Posts Tagged ‘garden’

Is a garden part of your healthy lifestyle? Whether you grow a few plants, a large garden plot, or visit a public garden, the health benefits can be numerous. Being in nature and gardening can improve physical, social, and mental health. In addition to health benefits, gardens are also known to increase property values, and vegetable, fruit, and herb gardens can help you stretch your grocery budget.

Gardens meet many human needs. The National Gardening Association tracks annual trends in gardening. Not surprisingly, the interest in gardening rose in 2020, when many people were at home during the pandemic. For those who were new to gardening, the reasons they gave for starting a garden included: benefits to their mental health, more time to garden due to being home, wanting to beautify their home, engaging in a positive activity, engaging their families in a positive activity, adding more exercise to their lives, and wanting to grow food. Are any of those your reasons for gardening?

Gardens come in all sizes. Just like gardeners come in all ages and sizes, gardens can be new or old, small, or large. The good news is there is no minimum or maximum amount of space or plants to earn the title gardener! Does the thought of a large garden feel overwhelming? Use a small space by planting a few vegetables in containers or design a miniature garden.

Miniature garden with plants and toy decorations

Gardens are for everyone. Gardening is recommended as a health intervention, “because gardens are accessible spaces for all kinds of people, including children, elderly people, and those with a disability” and they can be relatively easily and quickly implemented in rural as well as urban areas. The 2021 National Garden Association survey indicated that although gardening is popular with older generations, the participation of Baby Boomers remained flat or declined last year. Groups who saw a growth in gardening activity included younger families, renters and apartment/condominium dwellers, and black and people of color gardeners. The diversity of gardeners and their experiences can mirror a garden that grows large with various and diverse plants, beneficial insects, and healthy soil.

Good times and hard times. Most often, gardens offer many more good times than hard times, but there can be frustrations throughout the growing season. We cannot control some things like the weather. Other things like watering, identifying insects, choosing the right spot to plant, and catching any problems early can help reduce or alleviate hard times. If you are new to gardening and have questions, many OSU Extension offices have staff and volunteers who can help. If your local, county Extension office does not have an option like a horticulture hotline, all Ohioans are welcome to use the Ask a Master Gardener Volunteer site.

Gardens can be a great spot to relax, learn, grow, and exercise. They can also offer opportunities to meet other people and to share flowers and produce with others. What are your garden plans this year?


2021 National Gardening Survey released. (2021). National Gardening Association. https://garden.org/newswire/view/dave/114/2021-National-Gardening-Survey-released/

Ask a Master Gardener Volunteer, Ohio State University Extension https://extension.osu.edu/https%3A/extension.osu.edu/ask-an-expert/ask-master-gardener-volunteer

Darnton, J., and McGuire, L. (2014). What are the physical and mental benefits of gardening? Michigan State University Extension. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/what_are_the_physical_and_mental_benefits_of_gardening

Hopkins, K., Coffin, D., Wertheim, F., and Bowie, C. (2008). Bulletin #2762, Growing Vegetables in Container Gardens. The University of Maine, Cooperative Extension Publications. https://extension.umaine.edu/publications/2762e/

Lamp’l, J. (2021). The National Gardening Association’s 2021 survey findings: What gardeners think. Joe Gardener. https://joegardener.com/podcast/national-gardening-association-2021-survey-findings/

Masashi,S., Gaston, K., and Yamaura, Y. (2017). Gardening is beneficial for health: A meta-analysis. Preventive Medicine Reports. Volume 5, March 2017, Pages 92-99 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335516301401

Nature Matters, OSU Extension, Warren County https://warren.osu.edu/program-areas/family-and-consumer-sciences/healthy-people/nature-matters

Stechschulte, J. (2014). Project Idea Starter: Miniature Gardens. Ohio State University Extension. https://ohio4h.org/sites/ohio4h/files/imce/books_resources/Self-Determined/e365-02-04%20Miniature%20Gardens.pdf

Written by: Patrice Powers-Barker, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Lucas County.

