Big California Freeze Means Shoppers Will Have to Think Creatively

Korean melons finally get the attention they deserve.Photo: Zoe Singer


As a result of temperatures that plummeted below freezing across California last week, citrus prices will skyrocket and there will be fewer strawberries and greens. We recommend that you visit ethnic markets for unusual treats and look out for local produce, which has benefited from the mild weather weve experienced. Theres also an abundance of tropical fruits.

What to Look For
There are potatoes, apples, onions, cabbages, and celery at the Greenmarket, but take note of the more tender greenhouse-grown offerings. Chard, beets, and dandelion greens, as well as baby lettuces, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, and tiny, intensely nutty pea sprouts will ward off the winter blahs and keep you going until springs early crops arrive. Try pea sprouts in stir-fries or salads (recipe) (all available at the Union Square Greenmarket on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday).

Luscious organic Madame Francis mangoes from Haiti have just hit our shores. Kidney-shaped and slightly flattened, with yellow-green skin and bright-orange flesh, they have a rich tropical flavor and thick, buttery juice. Choose mangoes that yield to slight pressure; allow them to soften at room temperature for a couple of days, or use them in salads while theyre still firm (recipe) (widely available).

Speckled green piel de sapo melons (a.k.a. toad-skin melon) from Brazil are the size of small, oblong watermelons. Their honeydew-like flesh is soft and sweet. Silver-ridged yellow Korean melons have a lemony tang and cucumber-like crunchiness (piel de sapo melons are available in gourmet markets, and Korean melons are available in Chinatown).

Ripe for the Moment

The overdue cold weather makes this the perfect time for spicy, vibrant cuisines. Head to Indian food stores to seek out ingredients like fresh fenugreek greens (a.k.a. methi leaves). Raw, the nickel-size, tear-shaped leaves taste like a slightly bitter cross between spinach, pea shoots, and cilantro; they mellow when chopped and simmered in curries ($1.29 per bunch at Patel Brothers). Zoe Singer