Guides/ Tips & Hints

A Guide to Summer Produce

A Guide to Summer Produce

A Guide to Summer Produce
Even before I really knew what eating in season was all about, I knew that summer was when you bought fresh corn. And if you tried to buy fresh corn at any other time of the year, you’d be sorely disappointed. It wasn’t until I reached adulthood that I realized that other vegetables have seasons too–who knew, right?! When you eat in season, you’ll have an easier time eating local and you’ll save on your groceries in the process. As cheesy as it sounds, eating in season helps me feel more in touch with nature too. That’s not to say I never buy a zucchini or cucumber in the winter, because I do, but I try to adhere to seasonal eating as much as I can.

Here are some of my favorite fruits and vegetables that are in season during the summer, plus info about how to store them, prepare them, and recipe ideas too.

Bell Peppers

Peak Season: July-Autumn
Buying Tips: Bell peppers can be found in a range of colors, including green, red, yellow, orange, purple, brown, white, and more! Regardless of their color, bell peppers should be shiny, smooth, firm, and feel heavy for their size.
Storage: Refrigerate bell peppers for up to 4 days.
Preparation & Cooking: Remove the stem, seeds, and white part of the membrane before using. Bell peppers can be grilled, stuffed, or added to stir-fries. They’re also excellent roasted!
Recipe Ideas: Sriracha Snap Peas with Red Pepper, Red Peppers Stuffed with Ricotta, Caramelized Broccolini and Toasted Walnuts from Greek Vegetarian, Roasted Red Pepper Hummus Sandwich with Caramelized Onions from Life Currents

Berries

Peak Season: June-July (raspberries), late July (blueberries), late summer (blackberries)
Buying Tips: Berries should generally be shiny and plump (except for blueberries, which actually look duller when they’re ripe). Make sure to avoid containers with any moldy/mushy berries – the mold can spread to the rest of the berries in no time!
Storage: Berries should last 2-3 days in the fridge. They can also be frozen. Do NOT rinse your berries until you’re ready to eat or use them! Rinsing them in advance will cause them to get mushy and rot more quickly.
Preparation & Cooking: Berries are quite versatile – throw some in your yogurt or oatmeal, bake them in a pie, add them to salad, make some jam, or even experiment using them in savory dishes.
Recipe Ideas: Raspberry Banana Chia Smoothie, Vanilla Blackberry Overnight Oatmeal, Chewy Blueberry Sunflower Seed Granola Bars from Kitchen Treaty

Cantaloupe & Honeydew

Peak Season: June-August (cantaloupe), late summer-early fall (honeydew)
Buying Tips: Cantaloupes and honeydews should feel heavy for their size and smell sweet.
Storage: Keep cantaloupes and honeydews on the counter for about 2-4 days, or until ripe. Don’t refrigerate them unless they’re ripe or cut. Wrap sliced melon tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to about 3-4 days. Melon cubes should be kept in an airtight container in the fridge and eaten soon.
Preparation & Cooking: Melon rind can harbor bacteria, so always wash cantaloupes and honeydews before you cut into them. Cantaloupes and honeydews go great in smoothies and salads, or get creative and make a melon soup!
Recipe Ideas: Spicy Cantaloupe Cucumber Salad, Cantaloupe Mojito & Cantaloupe Mint Sparkler from The Spicy RD, Mix and Match Melon Soup from Martha Stewart

Cherries

Peak Season: May-August
Buying Tips: Make sure to buy cherries when they’re ripe – they won’t ripen after you bring them home. Cherries should be smooth and shiny
Storage: Cherries don’t last very long – usually no more than 3-4 days in the fridge.
Preparation & Cooking: Cherries can be made into jams, sauces, desserts, and more. You can also freeze cherries to use later in cooking or baking, but don’t take them out until you’re ready to use them.
Recipe Ideas: Cherry Lambic Brownies, Cherry Breakfast Shake, Whole Wheat Chocolate Cherry Muffins

