It’s August. The dog days of summer are upon us and farmers markets are bursting with the best summer produce. Whether you shop the aisles of the local big-box store or hit a roadside stand, here are five things we think you should buy with reckless abandon while the gettin’ is good.
Through the roof in vitamin C, blackberries are also low in sodium and only contain about 60 calories per 1-cup serving. Their dark color means they’re high in antioxidants, which impair cancer growth. These sweet-tart berries are beloved for their incredible flavor this time of year and all the nutrients they offer. Toss into oatmeal, add to plain yogurt, smash directly onto lightly buttered toast or simmer with a touch of balsamic vinegar for a fruity salad dressing.
Botanically, okra is in the same plant family as cotton, cocoa and stinky durian fruit. Okra is high in fiber as well as vitamins K and C, folate and manganese. It also has lots of antioxidants. When overcooked, okra can become glutinous (aka slimey) so it’s best to cook it hot and fast. But that doesn’t mean deep fried is the only way to enjoy it. Try throwing bigger pods on the grill, shaving them thinly and baking to make okra chips or chopping them and stirring into curries where the “slime” factor simply thickens the sauce in a delicious way.
Beside color and crunch, bell peppers add a lot of health benefits to anything they’re served in. High in vitamins A, C and K, they’re also packed with antioxidants like lycopene and carotenoids, which help fight some cancers naturally. They’re also high in potassium. One cup of peppers is only about 50 calories so it’s easy to take a second helping. Grill them along with other summer vegetables and serve with hummus and feta or purée them and served chilled with a dollop of yogurt for a twist on summer gazpacho. Cut them into thick slices and wrap with thinly shaved deli meat and lettuce spears for a hand-held lunch.
PLUMS & PLUOTS
If you believe in the saying “eat the rainbow,” then plums and pluots are at the top of your grocery list since they’re available in a spectrum of shades. They’re in the same family as peaches and almonds, are a fantastic source of fiber and are incredibly high in vitamin C, which may also help with iron absorption. Grill plums and pluots along with lamb or pork chops, serve thick wedges over a goat cheese and almond salad or simmer chunks with a bit of maple syrup to spoon over whole-wheat breakfast waffles.
Loaded with vitamin B6, folate, manganese and a ridiculous amount of vitamin C (35 percent of your recommended daily value), zucchini and other related summer squash are as good for you as they are delicious. Use a vegetable peeler to shave long ribbons for a salad, make “noodles” with the largest teeth on your box grater for a pasta substitute or sauté quickly with garlic for an easy side dish served alongside grilled meats.