Summer is here which means your local farmer’s markets are open and packed full of fresh fruits and vegetables. Summer is the season of abundance and the time to make fresh and simple meals to stay cool and hydrated.
It is by far the easiest time of year to support your local economy by buying and eating seasonal fruits and vegetables locally.
If you ever wanted to hop on the trend of eating locally and in season then summertime is the perfect time to do it. Farmers markets have just opened their doors and have an abundance of produce provided by local farmers.
The delights to choose from during the summer are practically never-ending. From tomatoes to strawberries and summer squash to blueberries it’s all colorful and delicious.
The following are a few more favorites to look out for this season:
- Carrots – Carrots are high in fiber, vitamin A, and beta-carotene which helps support eye health and regulates blood sugar. To get the most nutrients from this vegetable simply eat it raw. Orange isn’t the only color to look out for there are also purple, red, and yellow carrots.
- Peaches – About the only time of year you will spot peaches is in the summer and farmers markets will be loaded. This is because they are hard to transport due to their delicate nature. Another benefit of buying peaches locally is fewer pesticides which means a sweeter
- Cucumber – Cucumbers add lots of hydration and a nice crunch to your salads. Due to their high-water content cucumbers are perfect for combatting the hot summer weather and provide nourishment to your skin.
- Okra – Okra is a good source of antioxidants and high in fiber to help keep you regular. This versatile vegetable can be baked, roasted or used in salads and soups. Cook the whole pod to avoid the natural slimy texture.
The best part about eating seasonal and local produce is that it’s extremely affordable and provides the best nutrients and flavor. Local produce offers the highest vitamins and nutrients because they require little transportation compared to produce at grocery stores.
Farmers markets also have more variety and abundance compared to grocery stores which help eliminate costs.
With the large variety of fruits and vegetables in season during summer, your menu options will never end, and you will stay satisfied. It is also a great way to stay healthy and lose a few pounds if you need too. Use the fruits and vegetables this season to make smoothies, salads, juices and even cold soups.
Refreshing Ways to Use Fresh Produce
As summer approaches that means the produce at farmers markets only get better but that also means the weather gets hotter. Luckily there are plenty of ways to keep cool by utilizing the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Here are a few refreshing ways to use fresh produce:
A salad is easy to prepare, just grab your favorite greens, throw in some fresh fruit like apples or strawberries and drizzle over a nice vinaigrette for a refreshing meal or snack. You can even skip the vinaigrette and use some lemons or limes as a healthier alternative. For a kick try adding jalapeno peppers from a jar.
Adding fruits or vegetables to your water can turn boring water into a delicious and refreshing treat. There are plenty of water bottles that have infusers now that make it easy to take with you.
The most popular choice is to infuse water with cucumbers and mint. Peel and slice a cucumber, grab a few mint leaves and add it to a large mason jar or pitcher. Pour water over the cucumbers and mint leaves, stir and refrigerate for at least four hours to get the best flavor.
If you are looking for a savory and heartier meal that is refreshing and not heavy then cold soups should be your go to. With summer in full force, the best ingredient to utilize for cold soups is tomatoes. To keep it light avoid recipes that include heavy creams or other dairy products.
Smoothies can be refreshing, super filling and a great way to get some greens without the strong taste. They are also easy to put together and only require a few ingredients. A strawberry watermelon smoothie is a refreshing choice for the summer.
Add one cup of watermelon, half a cup of frozen strawberries, half of a banana, and a fourth of a cup of almond milk to a blender and mix.
Juice is a great way to get a large boost of vitamins and helps you to cool off in the summer. To get the best benefits and to avoid too much sugar go for juice that incorporate both fruits and vegetables. Cucumber, apple, and kale is a good choice.
As you can see, there are plenty of options available to use up fresh produce that is light and refreshing. Salads, infused water, cold soups, smoothies, and juices all offer variety and are relatively easy to put together.
Salads and Cold Soups are Perfect for Hot Summer Suppers
With the summer heat, the last thing anyone wants to do is slave in the kitchen or turn the oven on. It is already scorching hot outside and the only thing the body is craving is a way to cool down with some nourishment.
