Get ready to eat – here comes our best growing season. Summer’s when many of your healthy favourites, such as watermelon and corn, are at their prime and taste oh-so-good. Yum! There’s more to love about eating in season: the food is incredibly fresh, it costs less and you support local farmers.
To make the most of summer’s edible gifts, buy them when they’re bountiful, choose the cream of the crop and store them correctly. It’s simple to do. The following guide will help you pick the best summer fruit and vegetables and keep them fresh. Bon appetit!
In season: Filled with folate (which helps build red blood cells) and eye-protective vitamin A, asparagus is at its prime from May to July.
Select the best: Thick stalks are often tough, so choose slender ones. Make sure all spears in the bunch are the same size, and look for asparagus with firm, bright green stalks and purple-tinged tips, says Shirleen Peardon, head chef at The Merchantman Pub in Charlottetown.
Keep it fresh: Wrap asparagus in a plastic bag and store it upright in the fridge for up to four days. Before cooking, wash it thoroughly and snap off the ends.
In season: Corn, which is high in fibre and immune-boosting vitamin C, is plentiful from July to October.
Select the best: Pull back the silk – make sure it’s golden with no black bits – and look for tight, shiny and plump kernels that go right to the tip of the cob, says Peardon.
Keep it fresh: Cook it soon after it’s picked. The longer cobs sit around, the more they taste starchy instead of sweet.
In season: A good source of cholesterol-lowering fibre, protein and vitamin C, peas in the pod thrive from June to August.
Choose the best: Pick pods that are bright green, firm, crisp and have smooth skin.
Keep them fresh: Stash them in the fridge in a plastic bag for up to three days. Before eating them as-is, peel off the string from edges of the pods.
In season: This vitamin K (good for your bones) and iron-rich veggie is abundant from June to September.
Choose the best of the bunch: “Look for tender greens with a crisp stalk,” says Peardon. “The longer it grows, the older it gets and the more leathery the leaves become, so choose chard when it’s fairly young.”
Keep it fresh: A bunch lasts for three to four days in the fridge when stored in a plastic bag.
In season: Brimming with lycopene (a cancer-fighting antioxidant) and immune-boosting vitamin C, tomatoes are at their peak from July to October.
Select the best: Take home tomatoes that are firm (not hard) with bright red skin free of cracks or bruises. Also pick ones that have a juicy tomato aroma and that feel heavy for their size.
Keep them fresh: Store tomatoes at room temperature away from sunlight for up to three days.
In season: Dig into these bite-size fruits, which contain nutrients such as vitamin C and potassium (which helps keep your muscles and nerves working well), in June and July.
Select the best: “You want brightly coloured, shiny and plump cherries that are firm but not too hard,” says Peardon. Make sure the stems are intact, as cherries dry out faster when they’re removed.
Keep them fresh: They last for four to five days when stored in a tightly sealed bag in the fridge.
In season: High in eye-protective vitamin A and vitamin C, peaches are bountiful from July to
Select the best: Sniff them to determine their ripeness. “You want them to have that delicious, peachy smell,” says Peardon. Go for ones that feel slightly tender to the touch – they shouldn’t be too soft – and skip those with bruises or green patches.
Keep them fresh: If they’re hard, ripen unwashed peaches by placing them in a paper bag (fold over the top) for a couple of days. Devour ripe ones immediately.
In season: A good source of fibre and immune-boosting vitamin C, plums are plentiful from July to October.
Select the best: Look for plums with a deep, rich colour. Their skin should be free of tears or brown spots. Gently press them to test for ripeness, choosing the ones that have a little give and avoiding those that are hard or squishy.
Keep them fresh: Place plums in a sealed plastic bag and stow them in the fridge for up to five days.
In season: Watermelons, which contains cancer-fighting lycopene and vitamin C, are at their prime in August and September.
Select the best: Choose ones with smooth skin free of brown or soft spots. To determine if they’re ripe, tap them and listen for a hollow sound, says Peardon.
Keep them fresh: Store whole melons in the fridge for up to three days (eat cut-up melon right away).
In season: High in vitamin C and cholesterol-lowering fibre, these berries are abundant in June and July.
Select the best: Go for plump, bright red berries with their green caps attached, says Peardon. Bypass soft ones with bruises or mould.
Keep them fresh: They’ll last for a couple of days if you lay them out in a single layer on paper towel and store them in the fridge. Rinse them and remove their caps just before eating. Enjoy them as-is or use them to make a sweet treat. Here’s a delicious recipe to try.
1. Slice 1 cup strawberries and place in a saucepan with 3 tbsp water, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil. Boil gently for 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
2. Mix together cornstarch and 1/4 cup water. Add to the strawberries and bring back to a boil. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. Remove from heat and cool down either in fridge or ice bath.
3. Beat cream cheese and icing sugar until mixture is light. Whip the cream. Fold half the whipped cream into the cream cheese. Spread mixture over the bottom of the pie shell. Cover with half the glaze (glaze needs to be completely chilled to avoid 'melting' the cream). Add remaining whole berries, then top with remaining glaze. Cover with remaining whipped cream. Chill until set, about 2 hours.
Recipe courtesy of Chef Shirleen Peardon
Aileen Brabazon is a freelance writer based in Toronto who's work has appeared in glow, Hello! Canada, Viva, Oxygen, Rouge and on homemakers.com. Her favourite things to write about are nutrition, alternative health and green living, which isn't a surprise considering she's also a certified holistic nutritionist. Between writing, helping clients improve their diets and wellbeing and teaching children with autism, Aileen loves to cook organic foods, hike in nature, volunteer at Evergreen Brick Works farmers' market, unwind with yoga and meditation and dance to Stevie Wonder and Al Green. You can reach Aileen at firstname.lastname@example.org.