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Photo Credit: Creative/Wikimedia Commons

By: Melinda Lamarche

While the weather has been on the upswing for a while now, the official start to summer is just around the corner! School is winding down and friends and family are coming out of hibernation to spend quality time together, often over a meal or two (or three!)

To get you ready for this season of entertaining, we present our June produce guide featuring a bevy of popular fruits and vegetables to delight your summer senses!

This month the best finds will be cherries, strawberries, cucumbers and green peas.  There is truly nothing better than enjoying these seasonal goodies at the peak of their freshness!  These foods are not only delicious but offer great nutrition profiles, be creative and think of ways to make these foods the star of your family’s next meal!

Strawberries

Is there anything more quintessential to summer than picking and eating local strawberries?  Strawberries are available all year round at the grocery store, however we all know the flavour just doesn’t compare to the berries we can get locally this time of year.

Local strawberries tend to be smaller, but sweeter and with much more flavor than those we can buy at other times of year from other countries.  Strawberries are a great snack, quick and easy to prepare and eat and also full of nutrition.  Strawberries contain folate, Vitamin C, potassium, fibre and phytochemicals.  This nutritional profile makes strawberries strong contenders in fighting against heart disease, cancer, and high blood pressure all while helping to promote and maintain gut health with its fibre content.

Buying

Look for berries that are firm and plump with no white or yellow blemishes.  If packaged into pints or plastic containers look for one that is loosely packed with no moisture developing between the berries.  Strawberries are highly perishable and even the smallest amount of moisture will make those berries develop mould in no time.

Storing

Do not wash strawberries in advance, wash only when you are ready to eat or use them in a recipe.  Store them in a covered container or resealable bag.

Cherries

Cherries are great when picked locally; not only is their vibrant colour beautiful to behold but they are tasty and healthy to boot!  Cherries come in many varieties ranging from very sweet to very tart.  They also come in different colours from a bright blood red to a yellowish pink hue.

Regardless of the type of cherry you favour, they are all a nutritious and delicious. Cherries are high in soluble fibre, meaning that they are great for gut health but also help to lower cholesterol levels by binding with cholesterol in the body and helping to excrete it. Cherries are also high in vitamin A, C and potassium.  Their vitamin C content makes them a great antioxidant which can play a role in decreasing the risk of developing chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

Buying

Look for cherries that are plump and firm with shiny exterior and bring colour

Storing

Store cherries unwashed and covered in a plastic resealable bag or container to maintain freshness

Cucumbers

Cucumbers are an undervalued vegetable in my humble opinion.  They taste great, especially when grown locally, are extremely hydrating due to their high water content and are a great source of vitamin C and antioxidants.  Cucumbers contain two prominent phytonutrients that act as antioxidants.  The phytonutrients that are found in cucumbers are called lignans and cucurbitacins.  Studies have linked these two phytonutrients to decreased risk of some cancers.

Buying

Look for cucumbers that are bright green without any yellowing.  Make sure they are also firm, have no moisture or indented spots and are without significant wrinkling, especially at the ends.

Storing

Cucumbers do best when stored in a cool environment, so keep in a resealable bag in the refrigerator.

Green Peas in the Pod. (Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)
Green Peas in the Pod. (Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

Green peas

Peas are delicious when you can pop them out of their pods and eat them fresh.  This is the time of year to enjoy them that way.  Bursting with flavor, wonderfully sweet and part of the legume family, green peas are high in soluble fibre which benefits gut health but more importantly can play a role in reducing cholesterol levels and helping to improve heart health.  Peas are also high in Vitamin C, boasting antioxidant qualities, such as the aiding in the prevention of chronic diseases and folate which has been linked to better heart health and the prevention of neural tube defects in pregnancy.

Buying

When buying peas in the pod, look for pods that are tightly closed and firm to the touch.  Give the peas a little shake, if there isn’t any noise, you know that pod is tightly packed with sweet and delicious peas

Storing

Store fresh peas in a resealable plastic bag.  If freezing, shell the peas and freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet, once frozen, transfer to a plastic bag and store in the freezer.

Here’s to a wonderfully delicious and nutritious summer!

