SUMMER PRODUCE 101: YOUR GUIDE TO GOOD EATS ALL SUMMER LONG

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Summer means long days of sunny skies, flip flops and daisy dukes and cute little dresses. It means pickup games in the park and beach outings and ice cream cones. Summer also means a treat for our taste buds, as fresh, delicious produce blooms all around.

Summer is my favorite season for produce. Eating seasonally is an important part of our health and wellbeing because it allows us to expand our palates, consume the most nutritious foods available, and stay connected to our environment and our communities.

Fresh fruit and veggies are my all-time favorite foods, and no other season can even compete with summer’s mouthwatering array. Summer produce is light, crisp, refreshing, and flavorful! Take advantage of this most wondrous of seasons by buying fresh, seasonal produce that tastes amazing and makes you feel healthy and happy!

Here are some highlights of summer’s glorious harvest:

Fruits

Apples

Harvested mid-summer through fall, apples are their own perfect little snack package. They travel well, they’re satisfying, and they give you a boost of energy. Take one with you when you’re out and about, or slice them up and cook them down into an all-American pie.

Stone Fruits

Stone fruits are some of the most delectable of summer’s bounty. Sugar-sweet and dripping with flavorful juice, they’re amazing to eat out of hand, of course. But stone fruits are also fabulous in all sorts of recipes, sweet, savory, and boozy.

Apricots, peaches, plums, and nectarines are available in the US from late May to early October. These summertime gems are delicate–the best-tasting ones can’t hold up to the rough transport ride needed to reach the shelves, so they’re picked before they’re ripe and ready in order to prevent damaging them. Instead of settling for produce that’s subpar in taste, nutrition, and overall quality, visit your neighborhood farmers market for local, fresh-picked, delicious stone fruits.

Cherries also fall under the category of stone fruits. The season for cherries is precious, spanning from May to August for sweet varieties like Bing and Rainier (my personal favorite), and a mere two weeks or so during mid-June for the sour variety.

I look forward to cherry season all year long. I’m so excited when cherry season finally rolls around that I can’t stop plucking the plump cherries from their stems and munching the juicy fruits from their stones until I’m sick. In addition to eating them straight off the stem, cherries are delicious in all sorts of desserts, sauces, and preserves.

Avocados

Avocados are proof that the universe loves mankind. This categorically unusual fruit is rich, creamy, and oh so delicious. Spread it on some toast, put it in your salads, top your burger, turn it into a milkshake, use it to replace butter in your baking, transform it into everyone’s favorite dip, sprinkle it with a little sea salt and lemon juice and eat it straight from the peel. The ways one can enjoy avocado is endless, so have at it; now is your chance!

Berries

Blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, gooseberries, huckleberries, raspberries, andstrawberries (not actually berries!). These juicy little pearls of love pack a serious punch in the way of flavor and health. Full of powerful disease-fighting antioxidants, berries are an excellent snack, and they make for some of the best desserts. Pop some in your mouth right out of your hand, add them to your breakfast cereal, use them in your baking recipes, blend them into your smoothies, top your salad with them, cook them down into a compote or preserve, or muddle them in your cocktails. You can do just about anything you imagine with berries, so get ‘em while they last and be creative.

Figs

Figs are high in fiber, calcium, and potassium, and they’re in season mid- to late-summer. These are another delicate fruit, so get yours at the farmers market for high quality and better taste. Use them within a couple days of purchase because they spoil quickly.

Melons

Melons like honeydew, watermelon, and cantaloupe are in their prime during the summer months. Super high in water content and subtle in their sweet flavors, melons are ultra light and refreshing. Pick melons that feel heavy for their size and give a little to pressure at the stem end.

Tomatoes

Oh, the joy of farm fresh summer tomatoes! I’m not even sure what supermarkets are selling during the other seasons of the year because whatever pallid, rock-hard balls of seeds you can find don’t even compare to the juicy, vibrant delights that crop up during the summer! Get them and eat them while you can, and turn your leftover harvest into tomato jam, so you can keep enjoying them all the year long!

Veggies

Beets

Beets are pretty amazing. The amount of healthy nutrients compressed into one little beet is almost absurd. Among the healthiest foods available, beets provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification support. They taste incredible when roasted because the flavor becomes concentrated. But they lose much of their nutritive value under heat. So definitely enjoy them roasted to crisp caramelly perfection, but also try blending raw beets into your smoothies (if your blender can handle it), or steam them for up to 15 minutes, the point at which their health benefits decrease.

Bell Peppers

Crisp and delish, sweet peppers love the sun, so get them in season for the best flavor. Yum!

Corn

Whether on the cob or by the kernel, corn is essential summer fare. Grill it and top it with a little butter and salt or a pure and simple staple, or coat it with some ancho chile powder and cojita cheese for a spiced flare. Shave kernels into salads, salsas, breads and puddings for a touch of sweetness. Corn loses its sweetness because its sugars turn to starch as soon as it’s picked, so try to use it as soon after you buy it as possible.

Cucumbers

Nothing says fresh like cool cucumbers. Hydrate and relax with these mellow veggies. Add them to your salads, flavor your water with them, and pickle them at the end of the season for a tangy spin on the classic cuke.

Eggplant

Throw it on the grill, bake it in eggplant parm, or whip it into zesty baba ganoush. This meaty veggie is great for carnivores and vegetarians alike.

Garlic

Garlic, garlic, garlic, garlic! Put it in everything. Roast it, fry it, mince it raw. Whatever you do, love it!

Green Beans

These stringy veggies are freshest and most flavorful during the summer. Buy them locally for the best selection. Sauté them, bake them, fry them, or chop them up and eat ‘em raw. Yummy, crunchy, and healthy, what’s not to love?

Herbs

Herbs like basil, cilantro, rosemary, thyme, and oregano add tons of fresh flavor to everything blessed with their company. From savory dishes, appetizers, and dips, to fruity ice cream and popsicle recipes, to infused water and oil, fresh herbs bring life to your food and love to your life! Stock up, dry them by hanging them upside down until brittle, and store them in airtight containers, so you can continue using them throughout the year.

Hot Peppers

Spice things up with chile peppers this summer. They boost your metabolism and add great flavor. Use them in your savory dishes, or experiment with complex flavor combos like fruit and pepper salad, spicy cocktails, or hot detox pops.

Greens

Salad greens like lettuce, baby spinach, and arugula, and cooking greens like chard, are all in season during the summer months. Look for crisp, glossy and firm leaves, and be sure to wash them very well in cold water before eating.

Zucchini and Summer Squashes

Baked, fried, sautéed, roasted, or grilled, zucchini and other summer squashes are super scrumptious. Get them from your local farmers market for the big, healthy ones.

This is only a handful of the awesome produce available during the summer months. Take a trip to your local farmers market for all the freshest, best fruits and veggies this sunny season.


Originally published at newscult.com on June 29, 2015.