Consumers: What's New
Though the first official day of summer isn’t until June 21, Memorial Day seems to be the unofficial start of the season. That means summer produce is now on everyone’s shopping lists.
Yellow squash and zucchini are supermarket standards year-round but the summer season brings more varieties with unique features and tastes.
Here’s what you need to know about different types of summer squash when browsing your local farmer’s market or grocery store:
Green zucchini is the most widely recognized and versatile summer squash of the bunch. It can be used to make everything from a simple veggie side dish to low-carb noodles to desserts and breads. Green zucchini has soft, thin green skin and a mild taste. Choose zucchini that is firm to the touch—if it’s flimsy it’s past its prime. Go for organic green zucchini if you’re looking to avoid GMOs, as conventional zucchini can be grown with GMO seeds.
There are also yellow zucchini and Costata Romanesco zucchini, which both have a straight shape and similar taste to a green zucchini but are different colors. Yellow zucchini is, you guessed it, yellow, while Costata Romanesco has pale green ridges on darker green skin.
Round zucchini is similar in color, texture and taste to zucchini; the only difference is it’s round. Choose this unique squash when making “stuffed” dishes: Cut off the top, scoop out the interior, and stuff with rice, vegetables or meat, just as you would a bell pepper.
Yellow squash is the other most common variety. It also has thin skin that can be eaten raw or cooked—it’s great in pastas or soups or simply sliced into salads. There are both crookneck and straightneck varieties and both have a mild taste. As with zucchini, choose organic to avoid GMOs, as conventional yellow squashes may be grown with GMO seeds
Zephyr squash is long like a zucchini but is yellow on top and green on the bottom. Like other summer squashes, the flesh is firm and the skin is edible, so you can use it as you would a yellow squash or zucchini.
Pattypan squash looks like a squashed pumpkin, or some even say a flying saucer. It’s small and round with scalloped sides and comes in different shades of yellow and green. It’s a bit tougher than some squashes, and though it can be eaten raw it does well when cooked. Sauté it, roast it or add it to stews.
Cousa squash is short and squat and light green in color—it looks a bit like a fat, pale zucchini. It’s very tender and slightly sweet but can be used as you would other types of squash.
Don’t be afraid to try new vegetables! Most summer squashes have a similar mild taste and can be interchanged in many recipes. You can also simply slice them up and use them in salads or serve with dip. Summer squash is generally low in calories and has some fiber, potassium and vitamin C. Conventional summer squashes are commonly grown with GMO seeds so choose organic versions if you want to avoid GMO crops.
Summer is finally here—that means warm weather, sunny days and colorful produce hitting your local market. Nothing beats the beauty or taste of seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables and summer has plenty to offer. Whether you’re browsing a farmer’s market or shopping in your usual store, be on the lookout for these five organic summer favorites.
If you’ve ever sunk your teeth into a thick slice of summer tomato, you’ve tasted the difference the season can make in terms of texture and taste. Juicy, sweet and bursting with flavor, summer tomatoes require very little preparation and can transform any simple dish into a summery masterpiece. Organic tomatoes are packed with antioxidant compounds and contain vitamins A, C and K. Fresh organic tomatoes, whether they’re red, green, yellow or orange, can elevate any salad or sandwich and pair beautifully with fresh pasta or fish. Choose tomatoes that give when squeezed but are still slightly firm. For an elegant yet easy summer appetizer, try a Caprese Salad. Simply arrange slices of organic tomato and fresh mozzarella on a plate, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with fresh basil.
- Sweet Corn
Who doesn’t love eating corn on the cob? For most, this summertime favorite evokes nostalgic feelings of long days on the beach, trips to the lake or summer evenings spent with family and friends. Sweet corn can be yellow or white and is different from the field corn used to make corn syrup and other processed goods. Choose ears with tight husks, moist silk and plump kernels and if you stick with the organic version you’ll be steering clear of GMOs. Corn can be shucked and tossed into salads or pasta dishes, but most prefer to eat it straight from the cob. After husking, boil it the traditional way or try throwing it on the grill. A dab of butter and dash of salt is the standard preparation, or try your own flavor combination such as olive oil and herbs or lemon juice and spices.
Zucchini is possibly the most versatile vegetable in the garden. From breakfast breads and omelets, to appetizers and snacks, to main dishes and sides, to cakes and desserts, the possibilities are endless for ways to use zucchini. Low in calories and mild in taste, organic zucchini can take on nearly any flavor you ask of it and gives dishes added volume, fiber and a little vitamin C and folate. Zucchini noodles are one of the hottest tricks in health-conscience cooking: Using a spiralizer, transform organic zucchini into low-carb “noodles” and pair with your favorite pasta sauce or pesto. Zucchini boats are another trending favorite: Slice organic zucchini in half lengthwise; hollow out the middle; stuff with ground meat or veggies, sauce and cheese; and bake until it is all cooked through.
