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WV Farm2Fork: Zippy, cool and refreshing summer salads

Purple Onion 6/9

Cucumbers, radish and tomatoes from the Purple Onion.

There’s a lot to be said for summer dinners on the porch, picnics and reunions. But let’s face it, as much as we all love Mom’s potato salad and Aunt Clare’s kale creation, sometimes we need a refreshing and light little bite.

Enter radishes and cucumbers. Bright and crispy with a little chomp, radishes wake up a plate. Cool and creamy, cucumbers bring their own fresh lift. In combination or alone, these are just the ticket for a summer menu.

The radish is a relative of broccoli, kale, cauliflower and cabbage. Its bulb is called a globe. While the most common radish in our country is bright red and round, many other varieties including white, purple and watermelon are on the market today.

A half cup of sliced radishes is packed with nutrients and contains about 12 calories and virtually no fat. They are a good source of vitamin C that can help prevent cancer and support a healthy digestive system.

Prepare radishes by giving them a good soak in cold water to refresh them. Drain thoroughly. Pinch off the tiny root at the bottom if you like.

The cucumber is a member of the same family as squash and some types of melon. High in water content and low in calories, fat, cholesterol and sodium, it can help prevent dehydration because it is mostly water and contains important electrolytes. Cucumber is a good source of vitamin K, which is associated with healthy bones; and it’s a good fiber source which helps prevent cholesterol buildup. Cucumbers have been linked to a lower risk of obesity and diabetes, while promoting a healthy complexion and increased energy.

We’re glad for all of that, and we love the taste. Give these veggies starring roles in these summer dishes.

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Herbal Note: Give it up for dill

This is the time of year when dill deserves a chance in every meal. From a chopped sprinkle on scrambled eggs or omelets to a sauce for fish and seafood, its whisper-y fronds and fresh taste say summer is here.

Simple to grow, dill is a favorite in herb and vegetable gardens and has earned its place in pickles, sauces and salads. Its name comes from the Norse word dilla, which means to lull. The herb was once used to induce sleep, reduce flatulence and stimulate milk for some nursing mothers.

If you are growing dill, you can start clipping the fronds close to the stem as soon as the plants are established. It’s best to do this early in the morning or in the evening. Use as soon as possible after clipping.

You can dry dill weed by spreading the fronds, or leaves, on a nonmetallic screen in a warm dark place for several days. Once dried, store in an airtight container. Dill weed can also be frozen.

Dill goes to seed about two to three weeks after its flowers bloom and mature. The seed are light brown in color. Cut the sheaves carefully to keep the seeds from falling off the flower head. Cut the stems to any length that works for you, and tie them in a bunch. Hang them in a dark place and spread paper towels beneath them to catch dried seeds as they fall. If seeds don’t fall off, pull them off by hand. Store in an airtight container.

Allan Hathaway is the owner of The Purple Onion and WV Marketplace at Charleston’s Capitol Market. For more information, visit the web pages at capitolmarket.net/merchants/purple-onion and capitolmarket.net/merchants/wv-marketplace; call The Purple Onion at 304-342-4414 and WV Marketplace at 304-720-2244. Email Allan at purpleonionco@aol.com.

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