Enjoying and preserving Michigan produce

Enjoy Michigan's abundance of produce for the rest of the year with these tips.

Now that summer is in full swing, many gardens can provide an abundance of fresh vegetables. Farmers markets are filled with ambitious and hard-working people providing their communities with great deals on beautiful and bountiful choices of fruits and vegetables. Michigan’s growing season is not year around, so now is the time to enjoy fresh locally grown produce.

Fruits and vegetables have different times of the growing season that they are mature and ready to eat. You can download a Michigan Produce Availability sheet to help you plan your meals with fresh produce. Fruits and vegetables provide a bounty of vitamins and minerals along with fiber and antioxidants that have research to show positive benefits towards preventing certain cancers.

Fruits and vegetables can be eaten raw, cooked and even dried. They are very versatile in main dishes, side dishes, baked goodies and even smoothies. Adding fruits and vegetables to your diet every day increases the nutritional value of what your body is receiving. Additionally, Research shows that the various colors of fruits and vegetables play different roles in protecting your body from different diseases and cancers, so it’s important to diversify the produce you consume.

What happens if your garden produces more fruits and vegetables than your family can eat before it goes bad? Well, you can always donate it to someone, or you can preserve it. There are different ways to preserve fresh produce depending on what it is. Preserving fresh fruit and vegetables can mean canning them, freezing them or drying them. Visit Michigan State University Extension for information on the proper methods to preserve your produce so that you can enjoy it safely throughout the rest of the year. Online food preservation classes are also offered through MSU Extension.

We live in a state that produces an abundance of produce during a short time of the year, and enjoying the fruits of our labor year around is possible. In addition to preserving, you can add your fruits and vegetables to meals that can be frozen for later. Baked goods such as sweet breads are a wonderful base for fruits like berries or vegetables like zucchini and carrots. Fresh salsa is a great way to use tomatoes, green peppers, onions, hot peppers and herbs from your garden. Salsa is wonderful fresh but can also be canned for later. Many soups use multiple vegetables to add flavor and extra nutrition. Many soups freeze well for later use. Extra fruits, especially berries do not store well fresh for long periods of time. Making jam with berries is one way to still enjoy that fruit into the winter.

Don’t let your fresh produce go to waste. We only get local fruits and vegetables for a short period of time each year. Make the best of a good thing. Visit MSU Extension website for more information on healthy living.

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