Corn

Peak Season: May-September
Buying Tips: Look for a tightly closed, fresh-looking husk with brown (but not dried up) silk tassels. Open the husk a bit to make sure the kernels look plump and cover the whole ear, and to check for obvious damage.
Storage: Corn on the cob should be kept in the husk and prepared the same day if possible. Refrigerate your corn in a plastic bag to slow decomposition and keep the sugars from turning into starch. Corn can also be blanched and then frozen.
Preparation & Cooking: Nothing screams summer like grilled corn on the cob! Or slice off the kernels, and use them in a wide variety of recipes – even ice cream! Seriously!
Recipe Ideas: Fresh Corn, Poblano, and Cheddar Pizza, Thai-Style Grilled Corn with Roasted Peanuts, Fresh Corn Soup with Herbed Croutons

Eggplants

Peak Season: July-October
Buying Tips: Eggplants come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Farmers markets are a great place to find crazy (and delicious!) kinds of eggplant that you won’t find at the supermarket. Look for smooth, shiny skin and eggplants that feel heavy for their size.
Storage: Use eggplants right away if possible for the best taste. Refrigeration can damage their flavor and texture, so keep them on the counter in a cool spot. If you keep eggplant in a bag, make sure it’s not completely sealed.
Preparation & Cooking: Always cook eggplants before eating. Eggplants make a great substitute for meat – you can slice large eggplants into rounds and grill or roast them for sandwiches or eggplant parmesan. Eggplant is also perfect for stuffing.
Recipe Ideas: Caramelized Onion & Eggplant Puff Pastry Tart, Lightened-Up Eggplant Parmesan Stacks, Stuffed Baby Eggplant in Peanut Sesame Sauce from The Steaming Pot

Green Beans

Peak Season: May-October
Buying Tips: Look for firm beans that can snap easily.
Storage: Green beans can last in the fridge between 4-7 days. Put them in a paper bag, or wrap them in a paper towel and put them in a plastic bag.
Preparation & Cooking: Cut the tips off your green beans before preparing them. Some beans also have strings that you may need to remove. Green beans are a great side dish, and you can add them to stir fries.
Recipe Ideas: Garlic Soy Green Beans, Green Beans with Lemon Almond Pesto, Green Bean and Potato Curry from Curry and Comfort

Peaches

Peak Season: May-September
Buying Tips: Look for peaches that feel heavy for their size and are slightly firm, but not rock solid.
Storage: Store peaches on the counter, not in the fridge! They may last longer refrigerated, but it makes them mealy and flavorless. Keep peaches in a brown paper bag, but don’t close it all the way.
Preparation & Cooking: Peaches are perfect for desserts, jams, and baking, and they also taste great grilled!
Recipe Ideas: Brown Sugar Peach French Toast Cups, Grilled Peaches, Peach Melba Shake

Summer Squashes

Peak Season: April-July
Buying Tips: Zucchini and yellow squash are most common, but there are many other types, including pattypans, eight-balls, and more – you may need to hit up a farmers market to find some of the more unusual varieties. With summer squashes, bigger is not better. Smaller squashes have fewer seeds and better flavor than larger ones.
Storage: Baby squashes should be used promptly, and they typically last 2 days in the fridge. Larger, more mature squashes can last around 4 days in the fridge.
Preparation & Cooking: Unlike winter squashes, the rinds of summer squashes are edible, so no need to peel them! Summer squashes are great on the grill, sauteed, baked, or stuffed.
Recipe Ideas: Mushroom Zucchini Quesadillas with Cilantro Pesto, Stuffed Pattypan Squash with Quinoa and Fresh Corn, Bourbon Mango Pulled Summer Squash Sandwiches

