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10 Tips on Choosing, Storing & Cooking Delicious Summer Produce

Take advantage of the season’s fresh fruits and veggies with these tips for choosing, storing, and cooking with delicious summer produce

After a long winter spent cooped up indoors, we can’t wait for the return of summer and everything the season has to offer. If you’re a foodie, the season is especially exciting, as it’s a time for outdoor dining, backyard barbecues and plenty of trips to your local farmers’ market (or your own garden!).

Whether you’re planning a big summer bash or just trying to work more fresh produce into your weekly menu, we’ve got some handy tips for choosing, storing, and cooking with the best fruits and veggies that summer has to offer.

*In season dates based on Foodland Ontario availability guide.

Avocado

In season: Hass avocados are available year-round, but lend themselves particularly well to summer recipes such as party dips and sandwich spreads.

What to look for: A ripe avocado should have a bit of “give” when pressed gently. Another great tip? Look under the cap! If the little stem piece removes easily and is green underneath, the avocado is a keeper. If it’s brown, it’s likely too ripe. And if you can’t take it off, it will likely need some more time to ripen at home.

How to store: Let your avocado ripen at room temperature before moving to the refrigerator. If you’re only using half an avocado for a recipe, sprinkle the remaining half (including the pit) with some lemon juice and cover with cling wrap before popping it in the fridge to keep it from turning brown.

Recipes to try:
Chicken and Avocado Sandwich with Tzatziki Dressing
Sushi Salad with Avocado, Crab + Brown Rice
Tilapia Tacos with Green Apple + Avocado Salsa

 

Asparagus

In season: May and June

What to look for: When it comes to choosing the best asparagus, freshness is key. Look for spears that are straight and difficult to bend, with tightly closed heads.

How to store: Wrap the ends of your asparagus with a damp paper towel and transfer to a plastic storage bag, but do not seal. Fresh asparagus is best if eaten within two to three days.

Recipes to try:
Baked Ricotta with Asparagus
Asparagus Soup
Asparagus Dill Wraps

Broccoli

In season: June through October

What to look for: Your broccoli should have tightly bunched florets with a vibrant green colour. If the heads have started to turn yellow, take a pass.

How to store: Storing your broccoli whole? Opt for a large, perforated plastic storage bag. Chopped broccoli is best when soaked in lightly salted water to clean florets, then dried thoroughly and stored in a reusable food container (perfect for snacking!).

Recipes to try:
• Curried Beef with Broccoli + Mango Stir-Fry
Sausage, Broccoli + Pasta Toss
• Apple + Broccoli Salad with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

Cherries

In season: June and July

What to look for: Keep an eye out for brightly coloured cherries with the stems still attached. Avoid fruit that appears bruised, browning, or mushy.
How to store: Refrigerate your cherries ASAP in a plastic storage bag. No need to wash before storing—just rinse each portion as needed.

Recipes to try:
• Sweet Cherry Slush
• Cherry Pie with Almond Crumble Topping
• No-Bake Chocolate Cherry Granola Bars

Corn

In season: July through October

What to look for: Who can pass up a quick stop at a roadside corn stand? Not us! Look for bright green husks with silk that’s slightly damp. A light press on the husk should allow you to feel the kernels—if it seems like there are a lot missing, toss it back in the pile and keep looking.

How to store: Pop your corn into the fridge in a plastic storage bag as soon as you get it home, and be sure to use it up within a few days for ultimate freshness.

Recipes to try:
Grilled Corn with Parsley, Cilantro + Pecorino Cheese
Steamed Corn on the Cob
Summer’s Best Coleslaw

 

Peaches

In season: July through September

What to look for: The secret to picking the perfect peach is right there in its name! A vibrant peach colour is key—green means the fruit is not ripe, and browning fruit is past its prime. Your ideal peach should also have that perfect peach-y aroma, so be sure to give it a sniff!

How to store: While firmer peaches can easily be stored at room temperature, you may want to keep fully ripe peaches in your refrigerator for a few days to prolong their life if you’re not going to eat them right away.

Recipes to try:
Pretzel-Crusted Chicken Strips with Peach Dipping Sauce
Peach Fritters
Grilled Peaches with Almond-Mint Pesto

Tomato

In season: July through October

What to look for: Did you know that there are hundreds of different varieties of field tomatoes?  That’s a lot of choices! When looking for your perfect specimen, opt for a tomato that’s heavy and firm (but not too hard). Smaller tomatoes (like grape tomatoes) should be wrinkle-free.

How to store: Keep your tomatoes at room temperature until they’re fully ripe. Ripe tomatoes can be stored in a reusable food storage container in the refrigerator—open for whole tomatoes, or with a lid for tomatoes that have been cut.

Recipes to try:
Salmon Cakes with Sweet Corn + Tomato Salad
Baked Caprese Pasta
Mediterranean-Inspired Grilled Pork Kebabs

 

Watermelon

In season: July through September

What to look for: Choosing a whole watermelon can be tricky business, since you can’t see the quality of the fruit inside that hard green shell. If you’re shopping at a farmers’ market, don’t be afraid to ask the farmer to help you pick the perfect specimen! Otherwise, look for a melon with a yellow patch that feels nice and heavy (full of juice!), and sounds hollow when you give it a knock.

How to store: A whole ripe watermelon can be stored right in your refrigerator until you’re ready to chop it up. Keep your slices or wedges in a zippered food storage bag and eat them up within a few days (if they last that long!).

Recipes to try:
Basil Watermelon Skewers
Watermelon Flamingo Snack for Kids
Grilled Flank Steak with Watermelon + Tomato Salad

Strawberries

In season: June and July

What to look for: If we’re being totally honest, strawberry season is WAY too short. Who doesn’t love taking the kids to a pick-your-own farm to fill baskets with these juicy gems? Look for berries that are nice and red, with no green or white spots, and follow your nose to that sweet strawberry smell.

How to store: Like cherries, strawberries don’t need to be washed before storing—just rinse before you eat. Keep your berries in a single layer on a plate covered with cling wrap, or in a large reusable food storage container with a lid.

Recipes to try:
Strawberry Lemonade Bars
Strawberry Rhubarb Trifle
Homemade Strawberry Fruit Leather

Lettuce

In season: June through October

What to look for: Picked from the market or your own backyard garden, nothing says “light summer fare” like crisp, fresh lettuce for salads and garnishes. You’ll want to choose lettuce that’s firm and vibrant, and take a pass on anything that’s wilting or has brown spots.

How to store: Lettuce does not need to be washed before storing—just rinse portions as needed. You can keep a full head of lettuce wrapped in a plastic food storage bag in the fridge with a slightly damp piece of paper towel to keep things crisp, or store chopped lettuce for salads in a reusable food container.

Recipes to try:
Lettuce Wraps with Chicken, Rice + Mango
Ladybug BLT Sandwiches
A Silly Salad for Kids

Looking for more great summer entertaining ideas? Check out these 15 amazing homemade burger recipes, and these simple tips to make outdoor entertaining more fun.

This post was sponsored by Glad. Learn more here.

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