Local Produce Packed with Nutrition

By: Stefanie Heath

I’m an Upstate New Yorker through and through. When I travel, I often catch myself gushing to people about all that this region has to offer. My elevator pitch goes something like this: “We have the Adirondack mountains to the right, the Finger Lakes wineries to the left, and the rolling hills in between. Boston, NYC and Toronto are a short driving distance away and the beautiful countryside is in my backyard.” On a daily basis, I find myself sharing gratitude and affection for this area in one form or another.

It’s not just the breathtaking landscape that draws me to this area; equally as enticing is the bountiful produce that this great state provides us. From seed to plate, summertime leaves us no shortage of decadent and delicious whole foods.

Check out some of the July/August produce grown right here in New York. I encourage you to pick your own or buy from your local farmers at an area market.

Kale – June through November

Kale is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. It naturally contains Vitamins A, C, K and B6, as well as potassium, magnesium and calcium. This leafy green food can be found in both

green and purple varieties. Kale also contains antioxidants like beta- carotene and polyphenols that help keep our immune systems happy and healthy. I know plenty of people who turn their noses up to kale. If that’s the case, try adding a handful to your morning smoothie. Combine your regular fruit smoothie ingredients with some kale for a quick boost of nutrition. Another fun way to try kale is by making kale chips. Trim the stems off and discard, lightly coat the kale leaves in olive oil, season as you wish and bake on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet for 10-15 minutes in a 350 degree oven. These healthy treats will satisfy kids, too!

Raspberries – July through September

These decadent little berries are as pleasing on the eye as they are on the palate. Raspberries contain countless health benefits and happen to be one of my favorite go-to snacks. Did you know this little berry can help improve memory? One study found that higher intake of flavonoid-rich berries can reduce cognitive decline. Potassium is also found in this power food, which is essential in maintaining a healthy heart. Raspberries also contain ellagic acid, a natural phenol antioxidant found in fruits and veggies. Research has shown that raspberry phytonutrients have an important role in lowering oxidative stress and reducing inflammation, which may alter the reproduction of cancer cells. When it comes to cooking and baking, raspberries are versatile. Use fresh raspberries to make homemade vinaigrette to dress a  salad or try making raspberry lemonade for a summer party. Make raspberries the star ingredient in oatmeal cookies or Sunday morning pancakes.

Zucchini – July through September

I discovered an appreciation for zucchini during adulthood. As a kid, I could never understand the concept of adding this vegetable into my baked goods. Now, I can’t get enough of this wonderful veggie! I’ll admit this cucumber look-a-like is a little bland. However, there are surprising health benefits to zucchini that may keep you coming back for more. Like many fruits and veggies, zucchini is an ally to our hearts. It contains fiber and potassium, which aids in cardiac health. Zucchini has a high water content aiding in healthy digestion as well. The combination of fiber and water in this veggie can act as natural constipation relief. It’s not just Vitamin A and Vitamin complex-B, zucchini is also rich in Vitamin K which has been found to strengthen bones and teeth. Cutting back on carbs? Then try zucchini noodles or “zoodles.” The zoodle trend is something we’re seeing more of and I predict it will become a mainstay on menus across the country. Treat zoodles as you would any other pasta dish and bask in the fact that you’re eating pasta without an insane amount of carbs! Cut zucchini lengthwise, hollow out and add a savory stuffing for a healthy side dish.

Summer Orzo Zucchini Salad

This simple, fresh salad is perfect for graduation parties and summer gatherings. It’s great either warm or cold. For a fun spin, try adding toasted pumpkin seeds or chopped sundried tomato for a little extra crunch and color.
Ingredients:

8 ounces of orzo (1/2 box) 3 tbsp olive oil 3 tbsp white wine vinegar salt and pepper
3-4 zucchini, thinly sliced into half moons
¼ cup chopped fresh dill

Preparation:

1.) Cook the orzo according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.
2.) In a large bowl, combine the oil, vinegar, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
Add the zucchini and toss. Marinate for 30 minutes.
3.) Add the orzo and dill to the zucchini mixture and toss to combine.
Add whatever toppings you’d like!