Summer is upon us, which means that farmers’ markets are in full swing, and a lot of produce that wasn’t easily accessible during the winter months is now in abundance. Seasonal eating is also typically synonymous with fresher and more ﬂavorful foods. And — of course — heritage diets were built on what was locally and seasonally available in each region. We asked our experts stationed across the US and Canada for their favorite local foods and recommendations for eating seasonally.
Ask the Experts, Seasonal Eating Edition
I live in Toronto, Canada, and after a long winter, Canadians are super excited about all the amazing seasonal produce that appears every summer! Our popular favourites include English peas, strawberries, blueberries, peaches (my personal fave), ﬁddleheads, and corn on the cob. Our supermarkets have great seasonal produce, but I like to go right to the source! Farmers’ markets and those little roadside farmstands are amazing — nothing beats buying your sweet corn on the cob straight from the farmer at the side of the cornﬁeld! Here’s one of my favorite summer salad recipes that takes advantage of my favorite summer sweet corn — if you’ve never tried raw corn, you’re in for a treat! At farmers’ markets, I look for the freshest-looking produce, of course, but I also like to ask the farmer what they recommend. They love to tell me little backstories about the food I’m about to buy, and they know what’s best!
– Abby Langer, RD, owner of Abby Langer Nutrition in Toronto, Canada
As a New Yorker, red is my summer color when it comes to food. Cherries, watermelon, and tomatoes are my favorite summer fruits — sweet, delicious, and readily available. I try to include them in my (almost) daily diet in the summer. In the mood for candy? I recommend cherries instead (courtesy image below). Ending a summer BBQ with a succulent piece of watermelon is a great thirst quencher. And watermelon, tomato, and feta cheese is a favorite summer salad! An exception to the “red” theme: I love getting corn on the cob at the farmers market and tossing it on the grill with a piece of salmon or a veggie burger. So glad it’s summer.
– Lisa R. Young, PhD, RD; Adjunct Professor of Nutrition at New York University, www.portionteller.com
Until I was a member of a Boston-area CSA (community supported agriculture), I had never seen or cooked with garlic scapes. When they kept appearing in my CSA basket I decided to create a new recipe for garlic scape pesto. Now, I look forward to when scapes appear so I can make pesto to use with pasta, bread, garden tomatoes, pizza, and more!
– Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RDN, Culinary Nutrition Consultant and Author at www.JaniceCooks.com.
What does summer look like — and taste like — where you live? With so much produce available in supermarkets year ‘round, sometimes we forget. There are 13 U.S. growing zones. The best way to understand yours is by visiting your local farmers’ market. Yours may be abundant with sweet summer corn; full, ripe tomatoes that actually taste like tomatoes; bright berries; and beans. Those are South Florida winter crops. There’s nothing subtle about summer here. This is our season for sexy tropical fruit like mangos and lychees, creamy avocados, preternaturally long snake beans, and Dalmatian-sized jackfruit.
Whether you live in Miami or Maine, eating seasonal instantly means you eat sustainably, locally, with more ﬂavor and greater nutrient density. Thank your local farmer. Then thank the bees and butterﬂies. So many of the vibrant vegetables and sweet fruits of summer depend on pollinators. Enjoy.
BONUS RECIPE: Mango Freeze (courtesy image below)
This cool, creamy treat requires no ice cream maker and is a yummy way to use an overabundance of mango — or nectarines, peaches, plums, or your favorite local summer stone fruit.
Makes: 3 cups
1 13.5-ounce can full fat coconut milk
1 tablespoon evaporated cane sugar
1-½ cups mango pulp or puree (1-2 ripe mangoes)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (1 good, juicy lime)
4 tablespoons fresh orange juice (1 orange)
1 teaspoon rum (optional)
Optional garnishes: diced mango, diced crystalized ginger, shredded coconut, mint leaves
- Pour coconut milk into a small saucepan and set on high heat. Add cane sugar, stirring to dissolve. Continue stirring occasionally and let mixture come to a boil. Boil for 5-7 minutes, or until coconut milk thickens. Remove from heat and set aside to cool brieﬂy.
- Pour coconut milk into a shallow freezer-friendly container (silicone, plastic, or metal), cover and freeze for about 2 hours, until coconut milk is just shy of being frozen solid.
- In a blender or food processor, blitz together the mango pulp, lime juice, and orange juice until smooth, about a minute. Scrape the frozen coconut milk into the food processor and optional teaspoon of rum and process again, until mixture is creamy.
- Pour into freezer-friendly airtight container.
– Ellen Kanner, Huﬃngton Post’s Meatless Monday blogger, author of Feeding the Hungry Ghost: Life, Faith and What to Eat for Dinner and Oldways Vegetarian Network advisor
Summertime is no time to slave over a hot stove — instead take it outside to the grill. Take advantage of the delicious, nutritious produce that can be readily found at farmers’ markets, local grocery stores, and your own backyard garden. Fruits and vegetables on the grill are game changers: Grill up asparagus, corn, sweet red peppers, or your favorites; top with a drizzle of balsamic syrup; and you will convince the nay-sayers! One of my summer favorites is grilled Georgia peaches placed on top of a bed of greens and sprinkled with goat cheese, toasted nuts, fresh basil, and a splash of olive oil and vinegar.
– Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, Director of Nutrition for WebMD, webmd.com/kathleen-m-zelman
Eating in season while trying to maintain a budget go hand-in-hand in my kitchen. I use the sale paper to help guide my meal plan because what’s usually on sale is discounted since it’s in-season and abundant. Right now in Southern California, avocados and stone fruits are overﬂowing at the markets. Two of my favorites with avocado: Smashed Potato Nourish Bowl (courtesy image below) and Avocado Pesto Salad! For a fun twist with peaches, I like to whip up this Baked Oatmeal and Peach Pancake Gravy. Either way, your wallet and waistline will thank you when you eat fresh ﬂavors in season!
– Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT, Nutrition Communications Consultant at Shaw’s Simple Swaps, Fertility Nutrition Expert at BumpstoBaby.com, Co-Author of Fertility Foods.
Go to the market, not the recipe book. See what is fresh, gorgeous, and bursting with color and juicy plumpness. Buy just enough for dinner tonight. Or tomorrow. Don’t buy too far ahead! And then, hit the cookbooks, energized by the ingredients on hand.
– Louisa Kasdon, CEO & Founder Let’s Talk About Food LLC, www.letstalkaboutfood.com
Summer is the time to thoroughly enjoy all of the bounty that the season has to oﬀer. Fruits include berries, stone fruit, melons, grapes, and ﬁgs. Vegetables include green beans, tomatoes, squash, eggplant, and leafy greens. Most locations — even colder ones — produce local, seasonal vegetables during the summer season, when weather is warm and days are longer. Traditional diets around the world take advantage of these seasonal produce gems, and people would relish in this time of year, ﬁlling up for the year and preserving the extra bounty by drying, fermenting, and canning.
You can enjoy seasonal, local produce by visiting a farmers’ market — that’s a true way to see what’s seasonal and local, as so much of our food system is global. I live in California, and we have amazing farmers’ markets. I enjoy ﬁlling up my refrigerator each weekend with local ﬁnds. You can enjoy all manner of gorgeous produce to inspire your cooking. Today, I found tomatoes from Mexico in my supermarket, even though California can abundantly produce tomatoes in the summer time. To truly enjoy seasonal local produce, try growing things that ﬁt your region in your own garden, even if it’s just a pot on your balcony. Here is one of my favorite seasonal, local recipes relying on summer produce: Bruschetta (courtesy image below).
– Sharon Palmer, RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian, author of Plant-Powered for Life, SharonPalmer.com.
One of the simplest pleasures of summertime is the local produce available. While many nutrition-packed fruits and vegetables are available all year long, nothing beats the taste of local eats. For me, the season starts with the appearance of rhubarb leaves peeking through the ground in my garden along with the green shoots of my garlic and ends with brushing oﬀ the snow from my kale.
Farmers’ markets can be dangerous places as it is easy to buy everything in sight. Rather than loading up on too much, try to go more often and plan what you’ll be preparing. But don’t just think in terms of menu planning for the week. Instead, look ahead over the next few months. If you have a freezer, schedule your preparation depending on what’s most abundant at the time. Cook up a few pots of a pureed cauliﬂower soup when this brassica vegetable is at its peak in your area. Then divide up into appropriately-sized, labeled containers and freeze. The same goes for a minestrone soup, which can be turned into a quick dinner of ribollita with the addition of crusty whole grain bread and cheese.
Be mindful of waste and use your produce from stem to root. For example, when I remove corn kernels from the cob for dishes such as salads, I add the cob to a bag of cobs in my freezer, and when I’ve accumulated a large enough batch, I make a corn broth for use instead of chicken or vegetable broth.
Here’s one of my favourite recipes for the almost-over strawberry season (courtesy image below). But feel free to substitute other berries as you like. And if you like, double or triple the recipe for a larger crowd.
BONUS RECIPE: Strawberry, Goat Cheese and Mesclun Salad
Makes: 2 main course or 3-4 side servings
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp honey
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
⅛ tsp salt
⅛ tsp freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cups mesclun lettuce or spring mix
1 cup sliced strawberries
85 g soft goat cheese, crumbled
¼ cup thinly sliced sweet onion
1 tbsp toasted pine nuts
- In a small bowl, mix together vinegar, honey, mustard, salt and pepper. Mix in oil; set aside.
- Place lettuce, strawberries, and onions in a large bowl; add dressing and toss. Garnish with goat cheese and pine nuts and serve immediately.
– Rosie Schwartz, RD, author of The Enlightened Eater’s™ Whole Foods Guide: Harvest the Power of Phyto Foods, contributor for Parents Canada, Diabetes Dialogue, rosieschwartz.com
Living in New Jersey, there are plenty of farmers’ markets around in the summer months. I always take a few laps looking at everything the farmers’ market has available before I start loading my bags. I hardly ever buy fresh berries during the winter months, as they are not in season and tend to be more expensive. Berries are typically the ﬁrst thing I purchase at the farmers’ market. Choose berries that have a bright color and a natural shine. My latest creation I made with my farmers’ market strawberries were Crepes with Strawberry Lemon Ricotta Filling.
– Julie Harrington, RD, Culinary Nutrition Consultant of RDelicious Kitchen
When searching for the freshest and most ﬂavorful fruit, it’s best to know what grows in your area and during what season. A fruit not locally grown in your area would have traveled too far of a distance to maintain freshness, ﬂavor, and good nutrition. Once you discover the in-season and local fruit in your region, you will need to consider the weight, color, smell, and texture in order to choose the freshest fruit. Fruit that is heavy in weight compared to others will have more water, allowing for a juicier piece of fruit. Rich, vibrant color typically indicates the fruit is ripe and ready to be eaten. Fruit with a strong aroma is a good indicator the fruit will be ﬂavorful. And lastly, be sure to inspect the texture of the fruit for wrinkles. A wrinkled piece of fruit is an indication the fruit is past its peak.
Growing up in New Jersey, the summer fruit that’s local and my favorite is blueberries. I have many fond memories of making warm blueberry desserts after visiting the local farmers’ market. One of my family’s favorites is Blueberry Crumb Squares (courtesy image below). This dessert is packed with great taste and nutrient-rich ingredients.
– Kathy Siegel, MS, RDN, CDN Nutrition Consultant at Triad to Wellness
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