Summer means an enormous bounty of fresh fruit and vegetables in supermarkets and in farmers markets. Right now in our fridge we have a huge carton of ruby-red cherries, organic strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, and a watermelon on the counter just waiting to be cut open.
I think I get abnormally excited about summer produce. It’s all just so fresh and bursting with unabashed flavor. It’s perfect to eat on the back patio in the cool of a late, lazy summer evening melting into night.
Yes, I am that person who waxes poetic about food.
So, as promised in my spring produce blog back in April, here is my guide to what’s in season during the summer months!
The usual disclaimer: this is just a general list of produce you’ll find during the summer. Every region has different specialties, and every region has variations in their growing season. Unless otherwise noted, and to my knowledge, the following fruits and vegetables can be found for most months during the summer.
|· Stone fruits||Stone fruits include peaches, plums, nectarines, and apricots. Ripe fruit is plump and firm without being rock-solid (you know the ones I’m talking about). The skin shouldn’t be wrinkled. They can be stored at room temperature for a few days uncovered in the crisper drawer of the fridge for up to a week. Don’t wash them before storing them.|
|· Cherries||Varieties include Bing, Rainier, and Morello (just to name a few). Look for fruit that is bright, plump, and deeply colored. Store them, unwashed, in a perforated bag in the fridge.|
|· Melons||This category includes watermelon, cantaloupe, Tuscan, honeydew, and others. For melons like cantaloupe and Tuscan, look for a creamy color under the netting and a sweet smell. For melons like watermelons, look for fruit that is heavy and gives a little bit at the stem end. Melons will stay fresh on the counter for several days and cut up in the fridge in a container or covered by plastic wrap for several more days.|
|· Berries||This category includes raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, boysenberries (and it’s one of my favorites!). Look for berries that are shiny, plump, and deep in color. Keep them in a perforated bag and don’t wash them until you’re ready to eat, otherwise they’ll spoil.|
|· Figs||Fresh figs are available from May through November. Look for fruit that has smooth skin and a sweet smell. Figs go bad quickly but they can be stored in the fridge for a few days (just watch them carefully).|
|· Tomatoes||There’s nothing quite like a tomato ripe off the vine. Look for firm, plump, bright red fruit that has a faintly sweet tomato smell. Tomatoes can be kept at room temperature, and apparently you’re supposed to store them upside down (I haven’t actually tried this). Keep them out of direct sunlight, bags, and refrigerators.|
|· Cucumber||There are many different types and sizes of cucumbers available throughout the summer. They should have bright skins but avoid skins that are too shiny—they have too much wax on them. Cucumbers can be kept in a vegetable drawer in the fridge for over a week.|
|· Corn||Oh corn. To quote Calvin (from Calvin and Hobbs), “Summer is butter on your chin and corn mush between every tooth”. And it’s so true. Corn is best when very fresh. Look for corn with tightly closed husks and fresh-looking corn silk that isn’t brown, wilted, or moldy. The corn kernels should be bright, plump, and shiny. Corn is best when it’s cooked the day you buy it, but can be refrigerated for a day or two.|
|· Bell peppers||These colorful beauties are also available for most of the summer. Look for peppers that are smooth, shiny, mostly unblemished skins (no wrinkles either).|
|· Summer squash||Includes zucchini, yellow squash, crookneck, pattypan, and more. Look for skin that is bright, mostly unblemished, and a vegetable that is not too large. Store in the crisper drawer for just a few days (squash goes bad pretty quickly).|
|· Beets||You can find beets with their leafy greens still attached. Full of nutrients, you can use the same cooking techniques to cook beet greens as you do greens like chard (below) and kale, such as braising.|
|· Chard||Colorful chard is available June to October. Look for bright, crisp, unblemished stalks and leafy, deep green leaves that aren’t brown or wilting.|
|· Basil||One of the quintessential summer herbs, basil is available all summer long. It’s especially delicious straight from the farmers market. Look for deep green branches that have no buds or flowers, which indicates a slightly bitter taste.|
|· Beans and peas||This category includes English peas, French beans, string beans, sweet peas, sugar snap peas, string beans, etc. Look for peas that are bright greens and pea pods that are green and unblemished.|
|· Herbs||Just like most plants, herbs grow in the garden best during the summer. Look for leaves that are bright, unblemished, and not withering.|
|· Chiles||Oh chile time! Chile, including the Hatch green chile, can be found in mid- to late-summer. Look for bright, firm pods that are pretty free of dark spots and skin that is unwrinkled.|
|· Eggplant||According to Saveur magazine, eggplant is actually a type of berry (they grow on a vine). They’re at their peak in August and September. Look for fruit that is firm and has unwrinkled skin. They don’t last for very long and do better stored outside of the fridge.|
Against, this list isn’t exhaustive, but you’ll find most of these in groceries stores of all kinds.
Of course, I will be creating a fall and winter produce blog when the time come, but for now, let’s stay in fresh fruit and vegetables, long days, warm evenings, and ice cold watermelon on the back porch (can you tell I love sitting out on the back porch?).
‘Till next time!