Summer is time for fresh

Driving around the North Country, I saw signs like this (at top left):

And this (bottom left):

We stopped at a roadside stand and bought tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and a head of cabbage. Our garden tomatoes are still green, but we have lots of lettuce and peas! Whether you grow it yourself, join a CSA, buy from a roadside stand or shop at the farmer’s market, fresh-picked veggies taste so much better than their canned, frozen, or shipped-across-the-continent counterparts. That’s because in many vegetables – like corn, peas, or carrots – sugars begin turning to starch the minute they’re harvested.

Peas lose half their sugar content and become mealy in less than a day after harvest. Refrigeration slows, but does not stop, this process. The natural sugar in corn kernels begins converting to starch right after harvest, and corn loses its sweetness. Fresh corn kernels are tender, delicate, creamy and sweet – not like their tougher, thick-skinned canned or frozen cousins. That’s why corn on the cob tastes best the same day it is harvested.

Freshly-harvested veggies are not just loaded with flavor – they also contain healthy antioxidants. Studies have shown that many nutrients are lost when fresh produce is stored.

Fresh summer veggies are not expensive. At one farm stand, tomatoes were four for a dollar; fairly large (but not oversized) zucchini and squash were 3 for a dollar.

Unfortunately, our cold winters don’t allow us much fresh produce. We have to store it or truck it in from warmer climates. So make the most of it while summer is here!

Summer Farmstand Salad

1 clove garlic

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 Tablespoon cider vinegar

1/2 pound fresh spinach

1/4 pound fresh, young arugula leaves

2 scallions

1 cucumber

2 tomatoes

1-2 Tablespoons crumbled feta cheese

1-2 Tablespoons plain yogurt, optional

Directions:

Crush garlic with salt. Place in bottom of salad bowl with the olive oil and vinegar; whisk together. Wash and tear greens; toss into the dressing, and stir well to combine. Slice scallions and cucumber; chop tomatoes and add. Fold in feta cheese and yogurt if using (it will make it more creamy). Stir and serve.

Quick Summer Harvest Squash

and Pepper Skillet

Ingredients:

1 to 2 strips bacon

1 large onion

1 to 2 sweet bell peppers

1/2 to 1 hot green pepper

3 to 4 ounces diced cooked ham

2 small or 1 medium zucchini or summer squash

1 large tomato (or several smaller)

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In large skillet on medium heat, cook bacon to render fat. When bacon is crisp and fat is rendered, remove and set aside.

While the bacon cooks, peel the onion, wash and core the peppers, and dice the vegetables. Add onions and peppers to bacon drippings, and cook on medium low for about 15 minutes, until they are soft. Add ham, squash, and tomato, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook about 10 more minutes, or until everything is cooked to desired doneness. Crumble in the reserved bacon. Taste to adjust seasonings. Serve over pasta with a salad of fresh greens. Serves two.

Author of the award-winning cookbook Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market, Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be reached at www.wordsaremyworld.com, yvonawrite@yahoo.com or on Facebook as

Author Yvona Fast.

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