It’s Pennsylvania Produce Month and time to enjoy fresh, seasoned produce from your area.
If we could “replenish” the health benefits of a food in tablet form to prevent chronic disease and improve overall health, products (fruits and vegetables) would be that food. The product is high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and antioxidants (chemical fighting chemicals) and is much better than a pill.
Dietary supplements cannot mimic how these beneficial ingredients found in all fruits and vegetables work together to positively affect your health. According to Roberta Duyff’s 2017 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Complete Food & Nutrition Guide, these valuable components are linked to lower risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, better digestion and less constipation in weight management.
Most people don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables every day. In fact, the 2020-2025 Nutritional Guidelines for Americans report that 75% of Americans fail to meet the goal for consuming fruits and vegetables. USDA’s MyPlate recommendation for someone who is consuming 2,000 calories a day is 2 1/2 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit per day. However, the recommended amount depends on your age, gender, and physical activity. To determine your individual needs, go to myplate.gov/myplate-plan and enter your age, gender, height, weight and physical activity.
There are many reasons why people don’t buy and prepare products. These include concerns about spoiling, perceived cost, family acceptance, and ignorance of how to prepare.
Buying small quantities frequently can help prevent spoilage. Using bags and containers specially made to delay spoilage can be useful. If you have purchased more than you can use and have freezer space, consider freezing the products for future use.
“Pick your own” products can be a family activity and lead to significant savings. Another option is to join a community-sponsored agriculture program (CSA) where you receive a subscription box or bag of produce from a local farm. You might even want to start planning a home garden for the next year.
Penn State Extension has several resources that you may find helpful. Pennsylvania Produce: A Guide to Quality Produce Grown in PA is a publication accessible on the extension’s website. It is designed to help you buy fresh quality products in high season. This guide lists uses, how to choose the best quality, storage tips, and nutritional information.
The extension also runs a variety of webinars on food preservation at home – search for “food preservation at home” below Extension.psu.edu to find them.
For those who are struggling to prepare fruits and vegetables for themselves and their family, there are plenty of delicious recipes available. Penn State Extension’s 2016 Totally Veggies Resource Guide contains recipes and advice for preparing delicious vegetable dishes using basic cooking techniques. This colorful resource book will help make vegetables a family affair. It contains recipes for leafy greens, orange, cruciferous vegetables, and mixed vegetables. This guide will help you add a wide variety of product colors and a wide range of nutrients. It also walks you through experimenting with different preparation methods – raw, roasted, and steamed.
Here is a recipe from The Totally Veggies Resource Guide. The 48-page guide can be found online for $ 10 at. to be bought extension.psu.edu/totally-veggies-resource-guide.
When preparing this recipe, start with clean countertops and utensils. Wash hands with soap and water. Wash whole, fresh produce by rinsing strawberries and gently rubbing tomatoes, onions, limes or lemon and garlic under cold running water. Pre-washed, packaged items do not need to be washed any further.
- 1 pint of fresh strawberries, chopped
- 4 Roma tomatoes, chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped white onion
- Juice of 1 lime or lemon (approx. 2-3 tablespoons)
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic, chopped (optional)
In a large bowl, mix the strawberries, tomatoes, onions, lime or lemon juice, oil and garlic together. Mix all ingredients together. Cover the bowl and chill for 2 hours.
Serve with baked tortillas chips, grilled chicken or fish.
This makes 8 servings with a 1/4 cup serving size.
Nutritional information per serving: 35 calories, 2 grams of total fat, 5 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of protein, 0 mg of sodium, 0 mg of cholesterol, 140 mg of potassium.
Katherine French is an educator at Penn State Extension in Mercer County.