Fruits and vegetables are essential to healthy diets and lifestyles, but nine out of 10 adults don’t eat enough of either, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Now that summer is here, it’s easier than ever to enjoy the fresh bounty of the season, using both your indoor and outdoor kitchens.
In the first piece of this two-part series, you got a primer on storing, preparing and cooking fresh vegetables in your kitchen, along with some space planning tips. This second part will focus on both fresh fruit and outdoor kitchens.
Fruit provides nutrients, natural sweetness and fiber to our diets, according to registered dietitian and director of fitness chain Life Time’s weight loss program, Anika Christ. It can be enjoyed in a variety of styles. “Some of my favorite ways include adding fresh fruit to a salad in the summer (watermelon chunks with a little feta is heaven), a handful of dried fruit to a homemade trail mix, or even simply frozen fruit – whether purchased frozen or freezing it yourself.”
Rather than cookies or candy, Christ provides fruit treats to her family. “I often buy a big bag of grapes and freeze them for a cold snack. I also freeze bananas to use in my morning protein shake or even to make some ‘nice cream,’ (blending frozen banana with a little vanilla extract and cacao nibs). My kids eat frozen blueberries with a little cream every night as a dessert too,” she shares.
Professional chef, appliance trainer and regenerative food entrepreneur Bridget Bueche points out that fruit can be grilled, as well as eating fresh.
“Stone fruits and pineapple are very rewarding to create a caramelization and a deepening in flavor,” she notes. “The natural sugars can cause a little mess on the grill, but once all the main meal items are cooked, it’s great to season them with a little spice, then brush them with a high heat oil like grapeseed. Serve them warm as is or in cobbler, toasted pound cake and ice cream or make a sorbet with intense flavor profiles.”
“Most people put everything directly into the fridge,” Bueche observes. Seasonal fruits like melons prefer natural light ripening, she suggests, but they can be chilled to serve. “If there is an abundance of your favorite fruit or vegetable perfect at its natural peak of season, let it ripen, eat, serve, and store the leftovers in the deep freeze, for pies muffins, smoothies or fresh sauces.”
Refrigerators with humidity control are ideal for extending the life of your produce, she recommends. Air purification and blue light technology also help, she adds.
Grilled kabobs with vegetables are incredibly popular, and people are realizing the benefits of grilling fruit too, but what type of grill should you consider? Appliance chain owner and blogger, Steve Sheinkopf of Boston area Yale Appliance comments, “You have the direct heat infrared burner, normally hot, but it can be controlled for fruit and veggies. Gas is the easiest to control, easiest to clean and fastest to use,” but adding, ”For flavor nothing beats charcoal.”
Once you’ve chosen your grill type and fuel, Sheinkopf says durability is key. That’s going to vary by region, with his local New England weather taking a toll on these appliances. The rest, he says, is determined by your use. Care also counts, of course, with seasonal storage and covers helping to extend their life.
In addition to grills, there are numerous other outdoor kitchen appliances that will help you prepare a vegetarian-friendly outdoor feast. “You can do anything outside now from grills, side burners, griddles and refrigeration,” he observes, and touts the benefits of two of these options: “Side burners will prevent you from going back and forth to your kitchen,” he notes, and “you can cook anything on a griddle!”
Sheinkopf also shares these tips for grilling produce: “Variable sear burners work well on fruit and veggies. Charcoal can be good for fruit and veggies as well.” He does point out that produce doesn’t need to be grilled as long as meats; plan accordingly.
Another increasingly popular outdoor cooking appliance is the pizza oven. These can be purchased as freestanding countertop models or built into a planned outdoor kitchen. Some pizza lovers choose vegetables as their toppings and these ovens will cook them perfectly.
If you are planning an outdoor kitchen, hire an experienced professional who can guide you to the best layouts and appliances that work for your needs and investment level. The National Kitchen & Bath Association and American Society of Landscape Architects are good resources for finding these pros.
You don’t have to be a gardener to enjoy fresh fruit and vegetables in your indoor or outdoor kitchen, but it’s a lovely benefit for those who have the space and interest. If not, chef Bueche suggests that supporting local farmer’s markets and purchasing a community supported agriculture (CSA) subscription box are ideal ways to get seasonal produce into your diet.
If you’re shopping at your supermarket, she warns, “Just because something is labeled ‘organic’ does not mean that no pesticides or herbicides were used. It simply means that the ones applied met the USDA’s standards. The definition of organic also limits the use of Genetically Modified Organisms,” she notes.
Life Time’s Christ adds, “I often recommend using the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen as guiding posts, while also prioritizing local and seasonal produce to help amplify the nutrition while saving some cash.” The nutrition pro also suggests buying or making a non-toxic produce spray to clean off any residuals from the farming process, she says.
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