What the color of fruits and veggies says about their phytonutrients

If you visit the Santa Barbara Farmers Market on certain Saturdays, you may notice new cooking demos taking place.

Sometimes it’s a local chef teaching you how to cook a popular dish from the restaurant. Other times, it’s a farmer or nutritionist talking about why they chose to grow a particular varietal or the nutritional magic behind certain fruits and veggies.

KCRW met up with diabetes educator Gerri French, who just finished teaching a demo.

While making a colorful summer salsa, she talked about why phytonutrients are important to your health. As she puts it, “eat the rainbow!”

Fast, Fresh & Fabulous Summer Salsa

• Corn
• Zucchini
• Tomatoes
• Peppers in many colors
• Cucumbers
• Onion – both red and green
• Olives and local olive oil
• Herbs, Greens, Flowers: Cilantro, Arugula, Sprouts, Nasturtiums….

Mix together to make a salsa or salad that’s perfect for summer picnics – and healthy too!

Summer salsa taco with avocado puree. (Kathryn Barnes/KCRW)
Dietician Gerri French (behind the table on the right) and two Sansum Clinic doctors serve up tacos. The clinic is trying to encourage patients to treat certain health issues like diabetes by changing their eating habits. (Kathryn Barnes/KCRW)

“I chose red onions because they have a phytonutrient called quercetin, and that’s been found to be very beneficial for your bronchioles in case people have sensitive to asthma or other lung issues,” says French. “I chose purple peppers which have anthocyanin, which is really beneficial for our arteries and cells to protect them against damage, which promotes longevity.”

Here are some other foods packed with phytonutrients.

Demo Days is organized by Edible Santa Barbara and sponsored by Sansum Clinic.

Want more farmers market inspiration? Click here.