Eating in season is always important. Aside from tasting wonderful, purchasing seasonal produce can even save you money. But there’s something about summer that makes shopping for produce even more fun. Maybe it’s the vibrant colors, the warm weather in the air as you shop, or the farmer’s market that quaintly sets up near your apartment this time each year. Whatever the reason, this is a great time of the year to think outside the box from your regular grocery list and pick up some of the season’s freshest produce. Here we list some of our favorites, how to pick them out, and a recipe to get you started!
Strawberries: Strawberries are everywhere this time of year! Make sure to always choose bright red, firm berries and don’t wash them until you’re ready to devour. This will keep them at their freshest! We love featuring strawberries in desserts (and even on their own), but they make a surprisingly great addition to fresh savory dishes like salads. Give this Strawberry Salad with spinach and crunchy ramen noodles a try!
Eggplant: Walk to your local farmer’s market this summer and no doubt you’ll see plenty of eggplant. This time of year is great to feature eggplant on your table, as it can be put in endless side dishes or it can be the star of a meal due to its meaty texture. A great tip is to sprinkle eggplant with salt after cutting it and let sit for 30 minutes. This will absorb some of the water and make it less likely to absorb a lot of oil while cooking, helping with any bitterness. Rinse the eggplant afterwards to remove most of the salt. Try to grab smaller eggplants as they may be less bitter than their larger counterparts, and store them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use them. Serve this Creamy Eggplant and Caramelized Onion Dip at your next summer party!
Cherries: Sweet cherries, including the popular Bing and Rainier varieties, are available from May to August. Sour, or tart cherries have a much shorter growing season, and can be found for a week or two, usually during the middle of June in warmer areas and as late as July and August in colder regions (source: The Spruce Eats). When shopping for cherries at a market, ask if you can taste one! This is a great way to make sure you’re getting exactly what you want, and most vendors are open to you tasting their produce. We like keeping these on hand for a simple snack, but of course cherries make a wonderful dessert. Keep them on hand to make these decadent Cherry Brown Butter Bars.
Tomatoes: Ah, tomatoes – the star of the summer. There are so many ways to use tomatoes that it’s hard to narrow it down! Fresh salsas, homemade pasta sauces, chilled gazpacho, or tossed with a salad – when they are in season, fresh tomatoes can’t be beat. Make sure to choose tomatoes with bright, shiny skins and firm flesh. Store at room temperature and out of sunlight and make sure to use within a week of purchase.
Corn: Corn is a summer staple! There is something so satisfying about purchasing corn that is still in its husk. Choose ears with green husks, fresh silks and a tight row of kernels – really get a good look under the husk when you’re selecting. Keep the corn in your fridge until you’re ready to use it. This sweet addition (along with fresh tomatoes) will take any already delicious recipe over the top, including this dish for Black Bean Tostadas from How Sweet Eats.
Peaches: Peaches are delicate but worth it – just make sure to avoid picking ones with blemishes as they will lose their firmness quickly. A quick tip is to store your unripe peaches in a brown paper bag until ready to use – and never keep them in the fridge! Peaches are a high-maintenance fruit but they make some of the best summer dishes. Add them to your dinner repertoire with these Peach & Chicken Kabobs that you can throw right on the grill!
The amazing thing about living in Chicago is there are farmer’s markets all over the city. For a full list of farmer’s markets in your neighborhood click here. And nothing goes better with fresh produce than firing up the grill! We are proud to offer outdoor grilling space at all our Reside locations, so here’s to a great summer!