Summertime is the best time to start eating more fruit and vegetables. Most seasonal fruits and vegetables are harvested in the summer months, making them especially fresh between May and September. Seasonal produce includes sweet corn, strawberries, tomatoes, zucchini, blackberries, watermelon and bell peppers, just to name a few! Picking up some local produce at the grocery store or harvesting your own garden can be a defining feature of summer, but it can also be overwhelming. What are you supposed to do with three bags of sweet corn? Or twenty zucchini? Maybe you are interested in eating more fruits and vegetables but aren’t quite sure how to cook them.
Luckily, there are plenty of creative ways to use summer produce. Some veggies are great as replacements for crackers and chips, such as bell peppers, cucumbers and celery. Others, like tomatoes, can be turned into hearty pasta or pizza sauces and frozen for those cold winter months. The possibilities are endless when it comes to using summer produce. Here are just a few creative ways you can incorporate more fruits and veggies into meals this summer.
1. Make a Smoothie
It might be the most basic suggestion, but making a smoothie is a great way to use large amounts of fresh produce. You can use stone fruit, including cherries, peaches and apricots, and even add some fresh spinach or cucumber into the mix to get your daily dose of veggies. Smoothies are also a great meal replacement when it’s too hot outside to turn on the oven, or when you’re on the run to various summer activities.
2. Fire Up the Grill
Nearly all vegetables taste better when cooked on the grill. For example, carrots become a special side dish when grilled with fresh herbs and cotija cheese. Asparagus with a bit of lemon and parmesan is delectable and easy to prepare. Grilling vegetables doesn’t mean other types of food need to be left out, either. If there are any carnivores in your family, consider grilling vegetables with sausage or another type of meat. Grilled veggies are an easy addition to any barbecue.
3. Freeze It
Eventually, you may reach the point where you have so many bell peppers or blackberries that you cannot possibly eat them all. If this is the case, there is no shame in freezing leftover produce. Sweet corn, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and most kinds of fruit all freeze well and will be a welcome dose of color when it’s cold outside.
4. Consider Casserole
If you need a meal that uses a lot of ingredients all at once, consider making a casserole. This is an especially great option for larger families or any summer gatherings you may be hosting. Casseroles can easily be made healthy by sneaking in a few vegetables, and in most cases, you won’t even know they are there. Try making a casserole with zucchini or butternut squash, everyone will appreciate the extra cheese and you’ll have enough for leftovers.
5. Sauces, Dips and Marinades
You would be surprised just how many veggies can be used in different sauces, dips and marinades. If you have too many eggplants than you know what to do with, consider making baba ghanoush, a delectable Mediterranean dip similar to hummus. What about beets? Beets can be made into an easy roasted beet and walnut dip, which goes great with pita. Tomatoes and peppers are possibly the easiest summer produce to make into sauce, with both making an amazing barbecue sauce or pizza sauce.
6. Dehydrate Veggies
This technique is not as popular as other food preservation types, such as canning or freezing, but it is a great way to save summer veggies for later. You can easily dehydrate veggies using a commercial dehydrator or a regular oven. Strawberries, tomatoes and zucchini all are easily dehydrated. Dehydrate vegetables to add to soup in the winter, without worrying about losing freezer space in the meantime.
7. Make Fruit Desserts
Summertime is for fresh fruit. Take advantage of the abundance by making fruit desserts, such as cobblers or ice cream. If you have a lot of berries, try making healthy popsicles, or add berries to Greek yogurt with some honey and cinnamon.
8. Eat Raw Veggies
Okay, so this suggestion may not sound super exciting, but raw veggies are much more versatile than you may think! Carrot sticks and cucumbers are wonderful with hummus or dipped in ranch dressing. You can also try out a raw corn salad or combine tomatoes with red onion and feta for an easy side salad.
9. Make Soup
Soup is a wonderful way to use large amounts of summer produce. There are plenty of soups you can make for the summer months, including sweet pea and mint soup, gazpacho and corn chowder. But you can also make soup to save, putting it away in the freezer until a cold October night when you need an easy meal.
10. Share it with Friends
If you have a garden, you may find yourself with more summer produce than you can handle. Similarly, you may see a sale on watermelons at the supermarket and buy way too many for your own household. Sharing summer produce with friends is one of the best ways to enjoy it. Drop it off as a surprise on their front porch, or invite folks over for a garden party featuring all fresh summer produce.
Enjoying the Harvest
Eating seasonally isn’t just delicious, it’s also better for the planet. Consuming locally grown foods supports small farmers and sustainable agriculture. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of summer produce, check out these 10 ways to use summer fruits and veggies. Your stomach, and the planet, will thank you.