Melinda Lamarche has been working as a Registered Dietitian for more than 10 years.  After completing her dietetic internship at the University Health Network in 2005 she went on to complete a Masters degree in Public Health Nutrition at the University of Toronto.  Melinda has experience working with Toronto Public Health and various Family Health Teams in the Toronto area.  Melinda recently completed a Culinary program and is using her new skills to prepare yummy and healthy dishes for her husband, daughter and new

RELATED LINKS:

Buy Local to Add “Spring” to Your Diet!

Why Pulses are the Family-Friendly Food of 2016

Incorporating Pulses Into Your Family’s Diet

Fall Foods Your Family Should Try

Real Food: Feeding Your Children Right

Lazy summer days wouldn’t be complete with our favourite warm-weather treats, but this summer, consider mixing up your family’s snacking routine with a variety of delicious – yet nutritious – bites.

Contrary to popular belief, nutritious foods don’t have to be a total yawn fest.  There are several ways to put a fun and delicious spin on healthy alternatives, see below for some inspirational ideas!

  1. Summer Salsa! Turn melon, strawberries and pineapple into a colourful salsa and serve it up with whole grain pita triangles sprinkled with cinnamon.
  2. Savvy Skewers! Layer a variety of fruit and berries onto a skewer with a dip of plain Greek yogurt spiked with honey, cinnamon and a dash of vanilla. T
  3. Popsicle Fun! Think of your favourite flavour combinations and freeze them in popsicle moulds or blend up a frozen banana with honey and a few tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder and you have instant chocolate banana ice cream.
  4. Delicious Dippin’! Kids love to dip, offer cut up vegetables along side a protein packed new spin on hummus by blending together edamame, tahini, roasted garlic and lemon juice, it’ll also taste great with some whole grain crackers.

Hungry yet?

Mixing in some nutritious alternatives will give your family that burst of energy they need to enjoy the rest of summer to its fullest! Enjoy!

Melinda Lamarche has been working as a Registered Dietitian for more than 10 years.  After completing her dietetic internship at the University Health Network in 2005 she went on to complete a Masters degree in Public Health Nutrition at the University of Toronto.  Melinda has experience working with Toronto Public Health and various Family Health Teams in the Toronto area.  Melinda recently completed a Culinary program and is using her new skills to prepare yummy and healthy dishes for her husband, daughter and new baby.

RELATED LINKS

Your Nutritional Guide to a Summer Full of Freshness

Delight Your Senses with Our Summer Produce Guide

Buy Local to Add “Spring” to Your Diet!

Why Pulses are the Family-Friendly Food of 2016

Incorporating Pulses Into Your Family’s Diet

Fall Foods Your Family Should Try

Real Food: Feeding Your Children Right

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

By: Melinda Lamarche

July and August are right around the corner and with these hot summer months comes another list of local fresh produce available for the picking.  The produce popping up in July and August are very similar so we’ve decided to combine them in one comprehensive guide.

Although you can find many of these fruits and vegetables year-round in the grocery store, it’s a special treat to enjoy these foods when they are available from local farmers; their fresh flavour can’t be beat!  Check out what’s available this summer and find ways to sneak these foods into your grocery bags and onto your family’s table!

Apricots

These light orange, fuzzy fruits are available in late July and August.  They are full of beta carotene an antioxidant common in orange produce.  Apricots also contain lots of vitamin C and lycopene, both with antioxidant power that help to reduce the risk of various chronic diseases.  Lycopene in particular has been linked to reduced risk of prostate, colorectal, breast, lung and stomach cancers. Apricots are also full of potassium, known to help lower blood pressure and of course, like many other fruits and veggies, these little fruits also contain fibre, helping with GI and heart health.

Buying

Look for apricots without any bruises or blemishes.  Make sure there are no browning soft spots as these spots will develop mold in no time.

Storage

You can ripen apricots in a paper bag and once they’re ripe, transfer them to the refrigerator. Keep apricots in a plastic bag or container to keep them fresh a little longer

Peaches  

In late July and early August we start to see baskets of peaches on grocery store shelves and at farmers markets.  Nothing beats the taste of an in-season, locally grown peach.  Peaches are great on the nutrition front containing lots of fibre, potassium, vitamin C, beta carotene and two other antioxidants called lutein and zeaxanthin.  Both of these antioxidants have been found to play a role in eye health by preventing macular degeneration.

