By Ana Snyder, M.S., Exercise Physiology; CPT, FNS
Summer is a time of enjoyment, warmth, and energy. It’s also the most bounteous season for fruits and vegetables. Buying seasonal fruits and vegetables not only saves you money, it also allows you to fill your family’s plates with the freshest, most nutritious and ripe fruits and vegetables on the planet. And there’s no better time to do exactly that then during the summer months.
As you start making plans for the beach, bathing suits, and evening barbeques, take a little time to familiarize yourself with seasonal fruits and vegetables. Then plan to fill half of your family’s plates with recipes built around them. Your loved ones will thank you for it!
The first crops of summer appear in late spring with the opening of the buds of the asparagus plant. This heralds a wonderful harvest of fresh produce that is brought to ripeness by the warmth of the sun. These include many of what we typically consider to be vegetables that are actually fruits. Their job is to protect the seeds that are deep within them until they are ready to be dispersed. Such favorites as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and beans are included in this number.
Furthermore, a bonus with many of the summer harvest plants is that they don’t require much prep time in the kitchen. That’s great news on those hot, humid days when the last thing you want is to be spending time slaving over a hot stove!
Some of the most nutritious, flavorsome, and heart healthy foods are harvested during the summer months. For example, here are five of the very best summer season fruits and vegetables:
Arugula is a popular salad ingredient that provides a great source of calcium, vitamin C and folate. A number of arugula varieties are available, with those with softer leaves being the mildest. Arugula is great in many summer recipes. For example, you can toss together an arugula a salad with hard boiled eggs, cheeses, onions, and olives to make a fantastic BBQ side dish.
The avocado is recognized as a superfood due to its rich source of healthy fats, which are beneficial for both heart and brain health. Avocados are also high in potassium, folate, vitamin C, and vitamin B6. What’s more, they also contain compounds that help absorb carotenoids from the other summer fruits and vegetables that you eat. That in itself is a pretty good reason to make the avocado a staple of your summer salad recipes.
The cucumber is high in water content, which makes it refreshing on a hot summer’s day. It is also high in vitamin C and silica, which is good for skin health. Be sure to eat the skin because it contains magnesium, potassium, and fiber.
The eggplant is a fantastic source of fiber, along with phytochemicals that provide antioxidant protection. Interestingly, the older an eggplant is, the more bitter its skin will be. Eggplant goes well with a casserole or sliced and placed alongside tomatoes, onions, and peppers.
The zucchini is another extremely nutrient-dense vegetable that is high in vitamin A, magnesium, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, copper, and potassium. They can be served raw in thin slices as part of a fruit and veggie platter or baked for about 25 minutes.
Summer fruits and vegetables are largely made up of the parts of a plant that experience time-sensitive growth. As a result, many of them do not last long on the shelf.
There are a few summer vegetables where the stem of the plant is the prize. For example, celery is packed with nutritious bounty in every crispy bite. And bulb fennel is an enlarged stem base that provides benefits for your bones and immune system.
Fruits provide an extremely nutrient-dense form of energy. Unlike the many carb-laden, sugary snacks that tempt you every day, fruits are packed with natural goodness.
Here are a dozen of the best summer fruits:
While I love to eat summer fruit in its natural state , I am also a huge fan of fruit sauces, pies, and pastries. Here are four things you can do with your summer fruits to extend their life and their usability:
Berries and tree fruits should be frozen in plastic bags. To avoid berries sticking together, lay them out on a tray in a single layer. Then, when frozen, transfer the berries into a zip-lock bag and return them to the freezer. Partially thaw your berries for use in fruit smoothies.
You can can fruits or vegetables. Furthermore, canning is a great preservation method if you don’t have room in your freezer. Some fruits, such as peaches, even taste better canned than frozen. Plums, cherries, and berries are also good fruits to can.
Juicing allows you to extract nutrient-dense juice from your fruits and vegetables. You can either use a juice extractor or cook them briefly and then strain through a wire strainer.
Fruit smoothies and healthy cocktails are refreshing. Additionally, they’re a great way to fill your body with the immunity building goodness of your favorite summer fruits. For example, here is one of my personal favorite green smoothie recipes:
Blueberry Peach Smoothie
Place the spinach and water into the blender and blend until the mixture is a juice-like consistency. Then, stop the blender and add the blueberries, peaches, mango, apple, stevia, flaxseeds, and any type of protein powder (if using). Finally, blend until creamy.
In short, adding a healthy dose of deliciousness to the taste of summer is as simple as prioritizing seasonal fruits and vegetables in your shopping basket. So, use this guide as inspiration to make the most of this year’s summer harvest.