Summer is a great time of year to play with fresh produce. Markets and gardens are bursting with vibrant fruits and vegetables in their prime: sweet corn, juicy ripe tomatoes, jewel-like berries, and many, many more. In this Summer Produce Guide, you will find expert tips for buying, preparing, and storing summer fruits and vegetables, plus the best pairing suggestions and recipes.
Sweet, cooling and best enjoyed raw, you will find many melon varieties, such as Cantaloupe, Honeydew, and Watermelon.
How to Select Melons
Big or small, the melon should feel heavier than it looks. Tap the underbelly of the melon. A hollow sound means that it is brimming with juices and at the peak of ripeness. A dull sound indicates that the melon is under- or over-ripe.
With cantaloupe, a musky, sweet smell will tell you that it’s ripe. With watermelon, a creamy yellow spot, where the melon rested on the ground, will tell you that the watermelon is ripe.
From dried to fresh, chile peppers range from mild to hot and come in many varieties, colors, and sizes.
Techniques: raw, roast, sauté
Cooking Tip: Try adding at the end of a cooking process.
How to Select Chile Peppers
Look for firm and glossy peppers with taut, unwrinkled skin and fresh green stems. Select deeply colored peppers over lighter colors. With bell peppers, count the number of points on the bottom: Male peppers have 3, tend to be bitter, and are best for cooking; Female bell peppers have 4 points, tend to be sweeter, and can be enjoyed raw.
Sour and sweet raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries can be enjoyed raw or cooked.
Techniques: baked, poached, raw, roasted
How to Select Berries
When shopping, choose berries that are plump and bright in color. Avoid containers that are wet or stained, which may be a sign of over-ripe fruit. Enjoy berries raw or cooked quickly as mold can develop within a few days.
Sweet and juicy, corn is often white or a combination of pale yellow and white.
Techniques: boil, grill, roast, sauté, steam
How to Select Sweet Corn
Feel along the husk for plump and plentiful kernels without gaps. Look at the tassels on the top to make sure they are brown and sticky; if they are black or dry, it’s an older ear of corn. The husk should be bright green and wrapped tightly around the corn, an indication of freshness; it may even still be damp.
Top Sweet Corn Flavor Pairings
CORN + CILANTRO + SHRIMP
CORN + CAYENNE + LIME + SALT
CORN + BELL PEPPER + JALAPENO + CILANTRO + TARRAGON
Sweet, astringent and cooling. Slicing varieties are longer and shorter varieties are used for pickling.
Techniques: grill, pickle, raw, salads, sauté, soup, juice
How to Select Cucumbers
Look for dark green, firm skin; yellowing is a sign that the cucumber is overly ripe. Since cucumbers aren’t hardy, they should be purchased weekly as needed rather than stored beyond a few days in the refrigerator.
Summer peaches are an incredibly fragrant, juicy treat with a sweet, slightly tart flavor.
Techniques: bake, broil, grill, poach, raw, roast, sauté
How to Select Peaches
Look for color as a sign of maturity; avoid peaches that are still green or mostly yellow, and instead look for shades of orange and red. Gently squeeze the peach, if the flesh starts to give, it’s ripe and ready to eat. You can also inhale the scent of the peach, which will be very fragrant when ripe. Check for bruising and choose peaches with taut skin.
Sweet and crunchy, green beans have a great, fresh flavor.
Techniques: boil, grill, pickle, sauté, steam
How to Select Green Beans
Select firm and crisp green beans and avoid any that are limp or mushy. The best green beans will snap easily when bent in half. Do not select green beans with enlarged pods. Green beans can be harvested when they are 4 to 7 inches long and about the diameter of a pencil.
Sour, sweet and acidic, summer tomatoes are gorgeous on the plate and can be enjoyed raw or cooked.
Techniques: bake, broil, confit, fry, grill, roast, sauté, stew
How to Select Tomatoes
Ripe tomatoes will easily free themselves from the plant. Look for plump, heavy tomatoes with smooth skins and no blemishes.
Smell the tomato near the stem; It should have a strong, earthy, sweet odor.