Guide to Summer Produce
Every year, along with warmer temperatures and longer days, comes an even longer list of beautiful summer produce perfect for eating and cooking fresh meals all season long. Each season brings its own bounty of delicious ingredients, but none so more than summer.
It’s the perfect time to get in the kitchen (or out at the grill!) to whip up a spectacular array of fun and fresh recipes – all while supporting your local farmers and agriculture during their busiest time of year.
Feeling the heat about cooking this summer? No sweat, we’ve got you covered. Here are some of our favorite warm weather ingredients and a few ideas about how to use them!
Depending on where you live, the peak of each ingredient might be during slightly different times, but for the most part you’ll find these from May through September in your neck of the woods!
Vegetables during the summer months:
- Bell Peppers (Technically fruit, but… come on, it’s used as a veggie.).
- Sugar Snap Peas
- Tomatoes (Yes, it’s technically fruit too. But classified culinarily by law in 1893!)
- Zucchini / Summer Squash
Fruits during the summer months:
- Stone Fruits (Apricots, Nectarines, Peaches, Plums)
- Berries (Blackberries, Blueberries, Raspberries, Strawberries)
While green is the color of choice in the U.S., white and purple asparagus are far more common and populate the world over – and a real treat if you find them in your local farmers market or grocery store in late spring and early summer. No matter which you buy, or how you cook them, try to only store asparagus a day (or two max) in the fridge as they’ll start to wilt and change texture very quickly after harvest!
Whether you want to call it arugula or rocket, one thing we can all agree on is the peppery, bitter deliciousness that are these flavor packed greens. We love them as the base of a salad, a topping on pizza or pasta, or even pureed into a soup or perfect pesto.
The earthy, slightly sweet, underrated powerhouse of every farmer's market and grocery store. We absolutely adore all kinds of beets. With too many uses to properly list and do justice, it’s best to be adventurous! Buy new types when you see them and cook them (even the tops are edible) in any way you choose – roast, grill, sauté, pickle, juice, puree. Explore all the amazing ways you can use the humble and delicious beet!
Another incredibly versatile summer ingredient, bell peppers can be used in a myriad of ways across countless recipes. Purchase them by color depending on how sweet you’d like them, as all colors are the same plant at different stages of ripening. Green is the least sweet, followed by yellow, then orange and finally red being the most.
If there’s one vegetable that has benefited most from the resurgence of heirloom varieties becoming popular, it’s the carrot. With countless varieties in all sorts of sizes and colors, late summer months are the prime time to explore how truly delicious the carrot was meant to be (apologies to the “standard” grocery store orange carrot).
Not many vegetables bring back summer nostalgia like corn. For many people across the entire world, it’s a signature sign of warm days and delicious meals. Grilled, steamed, boiled, or turned into soups, stews or salads, it’s one of the true sweet treats of the season.
Why aren’t cucumbers more popular? With some many varieties available at the market during the upcoming months, it’s time for us all to embrace and celebrate the clean, sweet, herbal, crunchy awesomeness that are peak cucumbers! Marinated, sliced, pickled, grated, and more – fine your favorite way, or five, to use them this summer!
Simply put, fresh herbs are one of the best ways to pack a recipe full of flavor, and there’s no better time to embrace them than during the summer. Mix them into salads, blend them as part of a marinade, or use them as a garnish to finish off a fantastic dish off the grill. There are countless ways, savory and sweet, to use herbs to elevate your favorite dishes. (Don’t forget about them in your summer cocktails too!)
From sweet and tender, to crisp and bitter, and everything in between, lettuces don’t get better than buying local ones during the warmer months. Butter lettuce is a favorite of ours for delicate but crunchy vegetable filled salads, while firmer greens like romaine are great to toss on the grill! If your lettuces ever wilt before using, simply submerge them in a bowl of ice water for 15 or 20 minutes to make them crisp again!
Sugar Snap Peas
Lightly cooked or eaten raw, few things are better than the sweet crunch of peak season sugar snap peas. To lightly cook them, steaming or boiling for only a few minutes will slightly soften them will keeping a beautiful texture. Or try them thinly sliced raw and mixed into your favorite summer salad.
While great to enjoy all year long due to some varieties growing well in the fall and stored all winter, there is no argument that warmer months are peak radish season. Similar to carrots, there are so many shapes, sizes and flavors of radishes from all around the world. Our best advice is to buy that new one at the market you’ve never seen an enjoy experimenting adding it to new recipes thanks to the versatility of using them cooked, pickled or raw!
A sure sign that warmer weather is on the way is the first rhubarb showing up at markets. Earthy and sour, rhubarb can be a star or complimentary flavor in so many savor and sweet dishes. Try it in a sweet summer pie, or a spicy sour chutney. (Just don’t eat the leaves, as those can be poisonous!)
A summertime star, from small cherry tomatoes to the largest beefsteak and heirloom varieties, perfectly ripe tomatoes straight from vine is a treat not to be missed. Store them at room temperature and enjoy them any way you’d like – from sliced raw into salad, pureed into a bright fresh sauce, or roasted over a charcoal grill.
Zucchini / Tender Squash
Welcome to summer, where countless varieties of these begin to arrive at the market and in home gardens. Endlessly versatile, try them grilled and topped with fresh herbs, sliced thin and lightly marinated or pickled, or sauteed until tender and creamy to serve along with perfectly cooked fish.
Stone Fruits (Apricots, Nectarines, Peaches, Plums)
A true sign of summer is a perfectly ripe stone fruit bursting with sweet juice. Best stored at room temperature and eaten just as they being to soften. We love them as is, but they’re great grilled and roasted for both savory and sweet dishes alike. And if you wait a little too long to enjoy them, cook over ripened ones into delicious sauces (BBQ anyone?) or chutneys.
A true late season treat, perfect cherries are one of the highlights of late summer. Another ingredient that plays well both in savory or sweet dishes, we love them in a crunchy spinach salad and equally as a sweet cheery cobbler or crisp. Not to mention they’re full of antioxidants!
Berries (Blackberries, Blueberries, Raspberries, Strawberries)
Full of fiber, antioxidants and flavor, summer berries are a highlight of any warm weather meal. Try grilling strawberries for a fun version of a shortcake, adding raspberries or blueberries to a salmon and butter lettuce salad, or cooking blackberries and chilis down into a delicious BBQ sauce! Cook them and use them however you’d like, but try to store them in an even layer and with a slightly loose lid or on a layer of paper towel as excess moisture will make your berries go bad more quickly.
Jam, chutney, tarts, salads, flatbreads, charcuterie boards, served as an appetizer, part of a main course or as a dessert – what can’t figs do?! Stored in a single layer and covered in the fridge, your ripe figs will be perfect to use in multiple sweet and savory dishes all week long!
Not just for cutting into slices, melons are a versatile ingredient to cook with all summer long! Try a cantaloupe and cucumber salad with a bit of mint, chili, soy sauce and fish sauce. Or toss some watermelon on the grill and pair with fresh oregano, feta and lightly pickled onions. And if nothing else, at least make one frozen and blended watermelon cocktail to enjoy outside with friends!
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