Nutrition

Best In-Season Produce By Month: May

Let’s look at the produce that peaks during the month of May.

Shopping for in-season produce offers multiple benefits, not the least of which being that it enables you to discover how different some fruits and vegetables taste when harvested during their peak. This May, grab all the opportunities you can to incorporate fresh, delicious produce into meals and snacks while simultaneously supporting local farms and communities by shopping in season.

Additional benefits of in-season shopping include a lower grocery bill and the fact that planning meals and snacks around seasonal foods encourages variety and adventurous eating while increasing the vibrancy, nutrient-density and flavor in your diet.

In Part 10 of our 12-part series highlighting in-season fruits and vegetables by month, let’s look at the produce that peaks during the month of May.

Why “In-Season?”

“In-season” produce includes fruits and vegetables that are purchased and consumed as close as possible to the time at which they are harvested. The practice of buying produce in-season is gaining popularity as it offers multiple benefits, such as high quality nutrition, lower price, enhanced flavor, and support for local businesses.

Eating produce that coincides with its season of harvest is an easy way to infuse the diet with potent vitamins and antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables that fully mature on their parent plant and are then harvested at peak ripeness, which imbues them with more rich and complex flavors.

In a study comparing bioactive compounds and antioxidant levels in different types of berries, it was found that greater antioxidant levels were associated with berries that were ripe to overripe. Antioxidants are chemical compounds that protect the body’s cells against free radical damage. Free radicals are unstable molecules formed during natural body processes, such as the breakdown of food, and when the body is exposed to pollutants, such as tobacco smoke. When foods are grown out of season, artificial lights and greenhouses are often used to manipulate growing conditions, which can lead to fruits and vegetables that lack color and flavor comparatively, due to the controlled environment and size constraints of smaller growing spaces.

Because fruits and vegetables are composed of 70–90% water, rapid rates of respiration result in nutrient degradation once the produce is separated from its source of nutrients, such as trees and vines. This means that out-of-season produce that is shipped long distances may suffer from the implications of the degradation of nutrients such as vitamin C.

Buying in-season produce is also a simple way to save money on healthy food. The abundant and readily available supply of in-season produce allows for lower costs and easier access. Stocking up on in-season produce at local farmers markets and freezing and/or storing the extra for later is a great way to make your seasonal purchases last.

Small businesses, such as farmers markets and local orchards commonly sell local produce harvested by nearby farms; the shorter the distance that produce has to travel to the store in which it’s sold, the fresher it will be when it reaches your table. When unsure about the origins of an item, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask your grocer for more information about where the item was grown.

If you’re ready to build the best of May’s in-season produce into your meals and snacks, here are some in-season fruits and vegetables to look for, along with some suggestions that will make preparing the produce easy and delicious:

Apricots:

Apricots, otherwise known as, “Armenian plums,” are round and yellowish fruits that are similar in appearance to peaches, though slightly smaller. They have a tart taste and a yellow-orange exterior.

Apricots contain lipophilic (able to combine with or dissolve in fat) constituents that are responsible for its color, aroma and health benefits. Apricots are also brimming with polyphenols and carotenoids, as well as phenolic compounds including flavanols and anthocyanins, all of which are most concentrated in the skin. Consumption of polyphenols and phenolic compounds have been shown to play a vital role in the regulation of metabolism, weight, chronic disease, and cell proliferation. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of polyphenols also have potential to treat certain non-communicable diseases. Current research suggests that long-term consumption of polyphenols protects against certain cancers, cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, pancreatitis, gastrointestinal problems, lung damage and neurodegenerative disease.

Apricots are one of the most consumed fruits worldwide, potentially due to the variety of ways in which they can be prepared, which include fresh, dried, juiced into nectar, canned, or cooked into jam. They work well chopped and mixed into yogurt, added as a delicious and sweet-tart ingredient in salads, or cooked into chutneys that can flavor whole grain, tofu or tempeh dishes.

Avocado:

Avocados, also known as alligator pears or butter fruit have skyrocketed in consumption over the past 20 years. In 2020, it was estimated that imports of avocados reached a record 2.1 billion pounds, in part because of dining limitations and increases in grocery store shopping. An increase in avocado consumption is great news because of its plethora of health benefits.

The vitamins, minerals and healthy fats that avocados provide are protective against health issues including arthritis, osteoporosis, high blood pressure and certain types of cancer. Avocado’s high folate may help lower the risk of certain types of cancer. Nutrients in avocados have been found to reduce pain and stiffness while improving joint function, resulting in decreased dependence on analgesics. Similar to bananas, avocados are rich in potassium which helps to regulate blood pressure by normalizing sodium levels in the blood and easing tension in the blood vessel walls.