Buying

Choose peaches that are plump and firm with no soft spots, bruises or blemishes.  Tan or brown circles on a peach are a sign of spoilage and like apricots, you will quickly see mold develop on these spots.

Storage

Firm peaches will ripen at room temperature in a few days, once ripe, refrigerate to prevent spoilage

Plums

Plums are also available during these very warm summer months.  Plums are great sources of Vitamin C, beta carotene and the B vitamin riboflavin.  This B vitamin helps the body convert carbohydrates into a source of energy. Beta carotene and vitamin C have antioxidant power helping to reduce the risk of cellular damage that can lead to chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Plums are also known to have high fibre content, especially when they are dried and referred to as prunes.

Buying

Plums come in a variety of colours from yellow, to red to a dark purple. Choose firm plums but avoid those that feel too hard as these were likely picked from the tree too early and will not taste as good, even as they ripen. Avoid plums that have cracks in them or discoloured spots or bruising.

Storage

Ripen at room temperature, then store, covered in a plastic bag or container in the refrigerator

Blueberries

Early summer brings us sweet strawberries, but as we move into the warmer months of summer, blueberries make their debut.  Blueberries are known for being full of nutritional value.  They contain phytochemicals called anthocyanins that act as antioxidants preventing cataracts and glaucoma.  The antioxidants in blueberries have also been found to reduce the risk of colon and ovarian cancers. Research also shows that blueberries may reduce the risk of Alzheimers, lower blood pressure and have a positive impact on heart health.

Buying

Buy blueberries that are deep blue and firm.  If some berries look crushed or damaged this is a sign of spoiling. Remove berries that are crushed or moldy as these will cause the rest to spoil quickly.

Storage

Store blueberries in the refrigerator. Wash before eating.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Raspberries

Raspberries are also available in July and August.  Raspberries are known to contain the most antioxidants per serving when compared to other berries.  Raspberries contain an antioxidant called ellagic acid which has anti cancer properties.  Their bright ruby red colour also means they contain anthocyanins which are antioxidants which have been shown to inhibit growth of lung, colon and leukemia cells.  And if all those health benefits aren’t enough, raspberries also contain lutein which promotes eye health.

Buying

Raspberries are the most fragile berry and can be crushed easily and spoil quickly.  Look for berries that are somewhat firm and have held their shape after being picked.  Take a look inside to be sure they are not starting to mold.

Storage

Raspberries can spoil very quickly, remove any berries that are crushed or moldy as these will cause the other berries in the same package to spoil quicker.  Keep refrigerated, and like other berries, do not wash them until you are ready to eat them.

Watermelon

Watermelon – the quintessential summer fruit. It is juicy and refreshing on hot summer days thanks to its high water content. These beautiful pink melons are a great source of lycopene, the antioxidant that has been shown to reduce the risk of prostate, lung and stomach cancer.

Buying

There are many tips and tricks to buying the perfect melon.  Choose a melon that is ripe, to determine ripeness, tap the melon, if it sounds hollow then it is ripe.  A ripe watermelon should feel heavy for its size.  Also, look for a side of the melon that is yellow or creamy and a bit flat, this is also a sign of ripening.

Storage

Keep the uncut melon at room temperature.  Wash the melon before cutting and store cut watermelon covered in the refrigerator.

Corn

Who doesn’t love fresh, local corn in the late days of summer?  Corn is a great source of folate which has been linked to heart health and also prevents neural tube defects in developing fetuses.  Corn also contains the B vitamin thiamin, like other B vitamins, thiamin plays a role in energy metabolism which means it is important for growth, development and the overall function of cells.  Corn is also a source of potassium which helps to lower blood pressure.  Corn helps to promote GI health with its fibre content and has been linked to a lower risk of lung cancer thanks to an antioxidant called beta-cryptoxanthin.

Buying

To ensure corn is fresh, look for ones that have bright green and moist husks with inner silk that is shiny and golden. Kernels should be plump and shiny, not dull and shriveled.

Storage

Corn loses its sweetness and flavour soon after being picked. Store corn in the refrigerator for a few days but don’t wait too long to enjoy.

