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By Harper Finch
Thanks to greenhouses, you can find summer vegetables in your grocery store year-round, but they tend to taste their best when eaten during their season.
Below are some of my favorite summer vegetables and some suggestions on how to prepare them. If you have room for a garden, get these planted this spring so you can enjoy fresh, organic, home-grown vegetables all summer long.
A leafy green, arugula has more nutrients than many types of lettuce. It is a rich source of calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and iron. It is thought to protect against certain types of cancer. It contains only 4 calories per cup.
Eating arugula in its different states gives you varied health benefits. Cooking it gently, or eating it with a little fat, such as olive oil, allows you to absorb more of the nutrients. Eating it raw will give you more cancer-prevention benefits.
Arugula is typically mildly flavored but larger leaf varieties can have a more peppery taste than the smaller, softer-leaf variety.
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#2) Bell Peppers
Bell peppers are at their peak in August and September. They are a great source of Vitamin A, which is essential to eyesight. They are also rich in folate, vitamin K, and fiber. One cup provides 100% of the daily value of vitamin C. One cup of chopped pepper contains between 30 and 40 calories.
Bell peppers are sweet and crunchy. When sliced into strips, they are a perfect substitute for chips and make a great addition to your veggie tray. Peppers are great stuffed with your favorite rice and meat blends, roasted, or grilled. To roast sweet peppers, just clean the seeds out and place them on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake them in a 425-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Then, remove the pan from the oven, enclose the peppers in the foil, and let them stand for approximately 15 minutes to cool. The skins can be removed with a knife.
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One cup of eggplant has only 35 calories. It is a good source of fiber, which can help you lower your cholesterol, control your blood sugar, and help you feel fuller longer to help you lose weight.
Because of it’s texture, eggplant is a great meat alternative for many vegetarian recipes. Try a stir-fried eggplant recipe or grill eggplant steaks with a little garlic, basil, thyme, olive oil and balsamic vinegar for a tasty side dish. Steaming eggplant is a particularly healthy preparation method, but you should avoid frying it since it tends to absorb a lot of oil.
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#4) Summer Squash
Summer squash, including yellow squash and zuchinnni, is freshest and at its most plentiful between May and July. They are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, folate, and omega-3 fatty acids. They also provide protein and several B vitamins.
Since the rind of summer squash can be eaten, look for produce that has smooth, thin skin. My favorite way to prepare summer squash is to cut it into strips, drizzle with olive oil, and grill them until they reach the desired texture. You can bread slices and bake them in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Summer squash is also great raw, sliced thin, and added to salads.
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#5) Sweet Corn
Sweet corn is one of the top vegetables of the summer. It is best immediately after it is picked because the longer it sits around, the more it loses its sweetness.
One large ear of sweet corn has only 120 calories and only 1.93 grams of fat. It is a great source of fiber and protein–it has nearly 5 grams of protein per ear! It is also a good source of potassium and folate, which is important for women during their reproductive years.
The easiest ways to cook corn is to boil or steam it until the kernels are tender. Sweet corn is delicious grilled with the husks on or off on meduim-high heat for about 15 minutes. Once cooked, you can slice the kernels off the cob and use them in salads, rice dishes, or soups.
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