Savoring Summer Produce—what’s in season and how to use it
Colorful seasonal produce not only looks and tastes amazing, but including it in your diet reduces your risk of chronic health issues, including cardiovascular disease, and may help protect against certain types of cancers. And because they’re so low in calories, fruits and veggies can help you shed a few pounds, and who doesn’t want that with beach season finally here?
Here’s a rainbow of ways to brighten up your family’s healthy meals this summer:
Strawberry season runs from April through September. Packed with vitamin C and just 46 calories per cup, strawberries make a sweet, low calorie treat. All those little seeds you see also contribute to the fiber in the berries—1 cup has 3g of it. The ruby colored berries are also a significant source of folate, which is important for a healthy pregnancy and plays a role in keeping your heart healthy.
What to look for: Strawberries should be brightly colored and uniformly red. The tips should not be seedy looking, and the caps should be green and unwilted.
Ideas for enjoying them: Slide them onto short skewers with pineapple and mango chunks and dip into vanilla yogurt for a fun snack for adults and kids. Slice them up and layer the berries in a granola parfait, or use them to dress up a bowl of cereal. And don’t forget to toss some sliced strawberries into green salads.
Apricots make a brief cameo appearance from May through July, with the peak month being June, so get your hands on them now! They are a fantastic source of the antioxidant beta-carotene, which is the precursor to vitamin A and is important for a healthy immune system and eye health.
What to look for: Apricots should be plump and feel medium-firm when gently pressed.
Ideas for enjoying them: A ripe, juicy apricot needs no adornment, but they’re fun to pair with raspberries, sliced almonds and vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt in an easy and colorful dessert. They also make a juicy addition to salads and are amazing when placed on the grill for a few minutes.
Along with tomatoes, corn is probably the most quintessential summer staple. A medium ear of boiled corn on the cob is just 100 calories, has about 3g of fiber and 260mg of potassium.
What to look for: The cornhusk should be light green and slightly damp (if it’s dry, that’s an indication that the corn was picked several days ago). When you peel back the husk, the silk should be light yellow and not show any signs of rot. The kernels should look juicy and be tightly spaced.
Ideas for enjoying it: Once you’ve boiled or grilled corn, you can use it in so many ways. Simply remove the kernels with a sharp knife or corn stripper, then use them in one of these tasty ways:
- Try a succotash: Combine the kernels from a few ears of corn with small boiled potatoes and grilled eggplant and toss with a light vinaigrette.
- Make a bean salad: Combine a can of rinsed black beans with the kernels from one ear of corn, ¼ cup fresh cilantro, ½ minced jalapeno and a diced mango. Toss with lime juice, zest, salt and cayenne pepper. Makes an awesome BBQ side!
- Whip up crab toasts: If you like crab cakes, you’ll love these. They’re just as tasty, but even easier! Combine the kernels from one ear of corn with ½ pound of jumbo lump crabmeat, a minced red pepper, and some canola mayonnaise. Add some fresh lemon juice, zest and sweet paprika and pile onto toasted buns. I love using Rudi’s Organic Pretzel Rolls because they’re sturdy enough to hold up to the mixture, and they have 7g of protein.
Green: English peas (aka garden peas or green peas)
In season now, these wonderful little green orbs will be available through July. Unlike sugar snap peas and snow peas, the pod of English peas is not edible—just the tender peas inside. Use fresh peas soon after buying them, within two to three days. English peas are a good source of fiber, iron and protein.
What to look for: If buying the whole pods, look for ones that are bright green and firm. If buying the peas already shelled, the color should also be bright green and the peas should be round and juicy looking.
Tasty ideas: Simply shell the peas, sauté with a little bit of butter and toss with fresh mint and hot pasta. They are also excellent cooked with shallots and then mashed with fresh ricotta to make a spread for crostini. Yum!
Blackberries are in season from May through September. One cup of these sweet-tart berries has just 62 calories and nearly 8g of fiber. They also contain high amounts of polyphenols, including anthocyanins, which have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits.
What to look for: Blackberries should be shiny and plump, with no signs of mold.
Tasty ideas: It’s tough to cook with blackberries because they’re usually devoured before you can do anything with them. But if you can be patient, try them lightly smashed with some sugar or agave nectar and served with a dollop of crème fraiche or vanilla ice cream. They also make a nice addition to spinach salads.