Favorite Summer Produce: Vegetables and Herbs

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Summer, along with its clear skies, sunny days, and languid afternoons at the beach, is also a time for bountiful produce.

Fruits, vegetables, and herbs are available in plenty and beckon you with their vibrant colors and fragrance. There’s so much to choose from that you may be at a loss thinking about what to take home from the weekly farmer’s market! Here are some suggestions that might help you make up your mind faster next time you go shopping for fresh produce.

Basil: Herbs are a great way to add a dash of zing to your salads and meat dishes, with basil being one of the top choices. Make the most of the abundant basil found in summer to top off your pizzas and pastas. You can add a pinch of basil to salads or blend it with your soups and sauces. Ensure that you have washed and dried off the basil leaves after removing them from the stem before using it in your recipes.

Corn: Synonymous with summertime barbecues, corn is a classic choice. The best way to eat corn-on-the-cob is to grill and sprinkle some salt and pepper. If you’re feeling more adventurous, add a dash of paprika or lather some chili-lime mayo over it. Corn fritters make for a great snack while corn tossed with tomatoes and basil makes for a healthier option. Smooth sweet corn soup or chunky corn chowder are great options at mealtimes and can also be filling.

Lemongrass: Yet another herb that is available in plentiful during the summer season is lemongrass. There’s nothing more refreshing on a hot summer afternoon than a cup of herbal tea with a liberal infusion of lemongrass. If tea’s not your thing, switch to cocktails with a dash of this fragrant herb. One example is the Soho cocktail that uses this herb along with ginger, gin, mint, and ginger ale. You can also use lemongrass with chicken and seafood to concoct delicious Tom Yum soup, roasted lemongrass chicken, or Thai-style shrimp.

Cucumber: Simple yet versatile, cucumbers are definitely cool! Add them to smoothies, and you have something refreshing to sip on as the temperatures soar. They are also great for sorbets, popsicles, and cocktails. Toss them into salads, especially Asian salad recipes or even salsa. Produce like cucumbers can be used in a stir fry and also to make gazpacho, a kind of soup that uses blended vegetables and is served cold.

Peas: Fresh peas are a must in summer! Boil, steam, saute, or puree – but be sure to make them part of you weekly meals during the season. Chilled pea soup can make for a great appetizer or snack. You could also add them to different types of pastas. Sweet pea dip with ricotta and Parmesan cheese goes well with grilled bread. You can also serve them as a standalone dish when steamed with a topping of lemon-butter sauce.

Zucchini: Often confused with cucumber, zucchini is a summer squash that can be used in delicious ways. Try making wedges and roasting them just like potato wedges, with a sprinkling of your favorite herbs or spices. Zucchini adapts itself to almost any recipe and thus, makes for a good addition to chili and soup. Stuffed zucchini with a filling of ground meat or black beans roasted in the oven can make a great addition to your dinner menu.

Consuming different types of in-season produce has been found to be nutritionally beneficial. In addition, vegetables and herbs are tend to have more flavor during this time. Buying locally grown produce is easier on the pocket. It is also a great way of encouraging the local farmers and growers. These are a few more reasons to stock up on fresh summer produce.