A quick guide to summer fruits and vegetables

Know what’s coming to market, and when. Plus, what you need to know make the most of the summer produce season.

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Mixed-berries
Photo, Stocky.

With so many fruits and vegetables reaching their peak during the warmer months, the best time for fresh produce has officially begun. The berries are juicier, the cobs of corn are sweeter and your favourite herbs pack even more of a punch. Here’s when your summer favourites will be at their best:

Berries
Strawberries make their arrival first, peaking between June and late-July. Blueberries, raspberries and blackberries follow during July and August.

Buying tip: Always choose berries that are fragrant, plump and brightly coloured.

Did you know? Strawberries won’t ripen after they’re picked, so make sure to avoid pints with light or white berries mixed in.


Related: The best trick for hulling strawberries


Asparagus
These green stalks are at their peak in May and June.

Buying tip: Look for firm, bright green stalks with tightly closed tips.

Did you know? White asparagus is asparagus grown in an absence of light — so it doesn’t develop it’s signature green colour.

 

Rhubarb
Making it’s way onto shelves in May and lasting through June, this spring-summer favourite goes well with both sweet and savoury dishes.

Buying tip: Look for bright, crisp, wide stalks. Throw out the leaves — they’re toxic.

Did you know? Rhubarb is actually a vegetable.

Try it in: Rhubarb-vanilla pie.

 

Stone fruits
Nectarines, plums, apricots and peaches are at their peak from July through September (and are some of the most juicy and delectable summer fruits).

Buying tip: Look for fruits that are firm to the touch without brown spots; if you smell them, they should also be very fragrant.

Did you know? Stone fruits continue to ripen after they’re picked — and their flavour is best after they’ve had time to soften.


Related: The fastest way to skin a peach


Cherries
June and July is the best time to look for bright, plump cherries.

Kitchen note: There are two main types, one sweet and one sour. Sweet cherries are delicious on their own, but sour cherries, the smaller and softer of the two, are best when cooked and sweetened in desserts, jams and sauces.

 

Tomatoes
Tomatoes are at their best June through August. There are thousands of varieties, everything from big plum tomatoes (which are great in tomato sauce) to small cherry tomatoes.

Buying tip: When choosing tomatoes, look for bright, firm vine-ripened varieties, as they will have the most flavour.

Did you know? Tomatoes shouldn’t be stored in the fridge, as they’ll lose most of their aroma. If you’ve already put them in fridge, let them come up to room temperature before using.

 

Corn
July through September is the best time of year to buy this sweet vegetable.

Buying tip: Look for bright green husks that are tightly wrapped to the cob — this is a good indicator of freshness.

Did you know? It’s best to try and cook it the day you buy it, so once you’ve picked it, fire up the barbecue and try this gourmet twist.


Related: How to remove corn from the cob quickly and easily


Summer squash
Summer squash starts arriving in June, hanging around through August. It includes many varieties from zucchini to globe squash and pattypan.

Buying tip: Look for small to medium-sized squash (larger ones have more seeds and can be woody), with bright-coloured skin.

Did you know? Zucchini isn’t actually a vegetable. (Technically, it’s a fruit.)

 

Watermelon
Watermelon peaks during the dog days of summer, starting in late-June, all the way through through August.

Buying tip: Look for smooth and symmetrical melons that make a dull, hollow sound when you tap them.

Did you know? Watermelons are roughly 92 percent water!

Originally published June 2015.

More:
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How to pickle and preserve six summer fruits and vegetables
7 ways to use up leftover fruit and vegetables