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Think fruit and yes, seafood

With Thanksgiving just a few weeks away, it might be time to consider a new recipe or two for fresh cranberries. Forecasts are calling for a record crop.

More than 5-million barrels, each packed with 100 pounds of cranberries, will be harvested this season, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

That is up 8 percent from last year, said John Lawlor, a spokesman for Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc. in Lakeville, Mass.

"If that turns out to be true, then that would be the largest crop on record for the United States," he said. "We should have an ample supply of fruit for consumers."

Bob Blankenship of the Florida Department of Agriculture said a record crop of citrus is expected this year.

This month, though, is the right time to sample specialty citrus such as sunburst and Robinson tangerines as well as tangelos, which are a hybrid of grapefruit and tangerines.

And though November is when most Americans think of turkey, seafood also is worth some consideration this month. A perennial favorite, stone crab, is back.

Produce

This is a big month for produce. Available will be apples, broccoli, kumquats, dates, oranges, quince, spinach, star fruit, winter squash, snap beans, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, celery, cranberries, cucumber, grapefruit, grapes, lettuce, eggplant, peppers, sweet corn, Chinese cabbage, radishes, pears, persimmons, pomegranates, sweet potatoes, tangelos, tangerines and tomatoes.

What's new: cranberries, tangelos and sunburst tangerines.

Peak season: cranberries, cucumbers, apples, brussels sprouts, persimmons and sweet potatoes.

Last chance: pomegranates.

Shopping tips: Make sure you buy extra bags of fresh cranberries to freeze and use later in all sorts of non-Thanksgiving recipes such as muffins, breads, salads and main dishes.

Judith Duffy, public relations representative for Ocean Spray Cranberries, says fresh cranberries freeze beautifully. They will keep for up to a year. Do not wash the fruit before freezing it; do wash the defrosted fruit before adding to your favorite recipe.

Kumquats: Eat the skin and pulp of this citruslike fruit, which is a perfect blend of tangy and sweet flavors. When shopping, buy fruit that are bright, glossy and heavy for their size. Store in the refrigerator about a month.

Persimmons: Ripe ones sport a bright orange color. Allow them to ripen at room temperature.

Pomegranates: Only the seeds of this fruit, the size of a small grapefruit, are edible. The tough skin ranges from yellow to red.

Quince: This fruit, yellow when ripe, must be baked, stewed or poached to be enjoyed. Since it is high in pectin, it usually is used to make jellies, jams, marmalades and confections. Select firm, smooth fruit when shopping.

Seafood

"Stone crabs are back," screamed the banner outside a Clearwater restaurant shortly after the season officially opened last month.

But the season has been off to a slow start because of warm weather, said Gib Migliano of Save on Seafood in St. Petersburg.

As the harvest picks up, prices are expected to range from $7.99 a pound for medium claws to $9.99 a pound for large and jumbo claws.

Unseasonably warm weather also affected the kingfish, Spanish mackerel and bluefish catch, Migliano said.

Kingfish steaks should be available this month for about $4.99 a pound. Spanish mackerel fillets will cost around $3.99 a pound, and bluefish fillets, $2.99 a pound.

Pink shrimp season, also delayed, should come into its own by midmonth, Migliano promised. Prices for headless medium pink shrimp will be about $5.99 a pound; large, $7.99 a pound; and jumbos, $11.99 a pound.

Oysters for those stuffing recipes also will be available this month. Expect to pay about $3.99 a pound for shucked oysters in 8-ounce containers and $5.99 a pound for the 16-ounce size.

This month, farm-raised steel head trout from Chile will sell for about $4.99 a pound for boneless fillets.

Grouper lovers, take heart. Prices may fall around Thanksgiving, when most people can think of nothing but turkey. Right now, though, production is down and prices remain high.

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