Tomatoes

Peak Season: July-August
Buying Tips: Tomatoes should feel firm and heavy for their size.
Storage: Tomatoes should be kept on the counter. Refrigerating them will destroy their flavor. Tomatoes will continue to ripen after being picked, so if you have unripe ones, leave them in a brown paper bag until they’re ready.
Preparation & Cooking: Plum tomatoes (such as Roma) are ideal for sauces. Beefsteak tomatoes are perfect for slicing and putting on sandwiches. Cherry and grape tomatoes can be thrown into salads. Summer is also heirloom tomato time, so be on the lookout for tomatoes in all sorts of exciting shapes and sizes!
Recipe Ideas: Roasted Vegetarian Puttanesca Sauce, Tomato & Mozzarella Panini, Roasted Eggplant Tomato Tart from The Bojon Gourmet

Watermelons

Peak Season: May-July
Buying Tips: The “thump” test is the most popular way to pick a watermelon (and yes, there’s an app for that). Whether thumping actually works is up for debate. Watermelons differ from other melons in that they don’t give off a smell when they’re ready to eat, so it may be tougher to pick a good one. Look for melons that are firm and don’t give in much to pressure, and that have a yellow spot from where they sat on the ground ripening.
Storage: Whole watermelon can be kept on the counter for about a week. Don’t refrigerate watermelon unless it’s been cut or is ripe. Cut watermelon can last about 2 days in the fridge, or you can freeze it for up to 3 months.
Preparation & Cooking: Watermelon is the perfect summer food as-is, but you can also add it to salads or blend it and make drinks, cold soups, Italian ices, smoothies, or sorbets.
Recipe Ideas: Ginger Watermelon Italian Ice, 4 Simple Watermelon Side Dishes, Watermelon Cucumber Slush from Henry Happened

For more ideas on what to do with your summer produce, check out my Semi-Comprehensive Guide to Roasting Summer Vegetables. Oh, and I have a Guide to Spring Produce too!

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38 Comments

  • Reply
    JulieD
    July 9, 2013 at 11:25 am

    Thanks for this helpful guide! Can’t say I have a favorite summer veggie or fruit, I love them ALL!

  • Reply
    Martina
    July 9, 2013 at 11:40 am

    This is a fantastic guide thank you – I’m trying to eat by season too shopping at farmers markets really promotes this because you just can’t get the produce out of season.

    I tried grilled corn on the cob on sunday evening and it was to die for – so delicious! I’m a total convert now ๐Ÿ™‚

    Martina

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 13, 2013 at 4:25 pm

      I agree, shopping at the farmers market is a great way to eat in season! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    Hannah @ CleanEatingVeggieGirl
    July 9, 2013 at 11:52 am

    This is SUPER helpful! For as much as I love fruits and vegetables, I am certainly lacking in knowledge in regards to a lot of them!!

  • Reply
    dixya| food, pleasure, and health
    July 9, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    this is such a great post ๐Ÿ™‚ I have been trying to stick to seasonal produce and i didnt realize until recently how it can make a worlds difference esp with tomatoes and berries.

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 13, 2013 at 4:24 pm

      Oh yes, there is SUCH a difference in flavor with some produce. Broccoli kind of tastes the same year round, but there’s no comparing summer strawberries to winter ones!

  • Reply
    Suzanne
    July 9, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    This is so helpful; thanks Kiersten!

  • Reply
    Caitlin
    July 9, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    thank you for this ๐Ÿ˜‰ i feel like i haven’t had a bell pepper in forever. i haven’t purchased one for the past few seasons because the organic ones are so expensive for some reason. i’ve been enjoying zucchini, berries, and tomatoes lately.

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 13, 2013 at 4:19 pm

      Bell peppers ARE expensive! I wonder why that is?!

  • Reply
    Anne|Craving Something Healthy
    July 9, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    This is such a great and helpful guide! I agree 100% – nothing beats the flavor of seasonal produce.

  • Reply
    Meg @ Beard and Bonnet
    July 9, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    What an awesome guide! Thank you:)

  • Reply
    Laura (Tutti Dolci)
    July 9, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    I love all the fresh summer produce, this is such a great resource!

