One of the best things about summer is the opening of the Farmers' Markets and the abundance of locally grown fruits and vegetables. Most of us are familiar with the green peppers, lettuce, spinach, zucchini and tomatoes, but there are a lot of new products that are fun to try. In fact, it's healthy to incorporate a variety of vegetables and fruits because each provides a different array and amount of needed vitamins and minerals.
Branch out as you peruse your local market. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter identifies some of the new products trending at local markets across the country.
Baby bok choy -- it has a milder, sweeter flavor than the full-size version because it's harvested early. It's part of the cruciferous vegetable family, which is associated with decreased risk of several cancers. Eat it raw in salads or sandwiches or saute it in stir-fries, cooking the chopped stalks first, then the leaves until they wilt. To grill it, cut the bok choy in half and brush with oil and add seasonings.
Edible vegetable tops -- root vegetables such as beets, turnips, kohlrabi, radishes and carrots typically are sold with the leafy greens attached. The leaves are packed with nutrients and flavor. To boost your potassium, vitamin C and vitamin A, saute leafy greens in oil with garlic and onions or add them to stir-fries, marinara sauce, soup or stew. You can also use them to make a pesto sauce and serve it over whole-grain pasta.
Aronia berries -- These dark purple berries have one of the highest phytonutrient content of all berries. A cup of aronia juice may help lower blood pressure, fasting blood sugar and blood lipids. Be forewarned, however, they are tart (and are sometimes called choke berries). Because of their tartness, they are best used in recipes rather than on their own. Add them to smoothies, fruity salsa, vinaigrettes and savory sauces to top lean meat.
Microgreens -- These are the mini leafy greens and are harvested even earlier than baby greens. Microgreens have intense flavors and vivid colors but tender textures. They often contain significantly higher amounts of many vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals per serving than the mature leaves and vegetables of the same plant. Add them to salads, sandwiches and wraps. Use them in place of lettuce on top of a burger or in fajitas. They can also be sprinkled over an omelet.
Garlic Scapes -- These are the green shoots that grow from garlic bulbs and are so popular right now. Their flavor is similar to garlic cloves but milder. Store them in your refrigerator or chop and freeze them for later use. To eat them as a vegetable, trim both ends and cut into bite-size pieces and saute or lightly steam and drizzle with lemon juice. You can also toss them with oil and pepper and then roast in the oven or grill.
Q and A
Q: Is it true that food can act as sunscreen?
A: Too much of a good thing isn't always a good thing, especially when it comes to the sun. We need to expose our skin to some sunshine every day in order to make vitamin D. However, we also know that too much sun exposure can cause skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in the U.S. If we slather on sunscreen to reduce exposure to damaging rays, we limit the ability of the body to make vitamin D. One solution is to eat better and get a little sun exposure every day. There is good evidence that a diet high in fruits and vegetables, especially dark green and orange colored ones, can help to reduce the risk of developing skin cancer. Other foods that may increase your body's ability to fight off skin cancer include fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, green and black teas, and caffeinated coffee. Eating well should not be the primary line of defense against skin cancer. Most clinicians agree that using sunscreen appropriately, along with a healthy plant-based diet, is best. -- Environmental Nutrition.
Summer makes eating fresh easier. Here's a recipe for a Pork and Quinoa Salad from National Pork Producers Council that burst with summer flavors.
Pork and Quinoa Salad
12 ounces boneless pork chops, thinly cut, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup quinoa
3 cups water
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon paprika
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 head romaine lettuce, cut into 1/2-inch strips
1/2 cup queso fresco, or feta cheese
1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
1 lime, zested and juiced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cucumber, cut into bite-sized pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine the quinoa and water in a pot and bring to a toil. Once boiling, reduce to medium heat and let the quinoa cook until all the water evaporates. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add pork and sprinkle e with paprika, salt and pepper. Saute, stirring frequently, until browned and cooked to 145 degrees, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic 1 minute before it's done. Remove the skillet form the heat and set aside. On a large platter, arrange the lettuce. IN a large bowl, combine the cooked quinoa, queso fresco, red onion, lime zest and juice, cherry tomatoes and cucumber. Toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange the quinoa over the lettuce, followed by the pork. Serves 4 as a main course or 8 as a side salad.
Per serving: 360 calories, 27 g protein, 39 g carbohydrate, 10 g fat, 80 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 550 mg sodium.