Tuesday, April 25, 2017

In-Season Fruits & Vegetables

One of the best parts of summer is that many of the fruits and vegetables that we have missed are back in season. They are a tasty way to spice up your daily diet. It is important to know what produce you should be taking advantage of during the months of June, July, and August. Not only is this the time they will be tasting the best, but it is a great way to incorporate nutrient-dense foods into your diet.
Pinterest is a particularly helpful resource when it comes to finding healthy recipes. You can create a Pinterest account for free and add recipes to a “board.” That way, you can always refer back to it whenever you are ready to try a new recipe. If you need additional inspiration, the Health Education Resource Center (HERC) has a recipe page at the following link: http://www.eiu.edu/herc/nutrition.php. Summer is the perfect time to be testing out new recipes. You can even take a healthy recipe to a picnic or 4th of July gathering.
One question many people ask is how to properly clean produce. It is common knowledge that there are may be some harmful substances present in the soil and water during the growing process. Poor hygiene may also be a factor during the harvesting, packing, and transportation of the produce.

How to wash fruits/veggies:
  • Once home, store perishable fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator (at 40 degrees F or below) until you're ready to use them. Always store precut fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator, too.

  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after handling fresh produce.

  • Use a sharp paring knife to cut away any damaged or bruised areas of the fruit or vegetable.
  • Wash the produce before you peel it. That way, contaminants will not be transferred from your knife to the fruit or vegetable.
  • Hold the fruit or vegetable under cool running tap water, gently rubbing it as you rinse it.
  • For firm produce, such as melons and winter squash, use a clean vegetable brush to scrub the surface as you rinse it.
  • Produce with bumpy, uneven surfaces, such as cauliflower and broccoli, should be soaked for 1 to 2 minutes in cold water to remove contaminants from the nooks and crannies.
  • Use a clean cloth or paper towel to dry the produce before using it.
How to wash salad greens:
  • For leafy lettuces, such as green or red-tip leaf, butterhead, and romaine as well as endive, remove and discard the root end. Separate leaves and hold them under cold running water to remove any dirt.
  • For smaller greens, such as spinach and arugula, swirl them in a bowl or a clean sink filled with cold water about 30 seconds. Remove the leaves and shake gently to let dirt and other debris fall into the water. Repeat the process if necessary. Drain in a colander.
  • For iceberg lettuce, remove the core by hitting the stem end on the countertop; twist and lift out the core. (Do not use a knife to cut out the core, as this can cause the lettuce to brown). Hold the head, core side up under cold running water, pulling leaves apart slightly. Invert the head and drain thoroughly. Repeat if necessary.
  • For mesclun (a mixture of young, small salad greens often available in bulk at farmers markets), rinse in a colander or the basket of a salad spinner.
Health Education Resource Center
The Health Education Resource Center (HERC) is a great resource to use if you are interested in more information on healthy eating. The HERC even offers one-on-one nutrition consultations. The office is located in the Booth House on 4th Street. During the summer, the office is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and Friday's from 8 a.m. to noon.  For more information call (217) 581-7786 or e-mail herc@eiu.edu.

For more information on food safety, please visit: https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/types/fruits/tipsfreshprodsafety.html.

If you are interested in exploring seasonality of other fruits and vegetables, go to: https://cookingmatters.org/tips/savor-seasonal-fruits-vegetables.

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