Peppers

Different varieties of peppers are also available during July and August.  Peppers contain vitamin C helping to promote good immune function and acts as an antioxidant.  Peppers also contain vitamin A which is important for eye health and the B vitamins thiamin and riboflavin which play a role in energy metabolism helping the body use carbohydrates as a source of energy.  Red bell peppers contain more vitamin C and vitamin A then green peppers.

Buying

Choose peppers that are firm and feel solid.  The skin should be shiny and it should feel heavy for its size.  Avoid those that are wrinkled or shrivelled by the stem.

Storage

Store peppers in a plastic bag in the refrigerator

Tomatoes

Beautiful red tomatoes are popping up in gardens at this time of year.  Tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene an anti oxidant with cancer fighting potential.  Lycopene has been linked to reduced risk of prostate, colorectal, breast, stomach and pancreatic cancers.  Tomatoes also promote heart health due to their folate and potassium content.

Buying

Choose tomatoes that are firm with shiny and smooth skin.  Avoid those that are bruised.

Storage

Always store tomatoes at room temperature.  Storing tomatoes in the refrigerator changes their texture and flavour.

Zucchini

Zucchini

Zucchini are another vegetable available in July and August. Zucchini are a great source of vitamin C, with just ½ cup providing more than 15% of the daily requirement for adults. This means that zucchini are full of antioxidants which play a role in boosting immune system and preventing some cancers and heart disease.

Buying

Avoid zucchini that are very large, those that are are allowed to grow beyond 6” in length and 2” in diameter tend to have less flavour.  Choose zucchini that are firm with shiny skin and avoid those that are wrinkled or bruised.

Storage

Store, covered in the refrigerator.  Try to use zucchini within 2-3 days.

Melinda Lamarche has been working as a Registered Dietitian for more than 10 years.  After completing her dietetic internship at the University Health Network in 2005 she went on to complete a Masters degree in Public Health Nutrition at the University of Toronto.  Melinda has experience working with Toronto Public Health and various Family Health Teams in the Toronto area.  Melinda recently completed a Culinary program and is using her new skills to prepare yummy and healthy dishes for her husband, daughter and new

RELATED LINKS:

Delight Your Senses with Our Summer Produce Guide

Buy Local to Add “Spring” to Your Diet!

Why Pulses are the Family-Friendly Food of 2016

Incorporating Pulses Into Your Family’s Diet

Fall Foods Your Family Should Try

Real Food: Feeding Your Children Right

 

By: Melinda Lamarche

Summer is here and it’s time to hit the road!  Whether exploring new places or rediscovering old favourites, family road trips can be loads of fun and a chance to create lifelong memories.

To keep everyone’s spirits up throughout the journey, it’s a good idea to pack some delicious snacks to keep little tummies happy during those long stretches of highway.  Not only do homemade snacks save time and money along the way, they are also your best bet in terms of offering your family a healthy and satisfying nibble.

Below are some tips and tricks to keep you and your family well-fed while on the road, here’s to a happy (and healthy) journey!

SNACKING BASICS

  • Choose snacks those that contain a source of carbohydrate for energy and some protein to keep you feeling fuller longer, examples include: yogurt and fruit, cheese and crackers, nuts and dried fruit.
  • Before you hit the road, invest in a small cooler and ice packs. Look for reusable containers like mason jars and don’t forget to stock the napkins, wet wipes and utensils.

SNACK IDEAS

  • Yogurt, berry and granola parfait
    • Layer plain yogurt, berries and granola in a mason jar, sprinkle with cinnamon and a squirt of honey before sealing the lid
  • Hummus, veggies and bread sticks
    • Spoon a few tablespoons of your favourite storebought or homemade hummus into the bottom of a mason jar, place cut up vegetables in the hummus and place the lid on top. Serve with whole grain breadsticks or crackers on the side
  • Fruity tortilla roll ups
    • Mix softened cream cheese with a little bit of cinnamon, vanilla extract and maple syrup, spread on a whole grain tortilla. Place a mix of cut up fruit and berries on top of cream cheese, roll up and cut into 1” circles
  • Homemade mini muffins and fruit
    • Make a batch of your families favourite muffins, be sure to use whole wheat flour and keep the amount of sugar low, sneak in some mashed bananas or applesauce to hike up the nutritional value, for some fun stir in some nuts or dried fruit and chocolate chips, bake in a mini muffin tin to get more and keep portions snack sized.
  • Roasted chickpeas and cut up veggies
    • Rinse and drain a can of chickpeas, place on a parchment lined backing sheet. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp of olive oil, roast in a 400degrees for 30minutes, stirring occasionally, then sprinkle with your favourite flavours, try cumin, garlic powder and thyme.

