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What's in season: Summer fruits and vegetables

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Posted: Tuesday, May 21, 2013 4:00 pm | Updated: 4:24 pm, Tue May 21, 2013.

Many of the items in grocery stores vary in price depending on what they are. For example, a box of cereal typically has a different cost than a frozen meal. But why is one fruit or vegetable higher in price than another fruit or vegetable? When fruits and vegetables aren’t in season, it makes it difficult for producers to get them on the market. Knowing which fruits and vegetables are in season not only brings you the best tasting food, but also results in a lower price on your grocery receipt. Here are the fruits and veggies that you can find to be in season right now:

Apples come into season mid- to late-summer and are harvested into fall in most apple-growing regions, so they won’t be the cheapest in-season fruit available, but they’ll still have their taste!

Apricots are harvested starting in late spring in warmer areas and through early summer. Apricots don’t do well on road trips, so opt for the farmers’ market option instead of the grocery store.

Avocados are sensitive because they’re in season depending on their location rather than the time of year; however, most are in season over the summer. Ripen hard avocados on the counter or speed things up by keeping them in a paper bag.

Bell Peppers/Sweet Peppers should have smooth, shiny skins (whether they are green, red, orange, yellow, or purple) and feel heavy for their size.

Beetsare often still green when they are harvested. If you’re a fan of cooking greens, cook the beet’s green skin instead of going out and buying greens to save money.

Blackberries should not be mushy or have any mold on them. When this happens, the other blueberries are susceptible to become mushy or moldy as well. Also, you should rinse berries only just before eating or using them, never in advance, since they will become soggy and rot faster.

Blueberriesare the only berries that have a dull, matte finish to them when ripe.

Boysenberries, like all berries, should be plump and shiny when you buy them. This is a cross between a European Raspberry, a Common Blackberry, and a Loganberry.

Cantaloupes should be heavy and you should be able to smell their melon scent to know that they are ready to buy.

Carrots are harvested year-round in temperate areas; however, a carrot’s natural season is during the summer and fall. Also during the summer, you can find the true “baby carrots” in the stores.

Cherries have two different varieties: sour and sweet. Cherries are ready to harvest at the end of spring in warmer areas. Specifically, sweet cherries, including the popular Bing and Rainier varieties, are available from May to August. Sour cherries have a much shorter season, and can be found for a week or two, usually during the middle of June for Floridians.

Chickpeas (a.k.a. garbanzo beans) are sometimes available fresh at farmers markets in warmer climates (in other words, Florida wins).

Chiles (a.k.a. hot peppers or hot chilies) need heat to ripen and get hot. In other words, you can find them all summer and early fall.

Corn is best the minute it is picked from the stalk, so this is another food (like apricots) that would be better at your local farmers market. You want tightly closed, fresh-looking husks, fresh-looking tassels, and fresh-cut stem ends.

Cucumbers come into season in most areas just as the summer heat kicks in. An interesting fact about cucumbers is that they are actually cooler on the inside than the outside temperature (sometimes up to a 20 degree difference), which is perfect for the hot summer days.

Eggplant should have shiny, tight, smooth skin and feel heavy for its size.

Figs have two seasons: during mid- to late-summer and a second, shorter season comes in November in warm climates (Florida wins again).

Garlic isn’t typically an item that we think of as having a season; however, fresh garlic is at its best in late summer and fall.

Grapes ripen towards the end of summer where they grow best; the harvest continues into fall.

Green beans have their natural season from mid-summer into fall in most regions.

Green onions should have fresh, green tops and firm, slime-free white bottoms. If the fresh-looking, pale roots are still attached to the whites, that’s also a good sign.

Herbs have a plentiful variety during the summer. Simply look for vibrant leaves and fresh-looking stems.

Lemongrass is essentially a perfume for your food with its whiff of ginger and its heady scent of tropical flowers. Next time you eat chicken or seafood, try it with lemongrass.

Limes are the only citrus at their best in summer.

Mangoes need tropical heat to ripen and come into their sweet best in late spring and summer in Florida.

Marionberries are a type of blackberry that should be plump, shiny, and deep purple.

Melons should always feel heavy for their size. Like cantaloupes, most should have a bit of a sweet melon smell.

Nectarines are a good choice for peach-lovers. They should feel heavy for their size and give just a bit when held firmly.

New Potatoes are small, freshly harvested potatoes with paper-thin skins. Try making a potato salad out of them for a summer BBQ.

Okra needs heat to grow, thus making it a summer season food.

Onions come from storage all year round but most onions are harvested in late summer through the fall.

Peaches are one of the most well-known fruits during the summer. Avoid fruits that have green near the stem.

Peas come into season in the spring and continue in most areas well into summer.

Peppers (sweet and spicy) are harvested in late summer and early fall.

Plums & Pluots should feel heavy for their size and have a sweet smell. Pluots are a mix between plums and apricots that show more plum characteristics than apricot characteristics.

Potatoes start being harvested during the summer.

Radishes should have bright, fresh greens attached, so you know that they are freshly harvested.

Ramps are foraged in the spring and early summer and sometimes available at farmers markets and specialty stores. Ramps almost look like green onions and they give your food a mix between onion and garlic flavor when cooked with your food.

Raspberries are the most delicate of all berries. Look for plump berries and never buy a package with smashed, rotting, or moldy berries. Like blackberries, that damage spreads incredibly fast.

Rhubarb is the first fruit of spring in many areas but stays in season into summer n most areas - look for heavy stalks with shiny skin. Rhubarb is usually considered to be a vegetable; however, in the United States, a New York court decided in 1947 that since it was used in the United States as a fruit, it was to be counted as a fruit for the purposes of regulations and duties. Stalks are often cooked as a sweetener for pies, tarts, crumbles, or a concoction similar to applesauce.

Shallots are milder, sweeter, and less bitter than their onion and garlic cousins, making them perfect for salad dressings.

Spring Onions are available in early summer in some areas.

Strawberries are mostly grown in California or Florida, where the strawberry growing season runs from January through November. Peak season is April through June.

Sweet Onions have slightly different seasons depending on type and region, but in general they are available in spring and summer.

Tomatillos look like small green tomatoes (but are ripe when they are green) with a light green papery husk. These are the key ingredient for many Latin American green sauces.

Tomatoes are definitely attractions at the local farmers markets, but try to sample tomatoes before you buy them since even beautiful, heavy, unblemished specimens can lack the flavor you want.

Watermelons should feel heavy for their size. Try knocking on the outer shell in multiple areas to ensure that they are completely solid.

Zucchini & Other Summer Squash have a harvest season from summer into fall in most climates.

Zucchini Blossoms are increasingly sold at farmers markets and specialty stores. Look for fresh blossoms (no brown ends or tips) and use them quickly. These can be fried, but they can also be eaten raw in salads or even stuffed with cheese.

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Contact Blogs Editor Cara Chiaramonte at cchiaramonte@alligator.org.

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