Pumpkins, Gourds, & Squash, Oh My!

Beauty. That’s the word that comes to mind when I think of the 180 acres that make up Branstrator Farm, located in Clarksville, Ohio. It’s from this land that our friend Jon Branstator has brought us pumpkins, gourds, and squash for about 7 years and counting.

Jon is quite frankly one of the coolest guys I know. Not only is he knowledgeable in agricultural (among many other topics), but he collaborates with several different agricultural and educational organizations, such as The Ohio State University.

As we step into the fall harvest, we can start to see the orange bursts in the fields, waiting to be picked. Jon waits for just the right time to pick his pumpkins and gourds, bringing the biggest and best to our stores.

The varieties Jon selects is a big deal as he spends a lot of time studying catalogs in the winter. Decisions range from the size—giant, large, medium, and small—to hybrid or heritage. Jon chooses varieties not typically available at other retailers. Large sizes with well-attached handles are important, not to mention disease resistance.

Jon also loves to use old-fashioned seeds, as they set the foundation for the harvest in addition to soil integrity (something he is very passionate about).

Some of Jon’s favorites you can look forward to this fall are Waltham Butternut Squash and Long Island Cheese Squash. In addition to the gamut of pumpkins of
all shapes and sizes, he also grows the best pie pumpkins which are great for decorating or making some fresh pies.

The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From The Tree

The scent of fall leaves is in the air and nights are getting cooler, which means that the crescendo of local apples is close. Just thinking about it, I can hear the sound of that first crunch—yum! Our friend Rich Eshleman’s orchards in Clyde, Ohio, are located just south of Lake Erie where the climate along the water brings perfect growing conditions for his apples.

Rich graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in horticulture and has traveled across the country cultivating his experience before laying down roots here in Ohio. Rich started farming in 1977. Today, he is joined by his son Jeff in this fruitful endeavor and we are thankful to have Eshleman Fruit Farm apples filling our stores with Love Local splendor. He brings us some amazing apples from his orchard, like Honeycrisp (one of the best for eating), Gala, Fuji, Ginger Gold, McIntosh, and Melrose (a sweet pick that’s great for eating, pie-making, and for an apple cobbler). Melrose also is the official apple of Ohio and happens to be one of my favorites. Can you smell that freshly made apple pie yet? Or, try just dipping these apples in our Made Right Here DLM Caramel Dip. Join us in celebrating these wonderful apples from Rich and Jeff Eshleman’s orchard. You won’t be disappointed. Happy fall, everyone!

Wesler Orchards

Just a few miles east of the Indiana border, the hilly splendor of New Paris, Ohio, gives way to the paradise that is Wesler Orchards. Around 7,000 apple trees stretch across the horizon, representing about 25 different varieties. Ron Wesler surveys the orchards with his hands on his hips, eyes squinting as the sun peers down. “This is three generations of work here,” he says. “It’s taken a long time to get what we’ve got and we don’t take that for granted.”

AN APPLE A DAY FOR THREE GENERATIONS

Wesler Orchards got its start in 1930 with Ron’s grandfather Frank, a Purdue University graduate who joined forces with an existing farmer to form Martin & Wesler. After the Depression hit, Frank became the sole proprietor and the farm was renamed Wesler Orchards. Ron’s father Meredith, 89, then oversaw the farm for many years, with the production of apples flourishing.

“He’s down here at 8:30 a.m. every day,” says Ron, who purchased the farm from his father in 2000. Meredith lives in a farmhouse just about 200 yards away from Ron. If you ask him what keeps him in such good physical condition, a wide smile spreads across his face. “An apple a day,” he recites.

PRESSING TOWARD THE FUTURE

It wasn’t until 2012 that apple cider became the main focus of Wesler Orchards—a direction that has quenched the thirst for many, including DLM patrons (Wesler makes all of our DLM Apple Cider, after all).

If you pay attention, you’ll notice subtle taste nuances from one batch of cider to the next. When talking to Ron, this inconsistency is actually a big part of the magic that is Wesler Cider, as each batch is a blend of at least four different apple varieties, making the cider a true reflection of the apples that are at their peak. It’s that blend of tart and sweet that Wesler is looking for with its cider.

