When you buy veggies in season, you’re not only plucking the ripest and most flavorful gems of the garden, you’re also getting the most nutritional bang for your buck and supporting local farmers. But figuring out when to buy what is not as easy as spending an extra 20 minutes in the grocery store inspecting each leaf and bushel.
So to make your life easier, and your meals a whole lot tastier, we’ve uncovered the ripest veggies of summer. Nom-aste!
Can you get peppers during the winter? Sure, but they tend to be smaller and shriveled — and come from places as far away as Mexico and Holland. Nothing beats a pepper that’s been grown locally and plucked during the peak of the season, which runs between July and November. The skin is shinier and firmer, which makes for a crispier, juicier, more flavorful taste. Bell peppers make the perfect on-the-go snack: A whole one is around 30 calories and is loaded with vitamins C and E, which power your immune system and keep your skin and hair looking young and healthy.
Seasonal recipe: Chicken Fajita Stuffed Peppers
Sure, you can grow this baby indoors by a windowsill, but the sun-drenched variety offers a sweeter, more intense flavor and, for those spice lovers out there, gives way more of a kick. An essential nutrient for cardiovascular health, basil is also a great source of vitamin A and antioxidants, as well as magnesium, which improves blood flow and lowers the risk of irregular heart rhythms or muscle spasms. When buying at your local grocery store, choose bunches that are fragrant. It’s a major indicator of freshness. To maximize its shelf life, keep basil stems in a glass of water on your counter, in direct sun, for up to a week.
Seasonal recipe: Caprese Skewers
Even its name suggests why this light orange, oblong-shaped vegetable is a winner in the warmer seasons. An excellent source of antioxidants, summer squash is surprisingly best-cooked steamed, as this method allows it to retain a large amount of its antioxidant activity. Look for shiny skins and firm shapes that are similar in size to the rest of the selection. Store in your refrigerator for about a week.
Seasonal recipe: Easy Grilled Summer Squash
Corn on the cob
Nothing says summer like biting into freshly cooked corn on the cob, right? But there’s another reason this veggie’s a staple of summer barbecues. Not only is it in season, but it’s usually on sale! And, despite its sweet and savory flavor, it’s good for you, too. Just an ear of corn has about the same number of calories as an apple, but only a quarter of the sugar. It also has antioxidant activity, which helps protect your body from cancer and heart disease. When shopping, stick with ears of corn that are tightly wrapped and not dried out. You can peel it down part way to check that it’s nice and fresh.
Seasonal recipe: Basil Chive Cucumber & Corn Salad
This red root vegetable is another one you can find in your local grocery store all year long, but they’re at their best between June through October. You might notice them popping up more frequently on local restaurant menus, mainly in salads, where you can taste their earthy, sweet flavor. Aside from their deliciousness, beets can help you shake off a cold with their immune-boosting benefits. They’re rich in vitamin C, fiber, potassium (essential for nerve and muscle function) and manganese (aids in the development of your bones, liver, kidneys and pancreas). Choose beets that are round, firm globes without spots or bruises; they’ll keep for up to 10 days when refrigerated, but if you feel them getting soft, toss ’em out!
Seasonal recipe: Balsamic Roasted Beet Salad
Okay, so the winter won’t stop you from topping off your toast (and tortilla chips) with this deliciously creamy fruit (yes, it’s technically not a vegetable). But if you’re a fan of California’s Hass avocado, you’re in for a treat during the summer months, when they are the most ripe. Fatty in the best kind of way (think monounsaturated and oleic, therefore heart-healthy fats), avocados are also high in potassium, folate, and vitamins C and B6. They’re also a source of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and magnesium. To pluck the perfect pick, look for ones that have a uniform shape, are not too hard but not too soft, and have an unblemished outer skin.
Seasonal recipe: Shrimp and Avocado Summer Rolls