Summer is the most abundant season of the year, offering up the most colorful, delicious and exciting fruits and vegetables. Knowing what they are allows you to take advantage of them while they are at their peak!
A large part of following Paleo principles is always making the best effort to eat whatever is currently in season. Food is metabolized differently depending on the current season and weather conditions. For most of history, up until recent developments in industrial agriculture, in-season local produce was the only food available. Making a point to eat foods only in-season and that are available locally means they not only taste better and are less expensive, but they are utilized optimally to provide the most nutrition during those seasons. Eating seasonally is also better for the environment because it doesn't rely on monocultures or shipping produce around the world.
Shopping Tips For Summer Produce
Here are a few ideas to slip into your mental market basket.
- Take a sniff, if health rules permit: A lovely smell is one indicator that a nectarine or cantaloupe is ripe, for example, but it might also indicate that a pineapple needs to be cut immediately upon buying.
- Visually inspect or if possible, pick up and feel for signs for freshness: You want to avoid anything that has bruises, soft spots, or wrinkled skin. Also realize, if say, avocados, peaches, or cantaloupe are rock hard, they will need a few days to ripen.
- Check out the websites and/or weekly circulars of your local stores. These can give you a great idea of what’s in season and on sale.
- Be flexible in your meal planning and recipe development. If a recipe normally calls for plums but you can’t find any, can you substitute peaches? Swap broccoli for asparagus?
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Buy only the best when you shop for produce this summer. Below is some of our favorite produce that is in season in the summer months.
Asparagus begins to peak in late spring, but you can continue to find great asparagus through early summer. Shave asparagus into ribbons for an elegant salad or coat and roast spears for a tasty side dish.
Choose: Select bright green spears with tight heads that don’t look limp or soggy. Asparagus size is a matter of preference: Choose thick spears for roasting and thinner spears for quick steaming. Ultra-fresh asparagus tips will have a slightly purplish hue. Ends that look pale or woody will be fibrous and tough.
Store: Store spears like a bouquet of flowers. Trim asparagus ends, then place ends-down in a large jar of water in the fridge for up to three days.
One of the sweetest vegetables around, beets make excellent additions to salads and are especially delicious when roasted.
Choose: Select small to medium beets. (Larger beets will be more fibrous and less sweet.) They should be plump and firm, with smooth, undamaged skin. Check any greens attached. They should look perky.
Store: Cut away greens and taproots, as these will pull away moisture. Store in the fridge crisper up to two weeks.
Carrots are incredibly versatile as the star or supporting act in many dishes.
Choose: There should be no signs of wrinkling or molding. Check any greens attached. Limp, wilted greens have already started tapping the carrot for moisture.
Store: Remove tops or leaves, and store in the fridge crisper up to two weeks.
Though botanically a fruit, cucumbers are treated as a vegetable in the culinary world. Slice and dice them up for refreshing salads, tangy pickles or tasty salsas.
Choose: Look for firm, bright cucumbers with wrinkle-free skin.
Store: Wrap cucumbers tightly to store. Extreme cold makes cucumbers mushy, so they should be kept in a warmer part of the fridge, such as the door.
Enjoy eggplant in stews, baba ghanoush, and saucy Italian dishes to name a few.
Choose: Select small- to medium-size eggplants with smooth, firm skin and no soft spots or tan patches. Large eggplants may be bitter. Check the stem, which should be green and supple. Look for a shine; eggplant skin turns dull over time.
Store: Store at room temperature for up to three days. The humidity in the fridge is not ideal for perishable eggplant.
Fresh herbs are at their best in the summer, and they can bring out the best in much of the other produce on this list.
Choose: When buying fresh herbs, select bright green bunches with thin, tender stems and no signs of yellowing or browning. Check the stem bottoms. They should be bright and firm, not brown and gooey.
Store: Store like a bouquet for five to seven days in a jar or vase filled with water on the counter or in the fridge (except basil, which gets brown in the fridge). Change the water regularly.
New potatoes have waxier skin than fully grown potatoes, so they hold their shape better when cooked.
Choose: Select firm, smooth-skin potatoes that don’t show signs of sprouting, cuts, or black spots.
Store: Check for same-size tubers that will cook in the same amount of time. Store at room temperature in a cool, dark cupboard or drawer for up to three months. Refrigeration can affect potatoes’ color, flavor, and texture by causing their starches to convert to sugars.
