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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Firm peaches will ripen at room temperature in a few days, once ripe, refrigerate to prevent spoilage
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.
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.
Ripen at room temperature, then store, covered in a plastic bag or container in the refrigerator
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.
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.
Store blueberries in the refrigerator. Wash before eating.
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.
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.
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 – 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.
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.
Keep the uncut melon at room temperature. Wash the melon before cutting and store cut watermelon covered in the refrigerator.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Store peppers in a plastic bag in the refrigerator
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.
Choose tomatoes that are firm with shiny and smooth skin. Avoid those that are bruised.
Always store tomatoes at room temperature. Storing tomatoes in the refrigerator changes their texture and flavour.
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.
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.
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