July 30, 2013

Have fun with fresh produce


---- — Though local food is available in our region year-round, this is a great time to get a wide variety of fresh produce.

After a very wet beginning to the growing season, sunny days have helped local growers recover.

Farmers markets and farm stands are offering a wide enough variety now that I feel confident saying there is something for everyone. There are leafy greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes and scallions for salads; beets, carrots, broccoli, onions and cauliflower for sides; and even berries for vegetable-shunning toddlers. 

You can find local producers through the Adirondack Harvest website: The website provides the locations of farm stands, farmers markets and stores that carry local foods, as well as restaurants that source food locally. You can print maps off of the website or pick up a copy from your county’s extension office. Stopping at a farm stand can be a quick way to enhance a summer day trip or even pick up some provisions while camping. 

Though I usually recommend planning meals and making lists, it is a lot of fun to go to a market or farm stand and just pick up whatever looks best. Making a menu out of what you have on hand can be a challenge, but with fresh produce it can be a tasty challenge. If you are growing your own vegetables or are a member of a community-supported agriculture operation, you are probably already doing this. You may be eating green salads every night or have started eating cherry tomatoes as your afternoon snack just to keep your produce from going to waste. 

It is also fun to have a whole meal themed on a food that you have in abundance. I like to do this after berry picking, when I have picked a ludicrous amount of berries, without much consideration for the few short days they will last once picked. If it’s strawberries, I may add them to a salad with chicken for a main meal, have strawberry lemonade as a drink, and then make shortcake for dessert. Of course you can freeze any berries you cannot use or eat quickly. 

For some new ideas on how to use any produce that you do not typically eat, or have gotten your fill of lately, there are a lot of venues. You can always ask the grower what they like to do with their produce. Some growers have websites where other customers give ideas as well. There are many places on the Internet to find ideas for particular ingredients. Of course you can always call your local extension office, and we can connect you to new recipes as well. 

Here are a few ideas for those things you may be eating frequently this season:

▶ Zucchini can be used for zucchini casserole, zucchini soup, grilled Italian vegetables and zucchini muffins.

▶ Tomatoes are great for Caprese salad, stuffed tomatoes, tomato sandwiches, fresh spaghetti sauce or tomato pie.

▶ Green beans can be left raw with dip or roasted with garlic. You can also use them for green-bean casserole, three-bean salad and green-bean tempura.

▶ Greens (kale, chard or spinach) can be sautéed with white wine; added to an omelet, a layer in lasagna or a smoothie; baked into kale chips; or used as a base for pesto.

However you are enjoying this season’s bounty, buy local to support your community, benefit the environment, and increase vegetables and fruits in your diet.

Jordy Kivett is a nutrition educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. For more information, contact her at 561-7450.