One of the best things about the summer–and there are many great things about summer–is all the fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season. Sure, in today’s world we can get most things imported from God knows where year-round, but it’s cheaper, better for the environment, and I would argue tastier to get produce when it’s in season locally. So what delights can you expect at your local farmer’s market right about now?
10. Berries. Blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries. YUM. These fruit are bursting with good stuff like potassium, fiber, and most notably Vitamin C. One 1/2-cup serving of strawberries can get you 80% of your RDA or Vitamin C, one 1-cup serving of raspberries can get you 50% of it. Berries should be dry, firm, well-shaped and in a juice-stain-free container, as the stains may be a sign the berries are crushed or moldy. Eat ASAP or freeze–berries have a v short shelf life.
9. Cherries. A member of the “drupe” or stone fruit family, they come in two main types–sweet and sour. Sour cherries are lower in calories and higher in Vitamin C and beta carotene. When picking, look for cherries that are large, glossy, plump, hard, dark-colored (for their variety), and have their stems on. Store in fridge; should last up to a week.
8. Corn. Corn originated with Mexican and Central American peoples as early as 3400 B.C. and has evolved into my favorite vegetable of the summer. When picking corn, look for tight, fresh, green husks. Peel them back a little to make sure the kernels look okay (not eaten by bugs or too large–a sign it was picked too late). Store in the fridge (it will keep it sweeter), and eat ASAP. A great source of Vitamin C.
7. Cucumbers. The inner temp of cukes can be up to 20 lower than that of the air. Crazy! Main varieties include Persian (regular), English (long, thin, seedless), and pickling. Persian cukes are often waxed to seal in moisture; English ones aren’t waxed, so they usually are wrapped in plastic. They also actually have seeds, just smaller ones. Look for rich, green cukes without soft spots. Should keep in the fridge for up to a week.
6. Green beans. The most popular edible pod bean in the US. Try to pick beans that are slender, bright green, blemish-free, and of the same size to ensure uniform cooking time. Kick stiff beans or those with seeds visible through the pod to the curb. Should keep in a perforated plastic bag in the fridge for about 5 days.
5. Nectarines. Possibly my favorite of all fruits. Easily confused with peaches, but they taste slightly different and lack the fuzz factor. There are over 100 varieties, including yellow and white fleshed nectarines. Ripe nectarines are fragrant and give slightly to the touch. Leave under-ripe fruit out at room temp for 2-3 days to ripen up.
4. Peaches. Fun fact: peaches are part of the rose family. Like nectarines, the flesh can run the gamut from yellow to white (white is more sugary tasting). Good, ripe peaches are soft, blemish-free and fragrant. To speed ripening, store in a brown paper bag at room temperature (not in the fridge, plastic bags, or direct sunlight). Ripe fruit will keep the frige for about a week.
3. Plums. There are about 140 varieties of these guys sold in the US, most of which are either European or Japanese varieties. They come in an array of colors (reddish to bluish) and flavors (sweet to tart). Ripe plums give to gentle pressure; to soften under-ripe ones, put them in a closed paper bag @ room temp for a couple of days. Beware–dried plums turn into prunes, and we all know what prunes do. It turns out it’s the skin of plums (and prunes) that stimulates the bowels, so if you aren’t looking for that effect, skin before eating.
2. Tomatoes. Whose garden isn’t overflowing with these in the summer? There are thousands of varieties of tomatoes, generally falling into the three cherry, plum, and slicing groups, but they’re all good sources of Vitamins C and A, as well as the antioxidant lycopene. Look for smooth, unblemished and unbruised skins that are red or reddish-orange (depending on variety). Store at room temp until ripe.
1. Watermelons. At 92% water and 8% sugar, it’s no wonder why watermelons are so thirst-quenching. They are also an excellent source of the antioxidant lycopene. To pick a good watermelon, look for ones that are firm, symmetrical, with a healthy sheen, and a fragrant melon smell. If you thump, listen for a dull and hollow sound. If your watermelon was picked too soon, it will be hard to get it to speed up the ripening, but it might stay (uncut) at room temp for up to 2 weeks.
(Image via dianasaurdishes)