Panama has the perfect climate to grow fruits and vegetables of almost every variety. Many long-time residents of Chiriqui Provence and Boquete make their living growing, harvesting and selling these luscious fresh foods in outdoor street markets. These markets are plentiful everywhere in Panama. They remind me of growing up in Michigan and seeing the corn and cherry stands along the farm roads during the summer.

Not only are these fruits and vegetables beautiful to look at, but by eating them, you can see the pounds melt away. The more your eat, the more weight you lose. “How can I serve fruits and vegetables in innovative ways?”, you ask.

Buy anything at one of these many street markets, whether fruits or vegetables. Buy lots of them, pumpkins like shown over the peddlers head, ripe-red tomatoes you see piled high on his stand, peppers of every color, piles of carrots, stacks of melons, bananas and papayas, cases of potatoes, limes and plantains, and long strings of ripe and luscious pineapples. Eating lots of these fresh foods every day makes it easy to maintain a healthy diet, whether you live in Panama or anywhere else in the world.

First, try to serve them raw by preparing them in 12 easy ways. Can you name the different ways?

You can always steam them, boil them, candy, bake, dry, stir-fry, saute, or grill them on your barbecue grill. How about cooking them in a pressure cooker? Fruits and vegetables are so good steamed and mashed, stewed or microwaved. Try canning them, pickling or making fruit fritters. Make vegetable dumplings, compotes of mixed fruits, or make snows or sorbets of all sorts. You won’t need a recipe to prepare most of these dishes.

Using these fresh vegetables, why not make a nice tomato and basil sorbet or cucumber and mint sorbet? It’s easy, just find a recipe on Foodbuzz.com, learn how to make sorbet, and you’ll make it over and over. And remember, the more you eat fresh-from-the-market fruits and vegetables, the more your body will love it!

Now the 12 easy ways to serve raw fruits and vegetables:
- sliced and stacked high on a bed of bib lettuce,
- diced and tossed with vinegar and oil,
- juiced and served in a tall, thin glass over ice,
- chopped and mixed with lots of fresh herbs,
- julienned and sprinkled with shaved Parmesan cheese,
- grated and coated with yogurt,
- broken into segments and drizzled with agave nectar,
- mashed into a green goddess dressing,
- cut into wedges and topped with toasted sesame seeds,
- scored or semi-peeled, slice thinly and topped with sour cream,
- peeled using a peeler, then make curls to scatter over any salad,
- and Number 12, break into flowerets, add whole cherry tomatoes and top with ginger vinaigrette.

Make and serve lots of these foods using your imagination. Be creative and watch those pounds drop off!

Have fun!
Cora