Nutrition Column – Enjoy Fruits and Vegetables from Your Grill

The outdoor grill is not just for meats, poultry and fish. Grilling also works well for an assortment of fruits and vegetables. The next time you’re wondering what to serve with barbecued hamburgers, steaks, chicken or fish, look no further than your own garden. Grilling fruits and vegetables is an easy way to add color and variety, as well as nutrition, to any grilled meal.

For best results, choose fruits and vegetables that are ripe and ready to eat. Always wash and dry produce before grilling. Before cooking, brush fruits and vegetables lightly with oil, melted butter or a marinade to help prevent sticking. When grilling produce, it’s preferable to use low heat. Coals are ready when you can hold your hand about 5 inches above the heat source for five seconds.

When grilling fruits, slice the fruit in half and remove any pits and/or cores. Begin by grilling the pulp side down, turning as needed. In general, fruits take three to five minutes to cook. Bear in mind that fruit can easily burn due to its high sugar content, so watch it closely.

When preparing vegetables on the grill, cut them into half-inch slices or medium-sized chunks. Vegetables, such as asparagus, broccoli, baby carrots, okra, onion slices, pepper chunks, summer squash and tomatoes usually cook in about five to seven minutes. Root vegetables, including potatoes, beets and winter squash may take 20 to 45 minutes to cook depending on whether they are whole, sliced or cut into pieces.

For scrumptious fruits and vegetables from your grill, try the following suggestions provided by the Mayo Clinic:

– Bananas in the Peel: Slice whole bananas lengthwise with their peels still on; brush the cut side with canola oil. Place cut-side down on the grill and cook until lightly browned, about two minutes. Turn and grill until the bananas begin to pull away from the peel, about two to four minutes more.

– Grilled Pineapple Rounds: Lightly sprinkle brown sugar onto half-inch thick pineapple slices. Grill the slices, turning a few times, until browned, about five minutes.

– Cantaloupe Kebabs: Thread chunks of cantaloupe onto skewers and brush lightly with a mixture of honey, butter and chopped mint. Cook three to four minutes, turning the fruit to grill each side.

– Filled Peach Halves: Fill peach halves with fresh blueberries and sprinkle with brown sugar and lemon juice. Wrap in aluminum foil and grill for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once. Serve while hot.

– Grilled Portabello Mushrooms: Marinate a large Portobello mushroom in French or Italian dressing – or make your own dressing with 11/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 11/2 tablespoons olive oil, a clove of minced garlic, salt and pepper – and grill it like a burger.

– Shrimp and Veggie Kebabs: Cut vegetables such as squash, peppers, onions and mushrooms into equal-sized pieces. Place on skewers with shrimp or chunks of turkey breast. Brush with fresh fruit juice or broth and grill. These can also be wrapped in aluminum foil before grilling. Cook until meat is done.

– Grilled Tomato Halves: Cut tomatoes in half crosswise, brush with canola or olive oil, and add salt, pepper and your favorite spices. Wrap in foil and grill sliced side up for six to eight minutes.

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by Pat Kendall, Ph.D., R.D., Food Science and Human Nutrition Specialist, Colorado State University, Cooperative Extension