Like we mentioned earlier this year, you’ll get the most nutrients and flavor from your produce when you eat what’s in season. With summer in full swing, there’s a plethora of bright fruits and vegetables to enjoy in any of your meals.
It can be hard to figure out what exactly is in season at your local grocery store with the amount of variety they offer. Look for what’s on sale and what’s locally grown. Most grocery stores state the state or country of origin next to the price. If you want to get the most nutritious and best tasting food, go to your nearest farmers market.
Regardless of where you’re buying your summer produce this season, here’s a guide of in season, nutrient dense produce to use in your meals this summer. Seasonality varies across the country, so do some research to check what’s growing in your area.
Cherries: High in vitamin C and fiber, cherries are a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth this summer. Depending on the variety, cherries can be available from early May to August. They come in a variety of shades and sweetness. If you’re buying them from a farmstand or farmers market, sample or ask the vendors the difference in sweetness.
If cherries grow in your area, do a bit of research to see how long the seasons are, some can happen in a blink of an eye.
How to Enjoy: In addition to just snacking on raw cherries, cherries are a great addition to smoothies, popsicles, and yogurt. You can also make jam or sweeten a homemade barbeque sauce with them. They work great as topping for party finger foods as well.
Stone Fruit: Peaches, nectarines, pluots, plums, oh my! Stone fruit bursts back on the fruit scene just in time for everyone to enjoy from June to September These stone fruits nutritiously are slightly different from each other, with the constant being they’re all good sources of vitamin C. Eat a variety of these stone fruits to get the nutrients and to enjoy their different flavors.
How to Enjoy: All stone fruits are great raw as a snack or dessert. You can thinly slice them and use them as garnishes to summer appetizers or salads. Stone fruit is great in yogurt, smoothies, and in popsicles like cherries. For a decadent dessert, roast or grill the stone fruit until soft and top with a clean ice cream or sorbet. Stone fruits make great jams, salsas, and sauces as well.
Watermelon: One of the classic foods of summer, watermelon is also high in water content, which is perfect for staying hydrated during hot days. Watermelon is also high in vitamin A and C. Watermelon comes on the scene from around May to September based on your area. Depending on where you live, you can get other varieties of watermelon that are yellow or a deeper red on the inside, as well as smaller varieties of watermelon.
How to Enjoy: Not much can top a freshly sliced watermelon slice on a hot day. Watermelons are also great blended into slushy drinks, made into aqua frescas or as popsicles. Thinly sliced watermelon is great in raw salads paired with mint or basil, and can be refreshing appetizers as well. They work well with organic soft cheeses as well.
Berries: Summertime is the time for so many great berries. Strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries all come into season from mid June to September, depending on your location. All three berries are great sources of vitamin C and fiber. Raspberries and strawberries are lower in sugar, which can be helpful if you want something sweet but don’t want your blood sugar levels to skyrocket. Blueberries have a high water content, meaning they’re a good food to eat to stay hydrated. Depending on where you live, there could be other berries for you to try and enjoy in your area.
Other berries that could be in season include mulberries, elderberries, boysenberries, gooseberries, just to name a few. You’ll have the best success finding these berries at farmers markets or farm stands. Do a little research in your area to see what you can try.
How to Enjoy: Raw berries are great by themselves, in oatmeals and over granola, or chia puddings. They’re great add-ins to smoothies for a touch of sweetness. Berries are perfect for summer pies as well. You can upgrade your crust to almond or cassava flour, or ditch the crust all together and make a crumble. You can cook the berries down and add chia seeds to make an easy chia jam that will go great in any yogurts or on top of whole grain or gluten-free toast.
Zucchini: Zucchinis are huge stars of the summer. If you’re shopping at a farmers market or get a CSA box, you’ll be seeing lots and lots of zucchinis from June through late August. Zucchinis are great sources of vitamin C, vitamin B6, and potassium. They also have a high water content, which makes them a great food to eat to stay hydrated. When shopping for zucchinis, look for ones with unblemished skins that are medium sized (4-7 inches). The larger they are, the more likely they are to be less flavorful.
How to Enjoy: Zucchinis are great to enjoy dips with and to snack on raw. Using a spiralizer, mandoline, or julienne peeler, you can turn a zucchini into a bowl full of noodles. You can enjoy them quickly sauteed or raw. You can also use thinly sliced strips of zucchini to create rolls or use as a lasagna noodle replacement. You can grate zucchini and add them into meatballs or meatloaf, as well as baked goods. If you’re adding into things that will be baked, make sure to squeeze the water out of the zucchini so it won’t affect the consistency of what you’re cooking.
Tomatoes: Another star of the summer are tomatoes. They come in season in June and last until August or September in most areas. Tomatoes come in all different shapes in sizes, from small cherry varieties to cylindrical tomatoes, to large beefsteak tomatoes to the often oddly shaped heirlooms.
Tomatoes also come in a variety of colors as well, from green, red, yellow, and orange. Tomatoes are a great source of lycopene, a form of vitamin A, as well as vitamin C and is high in water content as well.
How to Enjoy: Summer tomatoes (especially heirloom varieties) are in a completely different category when it comes to taste. Try enjoying them in big slices with sea salt sprinkled on them. Cherry tomatoes are great as is, paired with any cooling dip, or skewered to grill or as a appetizer. Tomatoes, of course, make great salsas that you can make with or without a blender. You can also cook your tomatoes down into marinara sauce and can or freeze them for later. Gazpacho is a cold, tomato-based soup that is perfect for any hot day and easy to make.
Okra: Not just a Southern food, okra is a crunchy seed pod that works great in soups and stews. They come in season starting in May and can last until October, depending on your region. In addition to green, they also come in red varieties. Okra is high in vitamin C, K, and manganese.
