Summer is the best time for fresh produce. Many fruits and vegetables are in season (varying by region) and are at their prime ripeness. If you are a gardener, you can pick fresh vegetables and herbs just before they go into a recipe, so they’re not sitting in a refrigerator losing their nutritional values. Farmers markets are also overflowing with all of the season’s best produce. So, before summer slips away, jump on the chance to eat these fruits and vegetables at their peak. Here’s 9 you don’t want to miss.
I would argue that a fresh garden tomato is the very best summer produce because summer tomatoes at their seasonal peak taste so much better than tomatoes any other time of year. In the summer, you’ll have access to heirloom tomatoes and other varieties that aren’t available year-round, and if they’re local, they’ll undoubtedly taste better because they’re more likely to be picked ripe. Tomatoes are rich in vitamin C and lycopene and can be used so many different ways. They taste amazing sliced with balsamic vinegar and chopped onions. They can be grilled and or used in a Parmesan Tomato Zucchini Bake. To make this, slice yellow and green summer squash in a pan with sliced tomatoes. Sprinkle with Italian herbs and parmesan cheese and bake until cheese is bubbling for about 25 minutes.
Biting into a fresh juicy peach is the essence of summer. You can also grill them, use them in a salad or make a healthier dessert option with them. Peaches are a good source of potassium. Pour yourself a glass of this peach mint iced tea. To make homemade tea, pour boiling water over mint leaves and let it steep for 10 minutes. Cool tea and then add it to a glass with ice, fresh mint leaves and cut up peaches. Add peach nectar for extra sweetness.
3. Bell peppers
Bell peppers from a garden or farmers market always seem to be crispier than store bought ones. They are plentiful during the late summer and fall. Grilled marinated bell peppers are delicious and so is grilled vegetable pizza and a fresh salsa using bell peppers. One bell pepper has 169% of your daily vitamin C needs making it a very nutrient packed vegetable. They also have vitamin B6, vitamin K, potassium and folate.
Spinach is a super versatile veggie that can be used for salads, in smoothies, sautéed, in lots of Italian dishes and more. It is often considered a superfood because it is so loaded with nutrients including folic acid, iron, vitamin K, vitamin C and calcium. This strawberry avocado feta spinach salad is perfect as a summer meal or side dish.
Strawberries are ready in spring or early summer in most places and if you get the chance to try fresh picked ones, you are in luck! They are the perfect sweet and juicy snack. Strawberries are rich in potassium, vitamin C and folate. Enjoy them in baked goods, breakfasts such as Strawberries and Cream Overnight Oats or on a strawberry spinach salad.
Zucchiniis one of the easiest vegetables to grow in your garden. If you plant a few zucchini plants, you are sure to get tons of zucchinis from them. Try zucchini marinated in Italian dressing and grilled, in a stir fry or breaded and baked into zucchini fries. Try making a tomato, zucchini and corn pasta salad. Make al dente pasta and toss with your favorite chopped veggies, including corn, chopped zucchini, basil and cherry tomatoes. Toss with your favorite extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, balsamic wine vinegar and shaved parmesan cheese.
On a hot summer day, is there anything better than a cold and juicy bowl of watermelon? Watermelon is a good source of lycopene and vitamins A and C. The most common way to eat watermelon is to cut it into slices, cubes or little balls. More people are trying it in a feta watermelon salad with a light, lemon vinaigrette.
Though cucumbers are not as loaded with as many nutrients as other kinds of summer produce, they have a lot of water in them so they are quite hydrating. They also contain some potassium and vitamin K. Try them sliced with a vinaigrette or as part of an appetizer like these Loaded Greek Nachos. Make a fresh Greek Cucumber Tzatziki Spread. If you want to add cucumbers to a dip or spread, it’s important to “sweat” them first to remove the excess water. To make Greek Tzatziki, shred cucumbers into a bowl and sprinkle with Kosher salt. Let sit in the refrigerator for 30-40 minutes. Place in a colander and rinse with cool water. Place shredded cucumber in a cheese cloth or clean dish towel and squeeze out excess water. Once you’ve squeezed out as much moisture as possible, add the cucumber to Greek yogurt with a dash of salt, 1 minced garlic clove and chopped dill.
If you live in an area where you can go blueberry picking, you are in for a treat because fresh picked blueberries are sweeter than anything you’ll find at the grocery store.. They go well on a salad, can be frozen for a later date to use in smoothies, muffins and baked goods. Blueberries are rich in vitamin C, manganese and vitamin K. Try adding to your favorite pancake recipe, such as this Blueberry Greek yogurt pancakes.
For more recipe ideas, visit this story on “How to Make Healthy Food Taste Great” which incorporates many fresh fruits and vegetables. Often the people that grow these fruits and vegetables are the experts on excellent ways to incorporate them into different recipes. So next time you’re at a Farmer’s Market, ask your favorite farmer how he or she likes to prepare their produce. They are fonts of great food information. If you decide to pick your own fruit or vegetables and might want to read our “Ten Tips for Visiting a U-Pick Farm with the Kids.” Whatever you decide, enjoy the summer and the bounty of food it brings!
— Amanda Hernandez, MA, RD of The Nutritionist Reviews