Celebrate summer with freshness right from the farm

Published Jun 25, 2017 at 9:00am

Eat summer produce for every meal and every snack.

Choose the beautiful fruits and vegetables bursting with color and flavor for delicious variety and health benefits. Not only are they plentiful but easy on the budget and super easy to prepare. Find your way to the nearest farmers market soon. Don’t let summer slip away.

Now your trip to the farmers market includes delicious and nutritious fruits and vegetables. Use them wisely. Link a new habit to an old one. Before putting the fruits and vegetables away, cut them up and put them on the table as a snack and don’t forget to add some new fruits and vegetables to the menu. 

Dislike healthy foods like legumes (beans)? Maybe you just haven’t eaten them enough. “A primary factor that determines whether people like a food or not is their previous exposure to the food. In other words, if it’s a regular part of their diet,” said Dr. Megan McCrory, a clinical associate professor of nutrition at Boston University.

You may not expect a mental health practitioner to prescribe a healthy eating plan, but that approach may not be far off. In recent years, scientists have been studying the link between food and mood more closely. They’ve found that there may be a relationship between the risk of common mental health issues including depression and anxiety, and our diet quality. The role of diet in mental health may be particularly important for populations who are vulnerable to nutritional shortfalls, such as infants and the elderly, and those consuming a less-than-optional diet. Far too many people fall into the latter category. But with little effort people can improve their eating habits. 

Similar to mental health disorders, eating habits lead to health issues like diabetes. One in three U.S. adults has pre-diabetes. Delaying or preventing progression to type 2 diabetes through dietary and lifestyle changes could help keep money in your pocket and protect your health. By choosing better foods like fruits and vegetables, you are taking action against your mental and physical health.

Locally grown goodies await you at farmers markets across the country. While you’re picking up staples like green beans, tomatoes and strawberries, consider trying other nutritious, farm fresh fare that’s new to you. Branching out beyond your usual choices helps ensure you are meeting your needs for each of these important compounds. Consuming produce at its peak, direct from the source, means you will be getting the maximum nutrient content and flavor as well. Watch for those increasingly popular options (or consider growing them):

• Baby Bok Choy: because it is picked early it is tenderer and has a milder, sweeter flavor than the full-size version. It is part of the cruciferous vegetable family, which is associated with decreased risk of several types of cancer. You can enjoy baby boy choy raw in salads or sandwiches, as well as cooked. 

• Edible vegetable tops: at farmers markets, you’ll often find root vegetables like beets, turnips, kohlrabi, radishes and carrots sold with their leafy greens still attached. These leaves are packed with nutrients and flavor, so don’t throw them out. Beet greens supply 14 percent of your daily potassium, 20 percent of daily vitamin C and 30 percent of daily vitamin A. 

• Aronia Berries: These berries are bitter/tart (hence their name, chokeberries), so they’re generally preferred as an ingredient in recipes rather than on their own. 

• Microgreens: these mini leafy greens are the younger siblings of baby greens, as they’re harvested even earlier. Microgreens have intense flavors and vivid colors but tender textures. They often contain significantly higher amounts of many vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals per serving than the mature leaves and vegetables of the same plant. 

• Garlic Scopes: these spindly vegetables are the green shoots that grow from garlic bulbs. Their flavor is similar to garlic cloves but milder. Keep an eye out for them in June, as they have a short season. They can last up to a month in your refrigerator, or you can chop and freeze them for later use to flavor dishes. 

Find local farmers markets listed online and if that is not available to you, keep an eye out for roadside stands or locally grown produce in your grocery store. Be sure to have a reusable shopping bag and cash in smaller bills. The earlier in the day you shop the fresher the produce. And lastly ask the growers tips on how they like to prepare the produce. They may give some great insight.

While you’re there grab some ingredients to make this fresh salad perfect for a quick nutritional meal.

Fresh Cherryand Corn Salad:

Dressing 

1/2 medium shallot, finely chopped 

3 cloves garlic, minced 

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar 

Salt and freshly ground black or white pepper, to taste 

Salad:

5 ounces baby arugula or baby spinach 

4 ears cooked fresh corn kernels sliced off cob

1/2 cup finely sliced red onion 

3/4 cup feta cheese 

1 lb. fresh dark cherries, pitted, sliced in half 

In a small mixing bowl, combine all dressing ingredients. Whisk well. In a large salad bowl combine arugula, corn and onion. Drizzle with dressing and toss to coat. Arrange salad on individual dishes and sprinkle with feta. Top with cherries and serve. 

Enjoy your farmers market trips, and try something new this summer.