National Eat Your Vegetables Day

As the growing season swings into full gear, head to your local farmers' market or even the produce section of the grocery store and load up on fresh vegetables to participate in National Eat Your Vegetables Day.

John Nordell/Staff/File
Vegetables are artfully displayed in the produce section at a Whole Foods Market in Boston.

Eat Your Vegetables Day on June 17 stands in stark contrast with National Doughnut Day. This "holiday" seems to have sprung out of Internet fiction, much the way that April is now designated as Grilled Cheese Month, but we like its motive and focus so we are going with it.

Instead of rushing to your local doughnut shop to pick up a free dessert, however, a holiday focused on vegetables requires more thoughtful planning and engagement. But you will feel a lot better after you eat a fresh, steaming, buttered ear of corn than you will after eating a doughnut.

Sure, a bag of frozen peas counts as eating your vegetables, but taking the time to educate yourself about which vegetables are in-season and how to prepare them provides loads of other benefits in addition to being better for you. For example:

Social. You'll meet more people if you eat more vegetables. Head to your local farmers' market and actually meet the people who grow tomatoes. You'll probably bump into a neighbor or two while you are there. No one stands for long in the freezer section of the supermarket. But if you take your time in the fresh produce section to inspect that pile of beans or onions you can compare notes with other shoppers. Or, if you grow vegetables in your garden at some point you will be overrun with mint, zucchini, and summer squash. These make perfect in-season offerings for friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors, who will be grateful. Vegetables are also earth-friendly, they require less energy and produce less waste than livestock to grow. Who doesn't want to be friends with the planet on which we live?

Education. Cooking with vegetables requires some bravery and curiosity. Can you tell the difference between bok choy and red cabbage, for instance? What will you do with it when you take it home? Push yourself beyond familiar vegetables like cucumbers and carrots and try something you don't recognize. Online recipes make it easy to Google, "rutabaga recipe." You'll feel smarter and more creative if you cook with fresh vegetables.

Fashionable. Fresh vegetables are in-season, aka trendy. Make it a game to watch for which vegetables are coming into harvest and then plan a meal and invite your friends. You will be surprised at the rich flavors in-season produce provide and how little enhancement you'll need to do at the stovetop. More people from European chefs, to home cooks, to school children are finding ways to incorporate leafy greens and crunchy produce into their daily meals. If you are uninspired by vegetables, there are plenty of resources, cookbooks, and blogs to guide you. This seasonality chart might be a good place to start: http://cuesa.org/page/seasonality-chart-vegetables

Share your ideas in the comments below for your favorite vegetable-focused meals. And happy Eat Your Vegetables Day!

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