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!
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.
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.
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 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.
Look for cherries that are plump and firm with shiny exterior and bring colour
Store cherries unwashed and covered in a plastic resealable bag or container to maintain freshness
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.
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.
Cucumbers do best when stored in a cool environment, so keep in a resealable bag in the refrigerator.
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.
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
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