Though color isn’t the best indicator of avocado ripeness, it is easy to determine the ripeness of an avocado by cradling it in the palm of your hand and giving it a gentle squeeze. If it feels slightly soft, it’s ready to be eaten. Avoid avocados that feel mushy or have dents and dips in the skin. Avocados can be added to salads, sandwiches, smoothies, tacos and more. They taste amazing as a toast topping or eaten alone with a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt.

Peaches:

The peach, otherwise known as Prunus persica, is an orange-yellow fruit grown throughout warm, temperate regions of the Northern and Southern hemispheres. Widely eaten fresh or added to baked goods, peaches are a staple in many regions in the world. Not only are they delicious, they also offer an array of health benefits.

Phenolic compounds in peaches have been shown to exhibit antioxidant activity, though the antioxidant capacity of peaches varied depending on the peach variety examined. Like many other colorful fruits, peaches are packed with anthocyanins, which are bioactive compounds with benefits to human health that are responsible for the pigmentation of many plant parts. In fact, the color of a peach’s skin is a key determinant for fruit quality and is regulated by flavonoids, including anthocyanins.

Because peaches have a pit in the center, be sure to take care when cutting the fruit as to cut around the pit. Using a chef’s knife, cut the peach lengthwise, until the blade of the knife hits the pit. Hold the knife steady and turn the peach, keeping the blade in contact with the pit. Remove the knife and twist apart the halves in opposite directions with your hands, then remove the pit with your fingers.

Artichokes:

The artichoke is a plant in the Cynara family, mostly grown in California, France, Italy and Spain. The outer leaves of the bud, called bracts, have thorns on the tips (though thornless varieties have been cultivated), while the base and innermost part of the leaves are edible. Under the leaves is the choke, which lies on top of the heart. The heart is the most desired part of the fruit, and has an earthy flavor similar to that of asparagus and Brussels sprouts.

In recent studies, globe artichokes have been found to have antioxidant activity, minimizing oxidative stress in the body, which is defined as an imbalance between local reactive oxygen species production. Additional studies showed antioxidant properties in artichokes through the inhibition of LDL oxidation.

Artichokes can be boiled, grilled, steamed, braised, marinated, stuffed or baked. To choose the best artichokes at your local grocery store, choose ones that feel heavy, squeak when you squeeze them, and have closed leaves.

Arugula:

Arugula is a micronutrient powerhouse rich in a broad range of metabolites, including tannins, terpenoids, alkaloids, and flavonoids with antimicrobial characteristics. Part of the Brassicaceae family, arugula is thought to have various medicinal properties, such as tumorigenesis inhibition (or the minimization of the formation of tumors). This leafy green vegetable is packed with vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate (a B vitamin) and has a peppery flavor that works well in salads. Experiment with fresh arugula by combining it into a salad along with your favorite nuts and/or seeds, a light vinaigrette, and some fresh, raw vegetable add-ins. Arugula also works well in wraps or pesto recipes. Here is a recipe for Rejuvenan’s Fruit Salad with Mangosteen Vinaigrette and Arugula:

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup mango-flavored vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons arrowroot powder, dissolved in an additional 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 organic lime, zested
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 2 Asian pears, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice (see note)
  • 1 cantaloupe or honeydew melon cut into 1/2 inch dice (or if unavailable, try Crenshaw or Galia melons)
  • 1 ripe papaya or 2 strawberry papaya, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 9 cups arugula
  • 1/2 cup chopped raw cashews, if desired

Directions

  1. To make the Mangosteen Vinaigrette, bring the vinegar and the cup of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Once boiling, whisk in the arrowroot-cold water mixture and let boil for 2 minutes, but no longer, whisking occasionally. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Whisk the lime zest, lime juice, and poppy seeds into the vinegar mixture.
  2. Combine all of the diced fruit in a large bowl and toss with the desired amount of the vinaigrette (about half). Toss the arugula with additional vinaigrette in a separate bowl. Divide the arugula on 6 salad plates and place a mound of the fruit salad in the center. Sprinkle with chopped cashews, if desired.
  3. For a more elegant presentation, use a ring mold in the center of the plate, fill with fruit salad and remove the mold. Leave the arugula undressed and scatter it around the plate. Drizzle with the remaining dressing and sprinkle with the chopped cashews.

Fruits and vegetables are an essential part of a healthy diet and knowledge of seasonal produce is key to helping you reach optimum health while saving money, consuming high quality nutrients, enjoying fresh flavor, and supporting local businesses. For more recipe inspiration, download the Rejuvenan app and gain access to hundreds of recipes as well as our team of physicians and dietitians, whenever you need them, wherever you need them.

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