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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.
- • Mini Meatball Appetizers with Apricot Dipping Sauce
- • Dessert Pancakes
- • Cornish Hens with Honey-Apricot Glaze
Trivia:Apricots are known as, "Moons of the Faithful" in China where they originated. Their cultivation spread westward from China to Persia and the Mediterranean, eventually coming to the New World with Spanish settlers.|It is interesting to note that both the fresh and dried apricot are a main food staple of a tiny Hunza principality in the Himalayas, who are known for their extreme longevity, excellent health, and an almost exclusive vegetarian diet.
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!
Trivia:Today's asparagus has been bred from wild plants that were native to western and central Asia and central Europe. Asparagus has always been considered a luxury vegetable, highly prized in ancient Rome, Egypt and Greece. In Europe, its popularity flourished under the reign of Louis XIV of France, a devotee who encouraged its production.
Tips: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, top with chopped toasted almonds.
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.
- • Puff Pastries with Blackberries and Mascarpone Cheese
- • Yummy Blackberry Muffins
- • Paleo Strawberry-Blackberry Lemonade Smoothie
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.
- • Blueberry-Lemon Muffins
- • Mixed Greens with Fresh Blueberries and Balsamic-Blueberry Vinaigrette
- • Crispy Peach & Blueberry Bites
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.
Trivia:Maize is the proper word for corn, taken from the Indians of the New World who introduced it to European explorers and settlers. The word corn goes back to Biblical days, and means any particle of grain or any small pellet of anything. In some lands, corn meant wheat; in others it meant barley or oats. Only Americans adopted the word to describe maize.|In many American dialects, the word for corn meant, "that which gives us life." Indeed, corn was the dietary staple of Indians. Aztec and Mayan civilizations were built on a corn economy, as corn provided food, currency, fuel, fodder for animals, silk for smoking, sugar and even fermented beverages.
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.
Trivia:The cucumber is an immigrant from southern Asia, coming in a fantastic assortment of sizes, colors and shapes.
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.
Trivia:The principal ancestor of this subtropical evergreen was called pomelo, brought by a captain Shaddock to Barbados from the Malay Archipelago. The pomelo fruit, borne in clusters that gave rise to the name grapefruit, was also called shaddock, and is quite different from the grapefruit we know today. | In the mid-1700's, grapefruit was called, "Forbidden Fruit." |The West Indies were the point of origin for grapefruit, probably as a cross between the pomelo and an orange. It came to Florida in 1840 where a seedless fruit was found fifty years later and propagated to give us the Marsh Seedless variety.
Tips:Grapefruit keeps at room temperature for at least a week. For longer storage, refrigerate in a plastic bag or in the covered vegetable crisper.
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.
- • Kiwi Pie
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."
- • Nectarine Cake
- • Nectarine and Spinach Salad
- • Open-Face Turkey, Brie and Nectarine Sandwich with Simple Arugula Salad
Okra is best known as a key ingredient in gumbo, however this unique vegetable is delicious in a variety of dishes and on its own. Try it roasted. Just brush with olive oil and place on the oven or on the grill.
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.
- • Linguine With Tomatoes and Artichoke Hearts
- • Mediterranean Pasta Salad
- • Mediterranean Baked Whitefiish
Trivia:Although plums are native to Asia, Europe and America, most U. S. production is in the Japanese varieties which are red and yellow (European varieties are blue and purple). | The difference between plums and prunes is small. Plums are clingstone (the pit does not separate easily from the flesh) and prunes are freestone. While there are at least 125 prune varieties, most (except for Italian prunes) are grown for drying.
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.
Trivia:Ancestors of the strawberry were discovered in the 18th Century by French explorers in Chile. The plump, red berries were cultivated by the Indians in South America. The explorers brought several plants back to France, where the berry was crossed with a wild meadow strawberry that previously had been discovered in Virginia. The resulting berry was a forerunner of our modern strawberry. (Source: California Strawberry Advisory Board)
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.
Trivia:The Massachusett Indian word for "eaten raw" is "Askutasquash." An important Indian food, few white men shared the desire to eat squash raw, until the past few years when raw summer squash types began to appear in salads.| Squash was unknown in Europe until early explorers returned from America with squash seeds.
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!