We managed to slip right into summer, one of my personal produce favorites of the year. The best part of summer produce is that everyone across the country can share in roughly the same bounty, which is a fun thought. Also, a lot of the produce this time of year requires very minimal preparation and can be eaten as is. The past few weeks the Farmer’s Markets have been lush with amazing berries, cherries, fresh herbs, and green beans to mention a few. I am throwing in some storage tips but above all remember: the fun of eating seasonally is the anticipation of what is popping up in your area and really enjoying it while it’s here because soon enough there will be a whole new array of different crops to enjoy. Here are some of my early summer produce highlights and some sassy tips:
Berries and Cherries:
Be still my beating heart, both the Bing and Rainier cherries were like biting into a piece of heaven. And the blueberries – fuhgeddaboutit. Depending on where you live, the cherries will be dwindling down soon as well as the blueberries and strawberries so stock up while you can. Blueberries are rather expensive, and the Farmer’s Markets seem to have the best deals so far, however I did find in my local grocery store’s sale paper they had a one day sale for a pint of blueberries at $1.99 – a ridiculous deal so I bought a bunch.
Sassy Tip: A lot of farmer’s at the market don’t want to take their stuff home so if you hit the market towards closing time, you can often get a great deal. I took home a flat of blueberries for a steal of a price because it was closing time. You do gamble on not having a lot of good produce left if you shop later but more times than not you can get really good deals.
The best way to make these sweet fruits last is wash only just before eating them, as excess moisture leads to rotting. Store them in the fridge with their stems on in a sealed container to keep fresh longer. While cherries are not the easiest to freeze, every other berry is. When you get a great deal on berries, you should stock up and save because their prime season is relatively short and they freeze so easy. Wash berries, remove stems, pat dry with paper towels, and store in freezer bags in the freezer to keep throughout the winter for smoothies.
Fresh herbs are great right now, and really inexpensive. Fresh herbs are a great way to add tons of flavors to your food without adding excess calories or salt so get them while you can. You can always dry out some of your fresh herbs to use throughout the year by hanging them upside down from piece of string and or just leave them on your counter away from sunlight. Pop fresh herbs into a jar of water or small vase and leave right on the counter out of the sunlight. This not only looks pretty but will also extend the life of your herbs. Some people cover the herbs with a plastic bag but I haven’t found that makes much of a difference and certainly doesn’t look as cute.
Sassy Tip: Chop up your favorite herbs and throw into salad dressing or a simple vinegar and olive oil combo for a fresh, simple salad dressing or barbeque marinade. I just made what I have affectionately dubbed the Simon and Garfunkel meal; as parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme permeated throughout my pickings. I also threw some fresh mint into a mojito, I’m just saying.
Love, love, love fresh green beans. I just blanch them quickly, sprinkle on a little fresh lemon juice, maybe an herb or 2 and voila! Delish.
Another prime highlight of summer is peaches, yum yum yummy. Also the nectarines, plums, pluots, and apricots that pal around with peaches are great right now. Choose stone fruits that are slightly firm so they last a little longer and avoid bruised ones or bruising them which speeds up the spoiling process.
Other Summer Produce
Also in season are avocadoes, cucumber, celery, celery root, lettuce, lima beans, okra, corn, summer squash, peppers, chilies, radishes, fennel, jicama, onion, garlic, and cauliflower. Hmmm, sounds like a summer salad to me!
Keep an open mind, hit your local Farmer’s Market, and get creative with what you can find.