My friend Connie is the only person I know who calls up to say, “Let me know if you want me to come over and pull weeds for you.” Perhaps she sees something I don’t? Weeds aside, this is the time of year when I really admire the green thumbs of my neighbors, especially when it comes to the vegetables growing so beautifully in their gardens. I’m more than willing to water and pull weeds when the return is fresh-picked produce. Here are a few of my favorites almost ready to hit their peak:
Eggplant: Known in France as “aubergine,” this purple vegetable hits the top of its growing season in August and September, according to an article in Food and Nutrition magazine. Super low in calories (1 cup of cooked eggplant has just 35 calories), this vegetable is rich in antioxidant substances known to protect our bodies at the cellular level. Eggplant’s purple color comes from nasunin, a pigment that has shown to help blood flow to the brain (yes, please).
Eggplant is in the nightshade family and as such, may trigger inflammation in some people. We need more research on this, however, say nutrition experts. And don’t eat the leaves of your eggplant; they are toxic.
Since the flesh of eggplant can easily absorb liquids, health experts tell us to wait until just before baking, roasting or grilling to brush eggplant with oil.
Onions: At just 46 calories per cup, onions provide vitamin C, fiber and a ton of flavor to our meals, say experts. And yes, they can make you cry. (Throw ‘em in a food processor with a lid to fight back the tears.)
I personally prefer cooked onions to raw and was pleased to find this easy recipe for caramelized onions by registered dietitians Deanna Segrave-Daly and Serena Ball: Slice 4 to 5 medium onions and place in an oiled slow cooker with 2 tablespoons of butter and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6 to 8 hours. Use to top off the flavor of burgers, pizza, eggs and pasta. Yum.
Zucchini: Don’t laugh; this over-abundant summer vegetable is also one of the lowest in calories (20 calories per cup). That’s before we add sugar, flour and chocolate chips to make chocolate zucchini cake, however.
Here’s a recipe for baked zucchini chips (www.allrecipes.com) that better fits a nutrition column: Slice 3 small zucchini into 1/4 inch rounds and place in a bowl. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and stir to coat. Toss in 1/2 cup Italian-seasoned bread crumbs. Place zucchini on a baking sheet and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese and 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until cheese is browned.
Guess I’d better get to those weeds.
Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator affiliated with Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula in California. She is the author of “Quinn-Essential Nutrition” (Westbow Press, 2015). Email her at to email@example.com.