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Franklin County

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Pollinators are responsible for 1 out of every 3 bites of food we take! Pollination is important for plant reproduction and food production.

The following examples are “fruit” of the plant, even if we might call them produce, vegetables or nuts: apples, cucumbers, zucchini, almonds, and strawberries. All of those foods grow on the plant as the result of the pollination of the flowers. Even though cucumbers and zucchini are categorized as vegetables in the cookbook, botanically, they are the “fruit” of the plant because they have the seeds. They rely on a pollinator to transfer pollen from one flower to another.

Other plants that rely on pollinators include: apricots, avocados, bananas, beans, beets, blackberries, blueberries, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cherries, coconut, cranberries, eggplant, figs, grapes, grapefruit, kiwi, lemons, limes, mangos, melons, okra, onions, oranges, papaya, peach, pear, peppers, plums, pumpkin, raspberries, squash, tangerines, tomatoes, and turnips. In addition to herbs, spices, sesame seeds, sugar cane, sunflower oil, and vanilla, other favorites that rely on pollinators include coffee and chocolate.

The Pollinator Partnership’s mission is to promote the health of pollinators, critical to food and ecosystems, through conservation, education, and research. One way they do this is to promote Pollinator Week, June 21-27, 2021, #PollinatorWeek.

This week I plan to:

  1. Learn about bees and other pollinators. More than honeybees! While honeybees might be a favorite because they pollinate and provide honey, there are over 4,000 types of bees in the United States. In Ohio, there around 500 bee species. More than bees!  While bees need our support, they are not the only insect that pollinates. In Ohio, pollinators are primarily insects such as bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, wasps, and others. In addition, hummingbirds are pollinators. Certain bats are also pollinators, especially in tropical and desert areas, but none act as pollinators in Ohio.
  2. Invite pollinators of all stages to my yard. In addition to food, pollinators also need water and shelter. There are great resources on the different types of plants to help feed pollinators at different life stages. One example is to grow plants like milkweed, fennel, and dill to feed caterpillars, which eventually grow into monarch and swallowtail butterflies. Offer water in a shallow bowl or birdbath for any small pollinators.  Place a few larger rocks or sticks in the small container to provide a place for insects to land and perch.    
  3. Help others overcome their fear of “bugs”.  Not everyone loves insects, even though these small pollinators offer so much! Pollinators will not hurt you if you leave them alone. We need them to do their jobs to help us have delicious foods! PBS has a nice lesson for parents to help children overcome their fear of bugs.
  4. Appreciate my summer meals. I will slow down to appreciate and enjoy all the food that is on my plate, thanks to the work of pollinators.

How will you celebrate National Pollinator Week?

Written by: Patrice Powers-Barker, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Lucas County

Reviewed by: Dr. Roseanne E. Scammahorn, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Darke County


Bee Lab. (n.d.) Ohio State University. https://u.osu.edu/beelab/

Ellsworth, D. (2015)., Attracting pollinators to the garden. Ohio State University. https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/ENT-47

McGinnis, E., Walton, N,. Elsner, E., and Knodel, J. (2018). Smart Gardening: Pollination in vegetable gardens and backyard fruit. Michigan State University Extension. https://www.canr.msu.edu/resources/smart-gardening-pollination-in-vegetable-gardens-and-backyard-fruit

Nankin, F., and McMahon, J. (2017). Overcome a fear of bugs. Public Broadcasting Service. https://www.pbs.org/parents/thrive/helping-children-overcome-a-fear-of-bugs

Planting for Pollinators. (2020). Kids Gardening. https://kidsgardening.org/planting-for-pollinators/

Pollinator Partnership. (2021). Pollinator Week. https://www.pollinator.org/pollinator-week/pollinator-week-resources

Prajzner, S., and Gardiner, M. (2015). Ohio Bee Identification Guide. Ohio State University. https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/ENT-57

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peppersA few days ago we read about the abundance of zucchini plants in many of our gardens. Peppers are another vegetable that has been producing non-stop recently. My grandson’s garden is providing all of us with more peppers than we can use!  Being a young entrepreneur, he even set up a small stand near their lane to sell peppers and zucchini to neighbors who don’t have a garden of their own!

