Emblazoning plates with red, white and blue for July isn't just a show of patriotic pride.

Emblazoning plates with red, white and blue for July isn't just a show of patriotic pride.

Whole foods that evoke the stars and stripes can be nutritious and cost-effective for holiday spreads, say local cooking instructors.

"People are always saying " 'Eat the rainbow,' " says Mary Shaw, culinary educator for Ashland Food Co-op. "The foods that have those bright red and blue colors this time of year are so nutrient-dense."

Strawberries, raspberries and blueberries have highlighted free tastings recently at the Co-op. And a free cooking class this month in Grants Pass will entice children and adults alike with some of summer's iconic colors.

"People kind of do red, white and blue " all July," says Barbara Paulson, instructor for Oregon Health Management Services cooking classes, sponsored by Grocery Outlet, MedImpact and Primary Health.

The OHMS class is planned for Saturday, July 19, says Paulson, because Independence Day celebrations seem to take precedence over other activities early in the month. But once they're over, parents are looking for entertainment to carry families through summer vacation.

"It just gives people clever ideas to celebrate," says Paulson, a retired home-economics teacher. "I kind of try to keep it lighthearted and fun."

And in keeping with OHMS' mission, Paulson tries to keep recipes light in calories, fat and sugar. A salad composed with strawberries and blueberries, sandwiches with red-skinned apple slices and skewers of watermelon are on the menu. Although berries are naturally sweet, Paulson includes a dessert "pizza" with a star-shaped sugar-cookie crust, cream-cheese spread and topping of strawberries and blueberries.

"Right now, blueberries and strawberries are pretty plentiful and about the lowest cost," says Paulson.

Berries also can harmonize with savory foods, says Shaw, who cites a fresh berry salsa accompaniment to grilled white fish as one of her favorite red, white and blue dishes.

"It's really yummy, and it's beautiful."

The unexpected addition of blue borage blossoms brings the holiday theme to a salad of white beans and tomatoes with balsamic vinaigrette. The dish will be available for sampling at 11 a.m. Saturday, July 5, at the Co-op, 237 N. First St., Ashland.

Trying unfamiliar, healthful foods is one goal in OHMS' classes for kids, says Paulson.

"We like the fact that kids will eat things they aren't used to eating," she says. "If they've handled it and prepared it, they usually try it."

While they don't handle knives for liability reasons, children do mix ingredients and use appliances with supervision, says Paulson. Participants also wash dishes and clean the kitchen.

"I think that's an important part of cooking," says Paulson.

OHMS requires preregistration and the donation of a nonperishable grocery item for the community food bank. Cash donations toward the nonprofit program are encouraged.

Reach freelance writer Sarah Lemon at thewholedish@gmail.com.