Produce Basics

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Registered Dietitian & Media Spokesperson Rachel Wall shares her tips & recipes on KCRG News 9.

Summer is quickly approaching which means fresh produce will be popping up in our gardens, at the Farmer’s Market, and in CSA boxes. Preparing fresh produce can be easy when you have the information you need and a few skills. The Produce Basics information found on the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website and app describe how to store, clean, and prepare various fruits and vegetables.


  • Nutrition Benefits:

  • Folate: may lower your risk of heart disease.

  • Low in calories: helps prevent weight gain.

  • Low in sodium: may help reduce high blood pressure.

  • Storing:

  • Refrigerate asparagus for up to 4 days by wrapping ends of stalks in a wet paper towel and placing in a plastic bag.

  • Cleaning:

  • Rinse asparagus under cool running water before cooking.

  • Preparing:

  • Take one asparagus spear and hold it at each end. Bend the asparagus until it snaps – this is the natural break that occurs between the woody end and the tender end.

  • Using the snapped asparagus as a guide, line up the remaining spears of asparagus on a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to cut the asparagus at the same length as the snapped asparagus.

  • Roasted: Preheat oven to 425°F. Toss asparagus in a bowl with 1 tablespoon oil. Spread asparagus on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast 12 minutes or until tender, stirring halfway through.

  • Grilled: Toss asparagus with 1 tablespoon oil. Lay across the grill and grill on medium- heat until tender. The amount of time will range from 5-9 minutes depending on the thickness of the asparagus. Season with a squeeze of lemon juice or sprinkle of lemon pepper.

  • Steamed: Put asparagus and 1/2 cup water in a microwave-safe dish with a lid. Microwave on high for 5 minutes and check. Microwave for one minute at a time until asparagus reaches the texture you like. Sprinkle with your favorite seasoning.


  • Nutrition Benefits:

  • Folate: may lower your risk of heart disease.

  • Low in sodium: may help reduce high blood pressure.

  • Storing:

  • Do not wash beets before storing. Dampness speeds up spoilage.

  • If there are leaves, remove them. They can be cooked or eaten raw.

  • Store beets in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

  • Cleaning:

  • Rinse the beets under cool running water and scrub with a vegetable brush.

  • Pat dry with a paper towel before eating or preparing.

  • Preparing:

  • The insides of beets will stain counters, cutting boards, and hands. If you need to cut your beets, cover your work surface with wax paper or plastic wrap.

  • Baking: Cut off the green tops, leaving an inch of the stem to prevent flavor loss. Wrap beets in foil and bake at 400°F for 45 minutes to 1 ½ hours, depending on size.

  • Roasting: Cook the beet roots with other root vegetables with oil and your favorite seasonings.

  • Microwave: Microwave 2-3 small beets in a small amount of water for 8-15 minutes or until soft.


  • Nutrition Benefits:

  • Vitamin A: helps with seeing at night and helps the immune system.

  • Vitamin C: helps heal cuts and helps the immune system.

  • Storing:

  • Store uncut melons at room temperature for up to 1 week. Refrigerate cut melon in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

  • Cleaning:

  • Rinse melon under cool running water and scrub with vegetable brush before cutting.

  • Preparing:

  • On a cutting board, cut melon in half, making sure to cut through the stem area. If the melon has a cluster of seeds in the middle, scoop out the seeds. Cut each half of melon in half. Then cut each quarter into 2 or 3 wedges.

  • Remove the rind by cutting between the rind and melon flesh where the color changes.

  • Mix melon with finely chopped onion, fresh cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice for a fresh salsa.



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