Plenty of benefits from enjoying farm fresh produce

By Bonnie Pawlick and Sarah Schrantz
Posted 8/25/19

The end of summer brings harvest time to mind. Whether you are a home gardener or like to visit local farmer’s markets, fresh produce is very plentiful. Some of the types of produce available now …

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Plenty of benefits from enjoying farm fresh produce

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The end of summer brings harvest time to mind.

Whether you are a home gardener or like to visit local farmer’s markets, fresh produce is very plentiful. Some of the types of produce available now are: tomatoes, zucchini, summer (or yellow) and patty pan squashes, onions, peppers, eggplant, corn, and beets to name a few.

Several vegetables have extended growing seasons due to shorter length of time to maturity. For example, kale, zucchini, beets can all be harvested 50-80 days after being planted. So, these vegetables may have a second planting in mid-summer to be harvested before frost.

Coming up with ways to utilize the abundance of the tomatoes, zucchini, onions, peppers, etc. can be a challenge. Many of these vegetables can be boiled, steamed, roasted, or grilled as a stand-alone vegetable, but by combining or incorporating them in various recipes they can be used in more ways.

For example, cut zucchini, sliced peppers, and sliced onions can be baked (or microwaved) with tomato sauce, made from fresh tomatoes or sauce from a can, with Italian seasonings. By adding mozzarella cheese or browned ground beef it can become a one dish meal. See the recipe for Ratatouille from “Tasty”: 

Ratatouille

Ingredients: 

Veggies: 2 eggplants, 6 Roma tomatoes, 2 yellow squashes, 2 zucchinis

Sauce: 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 1 diced onion, 4 cloves minced garlic, 1 diced red bell pepper, 1 diced yellow bell pepper, salt and pepper to taste, 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes, 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil 

Herb Seasoning: 2 Tbsps. chopped fresh basil, 1 tsp. minced garlic, 2 Tbsps. Chopped fresh parsley, 2 tsp fresh thyme, salt and pepper to taste, 4 Tbsp. olive oil.

Directions: Preheat the oven for 375˚F, Slice the eggplant, tomatoes, squash, and zucchini into approximately one-sixteenth-inch (1-mm) rounds, then set aside, or dice all vegetables and add to sauce before baking.

Make the sauce: Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch (30-cm) oven-safe pan over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion, garlic, and bell peppers until soft, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and then add the crushed tomatoes. Stir until the ingredients are fully incorporated. Remove from heat, and then add the basil. Stir once more, then smooth the surface of the sauce with a spatula.

Arrange the sliced veggies in alternating patterns, (for example, eggplant, tomato, squash, zucchini) on top of the sauce from the outer edge to the middle of the pan. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Uncover, then bake for another 20 minutes, until the vegetables are softened, Mix herb seasoning ingredients and pour over the cooked ratatouille, Serve while hot as a main dish or side. 

Another type of summer squash you may not be familiar with is the patty pan squash. They are available in white, yellow, green, or combined colors. They range from 2-6 inches in diameter and have a rounded top and bottom with a scalloped ring around the middle. The skin is thicker than the skin on a zucchini but not as thick or tough as winter squash skin. The inside texture is similar to zucchini or yellow summer squash. They can be sautéed, boiled, broiled, grilled, or roasted. Patty pan squash can also be stuffed with meat mixtures, or bread crumb and vegetable mixtures.

The summer variety squashes provide the key nutrients of vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese, fiber, and are very low in calories and no fat. Patty Pan squash offers the most vitamin C per 1 cup serving where zucchini has the highest source of vitamin A, 40 percent of recommended dietary intake. All of them provide only 20-30 calories per 1 cup before adding other ingredients i.e. cooking oils, cheese.

Small or baby patty pan squash can be sautéed whole after removing stems. For larger ones, they can be sliced and sautéed in a variety of seasonings and/or oils. One combination that works well for sliced patty pan or zucchini squash is to sauté in sesame oil and add dill weed, garlic powder and minced onion (fresh or dried). Or try this “Taste of Home” recipe for:

Roasted Garlic-Herb Patty Pan Squash:

Ingredients: 5 cups halved small patty pan squash, 1 Tbsp. olive oil, 2 garlic cloves (minced), 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp dried oregano, 1/4 tsp dried thyme, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley. 

Directions: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and place the squash in a greased baking pan. Mix oil, garlic, salt, oregano, thyme, and pepper; drizzle over squash. Toss to coat. Roast 15-20 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with parsley.

Tomatoes are also found in abundance this time of year. They are low in calories, provide a good source of vitamin C and vitamin A, and have a good amount of fiber, depending on the size of the tomato.

Tomatoes are very versatile and can be found in an array of colors and many varieties. It’s a little bit of work but you can make spaghetti sauce from fresh tomatoes. It will take 10-11 pounds of fresh tomatoes to make about 5 cups of sauce. There is a wide variety of recipes available online or in cookbooks. Another way to prepare and use tomatoes is this easy recipe from “McCormick”: 

Garlic and Herb Panko-Breaded Tomatoes

Ingredients: 1/2 cup unseasoned panko bread crumbs, 1 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese, 2 1/2 tsp salt free garlic and herb seasoning (i.e. McCormick Perfect Pinch, or Mrs. Dash), 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar, 1Tbsp honey, 3 large plum tomatoes, cut into 1/4 in thick slices

Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and 2 tsp of the seasoning in a bowl. Mix vinegar, honey, and remaining 1/2 tsp seasoning in another bowl. Dip each slice of tomato into vinegar mixture then coat in panko mixture. Place on foil-lined baking sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes.

Our local corn had a slow start this season and was not “knee high by the Fourth of July.” This was due to the excessive rain in the spring that left the fields too wet to plant at the usual planting time. But the corn is available now and is a favorite summer vegetable.

When buying corn, it is best to check the kernel condition on the cob, be sure the kernels aren’t dried or very small and under developed or very large fat kernels. Fat kernels could represent older corn and the sugars in the corn may have started to turn to starch and will not be as sweet. If you are cooking the corn within a few hours of purchasing, you can husk it at the point of purchase, if the seller allows. But if you aren’t cooking that day, leave the husks on and store in the refrigerator, to prevent the corn from drying out.

When cooking corn, people do so in a variety of ways. Husk and remove the silk from corn that will be baked, boiled, or steamed. I prefer bringing 1-2 inches of water in a large pot to a boil. Place the husked corn into the pot, cover with a tight fighting lid and boil for 8-10 minutes. The kernels will become more translucent when done.

To freeze corn for enjoying throughout the year, simply cut the kernels off the cob, after cooking and cooling long enough for easy handling. Hold the cob straight up on a plate or cutting board and cut down with a sharp paring knife. Turn cob to cut down all sides. There are cutters available for doing this; even a wooden grooved board that has a built in cutter and the corn cob is pushed along the grove to remove the kernels.

Once the kernels are off the cob, place in a quart freezer bag, date, label and place in freezer. Note that two full size ears of corn will yield approximately 2 cups of corn or 4 half cup servings. Also be aware, if you are counting calories, that corn has more than double the calories of the previously mentioned vegetables and is considered a starch exchange for diabetics. Corn has approximately 85 calories per half cup and is an excellent source of vitamin B1 (Thiamin), provides Folate, and 4.6g of fiber per 1 cup serving.

Nutrition Counseling and Education is provided by Oneida County Office for the Aging and Continuing Care/NY Connects. Anyone with questions about services and programs for older adults and caregivers, including the Senior Nutrition Program, should call Oneida County Office for the Aging/NY Connects at 315-798-5456. You will be connected to someone who can assist you.

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