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A guide to summer fruits and vegetables

Chatelaine logo Chatelaine 2015-06-04 Chatelaine

Mixed-berries: Photo, Stocky. © Used with permission of / © Rogers Media Inc. 2015. Photo, Stocky.

With so many fruits and vegetables reaching their peak during the warmer months, there’s no better time for cooking than in the summer. In-season produce is bursting with flavour; berries are juicier, corn is sweeter and herbs pack even more punch. The secret to cooking with seasonal produce is to keep things simple, allowing the natural flavours of the ingredients to shine.

Here’s a quick guide to all your summer favourites:

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are at their best June through August. There are thousands of varieties, everything from plum tomatoes (which are great for tomato sauce) to cherry tomatoes (try them out in panzanella salad). When choosing tomatoes, look for bright, firm vine-ripened varieties, as they will have the most flavour.

Corn

July through September is the best time of year to buy this sweet vegetable. The most popular varieties are yellow and white corn; look for bright green husks that are tightly wrapped to the cob – this is a good indicator of freshness. It’s best to try and cook it the day you buy it, so once you’ve picked it, fire up the barbecue and try this gourmet twist.

Summer squash

Summer squash include many varieties from zucchini to globe squash and pattypan. Look for small to medium-sized squash (larger ones have more seeds and can be woody), with bright-coloured skin. There are endless ways to enjoy this summer bounty; check out these recipes for inspiration. 

Berries

Berries are some of the most highly anticipated fruits of the season! Strawberries make their arrival first, peaking between June and late-July. Blueberries, raspberries and blackberries follow during July and August.

Always choose berries that are fragrant, plump and brightly coloured. Enjoy them on their own (or with a dollop of whipped cream), as a fresh cake topper, or bake them in pies, muffins and scones.

When local berries are in season, it’s also the time to make the best jams, jellies and compotes – so keep that in mind as they make their way into your local markets and grocery stores.

Stone fruits

Stone fruits are fruits with flesh or pulp enclosing a stone or pit (think peaches, nectarines, plums and apricots). At their peak from July through September, they’re some of the most juicy and delectable fruits of the summer. Look for fruits that are firm to the touch without brown spots; if you smell them, they should also be very fragrant. Stone fruits are versatile, perfect for afternoon snacks, and delicious in sweet or savoury dishes

Watermelon

Watermelon peaks during the dog days of summer, late-June through August. Look for smooth and symmetrical melons that make a dull, hollow sound when you tap them. Try our refreshing watermelon limonade to keep you cool on a hot summer day.

Cherries

Look for bright, plump cherries when they are in season in June and July. There are two main types: sweet and sour. Sweet cherries are delicious on their own, but sour cherries, the smaller and softer of the two, are best when cooked and sweetened in desserts, jams and sauces.

Herbs

Basil, Thyme, Rosemary, Mint

These standbys (along with many others) thrive in the summer and are a simple way to add a burst of flavour to any dish. Try them in cocktails, desserts, marinades, salads and sauces. (If you buy herbs in large bunches, use these tips to preserve their freshness.)

Related:

7 ways to use up overripe fruit 

How to pickle and preserve six summer fruits and vegetables

7 ways to use up leftover fruit and vegetables


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