With the arrival of warm summer weather, people are getting outdoors more often and – hopefully – also getting more exercise. Summer is also a great time to work on improving your daily diet. One of the best ways to do so is by upping your intake of fruits and vegetables – those powerhouses of vitamins, minerals and fiber. In summer, it’s easier than ever to make eating choices that are both healthy and delicious.
Many fruits and veggies reach their peak in summer. Fruits are juicier and sweeter and vegetables have an unmistakable ultra-fresh taste. Farmer’s markets sprout up just about everywhere, so buying local becomes a ready choice.
In the fruit family, peaches, plums, apricots and cherries reach their peak of ripeness in summer. Berries of the season include strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. Other fruits that love the long, hot days of summer: honeydew, cantaloupe and watermelon. The freshest and most plentiful summer veggies include corn, beans, tomatoes (they’re actually a fruit), eggplant, cucumbers, peppers, and zucchini squash.
Starting Your First Fruit and Vegetable Garden
Growing your own produce is a great way to give your diet a healthy boost and get some exercise as well. If you’ve never dabbled in horticulture, you might consider starting with tomatoes.
Whether grown in your backyard garden or in a container situated in a sunny spot on your deck or patio, buying and planting tomato plants is easier than starting from seeds. The number of plants you will need depends on the space you have allotted for your tomato garden. Check the tag on the plants to determine how many can fit in to the space. Keep in mind that there are many kinds and sizes of tomatoes and tomato plants, from small ones such as cherry tomatoes, to plum tomatoes that are tasty for sauce, to beefsteak tomatoes, which are terrific for salads, on a hamburger or as a snack.
Other good choices for starting your own fruit and vegetable garden: cucumbers, spinach, lettuce, carrots, brussels sprouts and broccoli. Vegetables can be planted from spring to fall. Exact planting and harvesting time depends on geographic region, the vegetable, and other factors. For quick advice, check the “Old Farmer’s Almanac.”
Storing Your Produce
Fresh fruits and vegetables are perishable, so the correct storage method is critical. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your fruits and vegetables, whether purchased or homegrown:
• Peaches: Store on a countertop at room temperature until they reach the ripeness you prefer. Store ripe peaches in the crisper bin of your refrigerator. They will keep for up to five days.
• Lettuce: Rinse thoroughly in cold water, separate the leaves, pat dry and store in a plastic container lined with paper towels. Layer lettuce leaves and paper towels within the container to absorb moisture. Store the container in the refrigerator.
• Garlic stores best in a cool, dry place for up to seven months.
• Eggplant will last for a week to 10 days in the refrigerator.
• Corn will last from four to eight days in the refrigerator. Eat the sweet corn as soon as possible after buying because it quickly loses sugar content, causing the kernels to become starchy.
• Tomatoes are better when stored at room temperature, to allow continued ripening.
Already growing your own food? We’d love to know which fruits or vegetables you’ve had the most success with in your garden. Share the fruits of your labor with us in the “Comments” below.