Smoothies are a nutritious way to stir things up in the kitchen, especially if the ingredients come from your garden.
Few drinks are as refreshing as fresh or frozen fruits and syrups mixed with milk and yogurt. Many people also add greens.
"Follow the harvest and work with whatever is ripening," said Nan Chase, who with DeNeice Guest wrote the new "Drink the Harvest" (Storey Publishing). "We get into canning. The starting point is with the juices."
Smoothies are easy to make. All that's required is a blender, some liquid (milk, juices or water), ice cubes (or ice cream), yogurt, fruits and greens.
Strawberries, blueberries, peaches and blackberries are great smoothie ingredients because they have a long shelf life when preserved, Chase said.
"We can use them any time of year," she said. "Syrups are a big component of what you can do with the juices."
You gain a lot from a little when blending syrups into smoothies, Chase said. "We find that you get a significant amount of concentrated flavor and you don't need an 8-ounce glass. Just a quarter cup can provide the necessary (daily) nutrient load for fruit."
Some suggestions from Colorado State University Extension for enhancing the flavor and nutritional punch of smoothies:
Boost the amount of dietary fiber by leaving on the fruit skins (except bananas).
Nuts and seeds, along with nut and seed butters (like peanut butter), contribute protein, fiber, antioxidants, nutrients and heart-healthy unsaturated fats.
Try green smoothies for variety. You can use raw, leafy garden vegetables like kale, spinach, collard greens and Swiss chard. Avocados, parsley, fennel, broccoli, carrots, radishes or celery can be added to fruit smoothies for an enriched natural sweetness.
Go organic with your gardening and wash all produce thoroughly to help prevent food-borne illnesses.
"Use whatever is in your herb garden," Chase said. "Bay leaf and basil can infuse drinks (when boiled down) with a smoky flavor. They give drinks just a little depth without being overpowering."
If you don't have a garden, try a farmer's market for fresh ingredients, or do some foraging outdoors.
"You can come home with a lot of different kinds of produce if you take a container along while hiking," Chase said. "We actually like prickly pear cactus juice."
To make green smoothies for variety, nutrition and flavor’s sake, include many herbs along with leafy green vegetables including kale, spinach, collard greens and Swiss chard. They can be blended with fresh or frozen fruit and syrups to enrich the taste.×