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Eating Locally And Seasonally Is Easy
Regardless whether your produce comes from your garden, the local farmer’s market or your fav grocery store, it is incredibly fun to cook with fresh fruits and veggies. Certain times of the year, our gardens offer us an even larger variety of produce to choose from which makes our time in the kitchen (or out on the grill) even more fun!
The fresh delights to choose from are practically never-ending. From tomatoes to strawberries, squash to blueberries, it’s all colorful and incredibly delicious.
No matter the season though, you can find many types of fresh greens, yellows, purples and reds to dress up your family meals. For this slow food vegetarian, eating seasonally is the way to go. Not only am I saving a ton of money but I am also allowing my body to get a variety of nutrients throughout the year.
Here are a few favorites to look out for:
- 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.
- Peaches – About the only time of year you will spot peaches is in the summer and farmers markets will be loaded. This is because they are hard to transport due to their delicate nature. Another benefit of buying peaches locally is fewer pesticides which means a sweeter
- Asparagus – Asparagus is high in vitamin K, selenium, folate, vitamin B1 and B2 and copper. When you cook asparagus, it is recommended you only sauté it for 3-5 minutes in order to ensure it does not lose its nutritional powers.
- Cucumber – Cucumbers add lots of hydration and a nice crunch to your salads. Due to their high-water content cucumbers are perfect for combatting the hot summer weather and provide nourishment to your skin.
- Okra – Okra is a good source of antioxidants and high in fiber to help keep you regular. This versatile vegetable can be baked, roasted or used in salads and soups. Cook the whole pod to avoid the natural slimy texture.
The best part about eating seasonally 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 don’t need to be picked early in order to survive the long transport to the grocery stores. Farmers markets are great too because they offer more variety and abundance than grocery stores which also help reduce costs.
Fun & Creative Ways To Use Fresh Produce
Many months, the abundance of fresh produce gives you a chance to make meals that do not require heating up your kitchen.
Here are a few refreshing ways to use fresh produce
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.
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. When summer is 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 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 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.
Soup and Salad Are Perfect For Easy Suppers
When the day has been a long one, the last thing anyone wants to do is slave in the kitchen or turn the oven on. If it is scorching hot outside and the only thing the body is craving is a way to cool down with some nourishment, cold soup is totally the way to go.
In fact, salad and soup are the perfect options to make when your time is crunched but you still want to prepare as nutritious a meal as possible. The best part is that they are both easy to prepare and can be used with as many or as little ingredients as you like.
Salads are perfect for any time of the year; not just because they help you cool down but because of the variety of produce that is available each season. Arugula, corn, cucumber, zucchini, and tomatoes are only a few favorites from the list to choose from. They are also very easy to make because you can simply pick your favorite vegetables and even fruit, put them together and you have a salad.
Lemons, limes and other citrus fruits are perfect for dressing as well.
Salads are perfect on their own or paired with protein like black beans, chicken, or salmon. Honestly, the variety is endless and can be tailored to your own preferences.
Try a loose leaf salad with red onions, strawberries, blueberries, and tuna for a sweet and flavorful twist. To really enjoy a summer salad, try a simple heirloom tomato salad with red onion, grilled chicken and freshly chopped basil and parsley. In the winter, how about a spinach salad with apples, pomegranate seeds and feta cheese?
Most cold soups only require a food processor or high-speed blender. You can get even richer cold soups by cooking some potatoes or other vegetables and chilling the soup overnight. To keep cold soups healthy and full of nutrients, avoid heavy creams or other dairy products and stick to in-season and locally grown produce. If you want a thicker and more satisfying cold soup, blend in avocado to replace the dairy.
For a quick and refreshing gazpacho recipe, all you will need are three tomatoes, two cucumbers, one green bell pepper, one red bell pepper, a small red onion and a few cloves garlic. Peel, de-seed and dice all the ingredients and add to a blender with three cups of tomato juice. Blend until smooth and season with salt and pepper.
IMHO, hot soup is just as easy to make as cold soup – provided you choose simple recipes. One of my favorites is a vegetable bean soup using Bob’s Red Mill 13-bean soup mix. I throw in carrots, celery, onion, garlic, tomatoes (or tomato paste), veggie sausage (brands vary based on what I have in the freezer at the time), salt, pepper, and veggie broth. Depending on my mood, I will also add potatoes, parsley, thyme, and/or a pinch of cayenne pepper.
I like to start the beans early on Slow Cook in my Instant Pot because it makes the house smell so good. Closer to dinner, I will throw the veggies in and cook on Manual long enough to cook the veggies. I have noticed when I do not cook the veggies all day, they hold their texture better and give the soup a slightly crunchy texture.
As you can see, there are plenty of options available to use your fresh produce in that is light and refreshing. Salads, infused water, soups, smoothies, and juices all offer variety and are relatively easy to put together.
With the large variety of fruits and vegetables available in every season, 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 it. Use the fruits and vegetables available this season to make you and your family smoothies, salads, juices and soups!