An Appetite for Summer (Summer produce worth getting excited about)
June 20, 2011
IT'S HERE! The most exciting event of the year (no, I am not talking about the Nordstrom Anniversary sale), it’s the start of summer! While the weather takes its time to transition, I am pleased to present to you an alternative reason to keep wearing your eager smile: summer produce! This is perhaps one of the most generous seasons, offering a rainbow of fruits and vegetables exploding with honeyed and tart flavors.
(Are you hungry yet?! Freshly picked blueberries.)
This is a rough prediction of when you can expect to see the following produce in season:
You may have noticed that cherries, currants, raspberries, and strawberries are already brightening up grocery bins. Next month (brace yourself) apples, apricots, blueberries, blackberries, boysenberries, figs, huckle/goose/logan/marionberries, nectarines, peaches, pears, and plums will be all be begging to be placed in your grocery bag. Broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, lettuce, onion, peas, tomato and zucchini will be irresistibly fresh beginning in July that even the “veggie-hater” surrenders. Corn, peppers and melons can be welcomed around the same time as the hydroplanes (August). Herbs also thrive this season, starting in June and extending through September, and include basil, cilantro, dill, fennel, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, sage, and tarragon.
This popular summer squash has an incredibly high water content, translating to a very low calorie content but also with the benefit of potassium, carotenes and vitamin C. When selecting, bigger does not mean better (perhaps more fibrous) and go for the ones that are heavy for size with shiny coats. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator and wash immediately prior to use. Grate and use to liven up salads, incorporate into breads or muffins, or splash with a little oil and place on the grill. For more ideas, explore these Summer Squash and Zucchini Recipes.
There are over a thousand varieties of this fruit (in a botanical sense, the chef would argue that in a culinary sense tomatoes are vegetables). Low in calories, yet high in vitamin C, lycopene, and dietary fiber! Lycopene has been shown to be protective against a variety of cancers (including breast, colon, lung and skin), particularly prostate cancer. The lycopene content is relatively stable during cooking and processing, so feel free to enjoy straight off the vine, cooked or canned. Eating tomatoes with oil may increase absorption. Select tomatoes that yield to slight pressure, and store in room temperature until ready to be used. If you just can’t wait to eat your unripe tomatoes, place in a paper bag with an apple or banana (the ethylene gas will speed up the ripening process). Grilled, baked, roasted, raw, in salads, sandwiches, pastas, pizzas, burgers, or the star of salsas-the possibilities are endless! Check out Sunset's 27 Juicy Tomato Recipes, Martha Stewart's 50 Tomato Recipes, or for a quick salsa combine chopped tomatoes, onions, chili peppers, cilantro and lime and starting dipping!
Aka antioxidant superstars, these have been a favorite long before history was even recorded. There are over 30 species of these native berries, ranging in size, color and flavor depending on the region in which they are grown. The anthocyanidins are responsible for the antioxidant properties this fruit exhibits, as well as the signature “blue” pigment. These compounds have been shown to be protective against oxidative damage of the brain, age-related macular degeneration, and improve vision. The soluble and insoluble fibers found in blueberries also assist in treating diarrhea or constipation. Store covered in the refrigerator and wash blueberries only immediately before eating. If you have picked or purchased more than you can consume, spread washed and drained berries on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer until completely frozen prior to transferring to a plastic bag. Enjoy by the handful, in smoothies, on crepes/waffles/pancakes, in cereals, yogurt, or as little surprises in baked goods. For an overwhelming number of other ideas, explore these Blueberry Basics. And, check out where you can pick your own!
What's your favorite produce that's back on your plate this summer? Or, do you have a favorite healthy summer recipe to share? Let us know in the comments below!