While driving alongside Ron through the Orchards, he points toward the Jonathon apples that are currently being harvested, with ladders set up alongside. We move toward the Red Delicious trees, and he quickly adds that when they’re ready, they’ll add just the right amount of sweetness. Next, we roll past Gold Rush, which will likely be used to make some of the cider produced in mid-October. He carefully puts a finger alongside the stem before he picks it from the tree with a roll of the hand. “Next year’s buds are already in,” he says, noting that great care needs to be taken when picking.

CIDER HOUSE

Just a few hundred yards from the edge of the orchard are the storage coolers as well as the machinery where the cider is freshly pressed. “We try to do it right,” says Ron, noting that although their cider is flash pasteurized, it contains no preservatives and is 100% pure apples. This results in a darker cider overall, he points out, but he thinks that’s where the real flavor is. “It would make our lives a lot easier if we add preservatives … but the flavor just isn’t there like it is with a fresh cider,” he says. With a common mission of Flavor First, it’s a good reminder why we partner with Wesler for our DLM Apple Cider.

Your Fall Apple Must-Eat List

As our stores erupt with all of the best apples to bite into this fall, don’t miss these favorites.

MELROSE

The official apple of Ohio is great for eating, pie-making, and for an apple cobbler.

SNAPDRAGON

Sweet apple with a monster crunch and a subtle spicy flavor.

SWEETANGO

Known for its unique zest (one of its parents is the Zestar, after all).

FUJI

One of the sweetest apples, we love it for making it into applesauce or eating.

GRANNY SMITH

Tart and crunchy, it’s great for making pie, eating whole, or caramel apples.

HONEYCRISP

The ideal munching apple due to its unique blend of sweet and tart with the perfect crunch.

KIKU

A direct descendant of the Fuji family, this exotic apple has become a fast favorite with its unbelievable crunch and sweet-tart taste.

PINK LADY

Tart taste with a sweet finish and an ultra juicy interior.

GALA

This dessert apple is known for its exceptional texture, firmness, and honey-sweet flavor.

 

Fall for These 10 Recipes

Fall is here! It’s time for hayrides, apple picking, pumpkins, and all of the foods that embrace this season of change. We want to welcome fall by diving into the quintessential flavors that make this time of year so delicious. Here are 10 fall recipes sure to have you fall-ing for the season.

8 Recipes to Fall For

10 Fall Recipes You’ll Love!

1. Honeycrisp Fall Sangria

This yummy recipe features the stars of fall: Honeycrisp Apples, Beaujolais Nouveau (available mid-November, but a strong red makes a great substitute), and DLM 100% Apple Cider.

2. Blondies

With cinnamon, nutmeg, and Honeycrisp apples, this dessert is the ultimate fall treat. Just one bite will have you craving all that this season has to offer.

3. Butternut Squash

Feast like a gourmand with this enticing butternut squash recipe. Chock-full of mouth-watering flavors, this is a recipe everyone will love!

4. Pumpkin Pancakes

The perfect weekend breakfast.

5. Braised Bacon Kale with Roasted Veggies

It’s time to get roasting! It’s an easy, simple, and delicious way to bring out some of the unpopular root vegetables. Roast at high heat so a lot of color and caramelization happens, and simply season with salt or pepper.

6. Butternut Squash Soup with Garam Masala

This warming soup has subtle sweetness and spice, and is full of unique flavor.

7. Pumpkin Gingerbread

The perfect edible gift for friends and neighbors.

8. Apple Cider Glazed Pork Chops

A hearty dish that is full of fall flavors. It’s one you’ll repeat all season long.

9. Butterbeer

This magically delicious beverage, perfect for fall parties and get-togethers, is sure to put a spell on you.

10. Pumpkin Gooey Butter Bars

Ooey, gooey deliciousness, these butter bars are ones to share.

 

Bite into the Hatch Hype: 5 Hatch Chile Recipes

Fire up the roaster and get ready—the much-anticipated Hatch Chiles are here and we are celebrating their arrival in the most delicious ways at DLM, including the 5 Hatch chile recipes below! But first, let’s talk about these prized chiles.

Hatch Chiles are named after the original growing area in Hatch Valley, New Mexico, and have a one-of-a-kind flavor with a mild to medium heat. These peppers are grown along the beautiful Rio Grande River, where the rich soil and climate create the perfect conditions for this beautiful chile. The intense sunlight and cool nights in the valley result in a unique flavor. When roasted, that flavor displays its full glory!

