10 Spring Fruits and Veggies You Should Try

The top produce items you're probably not buying -- but ought to be

From the WebMD Archives

Are you in a fruit and vegetable rut -- you know, buying the same old fruits and vegetables, week in and week out? For me, it's broccoli, baby carrots, zucchini, and spinach that fill my vegetable bin. Then it's apples, oranges, pears, bananas, and grapes for the fruit bowl.

But it's time we all walk on the wild side and try some new spring and summer fruits and vegetables. And I've got 10 great ones for you to start with -- as well as a couple of recipes to use them in.

Don't know how to store or eat them? Don't know how to pick them out in the supermarket? You have no more excuses, because I've also got the answers to those questions for the 10 lucky produce winners.

If you're still not convinced, consider this: Recent studies have shown that eating plenty of produce has been linked to lower rates of heart disease and some types of cancer, and may help lower blood pressure.

Fabulous Fruits

1. Mini Watermelons

Who doesn't like watermelons! These are easy to eat, easy to store, and generally have great flavor, too.

Available: Year-round.

Buying tips: Find firm mini watermelons that feel heavy for their size, but that yield slightly when you press on them.

How to store: Ripen at room temperature. Once ripe, store cut or whole mini watermelons in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Nutritional attributes: 2 cups diced mini watermelon contains 20% of the Daily Value for vitamin A and 25% for vitamin C, according to data from Melissa's Produce.

Eating/cooking/serving tips: Use wedges or half slices to garnish plates. Or serve fruit salad in a hollowed-out mini watermelon half. Serve cubes or balls alone as a side dish, or in a fruit salad or fruit kabob.

2. Pluots

You've got to try this new fruit, a hybrid of a plum and an apricot. I liked them even though I'm not crazy about plums.

Available: June-September.

Buying tips: They are ripe when they give under gentle pressure.

Best way to store: To ripen pluots, keep at 65-70 degrees.

Nutritional attributes: Nutritional information was not yet available for this new variety.

Eating/cooking tips: Anywhere you would eat and serve plums or apricots, have these instead!

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3. Passion Fruit

This tropical fruit has a jelly-like inside, sweet-tart in flavor, with edible seeds. It gets the ooey-gooey award; you have to eat it with a spoon.

Available: January-July.

Buying tips: A ripe passion fruit has a wrinkled outer shell. Look for fruit that is full of color and fragrance.

Best way to store: If the skin is still smooth, ripen at room temperature, turning occasionally. Refrigerate ripe fruit in a plastic bag and use within three days, or freeze it.

Nutritional attributes: 4 pieces of passion fruit (2 1/2 ounces) contain 8 grams of fiber, 10% Daily Value for vitamin A, and 35% for vitamin C.

Eating/cooking tips: Cut the fruit in half and scoop out the edible pulp and seeds with a spoon. You can use as an ingredient in a smoothie, or in a sauce or filling.

4. Blood Oranges

They look like regular oranges on the outside, but inside are darkly colored and full of flavor.

Available: January-June.

Buying tips: Choose firm oranges that seem heavy for their size and have a sweet fragrance.

Best way to store: Store on the kitchen counter for up to one week, or two weeks if refrigerated.

Nutritional attributes: One orange contains 3 grams of fiber, 6% Daily Value for vitamin A, 120% for vitamin C, and 6% for calcium.

Eating/cooking tips: Colorful slices or wedges make great plate garnishes or a great snack. Segments add color and flavor to fruit salads or green salads.

5. Star Fruit

This fruit gets the award for the most unusual shape! It adds a refreshing tropical flavor to any meal or dish.

Available: Year-round.

Buying tips: Look for firm, glossy-skinned fruit without bruising. Don't worry if you see browning on the tips of the ridges; it's a sign of ripeness.

Best way to store: Store in the refrigerator in a plastic or paper bag for up to a week. Or, you can slice the fruit and freeze it in sealable bags.

Nutritional attributes: One fruit contains 30% Daily Value for vitamin C.

Eating/cooking tips: Slice it horizontally into star shapes, and you have fun garnish for your plate or an attractive addition to any fruit salad or green salad. Remove the seeds before eating.

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6. Sunburst Squash

These bright yellow, small round squash pieces are easily sliced or cubed. Use them in any recipes calling for zucchini.

Available: Year-round.

Buying tips: Look for squash that are plump and feel heavy for their size, with glossy and tender skin.

Best way to store: Refrigerate in a plastic bag for up to a week.

Nutritional attributes: One cup contains 38% Daily Value for vitamin C.

Eating/cooking tips: Colorful slices or wedges make great plate garnishes or a great snack. Segments add color and flavor to fruit salads or green salads.

7. Sugar Snap Peas

These are one of my favorite raw veggie snack foods. They are crunchy and fresh-tasting, easy to eat straight from the refrigerator.

Available: Year-round.

Buying tips: Select firm, plump, bright-green pods.

Best way to store: Keep refrigerated in a plastic bag and use within a few days.

