The abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables this season makes it easy to eat your way to better health. Upping the amount of produce on your plate can help you slim down, and according to one study, people who ate 8 or more servings per day were 30 percent less likely to have a stroke or heart attack. Store your fruits and veggies front and center in the refrigerator or in a pretty bowl on the counter and youâ€™ll be more likely to reach for the good stuff when hunger strikes.
Get the scoop on how to choose, store, and use summerâ€™s bounty.
A perfect peach should feel soft but not squishy and smell temptingly ready to eat. Buy organic whenever possible. To ripen, place in a paper bag for a day or two.
Refrigeration extends freshness, but the chill will dull the fruitâ€™s subtle flavors, so bring peaches to room temperature before eating. For a simple dessert, top sliced peaches with yogurt and a bit of honey.
Ripe cantaloupes have a sweet fragrance and are slightly soft at the stem end. Tap on one with your knuckle -- a dense, juicy fruit will make a deep sound.
If youâ€™ll eat a melon within a day or so, leave it out and enjoy its perfume; otherwise, refrigerate it for up to 5 days. Be sure to wash the outside with soap and water before slicing. Try it with lime juice and cilantro for a fruity salsa.
The smaller, the betterâ€”a bigger squash may have larger seeds and a woody texture. Look for a firm squash with unblemished yellow skin.
Yellow squash is more fragile than zucchini, so cook it as soon as possible after buying. In the meantime, store it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Add diced squash to pasta or to eggs for a summery omelet.
Look for bright green husks, glossy silks, and a moist stem end. Kernels should go all the way to the tip of the cob and be plump enough to feel through the husk.
For best flavor, eat corn the same day you buy it. If you must store, keep ears in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for a couple days at most. Cut off kernels and add to salsa, pasta, salad, and even muffins.
Give the stem end a sniff -- it should be quite fragrant. Ripe tomatoes come in all colors, but a fresh, juicy one will feel heavy and have shiny, unbruised skin.
Tomatoes should be kept at cool room temperature; they can become mealy and flavorless if stored in the refrigerator. You canâ€™t go wrong by dressing them simply with salt, extra-virgin olive oil, and fresh herbs.
Look for bright pods that are firm and plump but not bulging with beans. The ends should be stiff and the pod should break cleanly when snapped.
Keep them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a week. Green beans lend themselves to speedy, savory dishes like a stir-fry or a quick-braised side.
A cucumber should not be soft or wrinkly -- the ends should feel firm. Small, thin cukes are usually sweeter and more tender than larger ones.
Refrigerate cucumbers in a plastic bag for 2 to 3 days; they donâ€™t like extreme cold, so avoid placing them in the chilliest part of your fridge. Dice and toss with yogurt, garlic, and dill for a quick dip, or shave them for a cool salad.
If you can, taste a few berries to ensure theyâ€™re flavorful and juicy. Be sure the bottom of the container is not stained with juice and buy organic whenever possible.
Place in a paper-towel-lined dish, cover with plastic, and refrigerate for a few days. Blueberries freeze especially well -- spread clean ones on a baking sheet and freeze 2 hours, then store in an airtight container, up to 6 months. Sprinkle on hot or cold cereal.
Ripe eggplants are shiny and firm -- press on one with your thumb and the indentation should spring right back. The fuzzy green cap should be tightly attached.
Keep at cool room temperature for about 2 days; refrigeration may cause the eggplant to brown and change flavor. Its hearty texture makes it a great choice for slicing into rounds and grilling.