Summer is a time of abundance when it comes to produce. There are so many wonderful tastes and textures to explore and savor. But sometimes, in our busy lives, it can feel easier to stick with what we know. So, I wanted to share some tips on how to take advantage of the summer produce so that you can explore all that the season has to offer without stress or strain.
Tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, okra, eggplant, peaches, nectarines, plums, melons, fresh herbs… the list of amazing fruits and vegetables available at the height of summer is staggering. Sure, we can get many of these foods at grocery stores year-round now that produce is shipped in from all over the world, but the freshness, flavor, and textures are never better than when they are in season right in your region.
If you like to eat seasonally (which we at The Scramble strive to help you to do by providing meal plans that are as seasonal as possible), then taking advantage of this time of year can be a celebration of flavor! But how do you find the yummiest options? How can you truly take advantage of summer produce?
How to Take Advantage of Summer Produce
For me, one of the best way to savor summer is to take a big bite out of a perfectly ripe peach or slice of watermelon and feel the juices drip down over my chin, but there is so much more to explore as well! Here are some of my other favorite ways to take advantage of summer produce.
Visit Local Farmer’s Markets
The farmer’s market is an ideal place to explore and discover summer produce that is at its peak right in your area. This is where you will find the freshest (like picked that morning) fruits and vegetables around.
When you go to the market, talk to the farmers. Ask them what is at its peak that week. If it’s something you aren’t sure how to prepare, just ask. In my experience, the vendors love to share their favorite (often very simple) preparations with customers.
For more detailed tips and tricks, check out my post on how to make your trip to the farmer’s market a success. I also highly recommend bringing your kids to the farmer’s market with you. It can be a fun summer outing and will also expose them to new and different foods. And if you want to make it really engaging for them, check out the scavenger hunt in the post linked above!
When Traveling, Check Out Roadside Stands
Here in Maryland, every time we drive out to the shore, I am tempted by every single roadside stand. Each one calls to me. And I can tell you that some of the best peaches, blackberries, and corn that I have ever eaten have come from those stands. Checking out the local produce is a must when traveling!
Like at the farmer’s market, I recommend chatting with the vendors at the stand. Ask them what is best this week or what was picked just this morning. If there is a fruit or vegetable you aren’t familiar with (sometimes farm stands will have hyper-local specialties. For instance, in Maryland one of those local treats are paw paws), ask about it. You never know, you may just find a new favorite fruit or vegetable!
Store for the Winter
One of my best friends lives in upstate New York and every year I am blown away by all of the preserving she does in order to enjoy the flavors of summer way into their deep, dark winters. She cans fruits and vegetables and fills her shelves with jams, salsas, and chutneys.
While I will never match her preservation prowess, there are some things I do each summer to make sure I have the flavors of the season at my fingertips for at least part of the winter. They include:
- making pesto which I freeze for a day in ice cube trays and then transfer to a freezer bag
- freezing sliced peaches for sauces and smoothies
- making big batches of fresh tomato sauce to freeze
Recipes that Highlight Summer Produce
And then, of course, there is cooking with fresh summer produce! Because the fruits and vegetables at this time of year are so flavorful, I usually choose to focus on simple preparations that highlight all that they have to offer. This is great for two reasons: 1) simple preparation usually means less time cooking and 2) it becomes very easy to up my fruit and vegetable intake. Here are some of my favorite recipes that highlight summer produce.
This luscious summer stew brings out the best that summer has to offer by highlighting eggplant, tomato, and mint. Serve it over couscous, rice, or pasta, or just scoop it up with a crusty bread! I love to make a batch of this on the weekend and then enjoy it all week long for lunch (the flavors just get better with each day!).
This is my 12-year-old’s idea of heaven on a plate, so when tomatoes are at their peak, we enjoy this salad at least once a week. And the best part- it is so simple to prepare that you can even get your kids making it for you.
This is my favorite summer appetizer. The balance of the crispy, sweet watermelon and the creamy, salty feta really sings- especially when you top it all with a little mint for brightness. Yum!
A summertime classic, this cold soup can be prepared in 10 minutes (although I recommend letting it chill for at least an hour after preparation). I love topping mine with some diced avocado for creaminess, but you can also use breadcrumbs for texture or sour cream for a tangy kick.
Do you have favorite ways to delight in summer’s bounty? I’d love to hear about them in the comments! And if you would like ideas and inspiration for how to take advantage of seasonal produce, check out The Scramble’s family-friendly meal plans to see just how simple getting dinner on the table can be