That is why salads and cold soups are the perfect options to make during summer dinners. The best part is that they are both easy to prepare and can be used with as many or as little ingredients as you like.
Salads are perfect for the summer not just because they help you cool down but because of all the produce that is available this season. Arugula, corn, cucumber, zucchini, and tomatoes are only a few favorites from the list to choose from.
They are also very easy to make because you can simply pick your favorite vegetables and even fruit, put them together and you have a salad. Lemons, limes and other citrus fruits are perfect for dressing as well.
Salads are perfect on their own or paired with protein like black beans, chicken, or salmon. Honestly, the variety is endless and can be tailored to your own preferences. Try a spinach salad with red onions, strawberries, blueberries, and tuna for a sweet and flavorful twist.
To really enjoy summer, try a simple heirloom tomato salad with red onion, grilled chicken and freshly chopped basil and parsley.
Most cold soups only require a food processor or high-speed blender. Unless you want to get even richer cold soups by cooking some potatoes or other vegetables and chilling the soup overnight.
To keep cold soups healthy and full of nutrients avoid heavy creams or other dairy products and stick to in season and locally grown produce. If you want a thicker and more satisfying cold soup blend in bread or avocado to replace the dairy.
For a quick and refreshing gazpacho recipe, all you will need are three tomatoes, two cucumbers, one green bell pepper, one red bell pepper, a small red onion and a few cloves garlic. Peel, deseed and dice all the ingredients and add to a blender with three cups of tomato juice. Blend until smooth and season with salt and pepper.
Salads and cold soups are a great way to spend less time in the kitchen while consuming the best source of nutrients the earth has to offer. You will not only stay cool, but you will also stay healthy and maybe even lose a few pounds if you need too.
Yes, You Can Grill That!
Summer is here and its finally time to pull out the grill and throw a few parties or just enjoy it with family. Summer brings in a lot of local fruits and vegetables and believe it or not most of them can be grilled. Grilling fruits and vegetables provides a nice caramelization and robust flavor.
Before throwing fruits and vegetables on a grill there are a few guidelines to follow to get the best results and flavor. First, you will want to coat your produce with a tiny bit of olive oil to prevent it from sticking to the grill. Keep the size of the fruits and vegetables large or add them to skewers to keep them from falling through the grate.
Vegetables can be cooked over medium to high heat. Most vegetables can go straight to the grill but harder vegetables such as potatoes, squash, and fennel will need to be pre-cooked beforehand. The most popular summer vegetables to grill include eggplant, bell peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, and corn.
Eggplants, zucchini, and carrots should be cut into large slices, tomatoes can simply be cut in half and corn should stay in the husks before adding them to the grill.
Another great way to grill vegetables is in aluminum foil. This is best for harder vegetables such as potatoes or smaller vegetables susceptible to falling through the grates like green beans.
Take a long sheet of foil, add one layer of choice vegetables, season with salt and pepper and fold over to make a pocket. Place in the grate and cook until tender.
Fruit is cooked best over medium heat and the grates should be very clean. Fruits grill much faster than vegetables due to their high-water content, softer texture, and high sugar content so you will need to be more attentive.
Pick fruits that are firm and just about to be ripe. Most fruits can simply be cut in half and placed on the grill. Other fruits like apples or melons need to be cored, peeled and cut into large slices.
The best fruit to grill include apples, pineapple, pears and melons because they are generally more firm than other fruits. Soft fruits such as mangos, papayas, and peaches can be grilled too but require a lot less time or they will turn mushy.
Bananas are another great choice to grill, simply cut it half, lengthwise with the peel and place flesh down over an oiled grate for about two minutes.
Keep these tips in mind when you prepare your grill this season. Don’t just go for the meats add some vegetables and fruits to your grill and gain some new skills and flavors. Everything is better grilled including produce.
Fun Ways to Dress Up Fruits
Everyone knows the most exciting thing about summer is all the fresh fruit that is available. Strawberries, watermelon, and kiwi are just a few favorites to enjoy this summer. What is even more exciting is how easy and fun it is to dress them up.
Here are fun ways to dress up fruit that can be enjoyed by friends and family.