The varieties of peppers grown locally include bell which can be green, orange, red, or yellow; jalapeno and other hot peppers and the milder sweet banana peppers. All of the members of the pepper family provide great nutritional value in our diets. They’re low in calories and are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, potassium, folic acid, and fiber. Compared to green bell peppers, the red ones have almost 11 times more beta-carotene and 1.5 times more vitamin C. A single raw red pepper, sweet or hot, can meet the daily requirements for two important antioxidants, vitamin A and C.

Peppers are a very versatile vegetable. They can be eaten raw or cooked and can be used as additions to sandwiches, salads, stuffing, soup, stews, and relishes. Roasting peppers, however, brings out a totally different taste. This takes some time but the results are well worth it. Char thick-skinned peppers until the skin is black and blistered. They can be charred under a broiler, over an open flame or on the grill. While they are still hot, cover or place in a paper bag for 15 minutes and allow the steam to loosen the charred skins. Peel over a bowl to catch the juices, and use in your favorite recipe.

Peppers can also be preserved safely by freezing, pickling or canning. The National Center for Food Preservation and Ohio State University Extension provided guidance on freezing, pickling and canning peppers and pepper recipes.

If you are harvesting peppers from your garden or purchasing at a local farmer’s market, remember to wash peppers just before using them. Rinse them under cool running water. Peppers can be stored in a plastic bag for use within 5 days. When preparing hot peppers, be sure to wear gloves, keep your hands away from your face and wash your hands thoroughly as soon as you are finished. They can burn your skin and eyes!

The Ohioline fact sheet – Salsa from Garden to Table  includes several delicious varieties of salsas that can be prepared and canned for use year round. Be sure and follow the directions exactly for a safe product.

Here is a quick and easy recipe for a refreshing summer salsa provided on the USDA What’s Cooking web site.  Check out this site for many great, economical, healthy recipes!

Easy Mango Salsa

Prep time: 10 minutessalsa

Makes: 4 Servings

Total Cost: $1.29

Serving Cost: $0.32

The sweetness of fresh mango combined with savory pepper and onion and the zest of lime give this salsa a balance of flavors that are refreshing and crisp. Serve this appetizer with baked tortilla chips or whole grain crackers for a tasty snack.


1 mango (peeled and chopped)

1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper

1 green onion, chopped

1 lime, juiced (1-2 Tablespoons)


  1. Peel and chop the mango, be sure to remove the seed.
  2. Cut the pepper and onion into small pieces.
  3. Mix all the ingredients together.

Iowa Department of Public Health. Iowa Nutrition Network.

Written by:  Marilyn Rabe, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension, Franklin County Rabe.9@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Amanda Bohlen, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension, Washington County Bohlen.19@osu.edu





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lemon tree

“Lemon tree very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet…”

Anyone remember those lyrics from the old Peter, Paul, and Mary song? I was humming it in my head as I typed up this column.  The reason I’ve got lemon trees on the brain is three-fold.

To begin with, I recently received a gardening catalog in the mail and was intrigued by a Meyer lemon tree that I decided to purchase. Meyer lemons are a little less sour than regular lemons, yield more juice, and as a rule have thinner skins. Meyer lemons make tasty lemonade and lemon bars (on my Top Ten list of favorite cookies).

Secondly, those of you who buy lemons on a regular basis know they can be a little pricey. I would love to be able to have my own “stash” of fresh lemons, so growing my own stock would help save money. I know I can keep an inexpensive bottle of lemon juice in the refrigerator, but bottled juice does not begin to compare to fresh juice in the flavor department. As well, you have the lemon skin for “zest” if you need it.

Health Benefits

The last reason I want my own tree is because the nutritional value of eating lemons is high. Lemons contain antioxidant and anti-cancer properties. They are an excellent source of vitamin C, one of the most important antioxidants in nature.

