Living in the Midwest, we don’t have the luxury of a year-round Farmer’s Market, so the experience this time of year is a heady one. Just walking through manages to hit all of my senses – the vibrant colors, the fresh sweet aroma of summer fruits – it is such a luxury. Never mind that the local Farmer’s Market somehow manages to charge close to half of what I experience in the grocery store.
It is AMAZING.
I’m certain you have your favorites, but I thought I’d share some you most certainly shouldn’t miss and the best way to know you are getting the very freshest produce.
Peaches – for this fruit, I rely heavily on my nose. I can typically smell this fruit as soon as I walk up. I look for peaches that are mainly red and gold. When you bring them home, don’t put them in the fridge as they will lose their flavor. Instead leave them out at room temperature to allow them to ripen. I have taken to combining them with sliced bananas, cottage cheese or yogurt for a light an afternoon snack.
Tomatoes – there are so many varieties available this time of year… everything from tiny cherry tomatoes to the more traditional heirloom. Use your nose here too. Look for tomatoes with a strong garden aroma and bright colors. When you hold them, they should feel like the perfect balance between hard and soft. I believe I’ve mentioned we have never loved tomatoes in my family, but having a variety to choose from has given us the option to experiment. I have started to include fresh tomatoes in prepared spaghetti sauces for extra flavor.
Corn – growing up, corn on the cob was a staple in our home. My dad LOVES it. Corn is freshest closest to the time it is picked. Look for corn that has bright green husks – preferably ones that are closed tightly. Do peel back the husk to confirm its freshness. When you boil corn, don’t cook it for too long – I aim for no longer than 3-4 minutes and I ALWAYS add a few pinches of sugar to the water to bring out the corn’s natural sweetness.
Zucchini – this is a new love for me – probably since I now know how delicious it is fresh from the grill. The biggest thing to look for is a semi-firm skin free of tears or bruising. Both will cause your zucchini (or squash) to go bad more quickly. I slice it thinly, drizzle it with olive oil, add salt, pepper and some fresh garlic and let my husband add it to the grill. For extra fun, drop feta on it right before serving.
Grapes – good news! Grapes’ best time of year is the end of summer and early fall – this is when the harvesting is most frequent. Look for firm grapes without many that have fallen from the vine. I keep bunches of these on hand for snacks and definitely as we head back to school – the kids love to have them for lunch at school.
And more than anything – enjoy! I could go on and on. This list could easily triple in length. As I previously mentioned, this is my favorite time of year to be looking for fruits and vegetables.
What is your favorite?