As the temperature rises, here are some fresh ideas to perk up your plate. New England's summer gardens offer lots of tasty and healthy vegetables and fruits.

Summer in New England offers a wealth of fruits and vegetables, but by August you may be scratching your head for new ways to use up all of the season’s bounty. While the produce listed below can be found all year round, eating it while it is in season often makes for cheaper, tastier and possibly even more nutritious meals. So look no further than these old standbys to perk up your plate.

Cantaloupe
cantaloupe
Provides a healthy dose of vitamin A to keep your skin, eyes and immune system healthy. 

Fresh Uses:

  • Wrapped in prosciutto for a quick appetizer or side dish
  • As a cantaloupe, green onion and citrus salsa
  • Diced in chicken salad
Cauliflower
cauliflower
Helps cleanse the body with its natural “detox” properties and may help prevent cancer. Added bonus: orange-hued varieties have 25 times more vitamin A.

Fresh Uses:

  • In place of potatoes in a gratin
  • In pasta (hot or cold)
  • Pickled, like you would cucumbers
Eggplant
eggplant
May help protect cells, especially brain cells. Also contains chemicals that may reduce cholesterol.

Fresh Uses:

  • Halved, grilled and eaten as a smoky side dish
  • Roasted or grilled and pureed into a dip with lemon and tahini
  • Diced and added to tomato sauce
Watermelon
watermelon
Naturally high in water and disease-fighting antioxidants. Also an excellent source of vitamin C which promotes wound healing and a strong immune system.

Fresh Uses:

  • Paired with salty cheeses like parmesan or feta in a savory salad
  • Combined with peas and wild rice for a fiber-rich salad
  • Pureed and frozen in ice cube trays to flavor drink
Celery
celery
Contains chemicals which may reduce stress hormones and lower blood pressure. Also a good source of folate, necessary for healthy cell growth.

Fresh Uses:

  • Chopped with endive and apples for a crunchy salad
  • Braised or roasted with lemon and olive oil
  • Juiced and added to homemade smoothies or shakes

You can find locally grown produce in your area by visiting farmers markets and frequenting stores and restaurants that offer locally grown products. Visit www.eatwellguide.org to learn where local food can be purchased in your area.

Emily Gelsomin, RD, LDN
Emily Gelsomin, RD, LDN

Emily Gelsomin, RD, LDN, is a clinical nutrition specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital. As a registered dietitian, she counsels on medical nutrition therapy on an outpatient basis and works extensively with Be Fit, the hospital’s employee wellness program.

Jointly sponsored by The Clubs at Charles River Park and MGH Nutrition and Food Services, the 10-week program focuses on helping participants “Be Fit and Eat Right.” Every ten weeks, employees from different departments within the hospital compete with each other as they make a commitment to Be Fit. Through the creation of a social environment at the workplace, participants are supported to make progress in personal lifestyle changes with the help of a unique support system that includes a dedicated nutritionist and personal trainer.

Be Fit strives to create a milieu of wellness that extends beyond the 10-week curriculum by offering features to those who are not part of the intensive program. This includes the creation of Choose Well, Eat Well, a rating system designed to help both employees and patients increase awareness of healthy choices at retail eateries within the hospital. It also includes a monthly e-mail with a timely nutrition tip.