It's August in Maryland and time to hit the roadside stands for the finest produce you'll eat all year long.
Local fruits and vegetables spill from bins, just begging to be taken home. With everything at the peak of flavor and freshness, you'll want to choose the best of the best. And with items this tempting, it's easy to slip into the good nutrition mode.
If you've been trying to take the focus off meat, look for fresh lima beans. Pair them with an ear of sweet white corn for protein that's every bit as complete. The texture of local limas is moist, creamy and smooth, the perfect counterpoint to crispy, crunchy sweet white corn. Their fresh-from-the-garden flavor is especially pleasing when you skip the butter and salt, and taste the real thing. For variety, cook them up with a juicy Maryland tomato and some fresh basil.
One cup of lima beans contains about 200 calories from 14 grams of protein (equal to 2 ounces of meat) and 40 grams of carbohydrate. They provide 13 grams of fiber, half the daily recommendation, 80 percent of your folic acid and 30 percent of your magnesium.
A medium-sized ear of corn contains about 90 calories from 3 grams of protein and 21 grams of carbohydrate, along with TC grams of fiber and small amounts of a wide variety of vitamins and minerals.
No summer meal is complete without thick slabs of Maryland tomato. I've eaten vine-ripened tomatoes in several other states and, believe me, there's nothing out there quite like ours. The taste is unique, so don't take them for granted. Take time to savor the flavor.
If you're choosing tomatoes for cooking, the ripest are the best. But slicing tomatoes should be a little more firm. You can actually choose tomatoes in various shades, and allow them to finish ripening on a shady kitchen counter. (Although they look great on a sunny window sill, they'll actually lose vitamin C there.)
A medium-sized tomato has just 26 calories, mostly from carbohydrate, along with 1.6 grams of fiber. Tucked inside is 40 percent of your vitamin C, 10 percent of your vitamin A and folic acid, 5 percent of your magnesium and 3 percent of your iron for the day.
Local cantaloupes are enormous this year, and sweeter than ever. To be sure you get a great one, let your senses be your guide.
First, check the color. A golden glow is your first sign of a really good melon. Then pick it up and feel it. Because these melons have been field-ripened, you'll want to choose a firm one, to be sure the texture isn't mushy. Check for soft spots and mold. Finally, check the fragrance. Occasionally you'll find a really good cantaloupe that lacks the characteristic musky pungence, but why risk it when there are so many to choose from? Besides, aroma is half the flavor. At this time of year, you can have it all!
One cup of cantaloupe contains only 57 calories, almost entirely from carbohydrate, yet provides 100 percent of your vitamin C and 65 percent of your vitamin A, much of it from beta carotene. In addition, you'll get 15 percent of your folic acid, 6 percent of magnesium, and 2 percent of your calcium, iron and zinc for the day. What a powerhouse food.
And to think that good nutrition could be this delicious!
Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center and Vanderhorst & Associates in Baltimore.