"Good food is very often, even most often, simple food." — Anthony Bourdain
Summer is my favorite time to eat. Others may enjoy when the temperature cools down and comfort foods make a debut, but I love to eat straight out of the garden as much as I can.
Fresh salsas, crunchy salads, bruschetta (my favorite!) and sweet summer fruits dominate my plates and bowls. Eating locally and seasonally also gives me an opportunity to feed my body and fuel my workouts.
Fresh is best when it comes to nutrient retention. One study I read found that anywhere from 35 - 85% of the original vitamin C content in pre-packaged salad greens was lost over the first 10 days.
The loss of nutrients seems to begin at the time you pick it as water and heat are released. Water-soluble vitamins in particular (like Vitamin C) are lost during the handling, transportation and storage of the produce. (Note, if you can't eat it right away, freeze it as soon as possible)
Vitamin C is necessary for the production of collagen. Collagen is the most common protein in our body and provides the structure for most of our body, including bones, skin, tendons and ligaments.
Try this: Asian Snap Pea Salad with Sesame-Orange Dressing. (I add grilled chicken to make it a meal.)
Fruits and vegetables are found in abundance at farmer's markets and great sources of fiber, potassium and phytonutrients. Fiber keeps our bowels functioning properly and is linked to reduced cardiovascular disease risk.
Try this: Stone Fruit Chicken-Rice Salad
Potassium helps maintain a healthy blood pressure and phytonutrients (flavonoids, antioxidants, carotenoids are examples) are believed to protect against some cancers, inflammation and heart disease.
Fruits and veggies are also mostly water. Adding more of these to our diet in the summer helps maintain proper hydration.
Try this: Cucumber-Feta Salsa with Pita Chips
“summer was everything good to eat; it was a thousand colors in a parched landscape; but most of all, summer was Dill." —Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird
Part of the joy of summer cooking for me is less cooking. Hence the reason that salads and salsas dominate the weekly meal plan. While less stove-top time makes me happy, researchers in New Zealand found that eating raw fruits and veggies was linked to better mental health than eating those which were processed.
Lastly, eating locally and seasonally means we’re getting a lot less of what we don’t need - the added sugar, salt and saturated fat that comes along with processed foods.
Try this: Fruit Salad with Limoncello (I skip the banana, so, so good with just berries).
Eating local and eating seasonally can also be better for our communities and planet. Why? Local food doesn’t require the same refrigeration, processing, preservation or transportation that mass-produced produce requires. That means fewer carbon emissions and less pollution.
Supporting local farmers and gardeners helps preserve greenspaces and farmland. Smaller farmers can often offer more varieties of produce which can help maintain or increase biodiversity. Our purchases support the local economy and jobs within our region.
"I could never in a hundred summers get tired of this." —Susan Branch
I could never in a hundred summers get tired of a basic tomato bruschetta. Combine the ingredients below in a pretty bowl and serve this one on top of grilled sourdough or French bread that has been brushed with olive oil and rubbed with a garlic clove.
1.5 cups chopped tomatoes
4 tablespoons chopped basil
2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (or drizzle with a balsamic glaze right before eating)
4 teaspoons olive oil
½ teaspoon of sea salt
Happy Summer Eating!