Swimming pools and ice cream shops may close their doors to the public come Labor Day, but farmers' markets continue to thrive all year-round. And it's a good thing. Not only are locally-grown fruits and veggies more flavorful than imported produce, but they also tend to retain a higher nutritional value since they are grown, stored and transported in a sustainable manner.
Skip the trip to the supermarket, grab your grocery list and mosey on over to your local farm stand for a taste of fall's best fruits and vegetables. From the field to your fridge, these four delicious, healthy and oh-so-ripe picks are sure to keep you happy through Halloween.
Grapes: 62 calories in one cup; 2 calories per grape
In the Northeast, locally-grown grapes are only available at farmers' markets a couple months out of the year-now until late October-so get 'em while they're hot! Grapes, a perfect on-the-go snack and low-cal salad topper, deliver an antioxidant called resveratrol, which boosts energy levels, decreases the risk of heart disease and has anti-aging benefits. Look for plump, slightly frosted grapes that are still attached to the stem. Pass on those that are wrinkled or soft to the touch, unless you want to make your own raisins.
Pumpkin: 185 calories in a quarter cup of seeds
September marks the return of Dunkin' Donuts pumpkin iced coffee (two pumps of syrup, please!), but it's also the best time of the year to toast up a batch of homemade pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas). If you can't pluck a pumpkin yourself from a nearby patch, you can definitely nab one from the farmers' market.
Simply scoop out the seeds, filter out the pulp and let the seeds dry overnight before roasting them for 20 minutes at 175 degrees. Add a dash of salt and paprika for a crunchy snack that's loaded with magnesium (you need this for proper nerve function), iron and zinc. Use the pumpkin shell for a jack o' lantern, of course.
Blueberries: About 40 calories in half a cup
Blueberries have the highest antioxidant count of all fresh fruits, packing a serious punch of vitamin C, vitamin B complex and vision-friendly beta-carotene. They also contain nearly 15 percent of your daily fiber requirement, which aids in proper digestion and helps to banish belly fat.
In fact, researchers at the University of Michigan found that blueberries decrease abdominal fat whether you maintain a high- or low-fat diet (though we're campaigning for the latter). Just be sure to get this slimming super-fruit while you can; blueberries will be out of season by the end of October.
Cauliflower: 14 calories in one cup (cut into one-inch chunks)
Cauliflower often gets a bad rap for its soggy texture and bland flavor, but when cooked properly, it's delicious. For a tastier rendition of this cruciferous vegetable, try consuming raw cauliflower dipped in hummus or sautéing it in a zesty blend of garlic and spices.
Cauliflower isn't just kind to your waistline; it also contains high levels of folate, an amino acid that's vital for women who are pregnant or trying to conceive. Cauliflower can be found in abundance at the farmers' market through Christmas. Choose compact bundles without small flowery buds.