Compounds in lemons called limonoids help fight cancers of the mouth, skin, lung, breast, stomach and colon. Our bodies can readily absorb and utilize a very long-acting limonoid called limonin that is present in citrus fruits.

Limonin bioavailability stays in the body longer than other natural anti-carcinogens, and that even includes heavy hitters such as green tea and chocolate. Current research is also studying whether limonin may be able to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Last thoughts

The word lemon has always had a negative connotation, whether you’re talking about cars or life in general. However, lemon’s beauty is not just the fruit itself, but what it adds to other foods. Whether or not you grow your own, consider adding more lemons to your food and drink. Your body (and taste buds) will thank-you.


Written by:  Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, green.308@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Beth Stefura, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu





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Basil Herb Bowl

Basil Herb Bowl

My herb pots are growing and I need to harvest some of them. All of the rain we’ve had this summer in Ohio has made them lush and ready to pick. I’ve enjoyed substituting fresh herbs for dried herbs in many dishes this summer. Let’s talk about a couple of dishes we’ve enjoyed this summer. Not sure about which herbs to use with which foods? This Ohio State University Fact Sheet will give you some great suggestions for selecting, storing and using fresh herbs.

Have you tried a Caprese sandwich with fresh basil? If not, try one for a yummy treat.

How about a dish of caramelized onions, summer squash and garlic? Stir fry these vegetables and add fresh basil or oregano. If you have zucchini, slice it and add it to your recipe. Try this version from USDA for summer squash medley.

This year I made a version of Mala String Beans with fresh green beans. Cook your green beans in boiling water for about 5 minutes. Once they are blanched, you can store them in the refrigerator for 3 days. To make your Mala String Beans, caramelize onions and garlic (be generous with garlic) in a small amount of olive oil. Add your blanched green beans and stir fry. Add a small amount of sesame oil and low sodium soy sauce. Enjoy. Using fresh onions from my garden made this dish extra tasty.

Back to my herbs. . . I want to have the taste of fresh herbs after they’ve dried up and there’s snow on the ground so I decided to freeze some of my herbs so that I can enjoy them this winter.

Here’s my pictorial of picking and freezing herbs:

Basil just picked, washed and drying on paper towel.

Fresh Picked Basil

Fresh Picked Basil

Chopping fresh basil with specialty sheers. You can also chop with a knife.

Chopping Fresh Herbs

Chopping Fresh Herbs

Fresh herbs in a tray ready to be frozen. You can use an ice cube tray or a special herb tray with a lid.

Fresh Herbs in Tray

Fresh Herbs in Tray

Frozen herbs on a plate before placing in airtight freezer container.

Frozen Herbs

Frozen Herbs

Frozen herb cubes in airtight container to be stored in freezer.

Frozen Herbs

Frozen Herbs

I found out that it is relatively easy to freeze herbs. I picked my herbs and lightly rinsed them. Lightly dry them on a clean towel or paper towel. Chop them with a knife or special herb chopping scissors. Freeze in ice cube trays or in special herb freezing trays. Fill the trays with about 2 Tablespoons of herbs and water. Freeze overnight. Pop out the cubes and place in airtight containers. I would recommend storing your herbs in separate containers so the flavors don’t mix. I have basil and rosemary frozen in my freezer waiting for my next creation.

What will you create with fresh herbs?

Writer: Michelle Treber, M.A., L.D., Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Pickaway County, Heart of Ohio EERA, treber.1@osu.edu

Reviewer: Cheryl Barber Spires, R.D., L.D., West Region Program Specialist, SNAP-Ed, OSU Extension Northwest Region Office, spires.53@osu.edu

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Safe, high quality home canned foods begin with the right equipment, used properly.  Why risk losing your time and food dollar through spoilage?  Check and assemble good equipment before the season begins, then maintain it well.

Check jars and bands.  Discard chipped jars and rusted or distorted bands.

Have pressure gauges checked.  Check with your local Extension office for Food Preservation Workshop or pressure canner gauge testing dates/times.

