Watermelon is among many local fruits and vegetables that can help you stay hydrated in summer's heat.

Stay hydrated this summer with fresh, seasonal produce

Drinking water is the best way to stay hydrated during the hot summer months, but it’s not the only way.

Most fruits and vegetables contain as much as 90 percent water, said Crystal Barber, a registered dietitian with Virginia Cooperative Extension.

“Summer is the perfect opportunity to enjoy locally grown produce and stay hydrated all at the same time,” Barber said.

Why is it so important to stay hydrated?

“We could probably survive for weeks without food; however, we could live only a few days without water,” she explained.

Water constitutes about 65 percent of an adult’s body weight and a higher percentage of a child’s body weight. Muscle tissue is 75 percent water, and fat tissue contains 10 percent water.

Water lubricates and cushions joints, carries nutrients and waste, regulates normal body temperature and maintains blood volume.

Experts disagree on how much water people should drink daily, and an individual’s needs will vary depending on what he or she is doing. A vigorous exercise workout can require additional hydration.

So drink or eat up. Approximately 81 percent of people’s daily water intake comes from beverages, with the remaining 19 percent coming from foods. Foods that are good sources of water include grapefruit, grapes, gelatin, lettuce, soups, strawberries and watermelon.

Additional benefits to staying hydrated are improved complexion and muscle definition. If you’re trying to lose weight, water can help make you feel full, reducing the temptation to eat.

For shade gardens, use large, varied groups of plants

Ever wondered if anything will grow in that shady spot in your yard? There are many varieties of plants that thrive in shade, according to horticulturist Mark Viette.

“Trees take all of the moisture out of the ground, so you are going to want to grow plants that can deal with that type of environment,” he said.

Viette suggested ferns, hostas and begonias for shady areas. He recommends planting them in large, varied groups. “It just looks nicer when you have a variety of plants in groups,” he said.

Some plants, like hostas, can get large, so it is important to space new plants 24 inches apart. Others, like begonias, will reseed themselves each year or will develop seed pods that drop to the ground and sprout during warmer weather.

Magnolia trees, hydrangea bushes and the dramatic Japanese painted fern also grow well in shade, Viette said.

Planting ground covers in shady areas will help prevent runoff and erosion and help tree roots filter water. Pine needles are a good shade garden mulch; using only 2 to 3 inches of pine needles helps keep soil from drying.

‘Pine needles are a good shade garden mulch; using only 2 to 3 inches of pine needles helps keep soil from drying.’ (Click to Tweet)

Mack’s Corn and Black Bean Salsa

Make this easy corn and black bean salsa for your next party.

See Recipe

Summer is sweeter, thanks to fresh Virginia corn on the cob

At the heart of the sweltering summer months are gatherings with family and friends. And nothing is sweeter at a backyard cookout than some juicy corn on the cob.

Corn is low in sodium and provides small amounts of fiber and B vitamins. To lower a calorie count, Extension experts recommend serving corn on the cob with pesto instead of butter.

Virginia sweet corn is at its peak in July and August. While sweet corn is grown throughout the state, production tends to be heaviest in the counties of Augusta, Carroll, Charlotte, Halifax, Hanover, King George and Rockingham; the city of Virginia Beach; and on the Northern Neck.

Most corn you find at farmers’ markets—and sometimes even in grocery stores—is picked and sold on the same day. When shopping for corn, choose ears with green husks, fresh silks and tight rows of kernels. Refrigerate corn with the husks on for use within one to two days.