My favorite thing about summer? The produce. From vibrant peppers and sweet tomatoes to gem-like berries and juicy watermelon, food simply tastes better. With June around the corner, it’s time to add more variety to your plate. Think fresh strawberries, fragrant basil, and grilled corn. With a few simple swaps, you’ll be more creative in the kitchen. Meaning, new recipes, delicious flavors, and an uptick in vitamins and minerals. So, let’s find out what fruits and vegetables are in season in summer, how to buy them, and what to cook with them.
Eat the Rainbow
Speaking of health, summer produce is packed with antioxidants and phytochemicals. It’s colorful for a reason. Bright colors in natural foods (tomatoes, carrots, leafy greens, etc.) contain polyphenols—and polyphenols help prevent disease. These compounds are found in all kinds of plants. Consuming them regularly has been associated with a reduced risk in many chronic illnesses.
In most cases, the deeper the color, the more nutritious the food. For example, blueberries help keep your mind sharp, and tomatoes are linked to a decrease in prostate cancer. To get the maximum disease-fighting power of these phytochemicals, eat the rainbow. And in the summer, eating the rainbow tastes so good.
What Is Seasonal Eating?
Seasonal eating is consuming food at peak harvest. Said differently: it’s fresh produce that’s in-season, whether you buy it or grow it. For example, stone fruit shines from May through October—peak summer produce. Digging into a stone fruit salad with basil, in June, is seasonal eating. Grow your own cucumbers? Et voilà, you’re eating with the seasons.
Why You Should Eat With the Seasons
Because of modern-day agriculture and technology, food is easily transported all over the world. Because of this, most metropolitan grocery stores carry the same produce, year-round (i.e. apples). While this aids in access, it makes it harder to distinguish between what is grown in season, versus not. You can use this Seasonal Food Guide to learn more about what fruits and veggies are grown across the United States, by month.
At any rate, there are so many benefits to eating with the seasons.
- From a health perspective, foods consumed during their appropriate seasons are more nutritionally dense. In a study evaluating vitamins in broccoli, it was found broccoli that’s grown in the fall (its peak season) had more vitamin C than broccoli grown during the spring. Beyond nutrition, fruits and veggies cultivated during their natural growing season have much more flavor and ripeness.
- From a social perspective, eating seasonally is a way to support and connect with your local community—mainly, farmers. Across the United States, there are many CSAs (community-supported agriculture), in which you can purchase a box of fruits, veggies, and proteins that are grown in season. That said, “locally grown” signs or stickers at the grocery store will indicate what’s in season.
- From a financial perspective, eating seasonally is more economical. When a fruit or veggie is in season, there is an abundance. In turn, it’s available at a lower price. Also, produce grown close to home costs less money to transport it culminating in a lower overall cost at purchase (this is also a win for the environment). Lastly, when you support local farmers and growers, that money stays in the community and subsequently helps stimulate local economies.
What Fruits and Vegetables Are in Season in Summer?
Click on each ingredient below to go straight to that section:
- Bell Peppers
How to Buy Basil
There are a few different varieties of basil, but you want to choose a flagrant, voluptuous bunch with bright green, unbruised leaves. Sweet basil is most popular, but Thai basil is pungent and has purple hues. To keep basil fresh, prepare it like a flower bouquet.
What to Cook with Basil
Packed with lemon zest, raw pumpkin seeds, and a handful of carrot tops (you can’t taste them—promise!), this dairy-free pesto is a fridge staple. Delicious on top of roasted carrots, it’s also a satisfying pasta sauce and sandwich spread.
How to Buy Bell Peppers
When it comes to buying bell peppers, select firm and crisp bell peppers and feel dense. You want to avoid any that are shriveled or have soft spots. Depending on the recipe you’re making, size and shape matter. For example, choose round, block-shaped peppers if you’re making a stuffed peppers recipe.
What to Cook With Bell Peppers
These veggie skewers are made with a variety of seasonal produce. They’re the perfect summer BBQ addition. Any bell peppers will do (yellow, red, orange, and green). If you can find heirloom bell peppers at your local grocery store or farmers market, they are equal parts beautiful as they are packed with vitamin C.
How to Buy Blueberries
When you buy fresh blueberries, most come in a plastic or cardboard carton. Look for berries that are firm, dry, and smooth-skinned. Like bell peppers, you don’t want shriveled or soft spots. Although size isn’t an indicator of peak harvest, color is. Blueberries should be a deep purple-blue hue.
What to Cook With Blueberries
These creamy vegan blueberry coconut milk popsicles are swirled with sweet berries and tart lime zest for a beautiful, fresh summer dessert. This dessert is surprisingly simple, with just under seven ingredients. Using full-fat coconut milk and fresh blueberries is key. That said, any type of berry will do.
