By Dr. Caroline Cederquist and Joy Lynn Post –
As the springtime temps warm up in Florida, a fresh selection of pro- duce begins to blossom and ripen. Seasonal favorites begin to mature and ripen into a display of unabashed flavor, color, and nutrition. Get them while the getting is good.
May means mango-time in Florida, so put them on your mayday shopping list to sample as soon as they hit the supermarket shelves. Mangos are a tropical fruit rich in Vitamin C, fiber, pre-vitamin A, potassium, copper, and lutein, an important antioxidant which can help keep your eyes healthy. Not only do mangos taste delicious, the peel and pulp contain both omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Mangos are also extremely rich in carotenoids, which are color containing pigments in plants like carrots, sweet potatoes, and apricots that exert protective effects on your cardiovascular system. They wage war on the free radicals that age and damage our cells, and eating them regularly can reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases.
If you really want to make your mangos tango, try serving them with the ‘hedgehog’ look. Simple cut the mango in half, avoiding the pit in the middle. Score the mango to the peel, lengthwise and widthwise, forming 1 inch cubes. Place pressure in the center of back of the peel to push the cubes apart from each other.
All through the merry month of May, fruits like watermelon, papaya, blueberries, and cantaloupe are at the peak of freshness. Tangerines and oranges are still golden for grabbing as a quick snack, layering atop salads, or blending into smoothies. May is national salad month, so make sure to do the dedication justice and dive in to greens and lettuces galore.
And don’t forgo Florida tomatoes, a fruit that often swings into the vegetable family. Remember the salmonella scare in 2008? Turns out the FDA traced the contamination back to Mexico, and Florida tomatoes weren’t responsible at all*. Dig deep into this lycopene-rich fruit, and stave off heart disease a bit longer by cooking or stewing your tomatoes to release even more lycopene.
Top a few slices of fresh tomato with fresh mozzarella, basil leaves, and good quality balsamic vinegar, for an easy delicious caprese salad.
Packed with flavor, fresh, local food fare can really shine in your favorite salad, in salsa, or as a succulent side dish. Florida fresh vegetables are a-plenty in May with sweet corn, potatoes, snap beans, radishes, bell peppers, and cabbage creating a captivating cornucopia of nutrient-rich foods.
Get Healthy with Guava
Year round favorites in Florida include the guava fruit, so grab one no matter what month you may find yourself in. Just like mango, guava is a tropical fruit that is also rich in health-preserving carotenoids. And there’s more than just vitamin C in these guys – Guavas contain a variety of polyphenols, which are compounds in fruits and vegetables that make them so rich in antioxidants and so good for your health.
In Florida the season for fresh carrots spans April and May only, so make sure you get ‘em while the getting is good. Carrots can provide the basis of a delicious drink if you have a juicer, and adding a little ginger can take it up another notch. The sweetness of the carrots means there’s no need for any extra sugar. If you’ve never tried it, you’ll be surprised at just how refreshing it can be.
Eating locally is not only great for the Florida farming economy, but it can also ensure you get the freshest food, packed with the highest nutritional content, and fresh food that has the latest expiration date. For example, when you buy fruits from South America, the produce is often picked early, and then ripened in transit with the use of ethylene gas. This can really drop the nutritional value of these foods, because they cannot obtain nutrients from the original plant as they mature.
Making an Exit
Celery, cucumber, eggplant, and grapefruits are on the way out as the weather warms, and the season for these doesn’t begin again until the weather cools again in December. So get these before your only source is outside of the sunny state of Florida.
*Source: Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
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