Farmers market finds for August

Move over oranges, new vitamin C options are in season

Artichokes

Look for

  • Closed heads: the leaves should form tight, compact layers
  • Firm and feel heavy for its size
  • Brown stem neither slimy or dry

“Fresh artichokes will last up to a week, but like all veggies they are best used as soon as possible after harvest,” says Nadine Khoury, registered dietitian and Clinic Manager, Nutrition Services. “If cut more than a few hours ago the stem will be brown, but it shouldn’t feel slimy or dry. Keep artichokes loosely wrapped in plastic in the fridge.”

Health benefits

  • Super high in antioxidants: linked to reducing tissue and organ damage and aging
  • Fibre: prevents constipation, hemorrhoids, and diverticulosis
  • Folic acid: supports protein metabolism; red blood cell formation; cell division and growth
  • Vitamin C: for wound healing, collagen formation; maintaining healthy gums and blood vessels
  • Vitamin K: for proper blood clotting or coagulation

How to prepare
Khoury likes to trim artichokes like this, then salt/pepper and steam with slices of lemon on top of each artichoke in a pot with a drizzle of olive oil, one cup of water and the juice of half a lemon fhttp://localfoods.about.com/od/artichokes/tp/aboutartichokes.htmor 30 minutes. Enjoy by peeling each leaf and extracting flesh using your teeth.

Beets

Farmers market beets are often sold with the top greens intact, a nutritionally-dense bonus for shopping local. Khoury recommends cutting the greens from the root as soon as possible to keep the roots moist.

“Beet greens, just like other greens, should be washed thoroughly in clean running water and rinsed in saline water for about 30 minutes in order to remove soil, sand, dirt, and any insecticide residues before use,” says Khoury. “Top beet greens should be used while they are fresh. Beetroot, however, can be kept in the refrigerator set at high relative humidity for few weeks.”

Health benefits
“The beet is a rich source of B-complex vitamins like as niacin (B-3), pantothenic acid (B-5), pyridoxine (B-6) and minerals such as iron, manganese, copper, and magnesium, which benefits anyone who wants to reduce inflammation in their bodies,” says Khoury. “Beet root is an excellent source of the phytochemical compound glycine betaine, which is also found in other vegetables and recommended to maintain strong cardiovascular health.”

Don’t forget the top greens, they are packed with benefits. Just 100 grams of chopped beet greens – that’s around a handful – offer 30 milligrams, or 50% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C. It’s also an excellent source of vitamin A, which supports growth and repair of body tissues; immune function; eye health and night vision. Sautée beet greens and fill up half your plate for brain boosting, cancer preventing and immune strengthening.

How to prepare
Khoury likes to peel, shred or thinly slice fresh beets into salads; and sautée the greens with a bit of olive oil, chili flakes and garlic as a side. Other suggestions: Avocado, Beet and Chicken Tostadas; Roasted Beet, Walnut and Arugula Salad; or Beet, Orange and Jicama Salad.

Peaches

Juicy gems of the season

  • Peaches continue to ripen after they have been picked. If they were picked too early (still green), they will ripen at room temperature after a day or two
  • Smell them for a fragrant scent and squeeze gently to determine ripeness
  • Red indicates variety
  • Look for a golden yellow around the stem

Health benefits
Juicy and sweet, peaches are a Canadian favourite at this time of the year. They are low on the glycemic index and can be enjoyed by everyone including people with diabetes as part of the recommended 2 to 3 servings of fruit daily.

“A medium-sized peach is considered one serving is low in calories, carbohydrates and rich source of beta carotene,” says Vandana Gujadhur, a registered dietitian at Medcan. Gujadhur says other benefits include:

  • Low carbohydrate and low calorie choice
  • Rich in vitamin C
  • Beta carotene supports healthy skin
  • High in lutein, which may protect against age-related macular degeneration
  • Cardiovascular health: eating the skin and juicy parts of the peach can support heart health

How to prepare
Peaches are perfect with oatmeal for breakfast, or Gujadhur recommends adding chopped peaches to a fresh August salad of arugula, sliced almonds or walnuts, handful of chickpeas and a basil vinaigrette.

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