It’s July and a wonderful month for eating locally. Farmers have worked their magic in the fields, and fruits and vegetables are showing up at farmers’ markets and farm stands that may not yet be ready in your home garden.
This month, look for beans, beets, beet greens, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, collard greens, garlic, fresh herbs, lettuce, mustard greens, onions, peas, potatoes, radishes, spinach, Swiss chard, tomatoes, summer squash, zucchini, blueberries, sweet and tart cherries, peaches, plums, raspberries and strawberries. These fruits and vegetables are easy to find and at their peak of flavor, freshness and nutrition.
Looking for some new ideas to prepare this wonderful produce? Consider grilling. All the vegetables and fruits listed above can be grilled, and I’ve personally grilled most of them. The key is to get creative. Use marinades, skewers, grilling baskets or flat grates and enjoy the flavor that grilling brings to fruits and vegetables. Grilling makes fruits and vegetables sweeter because the natural sugar is caramelized by heat, and even more bitter foods like collard greens are sweet and flavorful when grilled.
Use grilled vegetables as a side dish on their own, on sandwiches or burgers, in cold salads with greens or healthy grains like brown rice or multi-grain pasta, as a topping for pasta dishes, stuffed in a pita with hummus, rolled in a wrap with lean meats, added to your favorite pasta sauce or as toppings on homemade pizza.
Use grilled fruit as dessert, as a topping for ice cream or shortcake or added to a green salad tossed with a sweet vinaigrette dressing like raspberry.
Prepping produce to grill is easy too. Beans, peas, leafy greens, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries don’t need much prep other than to wash them and lightly brush them with your favorite oil. Slice beets and microwave or boil them until they soften just a bit. Because they are such hard root vegetables they take a long time on the grill and pre-cooking them helps to shorten the grill time. Broccoli can be chopped into florets and stem pieces and tossed with olive oil before putting them in a grill basket. Slice cabbage and brush with oil before grilling. Carrots can be sliced length wise and grilled — sometimes grilled carrots are called Bunny Dogs (instead of hotdogs). Grill garlic like you would roast it in the oven. Cut off about one quarter of the head of garlic and drizzle it with olive oil, then place it in an aluminum foil pouch and roast it on the grill until the garlic has softened. Slice tomatoes in half, brush with olive oil and grill. These are delicious added to pasta. Summer squash and zucchini can be cut into rounds or cut long. These vegetables taste great when you marinade them before grilling. The possibilities and flavor combinations are endless.
Jen Reardon is a registered dietitian nutritionist who leads the Western Region EFNEP program for Cornell Cooperative Extension and owns Nutrition By Design.