Of course, you can’t go wrong with the tried and true snacks, think cheese and crackers, fruit and nuts and granola bars.

  • When buying crackers look for those that are low in fat, containing less than 5g of fat per serving, low in salt and containing at least 2-4g of fibre per serving. Choose unsalted and dry roasted nuts.
  • Granola bars can be tricky, they are one of those foods with a health halo, meaning they are often marketed as being healthier than they actually are. If buying granola bars, look for those made with whole grains (hint … whole grains should be listed as the first ingredient), low in fat and with less than 8g of sugar.  Making your own granola bars could be a fun way to experiment with your family’s favourite flavours.

So, this summer, pack your coolers and hit the road with some delicious and nutritious snacks to keep you and your crew fuelled for non-stop fun!

Melinda Lamarche has been working as a Registered Dietitian for more than 10 years.  After completing her dietetic internship at the University Health Network in 2005 she went on to complete a Masters degree in Public Health Nutrition at the University of Toronto.  Melinda has experience working with Toronto Public Health and various Family Health Teams in the Toronto area.  Melinda recently completed a Culinary program and is using her new skills to prepare yummy and healthy dishes for her husband, daughter and new baby.

RELATED LINKS:

Delight Your Senses with Our Summer Produce Guide!

Buy Local to Add “Spring” to Your Diet!

Why Pulses are the Family-Friendly Food of 2016

Incorporating Pulses Into Your Family’s Diet

Fall Foods Your Family Should Try

Real Food: Feeding Your Children Right

 

By: Melinda Lamarche

We now find ourselves at the end of the summer holidays and the start of the school routine is upon us.  It is at this time of year that many parents are scratching their heads thinking about how to keep up with packing lunches and looking for ideas and inspiration to keep things interesting in the lunchbox.

With working parents and extracurricular activities, kids are spending a lot of time outside of the home during the school week and are in need of nourishing foods to keep them going all day long.  Keeping kids well nourished not only gives them an edge in the classroom but also gives them the energy they need to keep up with school and after school fun.

Where to start

Breakfast is great for filling bellies and providing much needed nutrients after a long fast over night.   Plenty of research shows that breakfast is also key in promoting healthy development and contributing to children’s concentration and learning abilities in the classroom.  Skipping breakfast makes it hard for kids to stay focused and concentrate throughout the morning as they wait for lunch.

Start the day off with a nutritious breakfast that is not only delicious but also helps keep kids sharp and ready for learning. As for any meal, aim to include three of the four food groups to ensure that nutritional requirements are met. If possible, prepare breakfast the night before to make the morning routine even quicker, set the table or have things ready to take breakfast to go. Some great breakfast ideas include the following:

  • Oatmeal made with milk or milk alternative, sliced bananas and berries
  • Whole grain homemade muffin (make large batches and freeze individually wrapped for easy, on the go breakfasts) fresh fruit and a hard-boiled egg
  • Fruit and yogurt smoothie with a homemade breakfast cookie

Going the distance

Snacking is essential in helping kids meet their nutritional requirements.  Kids have smaller tummies than adults so they are unable to eat a lot at meal times, therefore snacks are essential for meeting their needs and giving them energy boosts throughout the day.  Snacks are meant to be smaller than meals, that means we should be aiming for two of the four food groups at each snack.  Try combining a source of carbohydrates with protein to not only provide energy but to also to keep small bellies feeling full until the next meal. Some quick, easy and kid friendly snacks are:

  • Whole grain crackers with cheese
  • Fruit salad and yogurt or cottage cheese
  • Homemade muffin and dried fruit and mixed seeds
  • Vegetables and pita triangles with dip (i.e. hummus or tzatziki)
  • English muffin pizza with your little ones favourite toppings
  • Yogurt with homemade granola or whole grain cereal and raisins

