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Summer fruits and veggies are rolling in!  We’re betting that most of you have been enjoying fresh tomatoes, corn, squash, cucumbers and peppers from your garden or your local farmers’ market for a few weeks now, but have you noticed any vegetables at the market that make you ask, “What is that?” and/or “What do I do with that?”  We’re guessing yes.  So, we’ve picked a few of our favorites, and gathered some recipes to get you started enjoying these fab summer jewels!

1.  Eggplant:  Eggplant isn’t just delicious and nutritious, it’s also really pretty.  We’re pretty sure you’ve heard the phrase, “Eat a rainbow” (and we’re not referring to Skittles!), meaning that you should strive to have a variety of colors in your diet.  Green and dark green, yellow, red, orange, blue, and yes, purple.  Eggplants are part of the nightshade family of vegetables, as are tomatoes, potatoes and sweet peppers, and they are rich in antioxidants, phytonutrients and fiber.  Eggplants are well known in dishes like mousaka (Greek), eggplant parmesan (Italian) and ratatouille (French),  but check out this great article for tips on the best ways to cook eggplants, as well some great recipes!

2.  Okra:  If you’re from the South, chances are you’ve been eating fried okra just like popcorn since you were a kid, but if you’re less familiar with this undervalued gem, hang on! We’ve got some info for you!  Okra is full to the brim with healthy goodness!  It’s high in fiber, vitamin C, folate, antioxidants, and it’s a good source of calcium and potassium–all of that in small seed pod!  While tossing it in flour or other breading and frying it up in oil may not be the healthiest way to get some okra in, it is tasty.  If you’re looking for healthier alternatives, though, try baking, roasting or grilling it.  Check out this article, complete with recipes, for some new takes on an old Southern favorite.

3.  Mustard Greens:  We all know that we should be eating more leafy greens, but kale and spinach are not the end-all and be-all of leafy green vegetables.  Meet mustard greens!  Again, if you grew up in the South, you may be familiar with the goodness of greens, but if not, sit up and listen.  Mustard greens lower cholesterol and have qualities that protect us from cancer.  In taste, they are slightly bitter and peppery but pair well with dried fruits that tend to even out the taste.  Try this simple recipe for sautéed mustard greens and let us know if you’re ready to commit to a new cruciferous favorite.

4.  Cabbage:  Another member of the cruciferous family of vegetables, cabbage, is versatile, delicious and chock full of nutrients.  Like mustard greens, cabbage is rich in antioxidants and can help lower cholesterol, while it also promotes digestive health.  Sounds good, right?  Well, what’s even better are the variety of ways you can prepare it: You can eat it raw, braise it, grill it, broil it, boil it, sauté it, or roast it, and it’s great in soups and stews, casseroles and stuffings.  Check out these recipes and tell us you aren’t totally devoted to cabbage.

5.  Kohlrabi:  Related to cabbage and kale, kohlrabi is nutrient- rich with antioxidants and phytonutrients.  You can cook kohlrabi greens just like cabbage or kale, but when it comes to the actual fruit, here’s a tip: peel it.  It’s important to peel kohlrabi because the fibers in the outer layers don’t soften when cooked and can get caught in your throat.  So, after you peel off the initial layer, keep going through the next layer to the light, crisp layer beneath.  Check out these great kohlrabi recipes!

We hope you’re visiting your local farmers’ markets this summer and taking advantage of the close proximity of fresh fruits and veggies–this is certainly the season for it!   But don’t worry–we’re here every morning and afternoon to serve you the freshest and healthiest soups, salads and sandwiches that DC has to offer, and we’ve got plenty of fresh fruits and veggies to keep you going.