Nothing says summer like a juicy nectarine. Organic nectarines can be found in most markets and stores; peak season in the U.S. happens in July and August. An average nectarine has just 60 calories, over 2 grams of fiber and a little potassium and vitamin C. They’re similar to peaches but with smooth skin and their inner flesh can be yellow or white. Nectarines are delicious paired with nuts as a wholesome snack, slices over yogurt for a nutritious breakfast, or used in pies and tarts for a fruity dessert. For something more creative, try making nectarine salsa and spooning over grilled chicken or fish.
Strawberries and blueberries tend to steal the berry show, but it’s time to let the blackberry shine. These sweet little nuggets pack a whopping 7 grams of fiber per cup, plus half the daily value for vitamin C and a healthy amount of vitamin K, folate, manganese and copper. Organic blackberries are available in most farmer’s markets and conventional stores. Get your daily blackberry fix by sprinkling them over cereal, oatmeal or yogurt or try a grown up PB&J by spreading mashed blackberries and natural peanut butter on your favorite whole wheat bread.
In the past few weeks there have been several articles circulating with the same basic premise: millennials can’t afford to buy homes because they are spending all their money on avocado toast. While the argument, stemming from Australian millionaire Tim Gurner, has stirred up quite the internet controversy and is by all means an exaggeration, there is truth to the fact that avocado prices are on the rise.
What exactly makes this fruit so expensive?
Demand for avocados is high, partly due to the popularity of trendy dishes like avocado toast and perennial favorite guacamole. People are also interested in the health benefits of this nutrient-packed fruit and are finding ways to eat more of it. There is a growing body of research showing avocados can support heart health, help with weight management and lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Avocados are high in monounsaturated fat (the good fat), fiber, vitamin E, and other compounds that are linked to health.
Right now, demand is higher than supply. Both organic and conventional avocado production in California is lower than it was last year. Mexico and Peru also produce avocados, but there are not as many organic avocado farms in those countries.
Prices change depending on the growing season and availability, and there is a good chance prices could be lower next year.
Get the most out of the avocados you buy by cutting into them when ripe and preventing them from browning during storage. Choose avocados that are just slightly firm but not too soft. Ripe avocados will give a little when gently squeezed—firmness tells more than color. Once cut, sprinkle the flesh with lemon juice and seal in plastic wrap or in an air-tight container if you are going to store part of the fruit. This will help prevent the avocado from browning.
One of the easiest ways to get your daily dose of veggies is to commit to eating a big salad for lunch most days. Salads don’t have to be boring or dainty, but they don’t have to be complicated either. Follow these four steps and you’re on your way to a nutritious, colorful and satisfyingly delicious lunch every day of the week.
Step 1: Pick a Green Base
Generally, the darker the green the healthier it is. There are so many fun organic mixes to choose from in the store and opting for a precut blend saves you time and effort. Spinach, kale, chard and the like are the most nutrient dense, but there’s nothing wrong with iceberg or romaine if you’re in a crunchy and crisp mood. You can also opt for chopped salad mixes that incorporate cabbage, carrots, Brussels sprouts and more.
Step 2: Add More Color
You’ve got your green base, now it’s time to pile on the color. Most adults should aim for at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, but research shows getting in ten servings can mean big things for longevity and health. Add at least two or three extra veggies, such as organic grape tomatoes, diced organic cucumber, chopped organic celery or sliced organic radishes. An easy and flavorful trick is to add roasted vegetables such as sweet potatoes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts or cauliflower. Make a big batch on the weekends or use leftovers from dinner the night before.
Step 3: Choose a Protein
To elevate your salad from appetizer to entrée status, you need a protein to help keep you satisfied. Leftover chicken or steak, canned tuna or salmon, or hard boiled eggs are go-to options if you like a little meat. For vegetarian protein sources, try quinoa, beans, hummus, seeds, chickpeas or lentils. Remember, a serving of animal protein is about the size of a smart phone; for vegetarian sources the standard is half a cup.
Step 4: Dress it Up with Healthy Fat
Adding some healthy fat to your salad will help bring flavor, promote satiety, and aid in absorption of all the nutrients in those vegetables. Olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice or splash of vinegar is the simplest way to go, but there are plenty of wholesome organic dressing options available in the store. Pick a dressing with simple ingredients and that bears the USDA Organic Seal, and stick to just about one tablespoon of dressing. Another tasty idea is to dress it up with avocado. This creamy fruit will add nutrients and fiber. If you opt for avocado, go a little light on the full fat dressing.