Getting over the midday slump

Lunch is the main event.  As with any meal, lunch should include 3 of the 4 food groups.  Some parents find it tricky to include so much variety in the lunch bag every day, but doing so not only keeps kids interested but also contributes to overall health by helping meet nutritional requirements.  Some key essentials when packing lunch are as follows:

  • Get the kids involved. Bring them grocery shopping and encourage them to think outside the box and try new ingredients for their lunches
  • Get kids in the kitchen packing their own lunches
  • Prepare lunches in the evening to help reduce stress caused by the morning routine
  • Keep all the lunch essentials, such as containers, water bottles, napkins, reusable cutlery in one place, to help with making packing organized and quick
  • Choose containers that are easy to open, smaller children may have a difficult time with even the easiest of containers.
  • Pack safe – don’t forget about food safety when packing lunches. Keep hot foods hot with the use of a thermos and cold foods cold by using ice packs and an insulated lunch box.
  • Keep hydrated – send kids to school with adequate fluid, choose water
  • Some ideas for healthy and delicious lunches are:
    • pasta salad with cherry tomatoes, cucumber and balls of fresh mozzarella
    • whole grain crackers, cheese cubes, sliced vegetables and a hardboiled egg
    • leftover vegetable and lean meat chili or homemade soup with ½ whole grain bagel and cheese
    • try breakfast for lunch – freeze leftover pancakes and serve up for lunch along side yogurt and a fruit salad or serve up hot oatmeal straight out of the thermos
    • make your favourite omelette in muffin tins and serve with toast triangles and a mix of your little ones favourite veggies
    • Experiment with different grains as the base for lunch to keep things interesting. Try quinoa or bulgur mixed with black beans, red pepper and corn, top with sliced avocado (don’t forget a sprinkle of lemon juice to prevent browning) and some shredded cheddar cheese.

Dinner still hours away?

These days kids are spending more hours away from home during the week.  This scenario calls for additional snacks to prevent dips in energy.  Again aim for 2 of the 4 food groups but consider packing larger portions or an additional snack for your kids to help fuel after school activities, especially when dinner is still hours away.

School lunch success

Packing lunches and snacks doesn’t have to be a pain, get inspired by looking up recipes and ideas for snacks and lunches, involve kids in this process as it is more likely that they will eat the foods they have been involved in choosing and/or preparing.  Keep things exciting by trying to include new foods and keep a list of the tried and true lunch and snack ideas and combinations to consult when you are at a loss for what to pack.

Melinda Lamarche has been working as a Registered Dietitian for more than 10 years.  After completing her dietetic internship at the University Health Network in 2005 she went on to complete a Masters degree in Public Health Nutrition at the University of Toronto.  Melinda has experience working with Toronto Public Health and various Family Health Teams in the Toronto area.  Melinda recently completed a Culinary program and is using her new skills to prepare yummy and healthy dishes for her husband, daughter and new baby.

RELATED LINKS

Family-Friendly Summer Treats

Your Nutritional Guide to a Summer Full of Freshness

Delight Your Senses with Our Summer Produce Guide

Buy Local to Add “Spring” to Your Diet!

Why Pulses are the Family-Friendly Food of 2016

Incorporating Pulses Into Your Family’s Diet

Fall Foods Your Family Should Try

Real Food: Feeding Your Children Right

By: Melinda Lamarche

It’s finally over!  The strange winter we’ve had has finally said goodbye and we are now enjoying beautiful spring days.  The beginning of spring also means that local produce will soon be finding its way into grocery stores and popping up at Farmers Markets around the city.

Eating fresh and local foods is not only a delicious way to enjoy fruits and vegetables, it also has a positive impact on health, the environment and the local economy as outlined below:

  • HEALTH: Buying local means fewer steps between the field and the table reducing the number of opportunities for contamination that can lead to food poisoning. In-season produce tends to have higher nutrition values than their out-of-season counterparts because they’re served up at peak ripeness.
  • ENVIRONMENT: Buying foods grown close to home decreases the distance between the farm and our tables, therefore reducing our carbon footprint.
  • ECONOMY: Buying local produce contributes to the local economy by supporting local farmers and growers.

