I say this all the time. I love summertime! Not just because I hate to be cold, or love the beach or bonfires at night. One of my favorite things about summer, year after year, is the food. Summer produce especially.
Here in the Northeast, most of us spend a good portion of the year making due with tubers and winter squashes which are widely available and much cheaper than the berries and veggies which are transported from far away, bland in taste and don’t last long. Not to mention these out-of-season fruits and veggies are expensive! This is why I try to take full advantage of summer produce when it’s time.
Different parts of the country see items of produce come into season at slightly different times. Here are a few of my favorites, many of whose seasons start in late summer here in the Northeast.
1. BASIL – I am not sure if I can adequately express just how happy basil makes me. Talk about “put that on everything.” Well, I do! There is nothing like the smell of fresh basil, so strong and clean smelling. I use basil to dress up sandwiches and wraps I make for lunch and sprinkle it over salads. One of my favorite things to do with this herb is to make a Caprese Salad. It’s so simple! Just slice up chunks of tomato (or use grape tomatoes), place in a bowl with little balls of fresh mozzarella cheese and generously sprinkle fresh chopped basil. Dress it up with a tiny bit of Balsamic Vinegar and enjoy this ultimate summer appetizer.
2. TOMATOES – A close second to basil, tomatoes are another favorite summer produce item. Technically, tomatoes are fruits – not veggies! They are rich in lycopene, which is an important antioxidant and they are also high in vitamin C (to boost your immune system) and Vitamin A (good for eyes and skin).
3. CORN – Honestly, is there anything that says summer more so than corn on the cob? I used to think shucking the husks from the corn was such a fun kitchen job when I was little. I can also remember so clearly that huge metal pot on a stove or grill just filled with boiling water and corn on the cob at summer cookouts and you knew you were in for a treat! Just this summer I discovered a new way to enjoy corn – grilling it right on the grill racks with the husks on. It’s easier if you soak them in water first so the husks don’t completely char. Doing this allows the heat and water to combine in the husks which steams the corn the inside and the finished product is just divine!
4. STRAWBERRIES – I am totally one of those people who insists on buying strawberries year round, even in the dead of winter when the strawberries are clearly shipped from Chile or Mexico, only last for about three days after I buy them and are not very juicy or tasty. However, the summer is the strawberries’ time to shine. You can find these in early summer at farmers’ markets, but if you happen to miss out, grocery store strawberries will still do the trick in the other summer months.One fun and healthy summer way to enjoy these? Cut up a few strawberries and enjoy them over Lemon Italian Ice. There is just something about that lemon and strawberry flavor combo that gets me every time!
5. WATERMELON – Ohh, watermelon. How I love you. So juicy, refreshing and light. Since I don’t happen to have air conditioning in the main part of my house, there are many a hot night where I come home late, the house is 90 degrees and the thought of eating dinner turns my stomach. Enter watermelon! We all know how important it is to keep your body hydrated, especially when the temperature rises, and with watermelon’s high water content, it’s the perfect choice on a hot summer day. In need of a fun summer beverage? Don’t miss out on this.
6. PEACHES – Ok, so peaches are not really native to the Northeast but I’ve certainly been taking advantage of their special price at the grocery stores lately.
7. BLUEBERRIES – Blueberries have been blessed by nutritionists and food writers alike as having that “Superfruit” status thanks to all the antioxidants found in these little berries. Antioxidants help fight damage-causing free radicals found in the body. But science stuff aside, when you get in-season blueberries, nothing beats their simple sweetness. I love using the natural sweetness of blueberries in my morning yogurts. Plus, there are so many fun desserts you can bake blueberries into – crisps, cobblers, pies, muffins, breads, the list goes on!
Make sure to also check out this link I found from Purdue University “Summer Produce – mid-June Through August“. It highlights summer produce for the Midwest, which is probably more relatable for those of you in the rest of the country. There are a few similarities with my own list!
Take advantage of these last days of summer before everything goes pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg on you! (Can’t say I’m not looking forward to that either, though.)