Summer Produce Guide
Summer is a great time to get in the kitchen. With such an abundance of fruits and vegetables at their peak of freshness, it’s easy to eat well and shop locally all at the same time. This Summer Produce Guide is filled with simple cooking and storing tips, and easy recipe ideas to help you make the most of your summer produce.
Summer Produce Guide
Snap, string, green, yellow, or purple, beans are a staple summer produce. When buying beans, look for ones that are crisp and bright in colour, and be sure to rinse the beans and trim the ends before cooking. Beans are delicious raw or cooked; they make a great addition to any soup or stew, or a simple side dish, like my Garlic Green Beans, at any summer BBQ.
These ruby red root vegetables are also available in pink, orange, yellow and white varieties and are chock full of nutrition. Both the bulb and the stem are edible, as the stems can be added to salads, steamed or sauteed. For the best roasted beets, simply rinse each bulb, wrap individually in aluminium foil, and roast in the oven for an hour for perfectly sweet and tender beets.
The sunny days of late summer are peak harvest time for one of Canada’s most nutritious fruits. Succulent and sweet they can be eaten immediately or stored in the freezer for months to come. Not only are the great for smoothies and salads, but are ideal for baking such as my Blueberry Oatmeal & Maple Muffins and Blueberry Baked Oatmeal Bars.
Most Asian greens are available year round, but bok choy is in full swing during the summer months. With its tender leaves and crunchy stem, bok choy gives you the best of both worlds. When shopping for Asian greens look for bright green leaves and a white stalk, and store in a plastic bag to keep it crisp for days. Try adding bok choy to a simple stir-fry, like my Rainbow Chicken Stir-Fry, for a bright and colourful dinner idea.
Considered a quintessential health food, broccoli is often thought of as boring, however there are so many ways to good this cruciferous vegetable. Be it steamed, sauteed, grilled, baked or broiled, the cooking method can completely alter the taste and texture of this hearty green. Try my Asian Salmon Tray Bake or Broccoli Salad with Tahini Dressing to ensure you make the most of its flavour.
Because of its sweet and savoury nature, carrots can be used as a side dish for holiday dinners or baked into a cake for a celebratory feast. Eaten raw, carrots are delightfully crisp and crunchy, while when cooked turn silky-soft and sweet. Carrots are great steamed, sauteed, pureed or roasted, but for a fun twist try my No-Bake Carrot Cake Energy Bites to help add a sweet little boost of energy to your day.
Cauliflower is part of the cruciferous family of vegetables and has as many nutritional benefits as it’s close relatives broccoli or kale. When it comes to cooking methods, the options are endless, however the more traditional methods of boiling or steaming make cauliflower waterlogged, mushy and lose much of its flavour. Instead, try my Cauliflower Rice or Roasted Spiced Cauliflower for a fun and more flavourful side dish.
Often used in the base in classic soups, stew and stock, celery is a kitchen staple. Although on its own it does not provide much flavour, when incorporated into dishes it can provide a welcome crunch and freshness. For a simple healthy snack idea try Ants on a Log: crunchy celery with creamy peanut butter topped with sweet raisins.
Cherry season is short and sweet much like these little summer produce fruits. Available in sweet and sour varieties, cherries are bursting with flavour and nutrition. They can be pressed into juices, made into preserves or baked into desserts. The dark red cherry are the most common variety, however Rainier cherries are another common variety that you can find at some markets. They are distinct by their reddish-yellow skin, creamy flesh and sweeter flavour.
Corn is a sign of the height of summer, as it is not ready until the end of the summer harvest season. Although often considered a vegetable, corn is technically a gluten-free grain that is used in cooking worldwide. It can be added to stews and soups, used as a flour to make breads and cakes, however it is best eaten on its own with a smear of butter and sprinkle of sea salt.
Greenhouse cucumbers are available year-round, but cucumbers really come into season during the summer months. They are great eaten fresh or pickled for a later use, and also pair well in salads or added to dressing and dips. Try my Cucumber & Mango Salad for fun side dish at your next summer BBQ.
