It's always harvest season somewhere, which means that nowadays it's possible to get many fruits and vegetables year-round. But that doesn't mean you should. Summer is still a special time for high quality, locally-grown fruits, veggies, meats and dairy products. Here's how to make the most out of summer's bounty.
At the Farmer's Market/Grocery Store:
Don't plan ahead: The fun of a farmer's market is showing up to see what looks amazing that day. Instead of picking a recipe and then going shopping, visit your local farmer's market to find the freshest, most delicious-looking (fill-in-the-blank), and design your menu around it.
BYOB (bag): Having a couple of reusable bags handy will make your trip a whole lot easier. And don't forget to bring cash.
Do a walk through (and sample): At a farmer's market, it's tempting to buy the first mouth-watering basket of strawberries you see; but it's better to take a stroll through the whole stretch first, to compare prices and quality. When you find an even more delicious-looking basket of strawberries at half the price, you'll be glad you did.
Look for local: This is the time of year when more local produce shows up in your regular grocery store so be sure to check labels and try to buy from your neighbors when possible.
Don't forget meat and dairy: Amazingly fresh produce is great; but when it comes to your health, finding quality meats and dairy products might be even more important. Choose red meat from grass-fed cows, and foods produced without hormones or antibiotics.
Meet your farmer: Talk to vendors, ask about what they do, what they recommend, and how to prepare vegetables or foods you're not familiar with.
In the Kitchen:
Keep it simple: Great fruits and veggies don't need much help. Look for ways to prepare them that involve enhancing their natural flavors like with a little salt and olive oil instead of covering them up with a whole bunch of other ingredients.
Get out of your comfort zone: For many people, cooking with an emphasis on fruit and veggies takes some practice. The internet is full of recipes and resources, so get out there and experiment. Milk Street and Food 52 are two user-friendly sites offering recipes and tips for novice to intermediate cooks.
For the Future:
Know what's in season: Summer is a wonderful time for fresh foods, but there are prime times for many other vegetables and fruits all throughout the year. Find out the seasonal window for the fruits and veggies you regularly buy to get the best produce all year long.
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