites -- tomatoes and peppers (technically, they're both fruit).

There's nothing like eating fresh tomatoes and peppers (both members of the nightshade family as are potatoes and eggplant) from the garden -- or using them in dishes in which they are so complementary. Salsa immediately comes to mind when I think how the two play so well off each other.

Each summer, I grow several varieties of both tomatoes and peppers. This year, I planted about 10 kinds of tomatoes, both hybrid and heirloom. However, I did cut back on the peppers. In the past, I've grown as many as a dozen varieties. This year, I settled on just jalapenos, sweet bell and banana peppers.

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Coincidentally, both tomatoes and hot peppers have their roots in the Americas. Cultivated tomatoes apparently originated as wild forms in the Peru-Ecuador-Bolivia area of the Andes, while chili peppers are now known to be one of the very first domesticated plants of Central and South America. Both were brought back to Europe by explorers.

Besides their taste and versatility, both tomatoes and peppers add variety, nutrition and color to your diet when used in soups, salads and casseroles (some of my favorite foods). They also provide fiber, vitamins A and C and other nutrients. And in their raw state, tomatoes and peppers contain less than 20 calories per half-cup serving. Peppers, especially red peppers, are a very good source of vitamin C.

Perhaps the biggest plus for me is that both can be canned or frozen.

And God knows I can't go through winter without canned tomatoes and frozen peppers for my marinara sauce, homemade salsa and tomato juice.

Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at jtiedeman@gfherald.com .

Related Topics: FOOD
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