Summertime is here! Along with warm weather and long lazy days spent on the patio, you can plan on enjoying plenty of fresh, delicious summer produce. With new varieties of fruits and vegetables coming in and out of season almost every week, be sure you don't miss any of these special summer treats. You won't see them fresh again until next year!
These fragile peach-like fruits, with their perfumed aroma and ultra-sweet flavor, contain impressive amounts of beta-carotene. They are also a fair source of potassium, and supply a good amount of fiber.
To keep asparagus fresh, cut 1/2 inch off of the base of the stalk and stand the asparagus upright in an inch of warm water (do not let the tips soak in water!). This will also revive asparagus that looks wilted and limp. For an elegant appetizer or spring salad, steam asparagus, sprinkle with red wine or Balsamic vinegar and refrigerate. When ready to serve, remove from the refrigerator, top with chopped toasted almonds, and enjoy!
These deeply hued, juicy berries grow wild across much of North America. Cultivated varieties, which are actually raspberry/blackberry hybrids include boysenberries, loganberries, and ollalieberries. Like most varieties of berries, blackberries are a rich source of antioxidants. Try these delicious sweet berries on ice cream or yogurt, or for a real breakfast treat, serve them in a crepe filled with lightly sweetened ricotta cheese, and sprinkled with powdered sugar.
Blueberries literally burst with flavor and nutrition. These sweet little berries provide an abundant supply of free-radical fighting antioxidants which offer innumerable health benefits. These berries are delicious added to just about anything. Try them mixed in yogurt, sprinkled on ice cream or your morning cereal, or even added to a salad of fresh spring greens.
These sweet, golden-fleshed melons make a refreshing snack, and are delicious in fruit salad. A cantaloupe is ready to eat when the blossom end is slightly soft, and the melon is mildly fragrant.
Fresh corn should be sweet, crisp, and juicy. It is best eaten as fresh as possible, as it starts to lose its sugar content immediately after harvesting. The most common way to prepare fresh corn on the cob is to boil it, but roasting is also an excellent way to prepare it. To roast corn in the husk, first pull back the husks so that you can remove the silk, then replace the husks and tie them with kitchen string. Soak the corn in cold water for five minutes. Place corn on the grill and cook, turning occasionally.
Just in time for warm weather, cucumbers are crisp, cool and moist - refreshing attributes due to their exceptionally high water content. These are a delicious snack, and a welcome addition to salads, sandwiches and cold soups such as gazpacho.
Fresh or dried, lusciously sweet figs are a superb source of fiber, thanks to the tiny seeds that fill the fruit. Fresh figs have an incomparable taste, but they also have about the shortest life-span of any fruit on the market: Once harvested, they last only about a week. If you can find them fresh at the market, be sure to scoop up a few of these delicious fruits.
Super nutritious, with a clean flavor that is tart, yet sweet, pink grapefruits make a great snack. They are also excellent paired with many varieties of fish, and are great for added zing in salads.The three major types of grapefruit include white, pink/red and Star Ruby/Rio Red. Each variety has it's own unique flavor nuances, but they all have a clean refreshing, sweet-tart flavor. Grapefruits are traditionally halved, then eaten with a spoon, but they can also be peeled or sliced and eaten like an orange. Grapefruits are excellent paired with many varieties of fish, and are great for added zing in salads.
Fresh green beans, a delicious warm weather favorite, are an excellent source of a variety of nutrients, most notably vitamin K (important for maintaining strong bones), with a whopping 122% of the daily value in one cup.
These melons have a sweet, mild and refreshing flavor. For a creative meal idea, try serving a chicken or tuna salad in a half melon. The sweet, refreshing flavors of the melon will be nice contrast to the salty flavor and creamy texture of the salad.
For the sweetest, fullest flavor, choose plump, fragrant kiwi fruit that yield to gentle pressure, like ripe peaches. Unripe fruit has a hard core and a tart, astringent taste. If only firm kiwis are available, ripen them for a few days before eating them. Avoid shriveled or mushy fruits, or those with bruises or wet spots.
Slightly sweet, tangy lime juice and lime zest makes a delicious and refreshing addition to a variety of foods and beverages. Limes will keep up to six weeks when refrigerated, so there is no reason not to have a few limes on hand this summer.
Sweeter than its cousin, the peach, and darker-fleshed (hence richer in beta-carotene), nectarines are a sweet, juicy summer treat that is virtually fat free and a good supply of vitamin C and fiber. It is suspected that the name nectarine comes from the word nektar meaning "drink of the gods."
The third most popular fruit grown in the Unites States (right behind apples and oranges), the peach is really an All-American summertime favorite. The best peaches show a warm background color of yellow or cream, and have a rich, ripe aroma.
Fresh peas are a delicious warm weather treat. Not only are they sweet and refreshing, they are a great source of protein. A one cup serving of fresh peas provides more protein than a whole egg or a tablespoon of peanut butter, but contains less than a half gram of fat.
Despite its tough bristly appearance, fresh pineapple is very easy to prepare, and well worth the work! It is a similar process to cutting a melon into chunks or slices: simply cut the lengthwise into quarters, then cut the quarters into slices. To prepare for fruit salad, cut skin off of the slices, remover the hard center core, then cut the fruit into smaller chunks.
There are about 30 different varieties that will be available at the supermarket at different times during the summer. Ranging in color from black to pale yellow, and from sweet to tart in flavor, you'll only find each of these special varieties for a short period of time, so when you see a new one, be sure to take the opportunity to try it.
Radishes are root vegetables with a distinctive flavor that range from the juicy crispness of the familiar red globe radish to the sharp bite of the turnip-shaped black radish. Radishes are usually eaten raw; however, they are diverse. They can be added to cooked dishes such as soups, or heated and served as a whole vegetable. Or try them pickled. As with many other root vegetables, their green tops are edible and lend a peppery taste to salads.
These lightly fragrant, sweet berries have a subtly tart overtone and a texture that almost melts in your mouth. These delicious berries are terrific eaten alone, and they are also wonderful for added flavor and garnish on a variety of summer desserts from cheesecake to sorbet.
Not only are strawberries a delicious treat, they are incredibly good for you too. The deep red color of these berries comes from a high content of anthocyanins, a potent antioxidant that has repeatedly been shown to help protect cell structures in the body.
Summer squashes, range from the ever-popular zucchini to yellow crookneck squash. These squash have high water content and are very low in calories (about 19 per cup of raw sliced squash). Their mild, refreshing flavor and satisfying texture make them suitable for inclusion in many different dishes.
Nothing reflects the vibrant color and warmth of summer like tomatoes. While tomatoes are available year round, the flavor of fresh summer tomatoes simply can't be beat!
Watermelon is a sweet treat you can feel great about indulging in. It's fat free, low in calories and contains key vitamins and nutrients, including vitamins A, B6, C, and cancer-fighting lycopene. On a warm spring afternoon there is nothing like sweet refreshing watermelon, so grab a slice or two (or three, or four...) and enjoy.