The month of June brings countless pleasures to the Midwest. Few exceed the overwhelming presence of fresh produce at semi-affordable prices. At last, we can put aside the beyond-tired apples and oranges of the cold months to exult in ripe apricots, peaches, nectarines, cherries, and -berries, you fill in the prefix of your choice.

As scurvy gives way to jogging and gray skin to a healthy pink/fiery red, the University of Illinois Press offers a sprawling marketplace of newly-picked fresh titles.

maclachlanFarmers’ Markets of the Heartland, by Janine MacLachlan
This must-have resource celebrates the growers, producers, and artisans who bring fresh, nourishing food to their local communities every week. Food writer and self-described farm groupie Janine MacLachlan embarks on an extensive tour of seasonal markets and farmstands throughout the Midwest, sampling local flavors and colors from Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

MacLachlan meets farmers, tastes their food, and explores how their businesses thrive in the face of an industrial food supply. Finding farmers’ markets in leafy parks and edgy neighborhoods, and even one nestled into a national park, MacLachlan tells the stories of a pair of farmers growing specialty crops on a few acres of northern Michigan for just a few months out of the year, an Ohio cattle farm that has raised heritage beef in the same family since 1820, and a Minnesota farmer who has made it her mission to get folks growing the Jimmy Nardello sweet Italian frying pepper. Along the way, she savors vibrant red carrots, slurpy peaches, vast quantities of specialty cheeses, and some of the tastiest pie to cross anyone’s lips.

smith tomatoThe Tomato in America: Early History, Culture, and Cookery, by Andrew F. Smith
The love apple that many people wrongly consider a vegetable, the tomato is one of the world’s most popular off-the-vine delicacies. Whether you like the cheery cherry tomato or its massive Beefsteak cousin, The Tomato in America offers up factoids and context by the bushel.

Andrew F. Smith separates myth from historical fact, beginning with the Salem, New Jersey, man who, in 1820, allegedly attracted spectators from hundreds of miles to watch him eat a tomato on the courthouse steps (they expected to see him die a painful death). The Tomato in America then traces the early cultivation of the fruit of the Solanum lycopersicum, its infiltration of American cooking practices, the early manufacture of preserved tomatoes and ketchup (soon hailed as “the national condiment of the United States”), and the “great tomato mania” of the 1820s and 1830s. The book also includes tomato recipes from the pre-Civil War period, covering everything from sauces, soups, and main dishes to desserts and sweets.

carlson vegetarianThe Complete Vegetarian: The Essential Guide to Good Health, edited by Peggy Carlson
Maybe it’s time to put away the grill and think about what you’ve put your colon through the past several years. Awaken from your dead faint yet? It’s not too late to adopt a healthier lifestyle by delving into a diet rich in fruit and its vegetable cousins. The Complete Vegetarian leads with important scientific connections between good health and vegetarianism. The essayists then follow up by examining vegetarianism’s impact on chronic diseases and serves as a nutritional guide and meal-planning resource. Cutting-edge research by leading vegetarian nutritionists and medical doctors finds that it is not only an absence of meat that accounts for the health effects of a vegetarian diet; other contributing factors include less saturated fat and more fiber, antioxidants, and unsaturated fats than other diets. The Complete Vegetarian is an essential resource for health professionals and the growing number of people who have adopted or want to adopt the vegetarian lifestyle.

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