By Brie Cadman for Divine Caroline
Eating fresh, local, and in-season foods couldn’t be any easier than it is during the summertime. Fruit seems to drip off trees, vines burst with red and golden tomatoes, and yellow zucchini blossoms give way to long tubes of green. Whether you get your goods from the farmer’s market, a roadside stand, or your own backyard, the following ten seasonal fruits and vegetables are some of the healthiest and easiest to incorporate into your diet. What’s more, most of them are at their cheapest during the summer -- running about a mere dollar or so per serving -- making eating well as inexpensive as it is enjoyable.
1.) Watermelons. Composed of about 90 percent water, sweet watermelons are an easy way to stay hydrated during the hot summer months. They also pack in nutrients, including vitamin A, B6, and C. In addition, watermelon, like most melons, is rich in antioxidants such as lycopene and citrulline. Researchers have also recently found that watermelon has “Viagra-like” properties, helping to relax blood vessels and even increase libido. As if eating it wasn’t exciting enough! Blended watermelon makes a refreshing drink, served plain or with a kick.
2.) Tomatoes. A vine-ripened tomato, plucked straight from the plant, is arguably the ultimate summertime treat. (Peaches and cherries also vie for the title.) And full of vitamin C, beta carotene, and lycopene, tomatoes are nutritional powerhouses. Their versatility makes them easy to incorporate into many meals, and because they’re so prolific during the summer, farm fresh fruits are usually well-priced. Try them in pico-de-gallo salsa, cool down on a hot evening with healthful gazpacho, or try a simple caprese salad.
3.) Berries. Berries are at their sweetest and juiciest during the warm summer months, and because there are so many varieties out there, you’ll never run out of options and tastes. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, gooseberries, blackberries … the list goes on. All berries are low in calories, high in vitamin C (with strawberries being the highest), and a good source of antioxidants and fiber. Some berries, like raspberries, can be relatively pricey, but if you’re near the woods or even an unkempt yard, free berry options abound! They’re great in sweet classics like blueberry muffins or in savory dishes like blackberry glazed lamb chops.
4.) Peppers. Though peppers are available year-round, they are most flavorful and inexpensive during the summer, when they’re in season. Sweet bell peppers, especially the yellow and red varieties, are packed with vitamin A, C, B6, and fiber. Chili peppers are no wimps when it comes to nutrition, either. In addition to containing the same vitamins and antioxidants as sweet peppers, spicy peppers have been shown to reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Sweet peppers are delicious skewered and barbequed; chili peppers give this nopalita salad a bite.