Seasonal Snacks

Aug 012016
 

Seasonal Snacks: August - Watermelon

 

Watermelon is the quintessential summertime fruit snack. True to its name, watermelons are more than 90% water so are extremely refreshing and hydrating. However, despite their high water content, watermelons are powerhouses of nutrition as well.

 

  • Lycopene – Lycopene is one of the most potent anti-inflammatory antioxidants, usually found in pink and red fruits and vegetables. It helps keep a variety of diseases at bay by clearing your body of harmful free radicals and has been shown to protect your skin against harmful UV rays. While tomatoes are especially well-known for their lycopene content, watermelons have an even higher concentration of lycopene than tomatoes.
  • Vitamin A – Vitamin A is good for maintaining the health of your eyes, skin and bones.
  • Vitamin C – Vitamin C is an antioxidant which helps support your immune system, maintains skin elasticity, and helps your body heal and repair itself. It is also believed to increase your blood flow by helping your blood vessels to relax.
  • Vitamin B6 – Vitamin B6 is important for converting food into energy and maintain good metabolism.

 

There are more than 1200 varieties of watermelon, ranging from dark red to pale yellow. When choosing a watermelon, try to find one which feels heavy for its size, with a smooth rind (skin), and a hollow bass sound when you knock on it. You may be surprised to know that every part of the watermelon is edible, including its seeds and rind (nb: if you eat the rind, try and make sure it is organic).

 

 

* The produce above is in season in August in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, August seasonal produce includes pineapples, blood oranges, and artichokes.

 

 

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Jul 012016
 

SS: July - Cherries and Peaches

 

 

Summertime is prime stone-fruit time and my two favourites are cherries and peaches.

 

Cherries: When I was a little girl, I remember eating cherries straight out of a colander, freshly rinsed. I was taught that the darker cherries were sweeter and I would spend time examining the pile looking for the darkest cherries, with extra joy when I found twin-cherries joined by the stem. However, there are many varieties of sweet cherries which  come in a variety of colours from deep burgundy to bright red to yellow. When buying cherries, look for glossy firm skin and green stems. Cherries stay freshest in cold storage so make sure you keep them in your refrigerator rather than on your countertop (unless you plan on eating them straight away, in which case your countertop is perfectly fine). Cherries freeze well if you remove their stone, place them in a single layer on a tray in the freezer until frozen through, and then seal them in a freezer-bag. You can then throw these cherries into smoothies and desserts directly from your freezer.

 

Peaches: Peaches took me a little longer to appreciate because my mini-self objected to their lightly fuzzy skin, but I soon overcame that hurdle and enjoyed many moments of simple pleasure in the company of a perfectly ripe peach, it’s juice running down my wrist. Even now, I sometimes try to eat my peaches quietly away from the rest of the household to fully absorb myself in that moment of simple joy. When buying peaches, look for unblemished skin and a slight give when pressed with your thumb. Peaches come in a variety of shades from pale yellow to blush red to maroon, and can be large round orbs or small flat discs (my preference is for flat peaches). The scent of a peach is a good indicator of its taste. Peaches are delicate so make sure you carry them on top of the rest of your shopping rather than at the bottom (as I have learned the hard way). Peaches are at their peak in July and August.

 

* The produce above is in season in July in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, July seasonal produce includes papayas, mandarins and golden delicious apples.

 

 

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May 012016
 

SS: May - Rhubarb and Strawberries

 

 

Rhubarb and strawberries come into season roughly around the same time, with rhubarb making its appearance first and strawberries following soon after. They can be eaten separately of course, but they also work wonderfully stewed together with some brown sugar as a topping for desserts. Have a look at my recently posted recipe ‘Rhubarb and Strawberry Compote (with a hint of rosewater)’.

 

Rhubarb is a vegetable which is in season from around April to July. Only the stalks of the rhubarb are edible, with the leaves being toxic due to high levels of oxalic acid (so make sure you always discard your rhubarb leaves). Rhubarb is quite tart and some people dip it into sugar before eating it raw. I prefer stewing it with a little brown sugar and some fruit to make a topping for yogurt and desserts. Rhubarb freezes well, so you can chop it up and freeze it for upto 6 months to use later in the year.

 

Strawberries follow quickly on the heels of rhubarb, and are in season from roughly May to July. Strawberries are part of the ‘Dirty Dozen List’ of fruits and vegetables which should always be bought organic as they retain a lot of pesticides on their skin even after washing. Colour is more important than size , so look for bright red strawberries strawberries and avoid ones which have a lot of white at the top as this indicates that they have been picked too early and may not be as tasty.

