May 27, 2009

As Green as it Gets

Pay close attention next time you’re prepping food, you may not be alone. Cooking with organic produce can be great for the body. Growers don’t use pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides. There are no genetic modifications or variations. They offer more intense flavors and contain higher contents of vitamins and minerals - not to mention the societal and environmental benefits. However, there sometimes comes a point when "going green" can be too green. Fortunately, it’s not as bad as you might think.

Recently, I prepared a savory Chili Verde, a dish that requires tomatillos. When choosing tomatillos, you typically want to see a light to medium green color inside and out. Those showing a yellow to purplish tint on the surface indicate over-maturity and produce a sweeter flavor, which some might prefer.

The tomatillos I was preparing looked great. I peeled the husks, rinsed and scrubbed their sticky jade surfaces, and began halving for the food processor. I thought I was alone in the kitchen when I noticed a small hole in the largest of the tomatillo batch. I examined the opening, checking for freshness. When suddenly, as if being summoned from a knock at the door, out pops the little head of a plump green caterpillar. I'm sure the intruder did not appreciate my photo snapping.

Although I was not too surprised to see the visitor, I was not about to use the contaminated tomatillo in my Chili Verde. I can only imagine what that would do to the flavor. You can bet I quartered the rest of my batch after the discovery to avoid any more extra ingredients.

So next time you're strolling the aisles or visiting your Farmer's Market, make sure you examine your produce closely before you purchase. And when you are ready to cook, wash thoroughly, check for unusual marks, holes, or bacteria, and don’t freak out if you see an unwelcomed guest. They need to eat too. It’s a small price to pay to reap the benefits of growing and consuming organically grown fruits and veggies.

Safe eating my friends.