Summer Fruit: A Monthly Guide to What’s in Season
Canadians have such a short window to enjoy locally grown fruits, so we need to make sure we savour every opportunity. Here are five fabulous fruits, along with irresistible ways to enjoy them.
Plums: In season July through August across the country
Plums and prunes aren’t just good for extra fibre; they’re also disease-fighting powerhouses. According to the oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) scale, which measures antioxidant capacites in food, plums offer more antioxidant action than raspberries, pomegranates and conventionally grown blueberries. Early research in vitro from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry has also linked the polyphenols in plum extract to the destruction of breast cancer cells.
How to try: Brush 2 halved and pitted plums and 8 slices of whole-grain baguette with oil. Grill on medium heat on both sides until the skin begins to blister and the bread is toasted. Slice the plum halves into 4 slices each. Mix together 1 cup ricotta with 1 tsp each lemon juice and honey to taste. Spread on the pieces of bread, top with the plum slices, sprinkle with a few toasted almonds and drizzle with 1 tsp aged balsamic vinegar for a savoury dessert.
Wild Blueberries: In season July through September across the country
We’ve been popping blueberries for ages for their heart-helping flavonoids, but those same antioxidant-rich compounds offer serious brain benefits, too. A large longitudinal study published in the Annals of Neurology tracked the blueberry consumption of 16, 010 participants and found that greater intakes were associated with delays in cognitive aging by up to 2 1/2 years.
How to try: Give classic summer succotash an update with the addition of wild blueberries. Lightly brush 2 cobs of corn, 2 halved zucchinis and 1 red bell pepper with oil and grill until they begin to soften and char slightly. Remove the kernels from the cob and the skin from the pepper (if desired) and finely dice the pepper and zucchini. Mix everything together with 1 cup each fresh wild blueberries and fresh blanched peas, 1 tbsp oil and a handful of torn basil.
Tart Cherries: In season June through July across the country
Cherries provide more than just a shot of disease-fighting antioxidants; research shows they can also give your fitness goals a boost. Studies on marathon runners suggest that drinking tart cherry juice before, during and after a run can speed up strength recovery and decrease muscle pain, while research on weight training shows possible reductions in exercise-induced muscle damage. (Try our Sour Cherry Smoothie.)
How to try: Garnish a grilled burger with pickled cherries. Here’s how to make your own: Bring ¾ cup white vinegar, 1/4 cup sugar, 2 tsp pink peppercorns, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 tsp coriander seeds and 3 cloves to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes. Strain, add 1 lb of pitted and stemmed cherries and continue to simmer for 35 minutes. Cool, transfer to glass jars and store in the fridge for up to one month.
Strawberries: In season May through July across the country
Not only are these sweet symbols of summer a low-calorie treat, but they can also help protect your complexion from the effects of the sun. Strawberries contain a unique cocktail of ellagic acid and anthocyanin antioxidants that works to prevent wrinkles and repair UV damage by blocking the destructive enzymes that break down collagen.
How to try: Take dessert to the next level with a tangy Italian-inspired iced granita. Purée 2 lb hulled strawberries with 3 tbsp sugar and 2 tsp each coarse black pepper and aged balsamic vinegar. Pour the purée into a shallow baking pan, cover with plastic wrap and place it in the freezer, scraping it with a fork every half hour for about 3 hours to create a light, crystal-like texture. Serve with sliced fresh strawberries.
Gooseberries: In season July through August across the country
These guys earn a big gold star for their impressive cardio-protective properties. Thanks to their naturally high levels of pectin, gooseberries are a fantastic source of soluble fibre, which research suggests can help lower “bad” (LDL) cholesterol and high blood pressure associated with heart disease. And you’ll get a about one-quarter of your daily fibre needs in a mere 65-calorie cup.
How to try: Drizzle a berry reduction over a fillet of grilled fish. Combine 1 cup gooseberries (with their tops and tails removed), 2 tbsp water and 1 to 2 tsp sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer until the berries burst, about 5 to 6 minutes. Meanwhile, grill 4 seasoned salmon or mackerel fillets over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes per side. Push the sauce through a fine sieve and serve over the fish.
Abbey Sharpe is a registered dietitian and owner of Abbey’s Kitchen in Toronto.