I can imagine the wonderful aroma of them roasting just by thinking about these peppers. Speaking of roasting, we’ve rolled out our custom super-sized roaster and the roasting team will be bringing it to each store at various times throughout the Hatch season, so make sure to stop by and take in the aroma yourself if you see us in action.

You’ll also notice that life is pretty spicy around here as special items throughout DLM feature Hatch Chiles as a key ingredient, so be sure to try them all. Come get a little pep in your step and see for yourself what all the Hatch hype is about. You can get them raw or freshly roasted by the quart. Then, let your imagination and creativity go hot wild. We did with the five Hatch chile recipes below!

5 Hatch Chile Recipes

1. Hatch Chile, Chicken, & Chorizo Pasta

2. Cheesy Hatch Chile Bean Dip

3. Hatch Chile Country Gravy

4. Hatch Chile Con Queso

5. Hatch Chile Elotes

 

 

Bite into the Hatch Hype!

The “Hatch Hype” as we call it at DLM is HERE! But the hype is only as good as the product, and that story has been over a hundred years in the making. These beautiful green chiles are grown in the Hatch Valley of New Mexico. We love the flavor of roasted Hatch Chiles, so offering chiles from our open-flame roaster has become an annual tradition.

Last year, DLM’s Dennis Chrisman, VP of Produce and Springboro Store Director, and I went to Hatch, New Mexico. We met with Chris Franzoy, owner of Young Guns Produce. In 1917, his great-grandparents arrived in America from Tyrol, Austria, and settled in the Hatch Valley. They quickly adapted to the culture and became farmers. Ten children and some years later, this family has been instrumental in expanding the farming of these chiles in the area.

It was amazing to see such green fields in what many consider a desert. Chris told us how Hatch “Valley” is actually at 4,000-feet elevation, which explained the hot, arid climate. While the outside temperature was about 100 degrees, the humidity was only about 28%. Being blessed with a water supply in the form of the Rio Grande to the north and an underground aquifer, Chris indicated that underground irrigation was necessary.

Hatch Chiles have to be hand-harvested because the plants have to be left intact in order to obtain multiple harvests during the growing season. Workers trained in properly harvesting are essential to get the best chiles. Once picked, they’re quickly sent to the processing facility for cleaning, cooling, and sorting before being packed for shipping.

Finally, we discussed one of my favorite subjects—chile roasting! Chris said that roasting at a high temperature and as quickly as possible was the way to get the best product. As we were leaving town, we were fortunate to see this in action with a roadside setup. And oh, the aroma! To say the least, it was a wonderful experience as the chile culture is so inherent in New Mexico and contributes to a sense of community.

The great forethought, planning, and execution evident in the Young Guns operation was an excellent example of the passion that this family has toward their Hatch Chiles. This level of dedication to a superior product, along with a well developed sense of community, felt familiar. I believe these concepts are evident in the daily operations here at DLM. And all the associates in the DLM family are an integral part of this process. Pulling back the curtain ultimately reveals the heavy lifting needed to make the magic possible.

Thanks to everyone who has stopped to say “hi” while I’ve been roasting Hatch Chiles at various times at different DLM locations. Although we’ll keep roasting as needed throughout the week, you can count on seeing me in action with the roaster at DLM Oakwood from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 14! See you soon. 

Produce Passport

Let the flavors of Thailand shine bright with each bite of these fruits & veggies that are commonly used in Thai cooking.

1. Cilantro

Wonderful herb used around the world, including Thailand. Did you know that cilantro can help cut down on sodium intake?

2. Dragon Fruit

Also known as Pitaya, this is packed with vitamin C, B1, B2, and B3! It’s also a great source of protein.

3. Bok Choy

This is in the cabbage family with its long white stalks and dark green leaves. Used in a variety of Thai dishes or as a side dish.

4. Turmeric & Ginger Root

Hailing from the same family, these both add great nutritional value to so many dishes and even drinks.

5. Lemongrass

Great health benefits including lowering cholesterol. Its citrus flavor adds a nice addition to many teas, soups, and curries.

6. Thai Chilies

Also known as the bird’s eye chili, these long, skinny peppers pack a big punch with flavor and heat, registering between 50,000-100,000 Scoville Heat Units.

