Summertime is here! We all welcome the warmth and sunshine. Summer cookouts are abundant, but that doesn’t mean we need to load up on unhealthy foods. Here in Ohio, there are many fruits and vegetables in season in the summer.
According to the Ohio Farm Bureau, the following fruits and veggies will be in season and the best tasting during this time: apples, asparagus, lima beans, snap beans, broccoli, cabbage, cantaloupe, carrots, cilantro, collards, sweet corn, cucumbers , currants, dill, eggplant, endive and escarole, gooseberries, grapes, kale, leafy lettuce, leeks, mustard greens, okra, onions, green onions, parsley, peaches, sweet peppers, potatoes, radishes, black raspberries, red raspberries, rhubarb , spinach, summer squash, winter squash, strawberries, tomatoes, and turnip greens.
Fruits and vegetables are very important to a healthy, balanced diet. They contain vitamins and minerals vital to all body systems. For example, did you know that cucumbers contain vitamins K, B, and C? They also contain minerals such as copper, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium. Cucumbers are also approximately 95% water which counts toward daily water intake. They are a great crunchy summer snack! Try this yummy cucumber salad recipe at home:
4 large cucumbers, peeled
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups low-fat plain yogurt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
– Cut cucumbers in half and seed. Cut each cucumber boat in half lengthwise and then halve each quarter. Cut crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces. Place in bowl, sprinkle salt on top, toss and set aside for at least 20 minutes.
– Combine yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, pepper, and parsley (or mint) in a medium bowl. Stir in the oil briskly.
– Drain the cucumbers, return them to the bowl, pour the yogurt mixture over and toss well.
Home grown tomatoes are also very popular here in the summer. Fun Fact: According to the USDA, a tomato is botanically a fruit, but in 1893 the US Supreme Court ruled the tomato was a vegetable! Tomatoes contain lycopene which gives them their bright red color. Lycopene also can help protect our cells from damage. You can easily make this caprese salad for a healthy summer treat:
3 vine-ripe tomatoes, 1/4-inch thick slices
1-pound fresh mozzarella, 1/4-inch thick slices
20 to 30 leaves (about 1 bunch) fresh basil
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Coarse salt and pepper
– Layer alternating slices of tomatoes and mozzarella, adding a basil leaf between each, on a large, shallow platter.
– Drizzle the salad with extra-virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Sweet corn is also a favorite during this time of year. Corn comes in a variety of colors. It contains fiber, vitamin C, and many other vitamins and minerals. Just be careful not to load your ear of corn with too much butter! Instead try some lime juice, olive oil, or a dash of chili powder. You can try this recipe for Mexican street corn salad:
6 ears fresh corn
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup cotija cheese (or parmesan cheese)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lime juice
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper (optional)
– Prepare corn by shucking it and then grilling the ears either on a gas or charcoal grill or over an open flame, until slightly charred and toasty. When cool enough to handle, remove corn from the cob using a sharp knife.
– Grill jalapeno until skin is charred and black in some areas. Chop jalapeno removing seeds and ribs for less heat.
– In a large bowl combine corn, chopped jalapeno, red onion, cilantro, cotija cheese, olive oil, lime juice, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Gently toss. Serve with a few extra lime wedges and an extra sprinkle of cheese and cilantro.
Remember to look for fresh fruits and veggies at your local farmers’ market. Though fruits and vegetables are generally considered healthy, they can potentially interact with certain medicines or cause issues with certain medical conditions if eaten in excess, so be sure to consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new diet regimen.
Janessa Williamson, RN, is the Health Educator at Fayette County Public Health. June is Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month. For more recipes, visit eatright.org.