Although I do not enjoy the summer heat in Sacramento, I love the consequences of the warmer weather because of the abundance and variety of fresh produce available at the Sacramento area Farmers Market. Each week I have been stocking up on carrots, beets, peaches, nectarines, etc. But it is the corn, strawberries and basil I want to highlight. Read on for more information on their nutritional value, how to pick, recipes from Cooking Light and more.
I cannot imagine summer and BBQs without farm-fresh corn on the cob.
Facts: Okay, technically it is not a “produce” but a grain. But it functions as a veggie at our dinner table. Corn has been around a long time; domesticated by indigenous people in pre historic times. Ever wonder how many kernels on a cob? (kernels are actually the “seeds”) The average corn on the cob has 600 kernels.
Nutrition: When you bite into an ear of sweet corn, you not only get a taste of summer but you are helping your heart.
- That annoying kernel skin that gets stuck in your teeth has corn bran, a fiber that has been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels.
- One medium-sized ear of corn has about 85 calories and 3 grams of fiber and almost 20% of your folate needs. Folate is one of the B vitamins and has been shown to help clear homocysteine, a blood metabolite that causes damage to artery walls.
- Corn also has a good dose of the blood pressure lowering mineral, potassium; amount is equal to that of 2/3rd of a banana.
- Always buy corn still in the husk.
- Look for green, moist husks that cling tightly to the corn.
- Silks should be moist and golden and not too dark.
- Peel the husk slightly, and check the top two rows of kernels for plumpness and density.
- Don’t shuck until you are ready to use; eat within 2 days of buying.
Where to find: Any farmer’s market has local corn (Dixon) or Davis Ranch in Sloughouse and stores such as Sprouts, has Brentwood corn selling at 5 for a dollar this week!
Preparing/Cooking: Lightly char ears on the grill so they caramelize and develop complex flavors. To grill-simply pull back the husks, remove the silk, spray or rise with water then unfold the husks to cover the corn and grill until tender. To boil, add corn to boiling water for 2 minutes and let sit for 1 minute; careful not to over cook. Skip the butter; it is not needed for fresh naturally sweet summer corn.
Although you can buy them year around they will not be as good as they are now. Load up while you can on these sweetest and juiciest berries while you can!
Facts: We consider it a fruit, but it is a member of the rose family and has over 200 seeds on the outside. It is the most popular of all berries and there are over 70 varieties grown, most in California.
Nutrition: Not only are they delicious but strawberries also have super star status when it comes to health.
- One cup delivers about 140% of your vitamin C needs.
- Packed with powerful non-vitamin/mineral substances known as flavonoids, called quercetin and kaempferol. Flavonoids act as mighty antioxidants and are found in a variety of fruits and vegetables which is why we need to eat a variety of produce. However, these particular two have been shown to help protect LDLs from oxidizing and becoming dangerous to artery walls. Also they help keep blood platelets from clumping together, hence avoiding deadly blood clots.
- One cup is only 45 calories and more fiber than a slice of bread (3.5 gram) and is a great source of potassium.
Buying tips: The candy sweet fragrance will let you know which to choose. They should be bright red with caps fresh and green; avoid uncolored or “white” berries.
Where to find: No store will compare to the “deal” at a Farmer’s Market. “Our” guy at Saturday’s Elk Grove Farmer’s Market gives them away at $7 dollars for 3 baskets. He along with wife and son,picks them that very morning; they are bright red and intensely sweet. In contrast, for shipping berries to supermarkets they are often picked to be more durable so a little firm and on green side, that will get redder but not riper.
Preparing/Cooking: Wash and eat; can’t be simpler than that. Also, add to your yogurt, smoothies or cereals.
- Combine with greens for a Strawberry Spinach Salad
And while fresh are fabulous, baked berries are wonderful in cobblers and other “healthy” treats.
There is no more fragrant summer plant than basil. Easy to grow and adding just a few leaves can jazz up multiple dishes.
Facts & Nutrition: It is considered one of the great culinary herbs and there are at least 40 types and each has a unique flavor and shape. To name just a few of the “flavors”-cinnamon, garlic, lemon, even chocolate-but the most common is sweet basil. Genovese (sweet basil) is the most familiar variety with the large green leaves, but Vietnamese and Thai basil, citrusy lemon basil, purple basil is becoming more popular. The herb is one of the oldest and popular herbal plant rich in many notable health benefiting phyto-nutrients. This highly prized plant is revered as “holy herb” in many traditions all over the world.
Buying tips: Look for healthy bright green leaves and avoid flower buds and wilted or rust-colored leaves. Hard to go if you get it at a Farmers Market are plush, full plants. If grow in a patio pot, the more leaves you snip off, the more it will sprout.
Where to find: Farmer’s Market, Trader Joes, and Home Depot
Preparing/Cooking: Essential to Italian cooking, this herb blends well with garlic and tomatoes. Wash and add to salads, pastas, bruschetta, stir-fries, blend for pesto, add as a topping to pizza, or layer basil with garden fresh tomatoes drizzle with olive oil and balsamic.
- Basil Butter goes well with fish (mince 4 Tablespoons of basil, 2 Tablespoons of shallots, sautéed in butter then add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice)
- Cherry Peach Sangria a refreshing beverage taking advantage of both the fresh fruit and basil
- Spicy Basil-Beef Salad
- Strawberry Basil Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette