August signals the final long weeks of summer. It tends to be filled with travel, friends, and long meals enjoyed outdoors on warm summer nights. The markets are still lingering with summer fruit and beginning to burst with pre-fall harvest. I encourage you to get to your local farmer’s market (or a new market if you’re on vacation!) to experience the bounty for yourself. Here are a few of my favorites for August:
Albacore Tuna: Fresh albacore is available between June and October, and canned tuna is available year-around. Tuna is an excellent source of omega-3 fats, which provide anti-inflammatory health benefits. Though tuna is a bit controversial due to its potential mercury content (and BPA contamination from cans), you can find out what to look for when purchasing tuna by visiting Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch.
Apples: Though apples are commonly associated with autumn, they become available during August and are a good source of fiber, vitamin C, and support stable blood sugar levels. The variety of apple you choose will depend on your personal taste preferences, but look for apples with firm skin and rich color. Like the adage says, “one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch,” it’s best to remove any bruised apples from the group as they release large amounts of ethylene gas that will decrease the shelf life of the others.
Basil: From the same family as peppermint, basil provides both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. Try to select fresh basil as its flavor is superior to dried basil. Look for deep green leaves that are free of dark or yellow spots.
Grapes: An overwhelming amount of research has been done on the health benefits of grapes, showing benefits to the cardiovascular system, respiratory system, immune system, inflammatory system, blood sugar regulating system, and the nervous system. Fully ripe grapes have the highest antioxidant content, so select grapes that are plump, without wrinkles, and firmly attached to the stem with the color around the stem the same as the rest of the grape.
Potatoes: Potatoes are a good source of vitamin B6, vitamin C, copper, potassium, manganese, and dietary fiber. Look for potatoes that are firm, relatively smooth, and haven’t been washed. Avoid those with decay, green spots, or sprouts. Potatoes will keep in a cool, dark place for 2 months.
Sage: Sage has one of the longest histories of any medicinal herb, having been used by ancient civilizations as a preservative, and was believed to promote immortality. Today we know that sage contains a variety of volatile oils, flavanoids, and phenolic acids known for their anti-inflammatory and brain-boosting effects. Fresh sage is superior in flavor to dried, so look for sage with vibrant, green-grey leaves that are free from brown or yellow spots.
Strawberries: A common fruit, strawberries are prized for their sweet taste, but also provide supportive nutrients for the cardiovascular system, blood sugar balance, and cancer prevention. During August, strawberries are at the tail end of their peak season, so enjoy them while you can! Since strawberries don’t ripen further once picked, select berries that are plump and deep red with attached caps. They’re very perishable so be sure to enjoy them within a few days of purchase.
Tomatillos: If you’re ever so lucky as to come across these rare little treats, be sure to pick up a bunch and make some salsa! Their flavor is a bit more tart, and more suitable for most recipes when they’re a bit unripe, so look for tomatillos that are bright green and still quite hard. To store, remove the husks and keep them in the vegetable compartment of your refrigerator. Tomatillos have many qualities similar to tomatoes, except for lycopene. Tomatillos instead contain an antioxidant called withanolide, which is known to have anti-bacterial and anti-cancer properties.