Lazy Hazy Days...

Summer Salads

Bord Bia’s Summer Salads Week is an opportunity to enjoy our delicious Irish salad crops even more. It runs from the 18th to the 24th of July, and during the week you will be able to win a Select Hotel weekend away with spending money every day on the Ian Dempsey Breakfast Show. and in the Irish Farmers Journal on the 21st of July. In addition, you can go to Mykidstime.ie for more recipes, salad dressing ideas, and a chance to win a Joseph Joseph Hands On salad set.

This is what Aoife Hearne, nutritionist with Operation Transformation, had to say about Summer Salads:

Aoife Hearne - Summer SaladsIt’s that time of year again – my favourite time of year when Irish grown tomatoes are back in season.  I’m not sure if there is a greater addition to a salad than a fresh juicy Irish tomato.  Along with tomatoes the summer is a great time to get home grown cucumber, peppers and lettuce.

First things first – scientifically speaking tomatoes are defined as a fruit, however, most of us use tomatoes like a vegetable.  Either way one medium tomato or 7 cherry tomatoes count as one of your 5- a – day.

Fruit and vegetables are an essential part of a healthy eating plan.  The 5-a-day recommendation comes from the World Health organisation’s research that shows eating 400g of fruit and vegetables each day lowers the risk of serious health problems such as certain cancers, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Coming back to my favourite fruit/vegetable: What’s so good about tomatoes?

Tomatoes are a good source of Vitamin A, and they’re also a source of vitamin C

Vitamin A is important because it contributes the maintenance of normal skin and normal vision, and also to the normal function of the immune system.

Some Tips to increase tomatoes in your daily eating plan:

  • Remember to store tomatoes at room temperature for maximum flavourtomatoes
  • Have a variety of tomatoes available for different purposes. Large tomatoes are great to be sliced for sandwiches.
  • Cherry tomatoes add great flavour to salads but also can be a fantastic base for a sauce. Cook enough in the summer and freeze to ensure you have great quality sauce to last you through the winter months.
  • Don’t forget using fresh tomatoes to make a tomato based sauce for lunch and dinner will go towards your 5-a-day.
  • Tomatoes can be a great addition to all meals. They can be a great way to get vegetables into breakfast by adding to an omelette.
  • Tomatoes can be a great addition to soups, and stews.
  • Use cherry tomatoes combined with cheese, hummus or avocado as a great mid afternoon snack.

Lettuce

LettuceLettuces, the foundation of great salads, come in a staggering variety of shapes and sizes. Adding great colour and crunch to the salad bowl, their leaves are best eaten as young and as fresh as possible.

Lettuce is a must have for any mixed summer salad, it truly is a vital component of any fresh sandwich  or wrap but beyond the crunch, the coolness and the balance it brings to other ingredients , it is a great heathy option. 100 g of fresh lettuce provides on average just 15 calories but is a good source of vitamin A, and a source of folate.

That same 100 g of tasty leaf provides 44% of daily vitamin A, to sharpen up eyesight but beyond good looking those nutrients get you looking good by supporting skin rejuvenation and complexion.

And folate performs a number of important functions in the body, contributing to maternal tissue growth during pregnancy and to normal blood formation and psychological function.

Folate also contributes to the normal function of the immune system, and to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue

Cucumber

CucumbersThe cucumber is very low in calories and provides only 15 calories per 100 g (about a quarter of a large cucumber). It contains little or no saturated fat. Cucumbers are an ideal way to bulk up salads, they taste delicious, and make your salads extra refreshing.

The phrase “cool as a cucumber” is not without merit. This vegetable’s high water content gives it a unique moistness and cooling bite. Cucumbers are scientifically known as Cucumis sativus and belong to the same family as the courgette, pumpkin, and other types of squash.

The flesh of the cucumber is primarily water but it also contains caffeic acid. Cucumber preparations containing caffeic acid are often used in soothing skin cosmetics, applied topically for swollen eyes, burns and dermatitis.

It’s a shame to restrict the sliced cucumber to baggy-eye-relievers alone. You’ll get a real flavour-rich feeling by popping them in your mouth, not on your eyes! Add them to your menus during the warm summer months when they are best-in-season and at their most delicious.

Here are some ‘cool as a cucumber’ ideas to include them in your summer menus:

For refreshing cold gazpacho soup that takes five minutes or less to make, simply purée cucumbers, tomatoes, green peppers and onions, then add a little pepper to taste

Mix diced cucumbers with sugar snap peas and mint leaves and toss with rice wine vinaigrette

Make a classic Greek salad with chunks of cucumber, tomato, feta cheese and black olives

Use half-inch thick cucumber slices as petite serving “dishes” for cubed cheese such as feta. Lovely canapés

Add diced cucumber to tuna or chicken salad for extra crunch and texture

Pour cucumber juice over ice cubes or drink it straight. Use cucumber juice in cocktails, smoothies, and other drinks. Cucumber ice cubes also make a pretty garnish for a bowl of summer punch

Chopped cucumber mixed with tomato, red onion and pepper makes an excellent salsa. You can also make raita or tzatziki by mixing diced or shredded cucumber with yogurt and other spices. This makes a delightfully cool sauce for sandwiches, wraps, and curries.

Red Peppers

Peppers

Red peppers are high in vitamins A and C.  Vitamin C helps with the immune system and also helps to release energy from the foods we eat. It also helps to reduce tiredness and fatigue. They are also a source of vitamin B6 which contributes to normal psychological function To get the same amount of vitamin C as just half a red pepper, you would need to eat 2 oranges, 3 kiwis or 40 cherry tomatoes!

Sweet peppers are native to South America. The Spaniards in Mexico discovered them in the early part of the 16th century. It was not until the 20th century that these vegetables became popular throughout Europe particularly in the Mediterranean countries. Peppers and chillies are both members of the capsicum family. To distinguish between them, peppers are called sweet peppers, bell peppers and even bullnose peppers. They come in a variety of colours – red, green,yellow, white, orange, and purple-black. The colour of the pepper tells you something about its flavour. Green peppers are the least mature and have a fresh “raw” flavour. Red peppers are ripened green peppers and are distinctly sweeter. They add colour and zest to salads and cooked dishes. Yellow and orange peppers are similar to red peppers although a little less sweet.

Click here for some Summer Salad recipes…