How to Enjoy: Okra can get a bad wrap for being slimy. To enjoy slime-free okra, choose unblemished okra that’s on the smaller side. Dry your okra very thoroughly after washing to prevent any slime when cooking, and cut them into larger pieces. This will also help prevent any slime. Okra is wonderful roasted or cooked in stews, gumbo, or curries. You could also wrap your okra in bacon for a party appetizer. Okra is a perfect pickling vegetable as well.
Cucumbers: Cucumbers come back in force from May to August to provide you a cool, crisp veggie for the summer. There are several varieties of cucumbers to try in addition to the classic cucumber we all know. Japanese and Persian cucumbers have thinner skins and are lighter than the classic variety. Their skins are a lot milder in taste and don’t require peeling. Kirby cucumbers are your classic pickling cucumber with the bumps on the side. Cucumbers are a good source of vitamin K, C and potassium, as well as a good food source of water.
How to Enjoy: Cucumbers are great in slices with dips, in cooling yogurt dips as tzatziki, or tossed with salads. You can also make cooling cucumber salads tossed with dressings and herbs. Like with zucchinis, you can also turn cucumber into noodles. They would be great raw tossed with other raw vegetables, dressings, and herbs. Cucumbers can also be cracker substitutes for party appetizers as well. Cucumbers can add an extra refreshing flavor to juices, smoothies, or popsicles.
Peppers: A smattering of peppers come in season from July until the end of summer. In addition to classic bell peppers, anaheim and fresno chilies are also in season (depending on your area) as well as hotter varieties like jalapenos, thai chilies and habaneros. Peppers are high in vitamin C, A, K, B6, and in water content.
Hotter peppers are also high in capsaicin (which brings the heat), which can be effective in pain relief. Check which peppers are available in your area.
How to Enjoy: You can enjoy the huge variety of peppers in lots of different ways. You can roast them and add them to meals, salads or salsas, throw them into hummus or another kind of dip. If they’re larger, you can stuff them with grains, meat, or vegetables and bake them in the oven. Sweeter peppers are great raw with dips or meats and cheeses. They’re also great for thinly slicing and rolling into spring rolls or wraps that you can wrap with grain-based wraps or a grain-free alternative.
Eggplant: Eggplants come into season from July until October. There are a wide variety of sizes, shapes and even colors of eggplants. The classic eggplant most people think of is a Globe variety. There are also Chinese, Japanese, Italian and Thai varieties that are anywhere from long and skinny to as small as a tennis ball. Check the markets in your area to see what you have access to. Eggplants are high in fiber and are a good source of hydration.
How to Enjoy: Eggplant’s meaty texture is great for adding heft to any meal. They work great on a grill or roasted in strips, rounds, or cubes. After roasting them you can enjoy as is or blend them into baba ganoush. Eggplant also makes a great meatless meatball or added to half the amount of ground beef to bulk up the meatball. Thinly sliced eggplant can replace lasagna noodles and works great with more Italian flavors in a roll up.
Corn: Available in most markets from June to September or October, corn is another classic summer vegetable that is great to enjoy at picnics and barbecues. Corn is high in vitamin C, thiamin, folate, niacin, manganese, as well as being a good source of fiber and protein. Depending on your area, it is possible to get corn in red, purple or blue. It’s not as common as the yellow varieties, so snatch them up if you can.
How to Enjoy: Corn on the cob is the most classic way to enjoy corn, which can be on the grill, stove, or microwave. You can also try the Mexican variation of corn on the cob, elote, which has cream, Mexican cheese, garlic, and cilantro on it after it’s grilled. You can easily use vegan or paleo ingredients to make this fit your diet. You can also cut the kernels off the cob and enjoy them fresh in salads, salsas, tacos or cook them in other meals. You can also use the kernels to make a corn chowder, which can be good hot or cold.
Green Beans: Though green bean casserole is a popular Thanksgiving dish, summer is when green beans shine. Appearing in markets from June to August, a wide varieties of green beans can be in your area, from yellow, striped, purple, or mostly white. Green beans are high in vitamin C, A, K and fiber. They’re also a good source of folate and manganese.
How to Enjoy: Green beans can be enjoy raw or quickly steamed with hummus, pesto, or other dip. They bring a nice crunch to lettuce or grain-based salads and work well on their own as a side dish, either steamed, sauteed or roasted. You can pickle green beans as well, to keep the flavors of summer long after they’re gone.
That’s a small sampling of the amazing fruits and vegetables you can get in their peak form this season. If you can’t find some of these or some of the varieties of this produce at your grocery store, head to a local farmers market or farm stand. Your region could have even more varieties of the produce above or unique foods that aren’t available across the country.
When shopping for your summer produce, try to get organic or no spray varieties as much as possible, especially with the thinner skinned produce.
If shopping and eating seasonally is newer to you, start out by choosing 1-2 fruits or vegetables and cooking or enjoying those. As you get more comfortable with cooking with them, add in a few more after a week or two. If you’re making a meal plan, you can also create meals around what’s in season to get the most out of what’s available.
Enjoy the big variety of fruits and vegetables the season has to offer, as well as the fuel it provides for your body.
Aimée Suen is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner who shares nourishing, gluten-free recipes and nutrition wisdom at Small Eats. She is driven to help others enjoy whole foods and empower them to find their own healthy in all aspects of life, one small step at a time. When she’s not in the kitchen, she’s practicing yoga, in the gym, or learning something new. You can find Aimée on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.
Second Photo Credit: KatyaPulina/shutterstock.com; Third Photo Credit: minicase/shutterstock.com; Fourth Photo Credit: Lotus_studio/shutterstock.com; Fifth Photo Credit: holbox/shutterstock.com; Sixth Photo Credit: leonori/shutterstock.com