One of my first jobs was at a restaurant located on Lake Erie where each table got a carafe of ice water with sliced lemons. I was charmed one day by a very young diner who announced that I made the best water ever! It’s not uncommon to be asked at a restaurant, “Would you like lemon in your water?” While lemon is a complimentary addition to a glass of water, wouldn’t this question be more enticing: “Would you like your water infused with Ohio local produce”? There is nothing wrong with purchasing lemons and limes at the grocery store, but we are fortunate to have many options of flavors growing right now in containers, backyards, community gardens, school gardens and farms across Ohio.
Infused water is a healthy alternative to beverages that are high in sugar. Unfortunately, sugary drink portions sizes and consumption has risen dramatically in the United States over the past four decades. There are links between consumption of high-sugar drinks and obesity. The good news is that studies have also found that reducing sugary drinks can help with weight control. Making infused water is as simple as adding some sliced or smashed produce and herbs to your glass or pitcher of water. There is no right or wrong way to make infused water, but these tips might enhance the flavor:
- Depending on the added ingredients, either slice, chop or lightly smash fruits or vegetables, and either tear or julienne fresh herb leaves.
- Although the water will be served in a single sized glass, the flavored water could be made in either a drinking glass or a larger amount in a water pitcher.
- No special kitchen equipment is needed, although there are pitchers and water bottles designed to contain the produce so those ingredients are not floating in the water when it is time to drink it.
- Infused water could be served immediately after it’s mixed, but it will not have the maximum amount of flavor. It’s very nice chilled. Recommendations for chilling the water in the refrigerator range from thirty minutes to overnight.
- As in any food or beverage preparation, don’t forget to wash hands with soap and water before handling the food and wash all produce with clean running water. Use clean containers and preparation surfaces.
- Do not mix batches. Treat the infused water as you would treat any other refrigerated food. Most often the produce used in infused water is thrown away. The kitchen compost is always a great option for these waterlogged ingredients.
Ohio Fruits to flavor water:
- Berries – strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, mulberry, blueberry
- Melons – cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon
- Apples, Pears, Peaches, Grapes
Ohio vegetables: While vegetables are not as common as fruits in infused water, it is not unusual to use cucumber. Some additional vegetables to add color and flavor include: celery, red or yellow peppers, spinach or zucchini.
From the Ohio Herb Garden: Find your favorite combination of local foods flavors for your water bottle. Mint is a common flavor to infuse water and there are many varieties of mint beyond the traditional peppermint and spearmint. Try pineapple mint or grapefruit mint for a tropical taste. While this list is not exhaustive, the following herbs can maximize options for water flavor combinations: basil, rosemary, sage, lavender and lemon balm.
Local Foods Combinations for Infused Water:
- Strawberry Melon (choose any variety of melons)
- Pear Blackberry
- Pear Rosemary
- Watermelon Rosemary
- Peach Sage
- Strawberry Basil
- Match mint with any of the following: cucumber, cantaloupe, watermelon or blackberry
Please remember that to gain the most nutrition benefits from fruits and vegetables, it is recommended that you eat the produce. While infused water is a great way to stay hydrated, these will not count as your servings of fruits or vegetables for the day. The next time you are slicing Ohio produce to eat, consider adding a handful to your water pitcher. Because it’s so easy to make and there is no one right or wrong recipes, get the entire family involved. If you are interested in reading a short review by my household about five Ohio flavored water combinations, please click here. Consider doing your own kitchen taste test of local foods infused water during Ohio Local Foods Week, August 9-15, 2015.
Download a handout on Infused Water Ohio