Eat Garden Fresh

Eating fresh from the garden, fresh from the local farmers' market, or fresh from the produce aisle is so delicious. Every spring I when I taste that first fresh asparagus – it's like ambrosia.

Fresh fruit and vegetables are best when purchased in season, meaning they've come from relatively close to home. They often cost less, are tastier and have been allowed to grow to their full nutritious potential. For great tasting meals, take advantage of each vegetable in its season.

Here are some tips on shopping and serving fresh spring produce…

Asparagus: Good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C and folate. Look for thin or fat shoots with tight buds at the top. Firm, smooth stalks with no wrinkles. Recut the stem and place the end in water in a fresh herb keeper. Store in the refrigerator for no more than a few days. When ready to cook: cut off the woody end of the stalks. Steam for 3 to 5 minutes.

Carrots: Excellent source of vitamin A. Good source of fiber and vitamin C. Pick young, firm, small carrots with the tops still on will be sweet and fresh. Avoid soft or shriveled carrots or those that have splits. Keep in the refrigerator for a week or more. Remove and discard the tops.

Cherries: Good source of vitamin C and fiber. Stems should be green and flexible. Avoid soft spots, bruises, and splits. Red cherries are ripe when deep red. White and yellow varieties are ripe when flushed with pink. Will keep at room temperature for a few days, or longer in the refrigerator. Remove stems and pits just before using. Once the stem is removed, the cherry will deteriorate rapidly.

Green Onions: Good source of vitamin C. Check for firm white root ends. Crisp, straight, bright green stems.

Keep in the refrigerator for 5 days or more. Both the white bulb end and the green stems are edible. Remove the roots. Wash and remove any loose skin.

Okra: Excellent source of vitamin C. Good source of fiber. Short, less than 3 inch long pods with a velvety feel. No bruises or discoloration. Will keep up to 4 days if refrigerated. Rinse and remove stem end. To avoid a slimy texture, do not wash okra until ready to cook.

Papayas: Excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin C. Good source of fiber and potassium. If they are ripe they papaya will have yellow skin with deep orange flesh that yields to slight pressure. Sweet aroma. Unripe: green skin, firm. Store at room temperature. Remove skin. The peppery-tasting seeds are edible.

Raspberries: Excellent source of vitamin C and fiber. Look for firm, plump, fully colored berries. Store at room temperature or refrigerate in a single layer. Use within a day or two. Wash when ready to use. Very, very delicate.

Rhubarb: Good source of calcium, fiber and vitamin C. Pick firm, bright red stalks that are fairly thick. Don't eat the leaves, they're poisonous. Use within a day or two. Best used in pies, cobblers and jams.

Sugar Snap Peas: Excellent source of vitamin C. Good source of vitamin A. Pods should be plump, firm, bright green, and crisp. Avoid those with brown spots or shriveled appearance. Do not shell the peas before cooking, as the entire pod is eaten.

Strawberries: Excellent source of vitamin C. Good source of fiber. Select berries with a good red color and an intact green, leafy hull. Avoid berries with soft or brown spots. Huge berries often have hollow centers and little flavor or juice. Store at room temperature or refrigerate in a single layer. Use within a day or two. Wash before removing green tops and only when ready to use.


Keep your family safe when preparing fresh produce purchased at a farmers market or supermarket produce aisle. Here are some key steps to reduce the risk of food-borne illness from fresh produce.

  • Thoroughly rinse all your fruits and vegetables under running water before you eat them.

  • Cut away bruised and damaged areas on fruits and vegetables because they can harbor bacteria.

  • Thoroughly wash all fruits that require peeling or cutting, like melons, before eating because bacteria can transfer from the exterior to the flesh when the fruit is sliced.

  • Remove and throw away the outer leaves of lettuce or cabbage before washing and eating.

  • Don't leave sliced fruit or vegetables at room temperature for more than two hours because bacteria can thrive on the cut surface.

  • Always wash your hands before and after handling fresh produce.

So now you are ready to enjoy your great tasting fresh produce.  Fresh fruits and vegetables taste so wonderful and contain an array of vitamins, minerals, fiber and important health-promoting antioxidants.

 Asparagus never tasted so good!