Fruits, Veggies, and More
Simple tips for how to select, store and prepare a rainbow of fruits, vegetables, herbs, beans, nuts and seeds!
Don't forget to check out the suggested recipes below the tips.
Select acorn squash that are dull and heavy for their size. Store in a cool, dry area away from extreme temperatures and sunlight. Acorn squash can stay fresh for up to 3 months.
About 2,500 known varieties of apples are grown in the United States. More than 7,500 are grown worldwide!
Apricots are often crossed with plums to provide pluots (mostly plum), plumcots (equal plum and apricot) and apriums (mostly apricot).
Asparagus will be in season next month! Now is a good time to start thinking about all the delicious ways you can prepare this nutritious vegetable. Thin stalks are great for steaming or microwaving and eating raw. Medium stalks are typically used for stir-fries, oven-roasting and grilling. Large spears are used for dipping, grilling and soups.
Avocados are a fruit that contains a high amount of protein and healthy monounsaturated fats. Not only do they provide healthy benefits they are also a tasty and fresh addition to many recipes!
Genovese basil is a common variety. Lemon basil has a citrus flavor and is good in desserts. Thai basil has a strong licorice flavor. Cinnamon basil has a sharp flavor. Try all the varieties of basil!
For many of us, beets have a bad reputation. But if you know how to select, store and prepare them, they can be delicious!
Choose peppers that are brightly colored and firm with tight skin. Refrigerate and use within 5 days. Add them to pizzas, scrambled eggs or salads. Stuff and bake them for a delicious meal!
Beans are an inexpensive source of protein, fiber, and iron! Black beans are sweet tasting with a soft floury texture.
Blackberries (black raspberries) are also known as black caps. They are full of anthocyanins which are powerful antioxidants. Besides their health benefits they are a flavorful addition to any recipe.
Blueberries has high antioxidant properties and they are great in many different recipes both sweet and savory!
Bok Choy is also called Chinese cabbage and pak-choi and has been grown in China for more than 6,000 years!
Buy fresh or frozen in whole heads or florets. Broccoli heads should be odorless with tight, green florets. Refrigerate broccoli and use within 3-5 days. Broccoli can be sauteed, steamed, boiled, broiled or eaten raw. Toss broccoli in a stir-fry, add it to salads, throw it on pizzas or dip it in low-fat ranch for a fun treat!
Broccoli Rabe is also called Broccoli Raab and Rapini. It is an excellent source of Vitamins A and C. Small yellow flowers that might grow from broccoli-like buds are edible!
Butternut squash can be used as a substitute in any recipe that calls for pumpkin. Choose a squash heavy for its size. Store in a cool, dark place for up to a month. Once cut, refrigerate unused portion.
Cabbage is one of the oldest vegetables in existence and continues to be a dietary staple throughout the world. The bright color in red cabbage may stain foods, clothes, and utensils. You can prepare red cabbage with vinegar, wine, or an acidic fruit to maintain its color-otherwise it with become bluish-gray!
Cantaloupes are named for the papal gardens of Cantalupo, Italy, where some historians say this species of melon was first grown.
Carrots can also be found in purple, white, red or yellow. Carrots were the first vegetable to be canned commercially.
Not all cauliflower is white! Try purple and orange cauliflower too (they lose their color when cooked!).
The wild form of celery is known as smallage. It was in the 17th and 18th centuries that celery was developed by breeding the bitterness out of smallage! Celery leaves may be used as an herb or garnish.
The cherry tomato is very versatile. Drizzle with a favorite dressing or vinaigrette, or add to stir-fry recipes. Enjoy by the handful, with fresh herbs, or as an attractive edible garnish. They are also perfect as an appetizer for any social event!
Choose bunches with crisp, dark green leaves. Store in a plastic bag in the fridge up to 5 days. For longer storage, steam, chop into pieces, and freeze in plastic bags. Check out the recipe below which comes with other ideas for how to prepare this nutrient-rich vegetable.
