Cucumber-Tomato Summer Salad
I love summer for many reasons, but one of the big ones is because we finally have fresh, local produce available.
My CSA from Miller Farms (meet Joe Miller) starts this weekend and I am so excited. I love to eat seasonally. So before I share with you one of my favorite summer recipes, let me tell you why eating seasonally can be so great.
Eat Seasonally because it's Closer
We've grown accustomed to having anything we want on hand at our local grocery store anytime we want it. Oh, America. That's just not the way agriculture works.
I live in Northern Colorado which means if I buy cantaloupe in November it's either been shipped half-way around the globe or grown in a greenhouse. While evidence for the benefits to the environment is mixed, it's fairly well established that buying local (whether food or other products) is a huge boost to the local economy.
I'll admit, I certainly don't follow this rule of eating seasonally to the T, but I do try to purchase fruits and veggies when they are in season. So in December I buy oranges and grapefruit, which are shipped from a few states away rather than a few countries away. In the spring my grocery cart is filled with baby kale and asparagus.
Here's a guide to seasonal produce to get you started!
Eat Seasonally because it's Better
The problem with demanding fresh produce during a season it's not normally grown is because quality suffers. In order to preserve quality of produce which travels in a truck for weeks, fruits and veggies must be picked before they are even close to being ripe.
When picked before peak ripeness (i.e. when a fruit/veggie is fully mature), produce tends to have less flavor and fewer nutrients. This is the reason I almost never-ever buy tomatoes and sweet corn from the grocery store. I was spoiled growing up, as we always had garden-fresh tomatoes and newly-picked sweet corn in the summer (see: Sweet Corn Season). In the winter I opt for canned tomatoes cooked in recipes, but never eat them fresh because they just don't taste very good.
Another reason I love to eat seasonally is for the variety. It's easy to get stuck in the same-'ole, same-'ole recipes for veggies, but if I buy seasonal produce it forces me to try new things. Check out this recipe for Butternut Squash Mexican Skillet for a tasty winter recipe or this spring/summertime Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp. By the time I'm bored with zucchini during the summer months (when plants tend to produce more than you could ever dream to eat), the season is over and I'm trying new foods.
Eat Seasonally because it's Cheaper
If it's on sale, it's in season!
When fruits and veggies are in season, there are a lot available all at once! The basic economic law of supply and demand says that when supply is high, cost goes down. Thus, choosing fruits and veggies when they go on sale means these will generally be better quality than their full-prices counterparts.
Following this simple rule of watching the price helps me identify which types of produce are in season - and makes it easier to stay within my budget while making healthy choices for my family.
We're about to enter the delicious season of both cucumber and tomatoes. When we grew these veggies in our garden as a kid, we always had both of these veggies coming out our ears - we had boxes of tomatoes and refrigerator drawers full of "cukes".
This recipe is a delicious, simple way to use your summer produce. So get to your nearest farmer's market and stock up!
To start, wash four to five small pickling cucumbers (or two large English cucumbers) thoroughly to remove all that garden dirt. Dice into 1/4-inch pieces; leave the peel on for extra fiber and nutrition!
Next, wash three medium fresh tomatoes and dice these into 1/4-inch pieces. Add cucumbers and tomatoes into a medium-sized mixing bowl.
Stir in a half cup feta cheese crumbles, two tablespoons of olive oil, and a fourth-teaspoon coarsely ground salt. Serve immediately or refrigerate for several hours to allow flavors to blend.
Cucumber-Tomato Summer Salad
4-5 small pickling cucumbers
3 medium tomatoes
1/2 c. feta cheese crumbles
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. coarsely ground salt
Dice cucumbers and tomatoes into 1/4-inch pieces. Leave peel on for extra fiber and nutrition. Add to medium-sized mixing bowl.
Mix veggies together and stir in feta cheese crumbles, olive oil, and salt.
Serve immediately or refrigerate for several hours to allow flavors to blend.
Serves 6 - Nutrients per serving: 112 calories -- 7g total fat -- 3g saturated fat -- 0g trans fat -- 10mg cholesterol -- 418mg sodium -- 7g total carbohydrates -- 1g fiber -- 4g sugar -- 5g protein