One of my favorite things about summer is eating fresh produce in season. After a long, grueling winter and a rainy spring, this summer’s harvest is producing a gorgeous variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
This time of year, I like to spend late afternoons or weekends in search of local produce at farmers’ markets and outdoor produce stands. Sometimes I’ll stock up on something delicious and eat it for a few days straight. Right now I’m eating tart cherries, which are loaded with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. After a year without them, it’s like reconnecting with a long-lost friend.
Nutritionist and Kripalu Healthy Living faculty member John Bagnulo, PhD, MPH, highly recommends buying organic, especially for produce contaminated with the highest levels of pesticides and herbicides, known as The Dirty Dozen. (That list, compiled by the Environmental Working Group, currently includes apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, sweet bell peppers, nectarines [imported], cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, snap peas [imported], and potatoes.)
Kripalu Executive Chef Jeremy Rock Smith says his favorite summer foods include watercress, arugula, tomatoes, fava beans, zucchini, green beans, berries, and melon. Kripalu Lead Nutritionist Annie B. Kay, who teaches Kripalu’s Nutrition and Cooking Immersion, says she loves basil this time of year—great to add to salads and for making pesto.
“Basil and other green herbs are incredibly balancing biochemically,” says Annie. “Those wonderful flavors in herbs are from their volatile oils and flavones—phytonutrients with anti-inflammatory and cancer-preventing qualities.”
She also recommends tulsi. Sanskrit for “holy basil,” tulsi is one of the most sacred plants in India and a favorite among Ayurvedic practitioners for its purifying and antibacterial qualities. It helps fight off everything from colds and allergies to headaches and fevers, and makes a tasty tea.
There are few things simpler or more delicious than a ripe summer tomato. Eat them plain or with a drizzle of olive oil, or try this Tomato-Cucumber Salad with Yogurt Sauce.
While it goes without saying, perhaps the most important thing to remember this summer is to drink lots of water. Depending on the heat, how active you are, and how much you sweat, you’ll likely find yourself more thirsty than usual. While the general rule is to drink about eight glasses a day, it really depends on the person.
To liven up your water, try adding a slice of cucumber or lemon to add flavor. In the summer, Larissa Hall Carlson, Dean of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda, switches from lemon to lime, which is slightly less sour and easier to digest during the pitta season. Larissa also recommends watermelon and coconut water for staying hydrated. Have a happy, healthy summer!