7. Thai Young Coconut

The young coconut meat is mild and sweet. Unlike mature coconuts, you’ll be delighted with the sweet flavor and refreshing water.

8. Green Papaya

The papaya tree grows up to 12 feet tall. Yellow and green in flesh, this fruit makes for a great Thai salad. You can find it whole or shredded in our Produce department.

Destination: Oaxaca, Mexico

Mexican food—who doesn’t like it? It’s a cuisine that’s embraced worldwide. Interestingly, Mexican cuisine was the first to be awarded an UNESCO Culinary Heritage Status. As we embark on a new Food Explorer destination this month, we’re especially drawn to the cooking coming out of Oaxaca, Mexico (pronounced Wa-ha-ka).

We’re not the only ones who are slightly obsessed with Oaxacan cuisine. American chefs, restaurateurs, and cookbook authors are heavily influenced by Oaxaca, including Rick Bayless, Alice Waters, and Diana Kennedy, to name a few. It’s become quite the trendy food-lover destination bringing in tourists to the region and flooding their food markets. Although we can’t hold a candle to that experience, we’re excited to bring our interpretation of some of these food experiences to DLM.

Oaxacan cuisine has a large variety of ingredients coming from mountain areas, central valleys, southern coastline, and in and around the capital city that shares its name. Think staples like not only corn and beans, but a variety of chiles and stunning produce, seafood, chocolate, avocados, cheeses, and even the smoky mezcal that heavily influences this cuisine. Other more exotic ingredients are the delicious, but not super attractive, corn fungus called  huitlacoche (or corn smut) and a small type of grasshopper called chapulín that is full of protein and plentiful to the area.

We especially love favorites from Oaxaca, such as tlayudas, tamales, quesadillas, black beans, and Oaxacan cheese, also known as quessillo. Chocolate also is plentiful, mostly drunk hot. But the primary focus and foundation of Oaxaca cooking is mole, see page 6 for more! We’re excited to explore Oaxaca and we hope you join us for the journey.

Click here for some recipes to try at home or ways you can bite into Oaxaca, Mexico, via DLM.

7 Insider Tips to Our Peach Party!

Each July, our mission is to bring the ultimate peach experience to DLM where the peach will be king. We scour the U.S. for a tree-ripened peach with the highest brix to be found. This year our search took us back to California, where the Gerawan family grows Prima® Peaches. We love its sweet flavor so much, it inspires items throughout DLM, such as the BLPeach, a sweet take on the traditional BLT, and mouth-watering Peach Salsa.

The longer a peach remains on the tree, the higher the sugar content and the better the flavor. The peaches are hand selected for DLM and placed into a small, round-bottomed bucket that protects the fruit from bruising. Our peaches are hand packed on the same day they’re harvested and handled with the utmost care to protect these marvelous fruits. DLM Prima® Peaches will have a brix level of 11 or above ensuring that the peaches bring that sweet summertime flavor.

Each morning our produce managers will use a refractometer, a device used to measure the brix level of the peach. The daily brix will be written on a sign to let you know how sweet our Prima® Peaches are tasting that day! As July continues, these peaches will just keep getting sweeter and sweeter as they reach their peak. Come to the “party” and be prepared to enjoy one of the sweetest, juiciest peaches around.

7 Insider Peach Party Tips

  1. The longer a peach can rip en on the tree, the higher the Brix. All Peach Party Prima® Peaches have a Brix level of 11 or greater!
  2. Once a peach is harvested, it is also graded. A very small percentage of peaches will make the cut to be sent to our Peach Party.
  3. Once the tree-ripened peaches arrive to DLM, our Produce managers carefully inspect the fruit and measure the Brix. Check the Brix sign to see what it is today!
  4. Look for “Ready Today” and “Ready Tomorrow” signs on our Peach Party display so you can plan your peach feast accordingly.
  5. You can tell when a peach is perfectly ripe by using your full hand and not just fingertips. The ripe peach will yield to gentle pressure.
  6. Peaches are perfect as-is. But they’re also great cooked (try poaching, baking, and even grilling). When cooked, the sugar caramelizes resulting in an even sweeter peach!
  7. Look for recipes throughout DLM during our Peach Party featuring this sweet summer fruit!