Get ready for National Fruits & Veggies Month in September!
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First of all, why grill? From a health standpoint, grilling is a great way to prepare plants without having to add extra fat in preparation. When it comes to flavor, grilling takes the depth and complexity of veggies up a notch; plus, it brings out the natural sweetness in fruits. This summer, go beyond just firing up the barbeque for meat, and, instead, make your cookout tasty and plant-powered!

There are lots of plants that lend themselves to grilling. Let’s start with veggies. Choose from classics like grilled peppers, onions, and summer squash to more non-traditional, trendy options like cabbage or cauliflower steaks, asparagus, and sliced Brussels sprouts. Hearty produce like savory portabella mushrooms, corn on the cob, carrots, and potatoes are also great choices. You really can’t go wrong!

A good hack to add even more flavor is to marinate your vegetables as you might typically do with an animal protein prior to grilling. A good marinade just has a few raw ingredients including oil, such as canola or olive oil, something acidic like citrus fruits or vinegar, and your favorite herbs and spices. Marinate your veggies for at least 30 minutes before throwing them on the grill.

When it comes to grilling vegetables, timing is key. Some vegetables like carrots and potatoes will need to cook for a little longer than say asparagus or squash. If you are grilling a bunch of veggies together, place your hearty vegetables on the grill first, cook for 3-4 minutes or until they are about a quarter- to halfway through cooking, then add the rest of your vegetables. Most of the time, 8-10 minutes, with one flip, will be enough time to get in that sweet spot: when your veggies are cooked through and tender, but are still a little crisp or have a slight “bite” to them.

For a plant-packed side dish or snack, grill up an assortment of vegetables and serve warm with a homemade dressing or dip made from Greek yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, and fresh herbs.

We can’t forget fruit! Grilling fruits like watermelon, pineapple, and peaches, caramelizes the sugars and intensifies the flavor. Plus, it’s easy to do! Take watermelon, for instance. Simply slice your watermelon into wedges leaving the rind attached. This will keep the watermelon flesh from falling apart when you flip it with tongs during cooking. Hint: a mini watermelon that is less than 5 pounds, maybe the perfect size for about five to six people. For a sweet and spicy alternative, after slicing, sprinkle a rub on your watermelon wedges. Use white or brown sugar, flavored with a little salt, lime, and other spices like cumin or red pepper flakes. Grill the watermelon on high heat for about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Serve as is or cut the flesh off the rind and toss with leafy greens, feta cheese, balsamic vinegar, and fresh mint. For a doubly refreshing dessert on a hot day, serve grilled watermelon with a scoop of frozen yogurt or ice cream!

‘Tis the season for chillin’ and grillin’, and a plant-powered cookout is sure to keep those summer vibes flowin’ all season long!

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