Nutrition

Fresh, Local Produce is in Season

By Michelle Leonetti
Dietetic Intern

Summer is the time for fresh vegetables and herbs! The northeast has a large variety of produce that comes alive in the summer months. Eating local vegetables in season ensures a fresher, more nutritious product and lowers the environmental impact. Check out local farmers markets, roadside farm stands or even join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group!

Learn more about 6 of our favorite summer veggies!

Basil

Basil is a green leafy herb with a sweet and spicy flavor. This versatile herb can be used to add a kick to anything from tomato sauce to sandwiches and can be dried as a seasoning for meat and vegetables. It is especially high in vitamin K, which is important for blood clotting.

        Serving Suggestion – Pesto

basil montage

  • Basil is most commonly used as the main ingredient in pesto sauce. Combine basil with olive oil, garlic, Parmesan cheese and pine nuts for a savory sauce. Basil in short supply? Use half spinach to add bulk, while maintaining the color and flavor. Many kinds of nuts like walnuts and almonds can be substituted for the pine nuts. Add roasted red peppers for a twist on a classic pesto!

        Serving Suggestion – Caprese Salad

  • For light refreshing summer snack combine tomato, basil and mozzarella and finish with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar!

Summer Squash/Zucchini

Summer squash comes in two varieties: yellow and green. The green variety is also known as zucchini. Summer squash is lighter than winter squashes like pumpkins and butternut squash.

Serving Suggestion – Zucchini “Noodles”

  • Use a vegetable peeler, spiral slicer or a mandolin to cut the squash into thin strips for a lighter, more nutritious spin on pasta. Add any sauce or seasoning that you would add to regular pasta. We recommend the pesto sauce above!

Beets

Beets are a great way to bring color into your diet. These bright red root vegetables can be eaten in a variety of ways including shredded, roasted, boiled, juiced or even pickled! You can also add the greens to a vegetable stir-fry to reduce waste and get the most out of your produce. Beets are especially high in folate and magnesium as well as a variety of other vitamins and minerals.

Serving Suggestion – Roasted Beets

  • Roast in the oven with olive oil and spices; slice and top with goat cheese and walnuts for a warm melty treat.

Eggplant

Eggplant is a versatile vegetable that can be used in many types of cooking because the spongy texture quickly absorbs the flavor of what it’s prepared with. Though mostly known for its deep purple color, some varieties come in indigo or even white. “Graffiti” eggplant is somewhere in-between!

 Serving Suggestion – Grilled Eggplant

  • Slice thinly, marinate with a bit of olive oil and your favorite seasonings and throw on the grill along with your burgers and hot dogs for a tasty and healthy addition to your BBQ!

Sweet Corn

Corn is a staple in many households and is a summer classic. Corn is native to North America and has evolved significantly in the past few centuries to become the crop we know today. Although sweet corn is the most common corn sold in supermarkets, it comes in several different varieties. Each has special properties and uses. Some are colorful or have tougher textures. Some are as animal feed while others are better for popping!

Serving Suggestion – Chipotle Lime Corn on the Cob

  • After grilling corn brush a mixture of butter, lime juice and adobo sauce onto the cob. Adding lime juice to corn is an ancient practice known as “nixtamalization.” The chemistry of the lime juice releases essential B vitamins increasing flavor, aroma and the nutritional content of the corn.

Cauliflower

Cauliflower is generally known as the less popular relative of broccoli, but it’s been gaining attention in recent years as more people discover the versatility of the vegetable. Cauliflower can be eaten raw or roasted and can even be blended and used as a dairy substitute in creamy sauces.

Serving Suggestion – Baked Cauliflower

  • For a fun and healthy appetizer, core the cauliflower leaving the head intact and coat with olive oil and the spices of your choice bake until tender.
Content reviewed by MGH Department of Nutrition and Food Services
Nutrition, recipes, Secret Ingredient

The Secret Ingredient Is…The Tomato

Three Tomatoes on a vine

Since last month we profiled an exotic whole grain, this month we decided to focus on something a bit more well known. This time around we’re profiling what is possibly the most popular and versatile vegetables…or is it a fruit?  Actually, it’s a little bit of both. 

Scientifically, the tomato is considered a fruit because the seeds are held inside edible flesh.  Think of it as the “fruit” of the tomato plant, the same way an apple is the fruit of the apple tree.   But when it comes to cooking, tomatoes are considered vegetables since their flavor is better suited to savory dishes rather than dessert (eggplant and squash are other examples of fruits usually thought of as vegetables).

Regardless of whether you consider it a vegetable or fruit, fresh tomatoes are low in sodium and good sources of vitamins C, A and K as well as potassium, a crucial nutrient for balancing the body’s fluids and maintaining a regular heart beat.  Tomatoes are also excellent sources lycopene—an antioxidant that may help protect against some types of cancer (it’s also what gives tomatoes their bright red color).

Tomatoes vary in size and shape from small round cherry tomatoes, to oval shaped plum tomatoes, to large globe tomatoes most often sliced for use in sandwiches and burgers.  You can find fresh tomatoes at the grocery store (along with many tomato products like pasta sauce, tomato puree, salsa and ketchup) and your local farmers market.  Or, you can grow your own—tomatoes are one of the most popular vegetables to grow at home, and since they don’t require much space (just water and plenty of sun) they can be grown almost anywhere.  

Whether you grow your own or buy them from the market, your tomatoes will taste great in this recipe.  Use it as a side dish or as a topping for fish or poultry:

 Sweet Balsamic Tomatoes

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp honey
2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes cut in half 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix oil, vinegar and honey and pour over tomatoes. Roast tomato mixture for 8-10 minutes. 

Yield: About 4 servings

NUTRITION INFORMATION PER SERVING:

CALORIES: 116
PROTEIN: 1 g
SODIUM: 8 mg
CARBOHYDRATE: 14 g
FIBER: 1 g
FAT: 7 g Sat Fat: 1 g

(Post content reviewed by MGH Nutrition Department. Photo Credit: Zsuzsanna Kilian )