Daniela Fierini, RD, Clinical Nutrition Practice Leader, Registered Dietitian for the Hematology-Oncology Program
Summer is the perfect time to explore new foods
and flavours from your local farmers' market. It is an easy way to bump up your intake of vegetables and fruit as recommended by international health organizations including the Canadian Cancer Society and the American Institute for Cancer Research.
The advantage of locally-grown and in-season produce is that they are picked when they are most fresh and the nutrient stores are at their highest. Just-picked produce is also bursting with flavour. If you are not a fan of vegetables and fruit, summer is the best time to give them a try.
Tips to help you enjoy the best summer produce:
Try to buy foods you’ll eat now, when they are fresh. Select an amount you can use within a short time.
On warm days, try to get to the market early in the morning. The quality of unrefrigerated fruits and vegetables can decline from morning to afternoon.
- Bananas, melons, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes and tomatoes taste better when stored at room temperature. Keep them in a clean, dry, well-ventilated place that is away from direct sunlight.
- Avocados, kiwifruit, nectarines, peaches, pears and plums can be ripened on the counter and then stored in the refrigerator.
- Most other fresh fruits and vegetables can be stored in a clean refrigerator crisper at a temperature of 4 degrees C or below.
Store fruits separately from vegetables. Fruits give off a gas (called ethylene gas) which can shorten the storage life of vegetables. Some vegetables give off odours that can be absorbed by fruits and affect their quality.
Refrigerate fruits and vegetables in perforated plastic bags to help maintain moisture yet provide air flow. Without proper air flow, mold and bacteria can grow quickly.
- If you don’t have access to commercial, food-grade, perforated bags, use a sharp object to make several small holes in a food-grade plastic bag (about 20 holes per medium size bag).
Avoid keeping produce in a sealed plastic bag on the countertop. This slows ripening and may increase off-odors. It can also cause decay from the build-up of carbon dioxide and loss of oxygen in the bag.
Always wash your hands before working with produce.
Wash produce thoroughly under cold running water just before preparing or eating. Fresh produce has a natural protective coating that helps keep in moisture and freshness. Washing produce before storage causes it to spoil faster.
- Do not use soap as this can be absorbed into the produce.
- Remove the outer leaves of leafy vegetables and throw them out. Wash each inside leaf separately.
- Scrub fruits and vegetables that have a thick, rough skin or have dirt on the surface with a clean vegetable scrubber.
- Dry with a clean cloth or paper towel.
Rinse produce even if the peel will be removed before eating – such as for melons and citrus fruits!
- Bacteria on the outside of produce can get inside when produce is cut or peeled.
- Also, once you have cut through the protective skin of fruits and vegetables, bacteria can get onto the part you eat.
- Refrigerate cut or peeled fruits and vegetables.