  • Reply
    McKel Hill, MS, RD, LDN | Nutrition Stripped
    July 9, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    I love your seasonal produce posts, so informative and a great guide for everyone! Hope you had a great 4th!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 13, 2013 at 4:18 pm

      Thank you! I hope you had a great 4th too! ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Reply
    Hannah @Tales From The Last Frontier
    July 9, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    Thanks for sharing this! I am always seeing produce guides but I haven’t seen one broken down like this, and it rules! Our growing season is a little different up here in the 49th state (due to cold and snow) and I am constantly hearing different things. This is super informational and much appreciated ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 13, 2013 at 4:18 pm

      Yeah, it definitely varies region by region! I think in Wisconsin, where I used to live, local corn isn’t available until July or August, but here in NC, we start getting it in June. I can imagine that the difference is even bigger in Alaska!

  • Reply
    mjskit
    July 9, 2013 at 10:00 pm

    What a great post! Lots of information! For supper tonight, Bobby grilled some local sweet corn. SO GOOD! Thanks for this post.

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 13, 2013 at 4:16 pm

      Grilled corn is one of my favorite summer foods!

  • Reply
    Kelly @ Texas Type A Mom
    July 9, 2013 at 10:03 pm

    This is super helpful and really explains why certain items are cheaper in particular months – because it’s in season and there’s a surplus of that item! I found peaches for 67 cents a pound last week!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 13, 2013 at 4:15 pm

      I love this time of year when so many fruits and veggies are so cheap! They’re practically giving away summer squash at the farmers market right now.

  • Reply
    Kelli @hungryhobby
    July 9, 2013 at 11:59 pm

    This is a great post, I’ll definitely be passing it along!

  • Reply
    Anna (Hidden Ponies)
    July 10, 2013 at 2:13 am

    What a great guide! I constantly want whatever isn’t in season…but summer makes it easier by having so much in season!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 13, 2013 at 4:12 pm

      Ha! I feel that way too sometimes. I guess it’s a “grass is always greener” type of thing. Now that we’ve hit mid-summer, I’m starting to think about apples and pumpkin…

  • Reply
    Ronnie Fein
    July 10, 2013 at 9:43 am

    Perfect. This is a keeper. Thanks.

  • Reply
    Georgia @ The Comfort of Cooking
    July 10, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    This is such an awesome guide, Kiersten! Love that you linked to recipe suggestions, too!

  • Reply
    Joy // For the Love of Leaves
    July 11, 2013 at 9:53 am

    Great guide! Thanks for sharing! That’s so funny there’s an app to test your watermelon.

  • Reply
    Kiran @ KiranTarun.com
    July 11, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    Wow! That’s a very useful guide and thanks for sharing Kiersten ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    Stephanie @ henry happened
    July 11, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    I love your produce guides, they are so full of great info! Peaches are just getting good around here – and I agree, there’s nothing like summer corn!

  • Reply
    Micaela @MindfulMomma
    July 12, 2013 at 9:50 am

    Sweet corn is what I’m waiting for! (great guide!)

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 13, 2013 at 3:20 pm

      That is my favorite too! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    Brenda Williams
    July 12, 2013 at 10:37 am

    This is a great post. Thanks for all the information.

  • Reply
    Kelly @ A Girl Worth Saving
    July 17, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    Kiersten, this is just awesome. I will admit that one of my Paleo cheats is fresh corn on the cob – oh mama. Roasted, buttered and salted it’s just heaven in my mouth. I can not wait for fresh peaches! I dream about them every year.

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 17, 2013 at 5:44 pm

      We can just pretend corn is a vegetable, right? ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    Courtney @ The Fig Tree
    July 21, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    Awesome guide on summer produce! Love all of the info and recommended recipes! So excited to get back into the kitchen and cooking again! Lots of good recipes to try with these summery ingredients.

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 24, 2013 at 9:42 pm

      I can’t wait to see what you’re going to be cooking up with all those summer veggies!

  • Reply
    Shilpa Malhotra
    July 12, 2017 at 7:27 am

    Gorgeous photos, colors, and recipe! And, ohhhh your words. Always so meaningful and honest. LOVE.

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