Also known as aubergine, eggplant are a staple in Asian and Italian cooking and available in multiple varieties. The larger varieties are more common in grocery stores, however some of the smalller and thiner varieties can be found at local famers markets. A member of the nightshade family, this deep purple vegetable is delicious grilled, broiled or baked, like in my Oven Baked Ratatouille.
These fuzzy fruits are considered some of the most popular summer produce stone-fruit. Peaches, and nectarines, are deliciously juicy and sweet, can be cooked into sweet and savoury dishes in addition to eating them raw. For a simple summer dessert, top grilled peaches with a simple crumble and serve with a dollop of ice cream for a sweet treat.
Be it snap, snow or garden, peas are bursting with the flavours of summer. In addition to being delicious fresh, peas freeze very well and therefore can be used in dishes for months to come. Garden peas, sometimes called sweet peas or English peas, pair incredibly well in savoury winter dishes like my Skillet Cottage Pie or Simple Beef Stew.
Sweet or spicy, peppers are available in various sizes and colours and can add a ton of flavour to any dish. Sweet peppers are available in red, green, yellow and purple, and the longer they stay on the vine the sweeter they become. Peppers can be eaten raw in salads or with dips, cooked into casseroles, soups and stews, or showcased on their own like in my Mexican Stuffed Peppers.
With their velvety deep-coloured skin and soft, sweet flesh, plums make a fine crumble, chutney or snack. Plums are in season late summer and are best eaten fresh or preserved, as they don’t freeze incredibly well. When picking plums look for a deep, even color, fragrant scent, and smooth skin free of wrinkles. Canning plums is one of the simplest ways to store these summer stone-fruit for later use.
A highly underrated vegetable, potatoes are a versatile ingredient that can be used for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Available in multiple colours and sizes, potatoes serve as a great source of complex carbohydrate and nutritious source of energy. Try my Spicy Potato & Egg Hash for a hearty breakfast, Sweet Potato Toast for a quick and easy lunch, Spanish Chicken Tray Bake for a warming dinner, or my Crispy Smashed Potatoes for a simple side dish.
Nothing says summer like freshly picked and locally grown raspberries. When buying raspberries, look for firm, dry berries and gently wash them before serving. Raspberries are truly best eaten fresh, but can also easily be stored in the freezer for months to come. Top them onto your morning yoghurt, blend them into a smoothie, or try them in my easy PB&J Overnight Oatmeal.
Also known as zucchini, summer squash are the softer more tenders cousins to the winter variety. Available in both green and yellow, summer squash has a subtle taste and tender flesh making it a versatile ingredient in both savoury and sweet dishes. For a savoury take try my Green Vegetable Tray Bake or try my Chocolate Zucchini Bread for a sweet and healthy snack.
Spinach is a versatile vegetable that can be added to everything from soups to salads and smoothies. It can be eaten raw or cooked, but because it wilts down when cooked it a is a great way to add a lot of greens to a dish. An entire bag of spinach can be cooked into any stews or casserole to help increase the nutrition content without overpowering it with flavour like my Spinach Breakfast Casserole.
Strawberries are the darling of summer produce, and one of the first berries to grow each summer. Whether you pick you own or buy them at the local farmers market, the fresher the berries the better they taste. When storing strawberries be sure not to wash the berries or remove the stems until they are about to be consumed as this will keep them fresher longer. For a healthy twist on a classic recipe try my Strawberry Chia Seed Jam or make a Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp for a perfect summer dessert.
Tomatoes are available in thousands of varieties each with their own distant look and flavour. Although sometimes considered a fruit, this summer vegetable has endless uses that you can enjoy for months to come depending on how you prepare them. Beefsteak tomatoes make great slices for burgers or sandwiches, plum tomatoes make great sauces, cherry tomatoes make great additions to salads, or just slice up your favourite varieties and sprinkle it with a little sea salt to serve. Try my Simple Summer Gazpacho to really showcase the freshness of the summer vegetable.