Fall is just around the corner and so is pear season! Pears look a lot like apples and have a unique taste that is sweet and delicious. Asian pears (which are round and yellow or brown) are best eaten when they’re still crispy, but most pears are better when they’re ripe and juicy. Pears ripen best once they are off the tree, so you can buy them at any stage of ripeness. Keep them at room temperature until they feel a little soft and smell sweet. Once they are ripe, store them in the refrigerator. Ripe pears are excellent snacks and are also great in fruit salad or baked for a side or dessert. Try adding a sliced pear to a sandwich. However you prepare them, enjoy the delicious taste of pears this fall!
Zucchini is just like yellow summer squash but it’s green. It has a mild flavor, gets tender when you cook it, and makes a great side dish. Look for firm zucchini, and choose smaller ones because they have better flavor and smaller seeds inside. To prepare zucchini, cut off the ends and chop or slice it. Zucchini is great sautéed, steamed, roasted, or grilled. To grill zucchini, cut it into thick, flat, even slices and brush it with a little oil to keep it from sticking. Try cooking it with fresh herbs like basil or rosemary. Enjoy zucchini on its own or with other summer vegetables like tomato, onion, and eggplant!
Tomatoes are here! Buy fresh, juicy tomatoes at farmers’ markets or roadside stands. Many grocery stores also feature locally-grown tomatoes. The flavor can’t be beat! Look for tomatoes that are soft – not too firm or mushy – and are deep red in color. Chop or slice them for salads, dice them for salsa, or eat them whole like apples. Roast them to make your own oven-dried tomatoes. Or buy extra and make tomato sauce for freezing. Be sure to peel them before making a sauce – make an “X” on the end of each tomato and drop them in boiling water for a minute to loosen the skins. Tomatoes are rich in nutrition and are now at their very best!
Beets are a dark red root vegetable with an earthy, sweet flavor. They get their deep color from antioxidants, which may protect you from cancer and heart disease. Look for beets that are hard, with no soft spots. Sometimes beets still have the greens attached, which you can cook and eat just like other greens. The beets last for weeks loosely wrapped in plastic and refrigerated, although you should eat the greens within a day or two. When you’re ready to cook the beets, scrub them well and leave on an inch of greens to stop the juice from leaking. Be careful with the juice because it stains. To cook beets, you can wrap them in foil and bake them; peel, cut, and roast them; boil or steam them; or grate them and make a beet “pancake.” Beets are also great in salads, either raw or cooked!
Leafy green vegetables like lettuce, spinach, collard greens, and kale will be showing up at farmers’ markets this month. These vegetables have lots of fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, and many other vitamins and minerals. There are a huge variety of greens, each with their own flavor. Avoid wilted or discolored leaves when shopping. How you use these greens depends on the type. Some are good for salads, some are best in soups, while others are good for sautéing. “Baby” greens, like baby spinach, are young and tender, making them better for salads. Ask your grocer or the farmer how to best prepare the greens they sell, and soon you’ll be enjoying the great taste and nutrition of greens!
It’s mango season in Central and South America, and you will start to see them on sale at your local grocery stores. Mangoes are a good source of fiber, and they are an excellent source of vitamin C – one cup of mango has more than half the vitamin C you need in a day! When buying mangoes, check for firmness; mangoes soften as they ripen. Once a mango is ripe, put it in the fridge to prevent rotting. To prepare a mango, cut each half along the flat side of the pit. Next, cut just the flesh (not the skin) into squares. Then, turn it “inside out” so the cubes of mango “pop” out. Cut or pull off the cubes and enjoy them in salsa, in fruit salads, or as a sweet, juicy snack!
Banana trees actually produce fruit year-round, so it’s always banana season! Bananas are a good source of fiber, potassium, and vitamin C. You can buy bananas at any stage of ripeness, from dark green to yellow with brown spots. Bananas get sweeter and softer as they ripen, and they ripen well at room temperature. Simply leave them out until they get as ripe as you want them. You can put them into the fridge to stop ripening, but the skins will turn black. Bananas are great as an on-the-go snack and in fruit salads, smoothies, and cereal, but you can also cook with them. Very ripe bananas are good in breads and muffins, and bananas that are ripe but not too soft can be baked for an easy healthy dessert. Enjoy the sweet taste of bananas all year long!