3 recipes to maximize your Illinois seasonal produce and their farm family connections
Nothing beats enjoying Illinois seasonal produce all summer long. But sometimes what ends up in our refrigerator is more than we can cook or use for the week, and that fresh produce can turn not-so-fresh before we know it.
Food waste happens from farm to fork, but did you know households are responsible for the largest portion of all food waste – an estimated 76 billion pounds of food per year?
Across the food supply, we can improve our waste footprint. Beyond your local farmers market, local Illinois farms supply local food processing and manufacturing plants, shortening the food miles it takes to get food from farm to table. And as a food processing hub, Illinois’ infrastructure system quickly moves products from farm to store, keeping food plentiful, fresh and affordable.
There are also steps we can take right at home to decrease what we waste while we enjoy Illinois seasonal produce this summer (and all other times of the year). Here are a few suggestions.
- Do more meal planning – Plan out meals for the week that capitalize on using fresh ingredients you have on hand. Here are some quick tips.
- Freeze your fresh stuff – Know you’re not going to get to those fresh fruits or vegetables before they spoil? Freeze them! Check out this blanch and bag food hack from Illinois farmer Heather Dollinger.
- Grow your own – Take a page from our farmers’ playbooks and grow your own produce! You might find when you know what goes into the process of growing food, you appreciate it that much more.
Finally, get crafty with how you eat your Illinois seasonal produce. We’ve got some quick recipes to mix up how you enjoy three popular in-season produce items.
Photo from The Kittchen
Fresh sweet corn is best enjoyed within one to three days of purchase. And when bought locally, you can count on Illinois sweet corn farmers, like Frank and Teresia Keller, to provide sweet corn at its peak sweetness. There are lots of ways to enjoy sweet corn – microwave, stovetop, grilled – or added to this creamy and delicious, homemade sweet corn queso recipe!
Photo from This Farm Girl Cooks
When it comes to freshness, watermelon has a pretty long shelf life, making it a good grocery store pick. A whole watermelon, uncut, can stay fresh at room temperature for almost two weeks. Once cut and refrigerated, you’ve got about three to five days to enjoy it. Watermelons grow well in the sandy soils of the Illinois River Valley in central Illinois, with Illinois farmers growing roughly 1,200+ acres of watermelons.
While watermelon is best enjoyed cold, there are plenty of ways to mix it up with other produce, like in this arugula, watermelon and feta summer salad, compliments of This Farm Girl Cooks – aka, Illinois farmer Deanne Frieders.
Photo from Hey Grill Hey
Green bean harvest happens right in the heat of July, making this an ultra-fresh summer produce item. Just ask Illinois green bean farmer, Brad Daugherty. Growing green beans is a proud tradition on his family farm in southeastern Illinois.
As soon as you get your green beans home, put them in the fridge – unwashed. These will last about a week. Green beans are great raw or cooked, but we highly recommend this recipe: garlic parmesan grilled green beans.
What’s your favorite Illinois produce to enjoy during the summer? Tell us in the comments!