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It’s harvest time, time to take advantage of healthy food

It’s harvest time! There is no better place to reap the benefits of a planting season than the curbside stands, fairs, fall festivals, roadside stands and truck farmers this time of year.

Reap the health benefits, too. The stands are packed with a variety of fresh picked fruits and vegetables, including sweet potatoes, squash, cabbage, carrots, parsnips, turnips, turnip greens, beets, peanuts, apples, grapes and pears, etc. Not to mention antioxidants, phytochemicals, and fiber – substances that can help you lower your risk for cancer. According to the AICR (American Institute Cancer Research) report, Food, Nutrition and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective, eating at least five servings of a variety of vegetables and fruits each day may prevent 20 percent or more of all cases of cancer.

To Market, to Market…

These days most of us have a well-stocked supermarket close to home. So why do people venture through crowds of baby carriages, dog leases and baskets-toting shoppers for produce they can easily buy from a grocery store? The simple answer in the “curbside stands” and other “airy shopping areas,” offer more than just fruits and vegetables – it offers a sense of closeness and familiarity with the food chain.

Products sold at farmer’s markets, (roadside stands, truck farmers and festivals) are usually regionally grown and in season. Often, they are certified organic. Beautiful misshapen, the fruits and vegetables have a refreshingly natural, unpolished look and customers may be on a first-name basis with growers.

Preserving Your finery…

You know that eating fruits and vegetables can significantly decrease your risk for cancer. But, did you know that the ways you store and prepare fresh fruits and vegetables affect the amount of cancer-fighting compounds they contain?

The AICR expert report recommends safe storage and preservation of foods to maximize nutrition and minimize contamination. Follow these tips to preserve your “fall finery” to be sure it gives you all the cancer-protection it can.

• Don’t overbuy. This may be difficult when seeing the huge variety of beautiful produce at the farmer’s market, a fall festival, the fair, or an airy market. Instead of bringing home more than you can eat, decide to visit again next week.

• For maximum flavor and nutrition, enjoy vegetables and fruits raw or lightly cooked.

• Eat fresh produce such as spinach and broccoli in a few days. Remember, the fresher the produce, the greater the nutritional content.

• Keep salad items in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.

• Store root vegetables such as potatoes and turnips in a cool, dry place away from sunlight, such as a bottom shelf, pantry or basement.  Purchase only what you’ll use in a week or two.  They toughen as they age and are less desirable.

• Refrigerate apples and pears if not using within a few days. They will keep well for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

• Some nutrients can be lost if produce is chopped and left to soak in water.  Cut up fruits or veggies close to time you’ll be eating or preparing them.

• Cook vegetables until just tender – overcooking destroys nutrients. Microwave or stovetop steaming to minimal oil, until vegetables are just soft enough to eat are healthy cooking methods that preserve nutrients. Boiling or cooking for long periods of time in large amounts water will cause many nutrients to be lost.

• Keep fall finery on hand all year long. Freeze blanched, fresh vegetables in well-sealed freezer bags. To blanch, place vegetables in boiling water for less than one minute, remove and immediately place in cold water. Keep these tips in mind and enjoy the health benefits of “fall finery” from all the harvest of fruits, vegetables and nuts you gather.

Spicy Squash Butter

Are you confused about the butter and margarine debate? Go your own way and try a fruit or vegetable butter. These sweet butters make delicious fat-free substitutes for your usual spreads. Try on toast, bagels, muffins, pancakes or waffles.

3 cups squash puree (pureed cooked pumpkin, butternut or acorn squash in your blender or    food processor)

1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

¾ cup apple cider

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

In a medium saucepan, combine squash puree, brown sugar, apple cider and pumpkin pie spice.  Cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat, until sugar dissolves and mixture thickens slightly, about 20 minutes.

Remove from heat. Pour mixture into a container with a tight-fitting lid.  Cool completely.  Cover and refrigerate for up to I month.  Makes about 2 cups, with 28 calories and less than one-gram fat per 1-tablespoon serving.  Source: American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR); FACETS September/October 2017