Check seals on last summer’s produce. canned foods

Make plans to use up last summer’s produce (both frozen and canned) to make room for new products and to prevent waste of food.

Check files to make sure your food preservation information is complete and up-to-date.


  1. I have several peanut butter, pickle and quart-sized mayonnaise jars which I would like to be able to use for canning. Is it safe to use these jars in a boiling water bath canner or a pressure canner?
  2. NO! Use only standard canning jars for home canning as these jars have been specially annealed to withstand the heat necessary in the home canning process. However, these make good refrigerator storage jars, are a perfect solution for your picnic packaging  needs, or can be recycled at your local recycling center.
  3. How long is it safe to store canned food?
  4. For optimum quality of food, plan to use home-canned food within one year. After 1 year, quality of food goes down, but is still safe as long as the seal is still intact and there is no sign of spoilage.  Whatever the age, ALWAYS boil low-acid, pressure canned food a full 10 minutes.  Twenty (20) minutes for corn, spinach and meats) to destroy any botulism toxins.  DO NOT taste prior to boiling.
  5. Which pressure canner is more accurate– the kind with a dial or the one with a weight control?
  6. Both are accurate if used and cared for according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Some people like numbers on a dial; others prefer the sight and sound (“jiggling” noise) of the weight control.
  7. Do I have to use a pressure canner to can low acid foods such as green beans, corn, potatoes, etc.?
  8. YES, YES, YES!!! Low-acid foods must be canned in a pressure canner. Whether food should be processed in a pressure canner or boiling-water canner to control botulinum bacteria depends on the acidity of the food. Acidity may be natural, as in most fruits, or added, as in pickled food. Low-acid canned foods are not acidic enough to prevent the growth of these bacteria. Acid foods contain enough acid to block their growth, or destroy them more rapidly when heated. The term “pH” is a measure of acidity; the lower its value, the more acid the food. The acidity level in foods can be increased by adding lemon juice, citric acid, or vinegar.

Low-acid foods have pH values higher than 4.6. They include red meats, seafood, poultry, milk, and all fresh vegetables except for most tomatoes.  For more information – check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation’s website at http://nchfp.uga.edu/.


OSU Extension’s page on food safety:  http://fcs.osu.edu/food-safety.

National Center for Home Food Preservation – www.http://nchfp.uga.edu/.

Written by:  Cynthia R. Shuster, CFLE, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension, Perry County, Buckeye Hills EERA.

Reviewed by:  Pat Brinkman, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension, Fayette County, Miami Valley EERA.

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Start Your GardenAre you interested in maintaining your weight or even losing a few pounds this spring? Could you use some encouragement and guidance but don’t have time to attend classes? Want tips to help you grow herbs, start a garden or eat more local foods? Does this sound interesting to you?

If so, give our Spring Live Healthy Live Well Email wellness challenge a try.

“Spring Live Healthy Live Well Challenge” is an on-line challenge designed to help adult participants get fit by encouraging regular physical activity, nutrition, and wellness activities. Participants will receive e-communications twice each week, containing nutrition, health and fitness tips. Additional food and activity logs will be available for download to help participants track their progress. They will also have access to supplemental information available on Blogs and Facebook.

Sign up by following this link to enroll: http://go.osu.edu/SpringPick

If you’ve joined us on other challenges, you’ll see new themes during this spring challenge. We will learn about these topics and be encouraged to participate in wellness behaviors.

• Vegetables and Fruits – adding more of these foods to your diet.
• Fitness Focus Tips – finding ways to move more.
• Root Vegetables – trying new recipes for veggies and fruits.
• Local Foods – visiting a Farmers’ Market or the local foods section of your store.
• Gardening – planting an herb, vegetable or fruit in a container or plot garden.
• Seasoning with Herbs – using herbs instead of salt to season foods.
• Sunscreen – wearing sun protection or sunscreen every day.

Once you register, you will be enrolled and begin receiving e-communications starting the week of April 7, 2014. While Facebook™ will be utilized; participants only need to have an email address.

