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Posts Tagged ‘in season’

a bowl of fruit salad

Summer is a magnificent season, when outdoor activities abound, and cookouts happen seemingly every weekend. Think of the general spread at a cookout. What comes to mind? Common cookout options include hotdogs, hamburgers, watermelon, chips, dip, and sweets. Unfortunately, many people do not take advantage of the summertime produce available, when it is at its freshest and typically best price. During the summer season, fruits such as watermelon, strawberries, blackberries, cherries, peaches, lemons, and limes are all in peak harvest, as are vegetables such as corn, zucchini, bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers, radishes, and arugula. Summer is the best time to experience all this delicious produce, which is either not widely available, or is more expensive during the other three seasons. One great way to enjoy summer produce is combining colorful fruit into a salad, such as this one from Food Hero. If you want to experiment with seasonal vegetables instead of fruit, Food Hero also offers a template you can use to make a colorful stir-fry.

There are many reasons to consume fruits and vegetables – both in the summer and year-round. Fruits and vegetables are not only flavorful and colorful; they are packed with nutrients vital to our health such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are naturally occurring chemicals in plants which contribute a variety of characteristics to that plant, such as taste, color, and smell. Registered dietitians often recommend eating a “rainbow” of fruits and vegetables because different colored fruits and vegetables contain different phytonutrients. Phytonutrients such as anthocyanins, flavonoids, phenols, carotenoids, and lutein are believed to play a role in health promotion and disease prevention, and research is underway to further examine their potential benefits. Researchers believe one of the main benefits from most phytonutrients is antioxidant activity, which helps rid the body of oxidizing agents that could cause harm. Specifically, flavonoids and Quercetin, found in food such as apples, onions, coffee, and citrus, are thought to help reduce chronic inflammation, and the anthocyanins found in berries and red wine are believed to help reduce blood pressure.

Aside from the potential health benefits associated with phytonutrients, eating a “rainbow” of fruits and vegetables has the added benefit of increasing the variety in ones’ diet, and it has been said that variety is the spice of life! This summer, I encourage you to take the seasonal opportunity to indulge in the large variety of fresh fruits and vegetables that summer is known for because even without additional health benefits, your taste buds will thank you!

Written by Laurence Brandon III, Dietetics Student, Middle Tennessee State University

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

Sources:

Harvard Health (2019). Fill up on phytochemicals. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/fill-up-on-phytochemicals

McManus, K. (2019). Phytonutrients: Paint your plate with the color of the rainbow. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/phytonutrients-paint-your-plate-with-the-colors-of-the-rainbow-2019042516501

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We all know we’re supposed to eat healthy, but how often do we use the excuse that it’s just too expensive? Fresh, perishable food and shelf-stable food can have a vast difference in price. Let’s look at canned tomatoes versus fresh tomatoes. My local grocer carries a national brand of 14.5-ounce canned diced tomatoes for 99 cents. Fresh tomatoes from the same grocery store sell for $2.49 per pound or roughly, $1.40 each. By volume, you end up with about the same amount of product: approximately ½ cup.

Canned tomatoes on a shelf

So why the huge difference in price? At the time of writing this article it’s late February here in Nashville, Tennessee. Tomatoes, being out of season, are going to be more expensive this time of year compared to any other. Have you noticed that tomatoes in February just aren’t as good as tomatoes in July? The tomatoes that get sold in the grocery store throughout the winter are typically grown and harvested in warmer parts of the country, namely Florida. They are picked before they fully ripen; while still green or at what’s called the breaker stage where the tomato is breaking in color from green to yellowish-red. They are then washed, cooled, and stored in warehouses awaiting distribution. This process is costly for the farmer and ultimately those costs are passed on to you, the consumer.

Fresh tomatoes

So why do growers use this procedure instead of allowing tomatoes to ripen on the vine? It would taste better, but the tomatoes would decompose by the time they reached the grocery store shelves. Another reason is to keep up with demand. In the United States we expect to see tomatoes at the grocery store any day of the week, any time of year. Additionally, produce is grown and sold based on how they look and not on how they taste. The trick to eating fresh, great tasting, healthy foods on a budget is eating locally and seasonally. The less time a tomato (or any produce) spends traveling from the farm to your plate, the more nutrients it retains. When fruits and vegetables start to decompose, so do those beneficial nutrients. We may have to wait until the summer to enjoy a juicy tomato around here but in the meantime, our local farmers are producing hearty root vegetables and nutrient-dense leafy greens. Skip the expensive, mealy grocery store tomato and enjoy this sweet potato and kale with grits dish instead. Check your local farmer’s markets for seasonally available foods in your area. It will be lighter on the wallet and heavier on the nutrition.

Sources:

Boyhan, G. E., & Coolong, T. (2019, April 01). Commercial Tomato Production Handbook. Retrieved March 1, 2021, from https://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.html?number=B1312

Harper, J., & Orzolek, M. (2021, February 25). Tomato production. Retrieved March 1, 2021, from https://extension.psu.edu/tomato-production

Staff, N., & Estabrook, B. (2011, July 09). The troubled history of the Supermarket tomato. Retrieved March 1, 2021, from https://www.npr.org/2011/07/09/137623954/the-troubled-history-of-the-supermarket-tomato

Eggs over kale and sweet Potato GRITS. (n.d.). Retrieved March 1, 2021, from https://www.myplate.gov/recipes/myplate-cnpp/eggs-over-kale-and-sweet-potato-grits

Author: Bridget Russell, Senior Dietetics Student, Middle Tennessee State University, ber3h@mtmail.mtsu.edu

Reviewer: Amanda Bohlen, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Washington County, bohlen.19@osu.edu

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