Acidic and sweet, tomatoes are one of summer’s darlings for a reason. They come in a multitude of varieties, from 2-pound beefsteaks to dainty cherry tomatoes.
Choose: Look for plump, shiny, brightly colored tomatoes that show no signs of bruises, punctures, or cracks. A ripe, juicy tomato is fragrant and feels tender-firm and heavy for its size; a relatively lightweight tomato is still maturing. Tomatoes continue to ripen at room temperature. When buying plenty, select tomatoes at various stages of ripeness so they will last several days.
Store: Store at room temperature. Avoid refrigeration if possible; temperatures colder than 55 ̊F will change tomatoes’ taste and texture.
Zucchini And Yellow Squash
Make the most of summer bumper crops zucchini and yellow squash, and don’t overlook the squash blossoms!
Choose: Select squash with firm, smooth, shiny skin that are about 8 inches long. Larger specimens have more seeds and can be bitter or watery. Check for firmness by giving the squash a gentle squeeze. Soft squash may have a dry, cottony texture.
Store: Store unwashed in a breathable (mesh or paper) bag in the refrigerator for up to five days. Summer squash will also keep for one to two days in a cool place away from direct sunlight.
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Here are the best fruits to buy now and how to select and store them.
Berries are a healthy and delicious way to sweeten up a wide range of dishes, including salads, desserts and even savory entrees.
Choose: Select vibrant, evenly colored berries that show no signs of softening. A whitish bloom on blueberries or small hairs on strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries indicate extra freshness. Check bottoms of containers for “weeping” juice—a sign that some berries may be crushed or starting to mold.
Store: Store berries uncovered in the fridge for up to three days. Wash only when ready to eat. Water rinses away delicate berries’ protective coating, and moisture speeds molding.
Muskmelons (Cantaloupe, Honeydew)
Delicious eaten alone or choose to grill melons for a sweet summery side dish or puree for a delightful dessert soup.
Choose: Select muskmelons that feel heavy in your hand with skin that has yellowish (not green) undertones. Press the blossom end (opposite the stem end); it should give a little under gentle pressure and have a ripe fragrance. Check the stem end (the round indentation) for bits of stem or gashes, which are signs the fruit was cut off the vine too soon.
Store: Store muskmelons at room temperature for one to two days to develop flavors. Refrigerate for up to one week.
Nothing says summer like a perfectly ripe watermelon. Watermelon is a delicious snack in its own right, but it’s also phenomenal in gazpacho soup, chilled desserts, and salads.
Choose: Choose watermelon with a large, creamy yellow spot on its side, which means it fully ripened in the field. Check the skin for cracks indicating over ripeness. Give the fruit a thump with your finger; it should sound hollow.
Store: Store watermelon in a cool, dry spot for up to two weeks before cutting it. Wrap watermelon slices tightly and place cubes in an airtight container, then refrigerate up to three days.
Stone Fruits (Apricots, Nectarines, Peaches, Plums)
Stone fruits are highly seasonal, so be sure to load up on the summer varieties while you can. The decadently sweet fruits are great in all types of preparations.
Choose: Opt for pink- and golden-hued peaches and nectarines, golden-orange apricots, and deep-colored plums with smooth skin and no signs of green, browning, or bruising. Check the aroma, which should be sweet and fragrant. Stone fruits should not be rock-hard and will continue to ripen. Freckle-like “sugar spots” on peaches and nectarines indicate sweetness.
Store: Store stone fruits for up to three days at room temperature to ripen and improve flavor and texture, then refrigerate up to a week.
Eating in-season encourages a little more variety and creativity when it comes to planning and cooking your meals, as the repertoire needs should be changed every few months. All Pete's Paleo meals are based on seasonal availability and change constantly depending on what's available from the farmers. And because Pete's Paleo is on both coasts, we have access to all regional food without having to ship it across the country to be cooked!
Michal Ofer is a wellness and digestion expert and nutrition coach. She is focused on assisting clients to take control of their health and happiness through the sustainable food and lifestyle choices that best support them. Through strengthening the body from the inside out, her clients are able to reach new heights of health, happiness and wellness. Michal obtained her Professional Training and Certificate from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York. She has a further studied through the University of Colorado (Boulder) and Stanford University and is a Certified 21 Day Sugar Detox Coach. Michal has also received a Bachelor’s Degree in Life Sciences and a Master Life Coach Certification. For further information and to connect with Michal visit her website at www.michalofer.com