National Fresh Fruit & Vegetables Month Written by Canadian Lentils Dietitian Gloria Tsang, RD It’s June, and that means summer produce is starting to come into season. In fact, it’s National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month, so what better time to think about adding more fruits and vegetables to our diet? With the number of fresh, seasonal choices getting larger and larger from now through the fall harvest, there’s no reason not to make fruits and vegetables the focus of your family table. Here are five great choices for fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables you can add to your meals right now – and why you’ll want to do so. Top Five Fresh Produce Picks for Early Summer Cherries Cherry season starts this month. Cherries’ dark red colour is a clue that they are high in antioxidants and phytonutrients. They are high in both fibre and vitamin C. We tend to think of cherries as working best in sweet dishes, but they can be used in savoury dishes, too – like this Lentil & Chickpea Salad with Creamy Lemon Yogurt Dressing. (During cherry season, use fresh chopped cherries instead of dried!) Peas Fresh peas simply cannot be compared to the frozen kind. They are sweet and delicious, and you can eat them either raw or cooked. Peas are absolutely packed with vitamin C, and they are also a good source of vitamins A, K, and B6. They offer plenty of fibre, and can be used as a good source of vegetarian iron. When using fresh peas instead of frozen in recipes, add them at the very last minute – they should really just be warmed, not cooked, to preserve their sweetness. Fresh peas add a great extra sweetness and crunch to hot dishes like this Slow Chicken & Lentil Stew. Spinach Local spinach is available fresh all summer long, and it should just be starting to arrive in stores now. Spinach is a nutrition powerhouse (just ask Popeye). It’s got fibre, protein, calcium, iron, and other minerals, and is a great source of vitamins A, C, E, K, and B6. Fresh spinach is great raw in salads, of course, but it can also be used to great effect in hot dishes, like this Baked Spinach & Artichoke Dip with Gouda. Strawberries Local strawberries knock the socks off the imported ones, which have a disappointing trend of being rather white in the middle. They are a great source of vitamin C and fibre. In fact, just eight strawberries provide more vitamin C than an orange! They are also rich in antioxidants. Fresh strawberries are super-sweet and incredibly delicious in cold desserts that really showcase their flavour, like these Strawberry Shortcakes. Asparagus Asparagus is available in grocery stores for most of the year, but local asparagus is only available in May and June. Asparagus is an excellent source of folate, a nutrient important in maintaining proper cardiovascular function. It’s a great source of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as the B vitamins and potassium, plus it provides fibre. In this Asparagus & Lentil Salad with Chive and Cider Vinaigrette, you can also use fresh chives, and use fresh snap peas instead of snow peas for a truly fresh, local dish! Buying fresh, local, seasonal produce ensures you get the most nutrition and taste from your fruits and veggies, so you can enjoy adding them to your table all summer long.