Summer is over, but that means there is an incredible bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables available. These wonderful offerings are not only tasty but very good for better senior health and improved diets. Try these easy ways for making the most of summer’s harvest and all its goodness before it’s gone!
#1 Check out local farmers markets for a variety
Arizona is home to a wide variety of produce, meats and even seafood, some available year-round, others seasonal. So, make a plan to sample the offerings of local farmers at the many farmer’s markets in the greater Chandler area.
A good place to begin is with farmflavor.com’s “What’s in Season? Arizona Produce Calendar,” to find out what is available when. Next, seek out local farmer’s markets to plan trips that will help make each one a success. A great website that can help is Local Harvest, which provides information about hours, what vendors and products are offered, and directions for a range of local markets.
#2 Do a little menu planning for better senior health
To maximize the many offerings of farmer’s markets it’s a good idea to plan a weekly menu that includes products and produce available at the time. Since it’s summer’s end, this is the time when more variety is available and everything is at its peak of just-picked freshness. Among the produce that is especially bountiful in September in Arizona are sweet corn, tomatoes, different kinds of squash, spinach, beets, eggplant, dates, and raspberries, apples, pears and peaches.
So, plan a weekly menu that incorporates the most seasonal produce and enjoy the healthy benefits that fresh fruits and vegetables provide, such as:
- Fiber — All are good sources of fiber which not only keep systems running smoothly but may improve absorption of essential vitamins and minerals.
- Potassium and vitamin K — Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, chard and kale provide potassium that aids kidneys in removing sodium and can help lower blood pressure. This group also provides vitamin K that may prevent the buildup of arterial calcium, which in turn lowers the risk of heart problems.
- Blood sugar regulation — Vegetables are low on the glycemic index so they help keep blood sugar in check and contain the B vitamin folate that may reduce the risk of cancer and depression. Fruits also can help control blood sugar and offer additional benefits such as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Essential minerals — Fruits and vegetables also are great sources of essential minerals including copper, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus and selenium.
Start menu planning with ideas from the tasteofhome.com article, “7-Day Vegetarian Meal Plan for Anyone Trying to Eat Less Meat.”
#3 Plan a harvest potluck
A great way to maximize all the wonderful senior health benefits of freshly harvested fruits and vegetables is to invite friends and family to a potluck and ask them to bring their own favorite dish to pass and a few copies of their recipes to share. With the cooler autumn weather, an outdoor event is especially great for providing space for social distancing while keeping the need for face masks lower than would be the case indoors.
A good way to make sure every type, of course, is covered from appetizers to desserts is to plan a basic menu and ask those invited to choose from the options. Be sure to include:
- Pasta salads
- Green/vegetable salads
- Fruit/ fruit salads
- Main dishes
While every category may not be covered, this list will give other cooks ideas and encourage more variety. For an excellent list of possible recipes check out tasteofhome.com’s article, “100 Potluck Side Dishes to Feed a Crowd.”
#4 Buy in bulk, share and preserve
As farmer’s markets fill to the brim with wonderful produce, it’s a good idea to seek out other like-minded friends and family to share in the bounty so that everyone benefits and might even save a little money in the process. Three or four families or couples might consider splitting a bushel or half a bushel of corn, apples, spinach, or tomatoes, all of which can be canned or frozen for the winter.
Other more perishable produce like berries can be made into jams and jellies including freezer jams and jellies that are quick and easy to make even for beginners. This also provides a great opportunity for seniors to share their knowledge of food preserving techniques with younger generations who want to carry on traditions or even start a new one! To learn more about the fine art of food preservation, the wholefully.com blog, “Canning + Preserving” is a great introduction.
North Chandler Place is a warm and wonderful community where seniors can enjoy everything the area has to offer. If you would like to learn more about our housing options, services and amenities, just give a call!