Most of us will agree that fresh and unprocessed food is usually a healthier and tastier choice. Now that we are heading into summer in Ohio, we will have more and more choices when it comes to choosing and using fresh foods that are grown locally. Nothing tastes quite as good as veggies or fruits straight from your own garden or from a local source!
Where are some places that we can find local foods? Here are a few suggestions: Farmers Markets; on-farm markets and roadside stands; produce auctions; branded sections in grocery store; or, your own garden!
Whether produce is harvested from the garden, or purchased at a grocery or farm market, there are certain things that you can do to maintain both safety and quality.
First, all produce should be thoroughly washed before you eat or preserve it. This includes both produce grown at home or purchased from a grocery store or farmer’s market. Wash fruits and vegetables under running water just before eating, cutting or cooking. Even if you plan to peel the produce before eating, it is still important to wash it first. When you are washing your produce, never use soap, bleach or commercial cleaners. Plain cold running water is the best! You can use a clean produce brush to scrub items with firm skins such as melons, cucumbers and peppers.
Next, proper storage will ensure the safety and quality of your produce. Certain perishable fresh fruits and vegetables (like strawberries, lettuce, herbs, and mushrooms) can be best maintained by storing in a clean refrigerator at a temperature of 40° F or below. Produce such as uncut tomatoes, bananas, potatoes and onions are best stored at cool room temperature. Produce should not be washed before storage as excess water will encourage the growth of spoilage bacteria.
There are many delicious and simple ways to prepare fresh vegetables. This can include simple dips and sauces, salads, casseroles, stews and soups.
A great source of free recipes using fresh fruits and vegetables can be found at choosemyplate.gov (Simply click on “sample menus and recipes” for easy, low cost, nutritious recipes) and USDA Snap Ed Connection, Recipe Finder.
One quick easy recipe for using your fresh tomatoes, peppers and onions is salsa. If you are preparing salsa to be eaten immediately or refrigerated for a few days, you can experiment with amounts and types of ingredients. If you want to preserve your salsa through canning, it is important to follow a recipe that has been designed with the proper proportions of vegetables and acids. Always be careful when handling hot peppers. Use rubber gloves when cutting these peppers as they can irritate the skin. Do not touch your face or eyes!
2 chopped tomatoes
1/2 chopped onion
3 finely chopped, seeded if desired, jalapeno chiles
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 juiced lime
1. In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients.
2. Serve or store salsa in refrigerator for up to three days in a covered plastic or glass container.
Source: USDA Snap Ed Connection, Recipe http://recipefinder.nal.usda.gov/index.php?mode=display&rec_id=51
USDA Snap Ed Connection, Recipe Finder
From Your Garden to Your Table – Webinar for OSU Your Plan for Health – Mike Hogan and Marilyn Rabe, June, 2012.
Author: Marilyn Rabe, FCS Extension Educator, OSU Extension