The average ear of corn has 800 kernels, arranged in 16 rows. There is one piece of silk for each kernel. The United States is one of the leading corn producers in the world.
Cucumbers can be sauteéd and served warm with a little chopped dill as a side dish. Combine cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, parsley, and seasonings in a blender to make gazpacho, a cold vegetable soup.
Although gardeners may look with disdain on the yellow-flowered dandelion when the weeds grow wild in their yards, cooks view its leaves with delight! Recognizable by the leaves' jagged edges, dandelion is a bitter-tasting green that's packed with beta-carotene. Dandelion greens have a peppery, tangy, bitter flavor. Vinaigrette dressing can help soften the bitterness in a salad. They are also great braised in a liquid and served warm!
Delicata squash is a winter squash also referred to as the peanut squash and Bohemian squash. Delicata squash hold their shape well when cooked, making them a good choice for stuffing with whole grains, lean meats or cheeses, fruits and vegetables or baking with your favorite seasonings.
Mix kale and other leftovers with mashed potatoes to make an Irish dish called Colcannon.
Eggplant is a member of the nightshade or potato family, which also includes tomatoes and hot peppers. Many useful medicines are derived from this family. Eggplants can be purple, green, white or striped, pear-shaped or cylindrical and the size of a golf ball to a football. Peel, cook, and pureé with garlic, lemon juice, tahini and olive oil to make Baba Ganooj. Stew with zucchini, onion, garlic, and tomato to make Ratatouille.
Broad-leafed escarole is the most common. Curly varieties are more bitter. Escarole is especially good with red pepper flakes as a seasoning!
Fennel is sometimes called “sweet anise” and has a delicate licorice flavor. The feathery tops can be used as an herb.
Resembling a sweet potato in shape, fingerling potatoes have thin skin and fine textured yellow, white, red, or purple flesh. Due to their thin skin, they do not need to be peeled before cooking. Fingerling potatoes add vibrant colors and pizzazz to traditional potato salads and other favorite potato dishes!
Garbanzo Beans, also known as Chickpeas
These legumes are used in a variety of cultural dishes from around the world. They have many health benefits too!
The majority of garlic (90%) grown in the United States comes from California. To make a sweet spread, roast garlic in the oven until soft.
Garlic scapes are a zesty addition to any recipe. You can find them in farmers markets near you during the summer season!
Green beans, also know as string beans, are one of the few varieties of beans eaten fresh.
Peas are at their sweetest immedietly after being picked which is why industrially they are frozen within a few hours of harvest.
Green tomatoes have most of the same health benefits as red tomatoes, with almost the same amount of beta-carotene. Fried green tomatoes are a Southern standard, but did you realize you can also grill green tomatoes? In fact, they work much better on a grill than their red counterparts.
In the same plant family as nightshade, these yummy veggies were mistakenly thought to be poisonous until the nineteenth century.
"Squash" comes from the Narragansett Native American word askutasquash, which means "eaten raw or uncooked."
Jalapeños are a variety of chili pepper that has a lot of heat! When selecting jalapeños, the peppers that appear to have "stretch marks" are typically hotter.
You'll find all different varieties of this nutrition-packed leafy green vegetables at your local farmers' market. Look for dark colored bunches with small to medium leaves. Avoid brown or yellow leaves. When you get home, store your kale in a plastic bag in the coldest part of the fridge for 3-5 days.
Kohlrabi or cabbage turnip, tastes like a mixture of cucumber and mild broccoli. Baby kohlrabi can be as crisp and juicy as an apple. Bulbs can be purple or green, with white flesh. They can be eaten raw (like jicama) or cooked. Leaves can be cooked like collard greens.
The leek is a member of the onion family but has a sweeter, more subtle flavor than an onion. It can be eaten raw or cooked but the green tops are usually not eaten.
Mustard greens are the most pungent of the cooking greens and lend a peppery flavor to food. They originated in the Himalayan region of India more than 5,000 years ago.
Cut into slivers to make cole slaw with carrots, green onions, sesame oil, rice vinegar, brown sugar, grated fresh ginger, and soy sauce. For finger food, wrap around fish before steaming, peanut noodles or any filling!
