The Incredible Health Benefits of Summer Vegetables

With growing season in full swing, I’m seeing more and more fresh veggies erupting from my garden. From tomatoes and zucchini to eggplant and arugula, there’s no better time to begin harvesting fresh produce than when it’s at its peak flavor. Along with the delicious taste, you can feel good about the many health benefits that fresh vegetables offer.

Tomato

  • Tomatoes provide approximately 40 percent of the recommended daily vitamin C requirement.
  • Vitamin A in tomatoes can help improve vision and prevent certain eye conditions, such as macular degeneration.
  • Consuming tomato each day has been found to reduce hypertension, or high blood pressure.

Tomatoes are generally ready for harvest starting in the third week of July. While tomatoes can be picked before they are fully ripened, it is best to allow them to ripen on the vine. Tomatoes can be eaten on their own or added to sandwiches, soups, or a variety of dishes. They can also be stuffed and baked with a variety of ingredients, such as ground meat and cheese.

Zucchini

  • Zucchini is rich in vitamin C and manganese, which promotes proper functioning of the body.
  • Low in fat, cholesterol, and sodium, zucchini is a heart-healthy food.
  • Zucchini contains large amounts of dietary fiber, which helps maintain the digestive system and minimizes problems such as constipation and bloating.

Zucchini is typically ready to harvest once it reaches 6 to 8 inches long. It should feel slightly firm and have a shiny skin. Be sure to harvest it on time or risk the vegetable deteriorating, which can cause a reduction in flavor. Eat zucchini raw as a healthy snack, or make it into a noodle alternative. Zucchini can also be used as a sandwich filler or grilled with balsamic vinegar and seasonings.

Eggplant

  • As eggplant contains minimal cholesterol and fat, they are a healthy food option for people trying to lose weight.
  • Eggplants are an excellent source of antioxidants that create a line of defense in the body against conditions such as cancer.
  • Phenolic compounds in eggplant have been found to foster strong bones and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

When eggplant looks glossy, it’s ready for harvest. If the seeds have turned brown or the coating is dull, the vegetable may be overripe. Also check for readiness by gently squeezing the eggplant: The skin should bounce back easily. Eggplant can be stuffed, tossed with pasta, roasted, grilled, or added into a stir-fry. It can also be made into a tasty dip and served with flatbread and other vegetables.

Arugula

  • High levels of vitamin K in arugula provide the body with an anti-inflammatory boost.
  • Phytochemicals found in arugula help inhibit the activity of dangerous cancer-causing cells.

Arugula is often ready for harvest about 35 to 45 days after sowing. When harvesting the plant, pull the outer leaves off near the base while allowing the inner leaves to continue to grow. Arugula is often added to salads along with other greens. It can also be tossed onto pizza, into soups, or with eggs. It is particularly delicious when combined with avocado, tomato, and cucumber.

Radishes

  • Radishes have been found to increase the oxygen supply to the blood and control damage to red blood cells.
  • High in fiber, a daily intake of radishes can help safeguard your liver and regulate bile production.
  • Radishes are high in vitamin C, which can help ward off coughs and colds while boosting the immune system.

The roots of a mature radish are approximately 1 inch in length. When a radish has reached maturity, it is time for harvesting. Radishes are tasty served raw, but they can also be roasted or even pickled. For a sweet, healthy treat, try radish chips baked with a cinnamon sugar coating.

Chili Pepper

  • Chili peppers are high in vitamin C, which is crucial for immune function and wound healing.
  • Rich in vitamin K, chili peppers aid in blood clotting as well as the formation of healthy bones.
  • Chili peppers contain copper, an antioxidant trace element important for healthy neurons.

Peppers are often ready for harvest 75 to 90 days after planting. Mature peppers should be easy to pluck from the plant: If you’re having trouble picking them, wait a little longer. Chili peppers are a great way to add a little heat to certain dishes. Try a green chili made with pork shoulder for an intense punch of flavor.

Beets

  • Beets contain high levels of nitrates, which have a blood-pressure-lowering effect.
  • The veggie contains pigments known as betalains, which have anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Beets contain dietary fiber, which may improve digestive health.

When beets are ready for harvest, the shoulders of the beets will begin to protrude from the soil. The beet should be dark in color with a smooth texture. Smaller beets are often more flavorful. Beets can be peeled and eaten raw or roasted with goat cheese until juicy and tender. Pickled beets are a great way to enjoy the fruits of your labor day after day.

Corn

  • Corn is rich in B vitamins like thiamine, which is crucial for cognitive function and nerve health.
  • Studies have found that corn is a rich source of antioxidants, which help fight cancer-causing free radicals.
  • Corn oil has an anti-atherogenic effect on cholesterol levels, which can help reduce the risk of certain cardiovascular diseases.

Corn is ready to be harvested when the ears have completely filled out. Feel the end of an ear to determine readiness: If the end is rounded rather than pointed, it’s ready. Corn grilled with cheese or butter is a popular way to eat the veggie. You may also enjoy it with risotto or slow-cooked in chowder.

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