Summer in Maine may be lamentably short, but that’s all the more reason to celebrate the season while it’s here with fruit freshly picked from the garden, vine or tree. Even if you don’t grow your own, it’s easy to find local farm stands, farmers’ markets, and “pick your own” opportunities where you get to literally enjoy the fruits of your labors.

When the weather is hot and humid, who wants to spend time in the kitchen? But that doesn’t mean you have to eat out, or settle for “store bought” convenience food. Instead, by preparing your own dishes with ingredients to suit your own needs or preferences. Whether in a picnic basket or your dining table, they can be enjoyed when you’re ready with minimal fuss and usually at less cost than commercially prepared and packaged alternatives.

Jewel-toned berries and juicy stone fruits are naturally delicious, not to mention filled with healthy antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals. But even for those trying to eat light and avoid excess sugar and fat, grabbing a piece or a handful of fruit just doesn’t seem like “having dessert.”

Here’s where a little prep makes the difference. When it’s presented in bite-sized morsels, drizzled with a pleasingly bright, tart/sweet dressing and served in a pretty bowl, suddenly eating fruit becomes something to look forward to beforehand with no remorse later.

There’s almost no need for a recipe. Start by gently rinsing and drying your chosen fresh fruits. Ideally, they will all be local and seasonal; in any case, avoid bananas as they are vulnerable to turning unpleasantly brown and mushy. Figure on a half to one cup of mixed fruit per serving. For example, for two servings, cut up one ripe peach, and combine it in a small bowl with one cup halved or quartered strawberries and a generous handful of blueberries. Stir gently with a large spoon to mix the fruits without crushing.

For the dressing, start by grating a little zest from the skin of a washed, fresh lime; set aside. Cut the lime in half and squeeze it over the bowl for a few seconds to release the juice. Reserve the cut lime for another use. Next, in a similar fashion, drizzle a thin stream of honey over the bowl. Mix once more just before spooning into serving bowls, to distribute the dressing evenly over the fruit. Garnish with a sprinkle of lime zest.

If you are making a large quantity of fresh fruit salad to share at a potluck or picnic outing, you may wish to pre-mix the dressing rather than drizzle on the separate components. To do so, squeeze the entire lime into a small bowl and combine the juice with 2 to 3 tablespoons of honey. A little lime zest may be mixed in at this point, but do save some as a garnish. Then drizzle the mixture from a spoon over the bowl of fruit.

The prepared fruit mixture can be enjoyed right away or will keep, refrigerated, for a day or two at the most. You’ll notice that even though the lime juice prevents browning, inevitably the fruit does become softer and the mixture becomes more soupy over time as the honey and natural sugars marinate the fruit. When this happens, simply put the mixture into a blender or food processor, blend and pour portions into popsicle molds. Stash in the freezer for a refreshing and healthy homemade treat!

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