It’s garden season! Through the latter part of July and certainly into August, all the efforts of nurturing and tending the summer gardens start to bear fruit. It’s a happy sight to see tomatoes ripening from green to red, the many squash blossoms transitioning into zucchini and yellow squash, cucumbers elongating, green beans seemingly sprouting overnight, herbs at their peak, lettuces ready for harvest, and blueberries bursting with flavor! And even if you don’t have a garden, Farmer’s Markets and grocers are stocked full with local seasonal produce, all at its prime!
Many cultures still follow a seasonal-based diet. This keeps the body attuned to the natural rhythm of nature around you, eating what is available during the present season, such as cooling fruits and vegetables in the summer (melons, berries, corn, cucumbers) and warming fruits and vegetables in the fall and/or early winter (apples, pears, broccoli, winter squashes). The body understands this rhythm and comes into greater energetic and nutritional balance when eating based on the season. When you can eat produce directly from the Earth (versus packaged and shipped or imported), it brings you in closer connection with the environment where you live, it reduces the carbon footprint, and you enjoy the optimal nutritional value of the fruits and vegetables harvested at their peak levels of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Fresh produce does the body good!
With the summer’s abundance of fresh vegetables, fruits, greens and herbs, it can be fun to experiment with new recipes and combinations! Here are a few favorites I’ve recently enjoyed pulling together, and I’m excited to share these simple recipes with you! Each of the recipes is vegan, gluten-free, chock-full of flavor and will make up to 4 side-dish size servings. I hope you enjoy ‘chef’ing it up!! ~ Jen Rizza
Garden Vegetable Salad
This makes a delicious side-dish for a picnic, can be enjoyed as a healthy snack, or could be a nice vegan lunch option! Keep the salad refrigerated and remove about 5-10 minutes before serving. The salad will hold for roughly 4-5 days when covered and stored in the refrigerator.
2-3 medium yellow squash
2 medium cucumbers
16-20 cherry tomatoes
1/3 cup diced red onion
1/3 cup toasted pinenuts
Greek seasoning to taste
Salt, pepper, oregano
1 Tbsp olive oil
Vegan Nicoise-style Salad
This is a delightful dish on its own or as a complement to a larger meal. Packed with protein and singing with flavor, this is a delightful vegan dish in tribute to the classic Nicoise-style salad with tuna. Once prepared, store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
1-1 ½ cups of clean and hand-torn lettuce (Bibb and/or red leaf lettuces are so nice together!)
1 cup sauteed green beans
12-16 cherry tomatoes
10-12 marinated pitted olives (Kalamatas, Bella Cerignolas or Spanish green olives are delicious!)
1/2 ear cooked corn, kernels cut off
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 cup cooked red kidney beans
Salt, pepper, granulated garlic
1-2 Tbsp dried or fresh chopped oregano
1-2 Tbsp dried or fresh chopped parsley
1-2 tsp powered ginger (or you could use powdered mustard)
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
Grilled Summer Sweet Corn
To grill or not grill corn – and with or without the husk – these are frequently asked questions! And the answers are really – what’s your preference? Personally, I LOVE grilled corn, and particularly when it’s cooked with seasoning. If you have husked corn, you can peel back the husks but not remove them, and make sure to discard any of the cornsilk. If you don’t have husks or prefer a cleaner method, you can use foil to wrap the ears of corn. Cooking corn on the grill is such a nice summery thing to do, especially if you have burgers or other vegetables you’re already grilling. It also makes clean up VERY easy!!
Fresh ears of corn – husked or unhusked
Earth Balance ‘butter spread’ – or use regular butter if you eat dairy
Salt, pepper, granulated garlic, Italian seasoning
Foil and/or cooking twine (if using cooking twine, soak it in water)
Peach & Blueberry Fruit Salad
The first time I enjoyed peaches and blueberries together was when I stayed at a beautiful AirBNB in Silt, Colorado. It was August and the famous Palisade peaches were at their peak ripeness – it’s said that Georgia has the best peaches, but the cool nights and warm dry days of the Western slope in Colorado leave Palisade peaches as a STRONG rival! Fresh summer peaches and blueberries are a delightful combination, and adding mint gives this salad a refreshing complement!
3-4 fresh peaches, cut into bite-size pieces or wedges
8-10 oz fresh blueberries
2 Tbsp roughly chopped fresh peppermint (I strongly recommend using actual peppermint, not the ‘mojito’ mint nor spearmint, as the peppermint has a more delicate flavor). **Be sure to pick mint leaves from the stems before chopping to avoid a 'woody' quality.
1-2 tsp agave nectar
Tis the season to eat local fruits and vegetables! Get out there and support your local farmers, or enjoy the fruits of your labor from your own garden. Make haste and seize the day, serve your body well and nourish yourself with environmental, nutritional and soulful balance!
By Jen Rizza, Founder of Newtown Wellness Collective, Reiki Master, Yoga Teacher, Healthy-Living Guide and Health Advocate