 

 

 

* The produce above is in season in May in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, May seasonal produce includes apples, kumquats and broccoli.

 

 

 

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Apr 012016
 

Seasonal: April - Asparagus, Arugula and Grapefruit

 

April means that we’re well into Springtime. Here is what you should be snacking on this month:

 

Asparagus is in season from March until June, with April being it’s peak month. Raw asparagus has a taste similar to mangetout, and it can be eaten in many different ways. Thin and delicate spears can be eaten as is, while thick spears do well if you slice them thinly. You can dunk them in your favourite dip, throw them into a salad, or scatter them on top of virtually anything you’re eating. If you can’t quite get yourself to munch on raw asparagus, tossing them with olive oil and throwing them into a grill pan, panini press or oven to cook lightly will intensify their flavour to the more familiar asparagus taste that most of us are used to. Cooked asparagus can be kept in the refrigerator for upto three days.

 

Grapefruit is in season from winter until late Spring/early summer. Being rather bitter, grapefruit often gets neglected by some of us over the winter months because it has to compete with its sweeter counterparts like clementines, navel oranges and mandarins. However, by Spring a lot of the sweeter citrus fruits are past their best so grapefruit gets a chance to shine. Unless you are used to its bitterness, eating a grapefruit can be a difficult experience. Juicing it makes it easier, especially if you juice it with another sweeter fruit. Grapefruit works well in salad dressings too. I’ll be posting a recipe for Grapefruit Vinaigrette next week, so make sure you sign up for my ‘healthy reminder emails’ (in the right-hand column) or follow me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter to see when I post the recipe!

 

Rucola (‘Rucola’ is the name in Italy, ‘Arugula’ is the name in the USA, and ‘Rocket’ is the name in the UK) is a spicy peppery leaf which thrives in Spring. If you like rucola’s spiciness, you can dress it simply with olive oil, vinegar and salt (shave some parmesan on that while you’re at it) for a simple side salad. However, if you find the zingy spiciness overwhelming, then mix it up with other leaves. It’s also a delicious addition to any sandwich or tossed into pasta. Throughout the month of April, have a stash of rucola (washed, dried and stored in a salad spinner) ready to use in the refrigerator.

 

Next week, I’m going to post the recipe for a salad using all of the ingredients above, so make sure you sign up for my ‘healthy reminder emails’ (in the right-hand column) or follow me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter to see when I post the recipe!

 

Recipe: Asparagus and Arugula Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette

 

The produce above is in season in April in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, April seasonal produce includes Granny Smith apples, Valencia oranges and pomegranates.

 

 

 

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Mar 012016
 

SS - March: Radishes, Baby Spinach, Endives

 

 

March is here so start looking out for delicious new Spring vegetables!

 

Radishes come into season in spring. They tend to become spicier as the temperature gets higher, so spring radishes are milder than summer radishes. Look for firm radishes with fresh green leaves, and avoid any radishes which feel soft or spongey. To store radishes, chop off the green stems and leaves at the top because they pull moisture from the radish. The leaves are edible raw or cooked so make sure you store the radishes and the separated leaves in your refrigerator’s vegetable drawer.

 

Baby spinach is a cool weather vegetable which grows best in early Spring and in Autumn. Look for fresh dark green leaves which are not wilted. Baby spinach is extremely versatile and can be added into all sorts of food for a quick nutritional boost. It takes on other flavours well so it is wonderful in green smoothies (trust me on this – 80% spinach, 20% ripe fruit, plus some liquid and a touch of honey). A handful of baby spinach leaves in a salad or added into anything you are cooking is another easy way to incorporate this Spring vegetable into your diet. To make a delicious healthy spinach dip, see my recipe ‘Baby Spinach and Garlic Dip‘.

 

Endive season is September to May, with the peak of endive season around November. Spring is your last chance to eat these lovely bitter vegetables before they go out of season. Look for endives with fresh looking leaves which are not wilted and brown on the edges. Harvested endives tend to become more bitter with exposure to light, so you may want to store you endives wrapped in a paper towel in your refrigerator’s vegetable drawer. They can be eaten raw or cooked. If you find endives too bitter, mixing them with other leaves helps to balance their flavour. They also sweeten when roasted in the oven with olive oil.

 

 

SS - March: Radishes, Baby Spinach, Endives

 

 

The produce above is in season in March in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, March seasonal produce includes figs, plums and kale.

