Refreshing Ways To Use Your Fresh Produce

As summer approaches that means the produce from your garden or the  farmers markets only get better but that also means the weather gets hotter. Luckily there are plenty of ways to keep cool by utilizing the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Here are a few refreshing ways to use fresh produce:  

Salads

A salad is easy to prepare, just grab your favorite greens, throw in some fresh fruit like apples or strawberries and drizzle over a nice vinaigrette for a refreshing meal or snack. You can even skip the vinaigrette and use some lemons or limes as a healthier alternative. For a kick try adding jalapeno peppers from a jar.

Infused Water

Adding fruits or vegetables to your water can turn boring water into a delicious and refreshing treat. There are plenty of water bottles that have infusers now that make it easy to take with you.

The most popular choice is to infuse water with cucumbers and mint. Peel and slice a cucumber, grab a few mint leaves and add it to a large mason jar or pitcher. Pour water over the cucumbers and mint leaves, stir and refrigerate for at least four hours to get the best flavor.

Cold Soups

If you are looking for a savory and heartier meal that is refreshing and not heavy then cold soups should be your go to. With summer in full force, the best ingredient to utilize for cold soups is tomatoes. To keep it light avoid recipes that include heavy creams or other dairy products.

Smoothies

Smoothies can be refreshing, super filling and a great way to get some greens without the strong taste. They are also easy to put together and only require a few ingredients. A strawberry watermelon smoothie is a refreshing choice for the summer. Add one cup of watermelon, half a cup of frozen strawberries, half of a banana, and a fourth of a cup of almond milk to a blender and mix.

Juice

Juice is a great way to get a large boost of vitamins and helps you to cool off in the summer. To get the best benefits and to avoid too much sugar go for juice that incorporate both fruits and vegetables. Cucumber, apple, and kale is a good choice.

As you can see, there are plenty of options available to use up fresh produce that is light and refreshing. Salads, infused water, cold soups, smoothies, and juices all offer variety and are relatively easy to put together.

Share your favorite ideas for using your fresh produce in the comments below.

Eating Local And Seasonal In Summer Is Easy

Summer is here! The gardens are growing and producing.  Also your local farmer’s markets are open and packed full of fresh fruits and vegetables. Summer is the season of abundance and the time to make fresh and simple meals to stay cool and hydrated. It is by far the easiest time of year to support your local economy by buying and eating seasonal fruits and vegetables locally. Also it’s the best time of year for growing your own food and saving money.

If you ever wanted to hop on the trend of growing your own food and eating locally and in season then summertime is the perfect time to do it. Farmers markets have just opened their doors and have an abundance of produce provided by local farmers. The delights to choose from during the summer are practically never-ending. From tomatoes to strawberries and summer squash to blueberries it’s all colorful and delicious.

The following are a few favorites to look out for this season:

  • Carrots – Carrots are high in fiber, vitamin A, and beta-carotene which helps support eye health and regulates blood sugar. To get the most nutrients from this vegetable simply eat it raw. Orange isn’t the only color to look out for there are also purple, red, and yellow carrots.
  • Peas – Peas are a great addition to your menu. There is the regular garden peas plus there is the snow peas with the edible pods. They’re both full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients.
  • Leafy Greens – Greens for your fresh salads like lettuce, baby kale and swiss chard. A bowl full of leafy greens can do wonders for your overall health and there is such a huge variety of edible greens in the summer.
  • Cucumber – Cucumbers add lots of hydration and a nice crunch to your salads. Due to their high-water content cucumbers are perfect for combating the hot summer weather and provide nourishment to your skin.
  • Tomatoes – There is nothing like a vine ripened tomato! There is not only the red tomatoes but yellow, orange purple and even a green striped one! They come in all sizes from the cherry tomatoes to the big beefsteak varieties. Not only are they delicious and nutritious but they have outstanding antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities.

The best part about growing and eating your own food or eating seasonal and local produce is that it’s extremely affordable and provides the best nutrients and flavor. Local produce offers the highest vitamins and nutrients because they require little transportation compared to produce at grocery stores. Farmers markets also have more variety and abundance compared to grocery stores which help eliminate costs.

With the large variety of fruits and vegetables in season during summer, your menu options will never end, and you will stay satisfied. It is also a great way to stay healthy and lose a few pounds if you need too. Eat the fruits and vegetables this season raw or use them to make smoothies, salads, juices and even cold soups.

Important Dos and Don’ts When Planting Your First Vegetable Garden

What often draws people to gardening is the thought of all the fresh vegetables they can have. This is a wonderful thing, to be able to grow your own produce and some vegetables are very easy to grow. However, there are also some mistakes that people tend to make when planting vegetables for the first time. Here are some important dos and don’ts to follow.

Dos:

Do choose a good planting location. To start with, make sure you are planting the vegetables in the right location. It is best that you start small, since that helps you better manage the space and choose a good location. You need to know about the types of vegetables you intend to plant first so you know if they need full sunlight or partial shade. Don’t try to plant too many vegetables at once, but stick to a few of the easy ones, like lettuce, peas and beans.

Do use the right soil. It is also good for beginners to understand what type of soil is best for vegetables. Typically, you want to have have a nice loamy soil  aiming for a combination of 20% clay, 40% sand, and 40% silt for plants to thrive in. Adding some organic matter and compost is a good way to enrich your soil making it unnecessary to do much feeding or fertilizing later in the gardening season.

Do extend your growing season and protect your more tender plants like tomatoes and peppers. Another good thing to do when starting a vegetable garden is to be prepared with some type of cover to protect your more tender plants when it starts to get cold. You may still have ripening fruit on the plants but it is going to get ruined due to the icy chill coming in. Throw some old blankets or sheets over them so they can still continue to ripen and grow.

Don’ts:

Don’t try to pack everything in. It is often tempting to use up as much garden space for fitting in lots of produce, but this isn’t always a good thing. Plants need adequate space to grow to their full potential and you need to be able to easily access the plants to keep them weeded and for harvesting. If things are too crowded and it is difficult to get around you are more tempted to just let things be and you end up with less of a harvest. You can use trellises to grow things up instead of out. This allows you to have vertical gardens with more vegetables, which will take up less space. Just make sure you have proper support for them when you try vertical gardening.

Don’t try to just wing it.  Planning your garden and what you will be growing helps for having success at growing your vegetables. Also there is lots of information out there and folks willing to help you out (join a local garden club) For Help go to www.GardeningForFoodsecurity.com