Mix up any fruits you like in a bowl with some honey and you have an easy fruit salad. To make it fun carve out a pineapple or watermelon for use that as a bowl. You can even use a cookie cutter to turn the pineapple or watermelon into fun shapes.
Chocolate can be used in many ways to make fruit more fun. Simply dip some bananas or strawberries in milk chocolate and use white chocolate to decorate the outside. Another fun way is to make chocolate cups or bowls using tempered chocolate and molds from your local craft store.
Parfaits are a French-style frozen dessert typically made from custard. The American version is mostly made with yogurt. Add a layer of yogurt to the bottom of a see-through dish then layer your favorite fruits on top and repeat the layers until you reached the top of the dish and top it off with a drizzle of honey and some granola.
Making fresh fruit popsicles is a healthier alternative from store bought popsicles that are full of extra sugar and corn syrup. Popsicle molds can be easily found on Amazon.
Take your favorite fruit and add them to a blender with a little bit of honey and blend until smooth. Pour into the molds and freeze overnight. Be creative by adding different layers of fruit puree or different chunks of fruit with each layer of puree.
A super fun and beautiful way to dress up fruit is by making a bouquet. Fruit bouquets are great for parties or as presents for Mothers’ day or birthdays. Pick any fruits you want but avoid fruits that will turn brown after a while such as apples, pears or bananas. You will also need a base, skewers, Styrofoam, cookie cutters and chocolate.
Add the Styrofoam to the bottom of the base and start shaping your fruits with the cookie cutters and dip some of them into chocolate. Once the fruit is ready, stick them on the skewers and arrange them however you like on the base Styrofoam. If you need some inspiration Pinterest has plenty of ideas.
Fruit kabobs are easy to make and even easier to eat. All you need is some fruit of your choice and skewers. Use cookie cutters to make some fun shapes and color code them.
Dressing up fruit is easy and fun and can be done together with the whole family or even be set up just for the kids to play with. It’s a great way to get creative and enjoy the wonderful benefits fruit has to offer.
List of Summer Produce
Yukon Gold Potatoes
As summer approaches, more work needs to be done in the garden. Here are a few tips and ideas to get you started:
- Mulch – As with most seasons, the mulch needs to be cleaned up and replaced. Mulch protects the soil against the harsh rays of the sun and keeps it from drying out.
- Pull weeds – The summer heat allows weeds to grow rapidly. Keep an eye out for them and pull them the moment they pop through. Weeds can help feed diseases and steals moisture from other plants.
- Trim or remove plants – Trim back your perennials and dead branches from trees. Clear out any dull or dead plants or remove annuals to make enough room for new ones.
- Plant summer annuals – Brighten up your garden by planting summer annuals like Angelonia, lantana, salvia, and zinnia.
- Water – Keep your gardens’ soil moist and prevent it from drying out with the hot summer weather. Most plants need about one inch of water every week. When watering your plants and vegetables focus near the roots and soil and avoid spraying the plant’s foliage to prevent the spread of diseases.
- Shade – Direct sunlight can be harmful to your plants and dry up your soil quickly. Shade your plants against direct sunlight with materials that reflect light. The cover should be placed about 3 feet away to allow proper airflow. Ideally, this shade should be flexible or easily removable to remove when direct sunlight is no longer an issue.
- Harvest vegetables – Summer is finally here and your vegetable garden is ready to be harvested. Warm-season vegetables include tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, and summer squash.
- Plant fall vegetables – End of summer is the perfect time to clear your warm season vegetables and make room to seed some fall vegetables. A few choices include broccoli, lettuce, radish and spinach.
- Control pests – Add birdhouses, birdbaths, and birdfeeders to your garden will help control unwanted. Other ways to reduce insects or pests is by using soapy water or insecticidal soap and essential oils.
- Be Safe – Summer gardening can become dangerous quick if you don’t prepare appropriately. It is best to garden during cooler times like early morning or right before sunset. You are likely to do a better job by avoiding the high temperatures that come along with summer. Always remember to wear sunscreen and drink plenty of water.
If you follow these tips you are sure to have a beautiful and bountiful garden this summer.