 

 

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Feb 012016
 

Seasonal Snacks:February 2016

 

February is the month to top up on the last of the season’s clementines and persimmons. These bright orange fruits bring sunshine into my kitchen through the winter months and this is probably the last month that you can get a good supply of them before they disappear for the next nine months (in the northern hemisphere).

 

These bright orange coloured fruits get their sunny pigment from an antioxidant called beta-carotene. Beta-carotene has many benefits, but it is especially helpful in maintaining beautiful skin and healthy eyes and vision.

 

Seasonal Snacks:February 2016

 

 

The above fruits are in season in February in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, February seasonal fruits include kiwifruit, mangoes and strawberries (lovely dipped in dark chocolate for a Valentine’s treat!)

 

 

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Dec 012015
 

Seasonal Snacks: December - Citrus Fruits

 

In December, make sure you fill up your basket with the a wide variety of citrus fruits for a quick and healthy snack:

  • Clementines – Clementines are sweet and juicy and usually seedless. Because they are easy to peel and break into segments, this small citrus fruit is the perfect snack to grab when you’re on the go.
  • Navel Oranges – Navel oranges are seedless and tend to be larger than the average orange. On the blossom end of the fruit, you will find a navel-like circle which gives it it’s name. Because they do not have seeds, they are one of my favourite fruits to cut up and put into fruit salads.
  • Blood Oranges – Blood oranges are sweet with a hint of raspberry flavour. Their skin is either orange-coloured or has a slight reddish blush. It is only when you cut into a blood orange that you see the beautiful hue of its flesh which can be anywhere from pink to red to dark maroon. The colour is due to an antioxidant called anthocyanin which develops as the fruit ripens. Their thick skin can be tricky to peel, so they are best eaten cut into wedges.
  • Grapefruits – Grapefruits come in a variety of colours including white, yellow, pink and red. Try to opt for pink and red grapefruits which get their colour from an antioxidant called lycopene (not present in white or yellow varieties). Grapefruits have a very unique flavour which takes some getting used to. They are bitter and acidic with a hint of sweetness right at the end. If you like grapefruit, the best way to eat it is to simply cut it in half and eat the segments with a spoon. However, if you are not upto eating a grapefruit on its own, try tossing it into a fruit salad with other sweeter citrus fruits.
  • Pomelos – Pomelos are the largest citrus fruit variety and have a very thick yellow or green skin. They are similar to grapefruits but taste milder and sweeter. For this reason, many people find pomelos more palatable than grapefruits.
  • Lemons – Lemons are bitter and sharp and there is only a small percentage of the population who can happily suck on a slice without their faces puckering up. I always keep a lot of lemons on hand to squeeze on top of food and into drinking water.
  • Limes – Limes are sweeter than lemons and have their own unique flavour. Again, there are not many people who would happily eat a whole lime on its own, but it’s delicious squeezed on top of food and into drinking water.

 

The above fruits are in season in December in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, December seasonal fruits include blueberries, raspberries, papayas, peaches, grapes and watermelons.             

 

 

Seasonal Snacks: December - Citrus Fruits

 

 

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Oct 232015
 

October Snack Platter - Figs and Persimmon

 

Dear friends,

I have decided to start writing a monthly post called ‘Seasonal Snacks’ about seasonal fruits and vegetables which we can all snack on easily throughout the month. I hope you’ll find it useful and it will help you know what to look out for when you’re shopping for food. My aim is to mostly keep it raw, easy to prepare (usually just wash and cut), and always seasonal. This is my first Seasonal Snacks post, ‘October – Figs and Persimmons’.

Making healthy eating easier!

Love,

Erum (Total Salads)

 

 

In the Northern Hemisphere, figs are in season from June to October while persimmons are in season from October to February. Because fig season comes to an end just as persimmon season begins, there is only a short period of time every year (roughly around October) when you can eat them together on the same platter. So grab the chance to feast on them together this month while you still can!

 

 

Share your thoughts: Do you prefer figs or persimmons? Or, like me, do you love them both equally?

 

 

SEASONAL SNACKS: OCTOBER – FIGS AND PERSIMMONS

 

Ingredients:

Ripe persimmons (as many as you can eat in one sitting)

Ripe figs (as many as you can eat in one sitting)

 

Directions:

  1. Wash and dry your figs and persimmons.
  2. Using a serrated bread knife (or other sharp knife), cut the fruit evenly in half or quarters.
  3. Place on a platter and serve immediately. Best served at room temperature.
  4. Any leftover cut fruit can be kept in the fridge and should be eaten within a day.

 

Share your thoughts: Do you prefer figs or persimmons? Or, like me, do you love them both equally?

 

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