August, the last hot month of summer weather for much of North America, delivers vegetables and fruits by the bushels.
For many, August’s abundance makes it easier to eat sustainably by choosing locally grown produce from your farmers market. It takes far less resources for your salad to get from farm to table when the farm is a few miles away.
Also, the flavor and nutrient levels in most fruits and vegetables are at their highest when they are harvested. Those levels drop the longer the produce sits.
So, what’s in season?
August is prime time for juicy peaches, fresh sweet corn, the start of apples, summer squash and vine-ripened tomatoes. It’s also when cantaloupe, watermelon and honeydew melon are at their best.
Other fresh produce you can feed on this month include blueberries, pears, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, lettuce, onions, peppers, radishes and turnips, depending on where you live.
When you’re harvesting or buying produce, you need to know what to look for and how to handle them. Here are some tips on a few summer goodies.
How to choose corn on the cob
Look for tightly wrapped ears that feel firm when squeezed. The tassels should be brown and sticky to the touch. Black tassels mean the corn is old. If you feel holes where kernels should be, don’t buy it.
How to pick a watermelon
The thump is the thing with watermelons. A thump should give a hollow sound. You want one with a splotch on its belly, which is evidence if it ripening on the vine. Once it’s cut, use it within two to three days for ideal flavor.
Choosing the best summer squash
Bigger is not better. In fact, bigger is usually bitter. Don’t buy summer squash longer than 8 inches—4 to 7 inches is ideal.
How to tell when a peach is ripe
A ripe peach has a little give to it when pressed and the skin is starting to wrinkle near the stem. Its color is golden and red rather than a pale yellow. If yours is not there yet, leave it on the counter or store in a paper bag for a bit more ripening.
If you like your jalapeños hot, pick ones with stretch marks. Those are evidence of stress the pepper experienced while growing and the more stress, the hotter the pepper.
Research also suggests they may have more beneficial phytonutrients than their prettier counterparts.
How to store fruits and vegetables
If you have the time and talent to freeze, can, dry or in some other way preserve the season’s harvest, stock up on your favorite fruits or vegetables to keep yourself supplied for the coming months.
For smaller quantities, store them in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator or fruit bowl, limiting to one layer to avoid overcrowding.
And while fruits and vegetables come together flavorfully in many recipes, be careful what you store together. Most fruits emit ethylene, a ripening agent, which may speed ripening and eventual spoiling of whatever is near it.
Get your recommended daily allowance
So, the picking is good–and good for you. Fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients, or plant nutrients, which are responsible for the vibrant colors.
They are also naturally low in calories, sodium, fat and cholesterol, making them a great option when trying to lose weight. Read more about the benefits of your daily dose of fruits and vegetables at AmwayConnections.com.