The Bounty of Summer Produce

Updated: Aug 2

The month of July brings two of my favorite things: blueberry picking and the start of reaping the rewards (vegetables) from my garden. I can’t wait to add the fresh blueberries to my yogurt or for that first tomato to turn red!

As summer comes to its peak, farmers’ markets, grocery stores and those backyard gardens yield their best tasting offerings. Not only are fruits and veggies tastier when they are in their peak season, but they’re packed with more nutritional value and often less expensive. What better time to ‘eat the rainbow’ of colors with fresh produce that provides us with more antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that only 10-12% of adults are eating the recommended 2 to 3 cups of vegetables and 1 ½ to 2 cups of fruit in their diets each day. Are you part of that statistic?! If so, why not take advantage of the season and commit to adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet?

Are you worried that you’ll buy fresh produce and then it will ‘go to waste’?

Keep in mind that some items like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and beets will keep for quite some time when stored properly and allow for more time until they need to be consumed. If I buy fresh fruits and think they might be ‘going bad’ before I will consume all of them, rather than throwing them out, I simply keep a bag in my freezer that I toss those items in for later use. That too ripe peach, or going soft berries, can then easily be used from the freezer bag for a smoothie or to top yogurt, cottage cheese or oatmeal. Those extra garden tomatoes are often frozen, so that on a cold winter day I can make my favorite fresh tomato soup (see recipe below). No waste!! The key is really to have a plan and prioritize using the produce you purchase.

Try some of these strategies to enjoy more fruits and vegetables EACH DAY.

  • Stuff an omelet with vegetables. Add spinach, squash, shredded carrots, peppers, tomatoes and onions.

  • Grill ‘em up!..or Roast ‘em up in the oven! Cut veggies into pieces and toss with some olive or avocado oil and cook on a grill or roasted in the oven on a sheet pan. My personal favorite is eggplant that is sliced and grilled and then topped with some pesto, a slice of tomato (yep, from my garden) and a bit of mozzarella cheese. Heat until the cheese melts. Yum!

  • Saute a variety of vegetables for a stir-fry.

  • Prep ahead. Don’t leave them in the refrigerator drawer to spoil. A little prep work like washing and chopping can make them easy to use when needed.

  • Make a smoothie. Add veggies like spinach, cauliflower and zucchini to the blender along with some fruit and a source of protein (such as Greek yogurt, nut butter, protein powder, tofu, cottage cheese) for a healthy and balanced smoothie.

  • Add to your favorite recipe either as a mix-in or a side dish. For example, adding greens, broccoli, zucchini, carrots or onion to your favorite pasta dish can add flavor and nutritional value.

Use this time of year to take steps to boost that fruit and vegetable intake. Your body, your palate and a farmer will thank you!

Fresh Tomato Basil Soup

Servings 6 Serving Size 1 cup

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds fresh tomatoes, diced

  • 1 onion, diced

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 2 cups fat-free milk

  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped and 2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, minced, divided use

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Directions

  • In a medium saucepan, saute onions and garlic in olive oil until softened. Add in tomatoes and saute about 5 minutes. Stir in milk, pepper, and salt.

  • Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the 1 1/2 cups basil leaves. Cook for 5 minutes.

  • Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the baking soda (which will make the soup foam for a minute). Using a handheld immersion blender, carefully puree the mixture until smooth. Alternatively, carefully pour the mixture into a food processor or blender, venting the lid to allow steam to escape. Working in batches, puree the soup. Ladle into bowls. Sprinkle each with 1 teaspoon minced basil.

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