Versatile Vegetables

By Patrice Powers-Barker, Ohio State University Extension, Lucas County

The Truth Contributor

It’s summertime and plants are ripening. What are the easiest ways you can enjoy a rainbow of vegetables? The following highlights are on a few local products that are currently or soon to be available in gardens, farm stand and farmers markets. The benefits to us are peak freshness and low cost as they are in season.

Dark, leafy greens

Dark, leafy greens like collards, kale, mustard greens, etc. are very versatile because they can be harvested now as smaller, more tender leaves or they can keep growing until fall when the weather turns cold. Many people prefer the sweetness of collard greens or kale after the first frost of the year, but we don’t have to wait until October to enjoy some.

Selection:  Choose bunches of green leaves with no yellowing or withering. Stems should look freshly cut not dried out, browned, or split.

Storage of dark, leafy greens:  Gently wrap green leaves in damp paper towels and store loosely in plastic bags. Keep moist and cool in the lower part of the refrigerator in the high-humidity bin. Store for up to five (5) days.

Nutrition Benefits of dark, leafy greens:  Fat free, cholesterol free, very low sodium, low in calories, excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C and folate; good source of calcium, potassium and fiber.

Enjoy a smoothie! A refreshing way to “eat” dark leafy greens in the summer is to add them to a smoothie. The Produce for Better Health Foundation suggests combining the following ingredients in the blender to puree for a Strawberry, Pineapple, Greens Smoothie: ¾ cup frozen strawberries, 1 cup packed greens (such as baby kale or spinach), 1 banana, 1 cup ice, 2 cans (8 oz each) pineapple chunks in juice, drained and 1 cup of milk (your choice, low fat milk, almond milk or low-fat yogurt). Optional ingredients: 4 fresh mint leaves.

Summer Squash and Zucchini

Zucchini is a type of summer squash, so the following information is good for green zucchini or yellow summer squash.

Selection: For all summer squash varieties, choose glossy, small- to medium-sized squash, heavy for size. The skin should be firm and free of cuts and bruises.

Storage:  Refrigerate summer squash for use within 3-5 days.

Nutrition Benefits of summer squash:  Fat free; saturated fat free; sodium free; cholesterol free; low calorie; high in vitamin C.

North Dakota State University gives directions for quick and easy “Vegetable Ribbons”: The recipe calls for one medium zucchini and one large carrot. After washing the vegetables and cutting off the ends, use a vegetable peeler to shave the vegetables into ribbons by moving the peeler back and forth. Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a large skillet (or lightly coat pan with cooking spray). Add the vegetable ribbons, stir, cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook for two to three minutes, or until vegetables are tender but not overcooked. Remove from heat, add pepper and salt, if desired, and serve immediately.

Green Beans

Selection: Choose fresh, well colored beans that snap easily when bent.

Storage: Refrigerate green beans in plastic bag, use within 1 week.

Nutrition Benefits: green beans are fat free; sodium free; cholesterol free; low calorie; good source of fiber; good source of vitamin C.

Stir fry: Green beans make a tasty addition to stir fry vegetables. Add the cut pieces of green beans to the pan when other vegetables with similar cooking times are added, such as broccoli and cauliflower. Stir fry until tender crisp.

Growing your own? Are you new to vegetable gardening and looking to learn more? If you have any questions about gardening, call the Master Gardener Horticulture Hotline with questions on Monday and Wednesdays, 10am – 12pm at 419-578-6783.