Gardeners know that the best way to
experience fruit and vegetables at their prime is to grow them in their
own back yards or in community gardens. Some of the most popular
veggies grown in the United States include tomatoes, peppers,
cucumbers, onions, beans, lettuce, corn and carrots, while the most
popular homegrown fruits include apples, blueberries, strawberries and
Here are some tips to help you take advantage of your fresh produce:
• Harvest your food the same day you plan on using it. This ensures it will stay fresh and won’t dry out or wilt.
• Do your picking in the morning when fruit and vegetables are at their freshest.
• Once you’ve picked your produce, store in a cool place and don’t wash until you’re ready to use it.
How do you know when your produce is ready to be pulled from the ground or plucked from the plant or tree?
• Tomatoes are ready to pick when they’re smooth, heavy, glossy and red or orange.
• When sweet peppers are between three
and four inches wide and are firm, they’re ready to pick. The longer
you leave them on the vine, they’ll turn red, yellow or orange and
• When your cucumbers are ready to come out of the garden, they’ll be firm and the spikes will easily rub off.
• When lettuce leaves are young and tender they’re ready for a tasty salad.
• Tasting apples is often the best way
to know if they’re ready to pick, but you can also grab one and lightly
tug. If it easily comes off the branch, there’s a good chance it would
make a great snack.
One of the biggest challenges for
gardeners this time of the year is having too much produce at the same
time. In many cases, it’s simply too much to eat on your own. So this
harvest season, why not donate extra produce to a local food bank for
neighbors in need? One in eight people is at risk for hunger and, with
record numbers of people turning to food banks, it’s more important
than ever to contribute fresh, delicious and healthy produce. The
initiative is called GroGood.
“I believe that everyone should have
access to fresh produce and the GroGood campaign allows Americans to
enjoy the fruits and vegetables of their gardens and share their extra
harvest with others,” says celebrity cookbook author Katie Lee Joel.
Inspired by her mom’s vegetable soup, Joel created this recipe for
GroGood Garden Vegetable Soup using produce fresh from the garden.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 bay leaf
3 medium carrots, chopped
2 parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 medium turnip, peeled and chopped
1 pint Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
2 pounds fresh tomatoes, chopped (can substitute a 28-ounce can of whole tomatoes with juice, chopped)
2 quarts chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 cup baby lima beans
One 15-ounce can great Northern or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a stock pot over medium
heat. Add the onions, celery and bay leaf and cook until the onions are
tender, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots, parsnips, turnip and Brussels
sprouts and continue cooking until the vegetables are just tender,
about 5 more minutes. Add the tomatoes and the stock. Bring the mixture
to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 60 minutes. Add the
beans, salt, and pepper, and simmer for another 30 minutes. Makes 8
—Courtesy of ARAcontent
Fresh start: This time of year, tasty produce can often be found in your own back yard. MICHAEL DAVIS PHOTOS