Harvest of the Month featured produce for March: Dried fruits | SierraSun.com

Harvest of the Month featured produce for March: Dried fruits

Maria Martin

Photo, hands holding trail mix, Color, High res

This month, elementary school students will be tasting and learning about dried fruits as part of the Harvest of the Month Program. Drying fruits in the sun is one of the oldest methods of preserving food. Drying removes water from the fruit and when the moisture content drops below 20 percent, the fruit can be stored for long periods of time without spoiling. Early Phoenicians and Egyptians were responsible for expanding the popularity of dried fruits throughout the western world. Ancient Romans used raisins for rewards in athletic competitions, as payment for taxes, as a medical cure-all and as a currency for barter. Dried fruits have been an important food during travel for many centuries because they require little storage space and do not spoil. In 1492, raisins were included in the rations aboard the ships of Christopher Columbus, they helped fuel Robert Perryandamp;#8217;s conquest of the North Pole in 1904, and they accompanied astronaut Scott Carpenter in outer space in 1962. Raisins and other dried fruits are still the perfect choice for outdoor adventures such as hiking, biking and camping. Itandamp;#8217;s also a great commute snack and car andamp;#8220;emergencyandamp;#8221; food to satisfy hunger and keep you away from the fast food outlets. Californiaandamp;#8217;s Central Valley produces 99 percent of the nationandamp;#8217;s raisin crop and nearly half of the worldandamp;#8217;s raisin supply. In 1873, William Thompson, of California, began commercially growing a seedless grape variety near Fresno. That summer, a number of bunches accidentally dried on the vine, creating the first commercial raisin crop. Today more than 90 percent of raisin production comes from the Thompson seedless grape variety. Drying concentrates the natural sugars in the fruit while maintaining the vitamins, minerals, and many phytochemicals. Dried fruits are a good source of potassium, beta carotene, and some contain the minerals iron and calcium. All dried fruits are fat free and low in sodium. Dried fruits feed your sweet tooth more nutritiously than candy and other sweets, and their high fiber content provides satiety with a smaller portion size. All dried fruits are calorically dense so try to keep to the standard serving size of 1/2 cup. Dried fruits are available year round and those sold in bulk are usually the most economical. Choose fruits without added sugar and store in an airtight container to maintain freshness. Try adding raisins, diced apricots, dates, or dried cranberries to hot and cold cereals. Top yogurt with dried fruits and low fat granola for a satisfying breakfast or afternoon snack. Keep small bags of dried fruit on hand for an on-the-go snack and make your own trail mix with a variety of dried fruits, nuts, and whole grain, low sugar cereal. Dried fruits are also a wonderful addition to salads and rice dishes.andamp;#8212; Maria Martin, MPH, RD is a member of the Nutrition Coalition and a Wellness Dietitian. The Nutrition Coalition is funded and supported by the Tahoe Forest Health System through the Tahoe Center for Health and Sports Performance. Contact us at 587-3769, ext. 7126 or mmartin@tfhd.com.

Mark Estee, the chef owner of Moodyandamp;#8217;s and Baxterandamp;#8217;s Bistro andamp; Lounge, has shared his recipe for Dry Fruit Bread. Estee sits on the board for Project MANA, is a founding member of the Slow Food Lake Tahoe convivia, and is passionate about simple, seasonal, fresh and local food. He believes that cooking and spending time in the kitchen, alone or as a family, will make everyoneandamp;#8217;s day a little better! Make up a batch of this quick bread today.Makes one small loafAll purpose flour 2.5 cupBaking powder 2 tsp.Kosher salt pinchGranulated sugar 1 cupEggs 2 eachMilk 3/4 cupOlive oil 1/4 cupRed Wine 1/2 – 1 cupMixed dry fruit 1 cupLemon zest 1 eachOrange zest 1 eachSoak fruit in enough red wine to cover and simmer to make soft. Chop fruit and reduce juice by 90 percent. Mix all dry. Mix all wet. Add wet to dry. Add the red wine reduction and the dry fruits. Pour batter into buttered loaf pan and bake at 350 for 45 minutes until skewer comes out clean. Let cool and pop out of pan.