The program is funded by Ohio State University Extension and County Commissioners Cooperating.

Writer: Michelle Treber, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, Heart of Ohio EERA, treber.1@osu.edu

Reviewer: Linnette Goard, Field Specialist, Food Safety, Selection and Management, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension

Reviewer: Marilyn Rabe, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County, Heart of Ohio EERA, rabe.9@osu.edu

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Many people grow a few tomatoes in their backyard.  They can be planted in the landscaping, in a container on your patio, or you may have enough space for a garden.  If you are a home grower you may have more tomatoes than you know what to do with.  Of course, you’re first thought might be to eat them fresh, but if you have grown tired of this here are some ideas to include them in dishes you make.

  • If your recipe calls for peeled and/or seeded tomatoes, hold in boiling water for 30 seconds, plunge into cold water, drain, make a slit in the blossom end and peel skins back.
  • Seed by cutting the tomato in half crosswise and remove seeds with the tip of a knife or spoon.
  • Slice tomatoes the French way, from stem to blossom by doing so they lose less juice.
  • Top with fresh or dried herbs, such as basil, oregano, tarragon, thyme, or curry powder.
  • Stuff large tomatoes with a variety of mixtures such as fish, poultry, egg salad, or cottage cheese.
  • Stuff cherry tomatoes for bite-size appetizers. To prepare, slice off tops and a very thin slice off the bottom, so they will stand well. Remove seeds and juice with a melon scoop. Stuff with your favorite fillings—cream cheese and watercress; tuna and mayonnaise; pulverized peanuts, mayonnaise and curry powder; or avocado, minced onion, and lemon juice.
  • For an elegant salad or appetizer, layer sliced tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, and fresh mozzarella cheese on lettuce. Dress lightly with olive oil.
  • Tomatoes get better and better tasting as you cook them. They are great in entrees that cook a long time or require next day “reheating.”

A four-ounce tomato supplies about one-third of your daily nutrient needs for vitamin C, and a little beta carotene, potassium, folate, iron and fiber.  They also contain lycopene an antioxidant that may reduce the risk of prostate and possibly other cancers.  Lycopene is more easily absorbed in cooked than in raw tomatoes.

If you are interested in preserving some of your tomatoes check out the following fact sheets:

Canning Basics http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/5000/pdf/5338.pdf

Canning Tomatoes http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/5000/pdf/5336.pdf

Canning Tomato Products http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/5000/pdf/5337.pdf

Author:  Linnette Goard, Field Specialist, Food Safety, Selection and Management, Ohio State University Extension.

Reviewed by:  Liz Smith, Extension Education, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension.


Selecting, Storing, and Serving Ohio Tomatoes available at: http://ohioline.osu.edu/hygfact/5000/pdf/5532.pdf

University of California, Berkeley, Wellness Made Easy

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The end of the gardening season brings a variety of healthy foods for your family.  Are you still harvesting corn, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, squash and onions?  What else do you have still growing?  There are many vegetables which are available well into the fall season.

Garden vegetables are naturally high in fiber, low in calories and rich in vitamins and minerals which help you feel healthy and energized.

Healthy ways to cook vegetables:

  • Bake a potato for lunch, top with broccoli and a sprinkle of cheese.
  • Boil turnips and potatoes.  Mash them together and season with salt and pepper.
  • Steam cabbage and season with caraway seed, salt and pepper.
  • Stir Fry zucchinni, yellow squash, tomatoes, and onions with olive oil and fresh herbs.
  • Saute a variety of different colored peppers and serve as a side dish.
  • Roast winter vegetables such as parsnips, turnips, rutagaga, beets, and sweet potato at 350 degrees for about an hour.  Coat lightly with olive oil and fresh herbs and spread in a even layer in a baking sheet.
  • Wrap corn on the cob in aluminum foil and Grill until tender.

Source:  Produce for Better Health Foundation, www.fruitandveggiesmorematters.org

Author:  Linnette Goard, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension.

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