How to Buy Cantaloupe
Every wonder how to tell if a cantaloupe is fresh? Me too. The best wait to pick a cantaloupe is by smell. It should have a sweet, slightly musky scent. A good cantaloup also feels heavy for its size, along with a rind that resembles raised netting. When you press on the stem (or where the stem was removed), it should give slightly when pressed with your thumb.
What to Cook With Cantaloupe
This is a simple twist on the classic Caprese salad. Sweet balls of cantaloupe sub for tomatoes and pair nicely with salty shaved prosciutto. This recipe is brimming with flavor and texture, and it packs a protein punch.
How to Buy Cherries
Cherries are truly nature’s candy. It’s impossible to eat just one. When buying cherries, I prefer grabbing a basket from the farmer’s market. Look for shiny skins with the stems still attached, and try to avoid any with brown spots. Most importantly, you want firm cherries as they will continue to ripen once you bring them home. Cherries perish quickly, so store them in the refrigerator.
What to Cook With Cherries
It wouldn’t be summer without a cherry crisp. While everyone has their own favorite crisp or crumble, this recipe will become your new staple. Promise. It’s nourishing, delicious, and has an addicting crumble topping. Serve it warm, of course, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
How to Buy Corn
Like cherries, my favorite way to buy corn is at the farmer’s market, but if that isn’t an option, look for corn husks that are bright green, tightly wrapped against the corn. They should also be slightly damp. Make sure the husks aren’t starting to feel dry. Double-check for small brown holes, as those will indicate insects and should be avoided.
What to Cook With Corn
This is the perfect summer get-together salad. Whether you’re meeting friends for a picnic or can’t wait to celebrate your new backyard, this roasted sweet corn salad features all the good stuff—roasted sweet corn, peppery arugula, and an easy lemon dressing.
How to Buy Cucumbers
Look for firm cucumbers, without blemishes or soft spots (which can indicate they have started to rot). Cucumbers should be dark green without any yellow spots.
What to Cook With Cucumbers
Once all of the ingredients are chopped, this recipe comes together in no time. Crunchy, summer-y vegetables work well in this bowl (celery, radishes, etc.) while avocado and melon add softness and sweetness. Any kind of yogurt will do, but Greek yogurt works best. These bowls have a rich, savory flavor that pairs well with tart, fresh yogurt.
How to Buy Eggplant
Eggplants should have smooth, shiny skin, are uniform in color and feel heavy for their size. To test for ripeness, lightly press your finger against the eggplant’s skin. If it leaves an imprint, the eggplant is ripe. Smaller eggplants tend to be sweeter, less bitter, and have fewer seeds.
What to Cook With Eggplant
Hear me out—this is the eggplant recipe to end all eggplant recipes. It’s caramelized, crispy, creamy, and full of umami flavor. It’s insane. This grilled miso-glazed eggplant takes less than 15 minutes and is both sweet and savory. Rejoice, vegetarians!
How to Buy Peaches
The best peaches have an even background color (golden-yellow or creamy-yellow), a well-defined crease, and are neither mushy nor too hard. In other words, avoid peaches that are green around the stem or have shriveled up. Also, pick them up and smell them. They should have a slightly sweet aroma and are round. A peach becomes round as it ripens.
What to Cook With Peaches
If you haven’t thrown peaches on the grill, you’re missing out. It’s truly game-changing. While any (and all) stone fruit works here, the combination of peaches and cream is equally delicious as it is nostalgic. This dessert is also perfect for friends with dietary restrictions—it’s naturally gluten-free and easily made vegan.
How to Buy Tomatoes
The difference between a winter and summer tomato is night and day. Nothing compares to a juicy, middle-of-July tomato. When buying tomatoes, look for bright colors and smooth skin. Avoid tomatoes with blemishes or dark spots. The tomato, like most produce, should have a good weight for its size. You want it to be firm yet soft and very aromatic (smell where the stem was attached).
What to Cook With Tomatoes
The search is over: this is your new favorite summer dinner. The classic Italian Caprese trio of fresh mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes meets pesto-dressed tortellini. A match made in heaven. On hot summer days, this cold pasta salad feeds picky eaters and foodie connoisseurs alike.
How to Buy Watermelon
Fear not: buying a watermelon is easier than you think. First, look for the yellow spot. Watermelons develop a splotch where they rest on the ground. When this splotch is creamy yellow, it’s ripe. If possible, give it a good tap. Tap the underbelly of the watermelon. A ripe one will have a deep hollow sound, which means it is brimming with juice and at the peak of its ripeness.
What to Cook With Watermelon
This simple, refreshing watermelon salad recipe is the answer to hot summer days. With feta, avocado, mint, and lime, it’s the perfect mix of savory and savory. It takes minutes to throw together, and it tastes incredibly refreshing. Try it once, and you’ll be making it all summer long.
In need of more recipe inspo? We’ve got you covered—it’s outdoor entertaining season, after all.
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