Nutritional attributes: 1 cup contains 4 grams fiber, 140% Daily Value for vitamin C, 16% for iron.

Eating/cooking tips: You can eat the entire pod. These are great in lunches (just put raw sugar snap peas in a sandwich bag), or add them to a vegetable platter and serve with light dip. They taste good cooked, too, so you can use them in your favorite stir-fry recipe.

8. Radicchio

This gorgeous green is a flavorful way to add color to your salad.

Available: Year-round.

Buying tips: Pick crisp heads with fully colored leaves (with white ribs) and no brown spots. They come in different color variations; pink, red, and green, and burgundy-red.

Best way to store: Keep in refrigerator in a plastic bag for up to a week.

Nutritional attributes: 10 leaves contain 10% Daily Value for vitamin C.

Eating/cooking tips: Shred it and mix it in with other salad greens, or serve it sautéed or cooked in soups, casseroles, or side dishes.

9. Swiss Chard

This leafy green is a member of the beet family. The leaves have a beet-like flavor, especially when eaten raw.

Available: Year-round.

Buying tips: This leafy green is sold in bunches. Pick a bunch with crisp stalks and glossy leaves.

Best way to store: Store in the vegetable crisper (in a bag) and use within a few days.

Nutritional attributes: 1 cup contains 60% Daily Value for vitamin A, 45% for vitamin C, 4% for calcium, and 8% for iron.

Eating/cooking tips: Use in place of spinach in recipes. Or, cook as you would any leafy green vegetable.

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10. Okra

Although it's commonly cooked as a vegetable in the South, okra is rather uncommon to people living in other regions. It's also available sliced in the frozen section.

Available: Year-round.

Buying tips: Look for bright-colored pods with no spotting or browning.

Best way to store: Store in a paper bag in the vegetable crisper. Use within a few days.

Nutritional attributes: 6 pods contain 10% Daily Value for vitamin A, 20% for vitamin C, and 6% for calcium.

Eating/cooking tips: Okra can be steamed, sautéed, oven-fried, or pickled. Use it in soups, salads, and casseroles, or as a side dish or appetizer. Don't cook it in iron, copper, or brass pans -- their chemical composition will turn okra black.



Righteous Recipes

Either of these dishes is a delicious way to introduce some new produce into your diet.

Swiss Chard Egg-White Omelet

Journal as: 1 egg + 1 ounce low-fat cheese + 1 cup vegetables without added fat.

1 1/2 teaspoons canola oil

4 cups chopped green or red Swiss chard, packed (include stems if desired)

1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco), optional

1 cup egg substitute

1/2 cup shredded, reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese

2 tablespoon chopped green onions or sweet onion

  • Start heating an 11-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add canola oil to skillet and add the Swiss chard and garlic. Sauté chard, stirring often, until tender (about three minutes). Season with salt, pepper, and pepper sauce, if desired. Remove mixture to plate.
  • Add egg substitute, cheddar cheese, and onions to a 4-cup measure and stir to blend.
  • Begin heating the 11-inch skillet over high heat, and coat the pan well with canola cooking spray. When hot, pour in half the egg substitute mixture and spread over bottom of pan. After a minute, tilt the pan to let any liquid in the middle flow to the edges of the pan. When underside is nicely browned, carefully flip omelet over to brown the other side. Spoon half the Swiss chard mixture over half of the top of the omelet. When underside is nicely brown (about two minutes), fold omelet and slide onto plate.
  • Repeat step No. 3 with remaining egg and chard mixtures.

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Yield: 2 servings

Per serving (not included any added salt): 185 calories, 21 g protein, 7.5 g carbohydrate, 8 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 16 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 525 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 39%.

Star Fruit With Quick Orange-Raspberry Sauce

4 star fruit (you can substitute 4 regular or Asian pears, or any similar fresh fruit)

Raspberry sauce:

2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries

1 tablespoon orange marmalade

2 tablespoons orange juice

Sugar or Splenda to taste

  • Slice star fruit widthwise to make slices in the shape of stars (if using pears, cut in quarters, remove core, then cut each quarter into several slices).
  • For sauce, add raspberries, orange marmalade, and orange juice to food processor or blender; pulse briefly to blend well. Taste the sauce, and add a pinch or two of Splenda or granulated sugar to desired flavor. Strain mixture to remove the seeds and any orange peel. Refrigerate sauce in covered container until ready to serve.
  • Arrange fresh fruit evenly on four dessert plates. Drizzle some of the raspberry-orange sauce over each portion.

Yield: 4 servings

Per serving: 169 calories, 1.5 g protein, 43 g carbohydrate, 1.2 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 7.5 g fiber, 3 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 6%.

WebMD Feature

Sources

SOURCES: American Institute for Cancer Research Nutrition News, Jan. 24, 2005. Journal of Nutrition, March 2005. International Journal of Cancer, May 1, 2005. Web site, Melissa's/World Variety Produce, Inc.

© 2005 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.

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