Healthy Food Bites to Go: Summer Eats
This year, in the New York area, it feels like spring never officially sprang. Cooler, cloudier wetter temperatures than in previous years seem to have overshadowed May flowers. I missed many of the harbingers of spring this year – the scent of freshly cut grass, the spring jingle of the seasonal ice cream truck and all the obvious hints that the chilly days of winter had long passed. But my thoughts are shifting quickly to the soon-to-be summer eating season. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, summer doesn’t officially begin this year until June 20th but there are a bushel full of ways to keep the palette cool as a cucumber, even before the hot days of summer arrive.
How many fruits and vegetables did you eat yesterday? Hmmm, if you can count those on one hand I have some tips for accessing some of the best tasting produce of the season in the coming months. While school is out for the summer, be stronger than your excuses and stay dedicated to getting the recommended 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Eat more veggies and fill half your plate with live produce or lightly prepared fruits and vegetables that pack a nutrient punch. Think in terms of eating for color this summer. If there is no color on your plate or inside your burrito, rethink your selection and substitute some of those muted beige and white foods for a rich, colorful burst of essential nutrients.
Summer is perhaps the best time to get playful in the kitchen. While we’re prone to be just as busy with our lives and activities, the beauty of summer gives us reason to pause. Whether or not you cook or opt to assemble fresh food prepared elsewhere, the bounty of produce made available in the summer months provides delicious excuses to add-in and crowd-out meals with newly harvested plant-based whole foods.
The range of nutrient dense fruits and vegetables made available in the next three months is enormous and most of them require only the minimum amount of effort to prepare. The delightfully haunting flavors of summer – juicy, drip-down your chin peaches, crunchy Kirby cucumbers, sweet corn-on-the-cob and vine-ripened tomatoes are just a few summer fruits and vegetables popping up produce aisles, in soon-to-reopen farm stands, yet-to-launch casual veggie-centric local restaurants and farm-to-table food initiatives already under way.
Scarsdale Public Library (scarsdalelibrary.org) is involved in bringing you a better way to eat through their small farm local produce pick-up service in partnership with Field GoodsTM (field-goods.com). Other delivery locations include Bedford Hills, Croton-on-Hudson, Katonah, Elmsford, Mt.Kisco, New Rochelle, White Plains, Tuckahoe and Tarrytown. Eighty local no-GMO farms that use sustainable farming practices are contributing over 150 varieties of fruits and vegetables to this year-round subscription service. Bags brimming with seasonal produce are delivered weekly and bi-weekly. Examples of spring produce might include: spicy salad mix, cherries, swiss chard, sugar snap peas, fiddleheads and orange beets. Summer selections can include: Heirloom tomatoes, frying peppers, graffiti eggplant, white peaches, curly parsley and celery. If you have questions about this service contact Info@Field-Goods.com.
I was excited to learn that CHOP’T Creative Salad Company is opening a 3500 square foot location, its’ largest in Westchester this fall in Scarsdale’s Golden Horseshoe Shopping Center. Another much welcomed addition in Scarsdale this month is Organic Pharmer, a vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, corn-free and egg-free grab-and-go health food eatery, currently open in Rye. They feature freshly pressed juices, homemade nut milks, soups, quinoa sushi, shakes and more. My new favorite item in the shop is their wheat-free Organic Pharmer bread made from sunflower and flax seeds, almonds, gluten-free oats, coconut oil and fiber-fueled psyllium husk. I top mine at home with made-from-scratch hummus, sautéed greens and thin slices of Meyer lemon. I also love to toast it and cover it with a favorite raw, organic cashew spread cinnamon and omega-rich hemp seeds.
Here in the lower Hudson Valley, Westchester’s listing of farmers markets is extensive. A quick search online reveals most get going in May and June, continuing through early fall. It’s always neighborly to support the nearest farm stand where you live for at least some fresh produce during the summer months. Then there is the excitement of discovering green markets and stands that have been given the distinction of BEST and VERY BEST by discerning market goers. whattododigital.com has come out with a Local Farmers Markets and Farm Stands 2016 for Westchester, with a nod to Connecticut.
Their top picks are Saturday morning markets that include:
Pleasantville Farmers Market (pleasantvillefarmersmarket.org), is lauded THE VERY BEST and largest market in Westchester, featuring live music, children’s activities and dozens of vendors – many gluten-free.
Hastings Outdoor Farmers Market (hastingsfarmersmarket.org), located at the Hastings Library, is touted one of THE BEST in Westchester with kid’s yoga, crafts, live music, flowers and dozens of participating vendors.
Homestead Farmer’s Market receives a BEST nod as well, set on the grounds of the John Jay Historic Site in Katonah. Martha Stewart is said to be a regular at the market which along with fruit and vegetables brings in 20+ local purveyors selling everything from pizza and seafood to gelato.
If you prefer to buy your vegetables at a supermarket or green market, keep in mind that as you enter the market, what’s hyper-local is often right by the entrance and keeps changing with the season. You can stock up on healthy produce options without stretching your wallet.
- Look for sales on seasonal produce. Check the store’s weekly flyer.
- The absolute best time to buy affordable organic fruit and vegetables is at the peak of the growing season. As the season progresses, there’s more available and the price has a tendency to shift downward, sometimes dramatically.
- Freeze fruits and vegetables in season and enjoy them year-round. They are best eaten within six months of freezing.
Whether or not you eat like a locavore, head into the summer season with the intention of eating more single ingredient real foods – especially nutrient dense fruits and vegetables. Trader Joe’s just launched a single ingredient vegetable chip called JUST BEETS. There is a kind of ‘halo of health’ surrounding packaged vegetable chips. Most retailers pump out versions with unnecessary added oil, sugar and salt. This beet chip is just beets. Fresh beets are blanched in boiling water and dehydrated at low temperatures to remove 97% of the water. They are perfect crumbled over other produce, served as a sandwich topper (move over, Fritos®!) or eaten right out of the bag.
With the incredible abundance of fresh produce in local markets, it’s the ideal time to get more into healthy eating. Local produce makes a lot of sense. Just-picked produce packs more nutrients than what you will find year-round in grocery stores. Fruits and veggies grown close to home are harvested when ripe, or just beforehand, so health-promoting vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants are most present. Local food just tastes better too because it has not traveled for days cross-country in refrigerated trucks. It’s healthier for the environment because local food uses less fossil fuel for transport. Each season delivers delicious new flavors that coax the body into feeling fully charged and as alive and radiant as the produce itself.