Puree, freeze and slice your way through surplus summer produce
After what may have been a long winter and a wet spring depending on where you call home, the glorious summer is finally here, and the produce section at your local grocery store is bursting at the seams! From melons as big as footballs to vibrant zucchinis and plump red tomatoes, you can find a variety of tasty fruits and vegetables to incorporate into any meal.
Besides the grocery store, or perhaps your own garden, a dozen farmers markets have popped up in your city, leaving you with a delicious dilemma: what to do with an overabundance of produce before it wilts or goes bad. Not to worry! There is a legion of ways to deal with nature’s bounty.
Here are some inspiring ideas:
Prepping for a picnic.
For starters, try upping your raw fruit and vegetable consumption, especially when you’re enjoying time outside with friends or family. Before heading off to the beach, park or zoo, pack a simple picnic of sandwiches and portable vegetables, like radishes, cherry tomatoes, snap peas and celery sticks. Or create a sumptuous summer salad of leafy greens, mixed with baby cucumbers, crunchy radishes, grated carrot and a sprig of fresh dill.
An all-fruit combination can be equally refreshing, not to mention hydrating. Combine pineapple, cherries, kiwi, grapes and blueberries for an eye-popping medley that tastes as tantalizing as it looks. Or, play it simple and pack some sliced watermelon, which is always a refreshing treat when the summer sun hits midday.
Cooking vegetables on the stove or grill.
On a cooler day or evening, a barbecue is a tasty option. In addition to charred steak or hamburgers, toss veggies, like corn, yellow squash and bell peppers on the grill. Fruit also cooks nicely on the barbecue, as the flame intensifies the succulence of peaches, apricots and plums.
If grilling isn’t your forte, head into your kitchen to transform green beans, cauliflower and other vegetables into savory side dishes. Or try your hand at pureed soups, using a base of sweet corn, fresh peas or another favorite veggie. If you’re more of a maverick in the kitchen and sidestep a recipe, stuff an omelet with mushrooms, peppers and kale, or stir-fry whatever vegetables you’ve got in your fridge.
Seeing red and green with tomatoes and zucchini.
Although homegrown tomatoes are delicious when raw, sometimes you just can’t eat enough when all your plants ripen at once. Although you can freeze whole tomatoes, another way of reaping the rewards of the surplus is to make a big pot of pasta sauce, salsa, gazpacho or ketchup that you can freeze to use throughout the year.
Zucchini, of course, is also notorious for growing prolifically in the summer heat. Luckily, there are many creative ways to use this summer squash. Think zucchini boats, zucchini pizzas, zucchini butter, zucchini noodles and zucchini fritters, or don your baker’s hat and grate this fruit (which most people think is a vegetable) into muffins, sweet breads or cake batter.
Preserving fruit to eat throughout the year.
Even as ice cream abounds in the height of July, there’s something about the natural sweetness of traditional fruit that lends itself to bakery items. Think mouth-watering peach cobbler, fresh-from-the-oven cherry pie or scones that are chock-full of berries. Not a baker? There are countless other methods to enjoy fruit; for instance, try:
- freezing whole berries or seedless grapes;
- canning apricots;
- stewing then freezing rhubarb or plums;
- drying mangos or pineapple; and
- cooking sliced nectarines or plums in oatmeal, then freezing in individual containers.
Yet another option: drink your fruit! As a healthier alternative to sugar-laden sodas, make papaya or watermelon juice, raspberry or pineapple smoothies, or water infused with melon balls and a sprig of mint.
If you’re on the lookout for other ways to prepare fruit, vegetables or other tasty summer foods, check out the scrumptious recipes from Holiday Retirement residents and chefs, contained in the free e-book "Home cooking, from our family to yours: featuring resident and chef recipes from Holiday Retirement."