By Patrice Powers-Barker, OSU Extension, Lucas County
The Truth Contributor
There is an outdated food rhyme that claims, “fresh is best.” While fresh fruits and vegetables can be great, there are some examples when they might not be the best choice. For example, if fresh produce is not available, canned and frozen can be great options. Have you ever opened the crisper drawer in the refrigerator and discovered some very old fruits or vegetables? Forgetting about fresh produce is not the best. When you do have fresh produce, the best idea is to eat it while it’s still fresh!
This month is National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month. For many, it is the perfect time to harvest or buy local, fresh produce. Where we live, the garden and farm season is not quite in full swing but it has started for the year and it will be offering many more options as the month and summer goes by.
If you do have a good option to include fresh produce from the garden or farmer’s market, it can taste really good! The main goal of observing National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month is to increase the amount of fruit and vegetables during your day.
The following tips are from Michigan State University. This month,
- Make a point of buying more fruits and vegetables
- Purchase convenience sizes, if this will help you eat more fruits and vegetables
- If you need to stretch the budget, buy the larger package and divide fruit or vegetables in snack size servings, such as a handful of cut up carrots or baby carrots, washed snap peas, or cubed watermelon and store in an airtight container or bag
- Make a tray or plate of fresh fruit and/or vegetables and leave in the refrigerator, so you have a healthy snack available while fixing a meal, sitting in front of the television or just wanting to munch on something
- If you don’t enjoy all types of fruits and vegetables, experiment to find the ones you enjoy most and incorporate them into your diet
- Include fruit in dishes such as yogurt, salads, cereal, ice cream and other desserts
- Incorporate vegetables in dishes such as soups, stews, pies, wraps and sandwiches
What fruits, vegetables and herbs are fresh in the local gardens and farms right now? June is a good month to look for fresh, local strawberries! Look for springtime produce like all types of greens and lettuces, asparagus, beets, broccoli, carrots, radishes and many fresh herbs like parsley, chives and mint. Rhubarb is a common perennial fruit, meaning it comes back every year. It’s known for being very tart on it’s own but can taste delicious in baked goods like bread or pies.
If you usually eat rhubarb in sweet, baked goods, this tangy soup might sound unusual but it is tasty. It comes from the Ohio Farm Bureau at https://ofbf.org/recipes/red-lentil-and-rhubarb-soup/. The recipe specifically calls for “red” lentils but you can substitute with whatever type or color of lentils are on the grocery shelf. You can choose to garnish with fresh cilantro that is growing in gardens now.
Red Lentil and Rhubarb Soup
Makes 6 servings
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion chopped
1 carrot peeled and chopped
1 stalk celery leaves attached
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 stalks rhubarb cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup red lentils cooked and drained (follow the cooking directions on the bag or box)
Salt and black pepper
Optional garnishs: sour cream or crumbled feta cheese, chopped cilantro
Heat the oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery and sauté for 8 minutes until soft. Add the garlic, cumin and allspice and sauté for an additional minute.
Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the rhubarb. Reduce the heat to medium low. Cook for 15 minutes before adding the cooked lentils. Once heated through, season to taste with salt and pepper.
To serve, ladle the soup into shallow bowls and optional garnish with a dollop of sour cream or cheese and sprinkle with the cilantro. Note: If a smoother soup is preferred, transfer the soup in batches to a blender and puree until smooth.
You won’t typically hear me comment, “fresh is best” but I will remind you to be on the lookout for the best, fresh options this month. If fresh produce is not available, there is nothing wrong with enjoying a side of canned, frozen or dried fruits or vegetables. When fresh produce is available, many people find that fresh often tastes best.