Okra is popular in Southern and Cajun cooking, especially gumbo, a thickened soup often served over rice. Okra goes especially well with tomatoes and can be boiled, fried or pickled.
Parsnips are sweetest after a frost. In Europe they were used to sweeten jams and cakes before sugar became widely available.
The pinto bean was first cultivated more than 5,000 years ago in the very earliest Mexican and Peruvian civilizations and was very popular in both the Aztec and Inca cultures.
Of the more than 5,000 varieties of potatoes in the world, one of the most common varieties in the United States is the red potato. Because of the red potatoes' flavor and texture, it’s best to boil or roast them. They absorb flavors well, bring texture to a variety of hot and cold dishes, and cook faster than other varieties. They also are great for potato salad!
To roast seeds, rinse & blot dry. Toss in oil and spread on baking sheet. Bake at 250 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Add salt and spices, and have as a snack!
This veggie’s greens can be eaten too, either cooked or raw! French Breakfast, Round Red, and Easter Egg varieties are usually eaten raw, whereas Daikon is often used in stir-fries.
Raspberries are packed with vitamin C and anthocyanins which are powerful antioxidants. Not to mention they are packed with flavor!
Red Kidney Bean
Beans are a part of a heart healthy diet, and, you can find them year round! Choose low-sodium or no-salt added canned beans and rinse them in water to wash off any added salt. Dried beans are usually available in prepackaged containers as well as in bulk bins. Scroll down to find a great video on how to cook dried beans!
Red Russian Kale
Kale is great raw in salads, wraps, pitas, and sandwiches. Steam, microwave or boil, sauté or stir-fry, braise in flavored broth. Add to soups for last few minutes of cooking. Cook with olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice as side dish, substitute for spinach or collards.
To use up wilted lettuce, sauté in olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper for a side dish!
Choose rutabagas that are heavy for their size and free of soft spots or cracks. Refrigerate in a plastic bag with some air holes for up to 3 weeks. For long-term storage, pack in moist sand and store in a cold root cellar at 32-40 degrees for 2-6 months. To prepare, rinse in cold water and peel skin. Slice or grate in salads, coleslaw, or use as garnish. Microwave, steam, boil, roast, or stir-fry. Cook and mash, add to casseroles, soups, stews, and vegetable and meat dishes.
Today, only about 5% of peas are sold fresh. Most of the fresh forms include sugar snap peas and snow peas.
Spinach was first cultivated over 2,000 years ago in Iran. By 1806, it had become a popular vegetable in America and in the 1920’s the U.S. pushed spinach commercially, with the Popeye the Sailorman cartoon becoming a great advocate for spinach consumption. Spinach is eaten raw in salads and also as a cooked green much like turnip greens or collard greens.
Today, only about 5% of peas are sold fresh. Most of the fresh forms include sugar snap peas and snow peas.
Look for these brightly colored greens at your local farmers market or grocery store. When you're cooking with chard you can use their colorful stems, but cook them longer than the leaves. They taste great sautéed in oil and spices, with other vegetables or alone (see Sautéed Greens recipes below).
Also known as the Tomate Verde and Mexican Husk Tomato, the tomatillo is a staple in Mexican salsa and mole. It has a tart tomato taste. To make salsa verde, puree raw or cooked with onions, garlic, peppers, and spices!
Turnips come in all shapes and colors; from round to cylindrical and from rose to black. They may be eaten raw or cooked.
The first recorded watermelon harvest occurred nearly 5,000 years ago in Egypt. Watermelons are now grown in 96 countries worldwide.
Yellow squash, along with other summer squash, is part of the species C. pepo (pentagonal, prickly stem). Summer squashes usually have a soft edible shell and seeds, they ripen in summer and need to be eaten soon after harvest.
"I have raisins today. After I had them for snack with you, I told my mom I liked them and now she buys them for me. I only had two boxes left today but I gave one to my sister." Second grader at Seward Elementary, December 2016