June – the month summer officially arrives. It’s been tempting us with stone fruits and berries for weeks now, but I’m ready for full-on, corn-on-the-cob summer! Savor the end of your early-spring produce because it will soon give way to full-blown summer. Here are my favorite farmer’s market picks for June:
Artichoke: The artichoke heart has found its place in fine cuisine, but it’s the leaves that contain the most beneficial nutrients. There are plenty of ways to cook artichokes so the entire vegetable is edible, stem and all, but even just eating the meat from the leaves will provide you with a good source of many nutrients. Best known for digestive support, the nutrients in artichokes support the gallbladder and increase bile flow, regenerate liver tissue, and are a great source of fiber. Choose artichokes that feel heavy for their size, with tight leaves and a freshly cut stem.
Blackberries: Along with most berries, blackberries are an excellent source of antioxidants, relieving the body of oxidative stress that can lead to cancer. Composed of many individual “druplets”, each like a small berry with one seed, each druplet contributes extra skin, seeds, and pectin, making them one of the highest fiber content plants in the world. Blackberries are also a great source of ellagic acid, an antioxidant shown to protect the skin from damage from ultraviolet light – how convenient that they ripen during the summer months! Select blackberries that have a deep color and avoid those will hulls still attached (a sign of premature picking). They don’t ripen after picking, so eat them right away as they only last about 2-3 days. They are best stored unwashed and arranged in a single layer on a plate in the refrigerator.
Boysenberries: Boysenberries are less commonly found in your local grocery store, so if you come across them at your farmer’s market, be sure to pick up a basket! They are a cross between blackberries and raspberries with a dark purple color and you should see them appearing in late June. Each different fruit has a unique nutritional profile, and boysenberries are no different. As part of the berry family they are also high in antioxidants and fiber, but boysenberries specifically are an excellent source of folate. Like raspberries and blackberries, boysenberries are very delicate and should be handled with care and eaten quickly. Don’t wash them under running water, rather dip them in a bowl of water and lay flat to dry on a towel. Store in a single layer in the refrigerator.
Corn: Though corn is be available year-around and most of us consume our share of this grain through tortillas, chips, and popcorn; there’s no comparison to a fresh, sweet ear of corn found at the farmer’s market during the summer. Corn, in its natural form, is an excellent source of vitamin C, manganese, antioxidants, and fiber. Purchase organic corn to avoid genetically-modified varieties and look for ears with bright green, tight-fitting leaves. For the sweetest flavor, eat fresh corn the day of purchase and hold off shucking until the last minute.
Melons: Melons are actually a summer variety of autumn’s gourds, but are consumed as fruits due to their much sweeter and juicy flavor. Most melons contain about 95% water, making them a cooling and soothing summer fruit that has been known to relieve heartburn and cleanse the kidneys from the remnants of metabolism. Melons contain collagen, which promotes healthy, firm skin and the minerals in melon provide good digestive support. Look for melons with a symmetrical shape and bright skin. Some heirloom varieties are pale in color, but avoid melons that appear dull compared to the others. Most importantly, look for the “field spot,” the large spot that was in contact with the ground, indicating that it sat in the field for a long time, allowing it to mature and sweeten.
Okra: Okra grows in warm temperate regions and the pods are harvested while still immature to be eaten as a vegetable. Okra is an excellent source of fiber and mucilaginous content, which aids digestion and relieves constipation. Okra is also a good source of flolates, vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin K. Choose small pods, no more than 4 inches in length, with firm, bright, and unblemished skin. Store okra in a paper bag in the warmest part of the refrigerator for up to 3 days as overly cold storage can speed decay.
Pluots: 75% plum and 25% apricot, pluots are sweeter than their parents with more antioxidants as well. Pluots are an excellent source of carotenoids and flavanoids that help maintain eye health and can provide protection against cancer and heart disease. Look for pluots at your farmer’s market as they’re difficult to find at the grocery store. Select firm, ripe pluots that are free from any bruising or cuts. Ripe fruits give to pressure and are very fragrant. Ripe stone fruits are very delicate, so handle with care and don’t pile them on top of each other.
Raspberries: Filled with antioxidants, fiber, and just the right mix of tart and sweet, it’s easy to see why raspberries are one of the most popular berries in the world. Recent research has found that organic raspberries have significantly higher antioxidant capacity than non-organic raspberries. To further increase your antioxidant benefit, select raspberries that are fully ripe. Choose berries that are firm, plump, and deep in color, avoiding those that are soft, mushy, or moldy. They are highly perishable, so store unwashed berries in a single layer in your refrigerator and enjoy within 1-2 days.