The summer sun makes it possible to celebrate all sorts of things: running through sprinklers, swinging in hammocks, late evening conversations, and the pure joy of fresh fruits and vegetables that have ripened to perfection. Summer is the season when we can revel in the simple complexity of fresh produce, whether we do so while dripping, swinging, or laughing with our families and friends.
To get the most out of your summer love produce, pay attention to when your favorite summer fruits and veggies are at their peak – there are certainly plenty of delicious options during the warm weather months.
In Season: June and July
The nutritional benefits of blueberries are well-know. Packed with antioxidants, blueberries are thought of as small defenders against cancer and illness. Blueberries may also lower blood cholesterol levels, which can help prevent heart disease and diabetes.
Blueberries are both sweet and tart, which makes them ideal for pairing with a wide range of other foods, and if stored in a hard-plastic container, they are easily packed for a picnic or afternoon snack. In the morning, sprinkle a few on a whole-wheat English muffin with cream cheese. Blueberries are also easy to toss on top of a salad or add to a cup of Greek yogurt. To enjoy the simple flavors of this berry, simply pair with a rich cheese like Kerrygold’s Dubliner with Irish Stout Cheese.
In Season: July and August
“You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet / Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it.” So writes poet Seamus Heaney in his poem “Blackberry-Picking.” These larger, darker brothers of blueberries grow in clusters on thorny bushes or vines. Just like blueberries, their dark color indicates the presence of antioxidants and anthocyanins that may reduce the effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Blackberries can add color and texture to smoothies at breakfast time. For dinner, try making a simple, yet delicious blackberry glaze to stream overtop grilled pork chops. As a special treat for after dinner, drop three or four blackberries into a glass of your favorite sparkling white wine.
In season: August
The watermelon is part of the quintessential image of summer: people gathered in a back yard, chins dripping with juice, black seeds being spit into the bushes. You may be surprised to learn that watermelons actually do not reach their peak in North America until August, and they’re actually a vegetable, not a fruit!
Watermelons are fat-free, cholesterol-free containers of vitamin A, C, and fiber. They also contain antioxidants and potassium, so it seems clear they are worth the juicy mess. If you’re at the grocery store, find a ripe melon by testing its weight. It should feel heavy for its size. Next, look for a yellow patch on the rind where the watermelon was resting on the ground. If you opt for a seeded variety, don’t worry about eating those little black seeds, they’re edible too.
For an easy summer salad, pair small slices of watermelon with feta cheese and cucumber over a bed of spinach leaves. At dinner time, place chunks of watermelon on a kebab stick and fire up the grill.
In season: June - August
Cantaloupe is a big round ball of goodness. They are full of water, which is useful for staving summer dehydration. They also contain beta-carotene (which gives them an orangey-color), vitamin C, and fiber.
To select a perfectly ripe cantaloupe, the nose knows. Take a big sniff, if it smells sweet and slightly musky, that’s your melon. In the mornings, a few slices of cantaloupe on the side adds sweetness to an omelet breakfast. Cantaloupes can be used in many of the same ways as watermelons: in salads, on kebabs, and as part of fruit salads.
In season: May - September
Your family and friends will think you’re a real peach for dishing up meals with peaches this summer. Peaches hit their peak around June and July, but they are available for the entire summer. The soft, sweet little scoops are full of good-for-you minerals, including iron, zinc, calcium, and magnesium. They are low in calories, and like their fruity brethren, are a good source of fiber.
Peaches add natural sweetness to a big bowl of oatmeal in the morning or can be tossed into the blender as part of a smoothie. For a weekend treat, make yourself a pitcher of peach mojito. (Ok, you might want to share that one.) At dinner time, make a fresh peach salsa to put on top of practically anything. For dessert, we need only two words: peach cobbler.
In season: July – September
Sweet, sweet corn. On the cob or off, sweet corn is the quintessential summertime vegetable. Corn contains a sizeable portion of fiber and also elements that promote good vision.
A popular way to eat sweet corn is by grilling it, and by all means, you should do so several times this summer. Experiment with different flavors by basting your grilled corn with flavored sauces or butters. If you can’t get outside to the grill, you can boil corn, cut it off the cob, and use it on top of salads or in tacos. For those who just can’t get enough, try mixing corn kernels in with your morning scrambled eggs or make sweet corn fritters as a delicious way to end your day.