The growing season is short in most parts of Canada due to cold and long winters but spring and summer weather allows local growers to grow delicious produce for us to enjoy.  Eating locally also means enjoying fruit and vegetables while they are in season.  During the spring and summer months we see the available produce change based on what is growing on trees and in fields at the time.

May marks the start of locally grown produce being available and is when we start seeing farmers markets re-opening across the city.  Here is your guide to what is in season this month! We start off with only a few seasonal foods being available at this time but the list will grow longer as we get closer to and throughout the summer months.

Rhubarb

Rhubarb season starts in May.  These long ruby red stalks are known for adding a tart yet delicious flavour to desserts and other dishes and are often paired with strawberries, pears or apples to add sweetness.  Rhubarb contains calcium, which plays a role in maintaining bone health, vitamin C and potassium, which helps to lower blood pressure.

  • Buying Rhubarb

Look for stalks that are bright red and that have full and fresh looking leaves.

  • Storing Rhubarb

Discard leaves as they are poisonous.  You may have to peel rhubarb to remove fibrous strings, wrap stalks in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.  Rhubarb can also be frozen.

 

Rhubarb Stalks, Source: Wikimedia Commons
Rhubarb Stalks, Source: Wikimedia Commons

Asparagus

Local asparagus is such a treat! It is much more flavourful than its out-of-season counterparts which travel to us from Mexico and Peru in the off season months.   Local asparagus is available in May and the start of June.

Asparagus is full of vitamins and minerals that are essential for health including vitamin A which is helpful for immune function, vision and reproductive health.  Asparagus also contains vitamin C which is an antioxidant which helps to fight against chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes; it also promotes tissue growth and repair.

Vitamin K, also found in asparagus, plays a role in blood clotting which helps to prevent excessive bleeding with cuts and scrapes. There is also folate which is essential in reducing the risk of heart disease as well as neural tube defects.  Folate has also been linked to a reduced risk of some cancers. Asparagus also contains two great forms of carbohydrates, fibre and inulin which is a prebiotic that promotes a healthy gut.

  • Buying Asparagus

Look for stalks that are bright green and crisp with tightly closed tips

  • Storing Aspargus

To keep asparagus fresh, trim the stems and place in a container of cold water, leave in the refrigerator and use within a few days

 

Radish

The fiery taste of local radish is available this month. This common addition to salads contains a great nutritional profile.  These little fuschia globes are full of antioxidants, including sulforaphane which has been proven to play a role in the prevention of breast, prostate, colon and ovarian cancers. Radishes also contain vitamin C and fibre.

  • Buying Radishes

Look for radishes that are firm without any cracks or dry spots.  The green tops should be fresh looking.

  • Storing Radishes

Remove radish greens, wash roots well and store in a plastic bag for up to 1 week.

 

Fiddleheads

Fiddleheads are a very interesting vegetable from the fern family.  Fiddleheads should never be eaten raw and must always be cooked.  These curly vegetables contain potassium, vitamin C and antioxidants.

  • Buying Fiddleheads

Buy fiddleheads that are tightly curled, crisp and bright green.

  • Storing and Preparing fiddleheads

Loosely wrap and store in a plastic bag, do not wash fiddleheads until ready to use.

To prepare fiddleheads remove the brown papery skin surrounding the fiddleheads, rinse in cold water thoroughly to remove dirt and cook thoroughly, 15 minutes in boiling water.  Fiddleheads should always be boiled before sauteeing, frying or baking.
Melinda Lamarche has been working as a Registered Dietitian for more than 10 years.  After completing her dietetic internship at the University Health Network in 2005 she went on to complete a Masters degree in Public Health Nutrition at the University of Toronto.  Melinda has experience working with Toronto Public Health and various Family Health Teams in the Toronto area.  Melinda recently completed a Culinary program and is using her new skills to prepare yummy and healthy dishes for her husband, daughter and new baby.

RELATED LINKS:

Why Pulses are the Family-Friendly Food of 2016

Incorporating Pulses Into Your Family’s Diet

Fall Foods Your Family Should Try

Real Food: Feeding Your Children Right