Making the Most of Fresh Summer Produce

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During the summer, fruits and vegetables grow in abundance and some items, such as cherries, peaches, plums and corn, are only available in grocery stores for a limited time.  Fresh, seasonal produce is also less expensive this time of year because you can shop local.

It’s no surprise that many people take advantage of this through farmers markets, co-ops and pick-your-own farms and orchards.  Unfortunately, fresh produce spoils quickly, which can lead to a loss of food and money.  If you find yourself buying fresh, summer produce in bulk or in high amounts, here are some ways to make the most of it so it doesn’t go to waste.

Ideas for summer produce

  • Enjoy fresh salads. Be creative and let your kids experiment with you.  Make salads that include vegetables and fruits such as spinach salad with chicken, blueberries, and strawberries, or throw some diced peaches over kale.  Try a cucumber, onion and dill salad with rice wine vinegar, or cherry tomato skewers with mozzarella cheese, shallot and basil leaf with balsamic vinegar.
  • Cook up a stir-fry.  Like salads, there are no wrong combinations for a stir-fry.  Many summer vegetables, such as kale, bok choy, green beans, squash and tomatoes, make for excellent stir-fry dishes.
  • Try fruit on the grill. Grilled fruit is a very tasty and healthy dish for any barbeque. Brush with olive oil and arrange uniformly sized pieces for even cooking. Cook apples, mangos, peaches or pear wedges for about five minutes on each side.  Try kabobs of pineapples or watermelon. You can also add brown sugar or spices like cinnamon or nutmeg.
  • Make jams. Fresh strawberries, peaches, blueberries and even watermelon and habanero peppers can be cooked into jams. They’ll last for months this way, especially when stored in the freezer. Some fruits are so sweet you don’t even have to add sugar.
  • Blend it. Think smoothies and soups. Blend fresh fruit and yogurt or flavored extracts.  Mix together fruit or vegetables for a summer salsa. Or, try a cold soup such as cucumber gazpacho with watermelon, strawberry coconut soup, or blueberry yogurt soup with lime.
  • Freeze it.  Leftover produce can be stored in the freezer for use during the fall/winter months. Most fruits can retain quality in the freezer and many vegetables can too, excluding anything leafy (except spinach).
  • Pack it.  Summertime means vacations and road trips, so pack a cooler with orange and apple slices, sliced peppers, carrots and broccoli.  Be sure not to let perishable food sit unrefrigerated for more than two hours, and be sure the cooler is 40 degrees or less.  Include easy-to-transport, shelf-stable foods such as cereal, single-serve applesauce, cans of tuna, nuts, fresh fruit and nut butter sandwiches.

The AAMC farmers market is open to the community and runs every Friday from 10:30 am to 1:30 pm in the Hospital Pavilion South (ground level) located at 2001 Medical Parkway. The AAMC farmers market now accepts Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits via the electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card. By accepting SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps, AAMC is expanding access to fresh fruits and vegetables to everyone in our community.

Authors
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By Ann Caldwell and Maureen Shackelford, nutritionists and registered dietitians at Anne Arundel Medical Center. To reach them call 443-481-5555.

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