What's in Season

Blueberries are my favorite fruit. So it's sad to see the time come, usually in mid-August, when price of the pint containers in my local supermarket starts rising, and then they disappear from some places altogether.

Such is the cost of eating seasonally. But the benefits definitely outweigh the drawbacks. After all, even as I say goodbye to my beloved blueberries, there are other favorites coming into season. Like tomatoes and basil, for instance. I make a traditional Caprese sandwich on rustic rolls, along with some fresh mozzarella, a drizzle of good olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and a sprinkling of flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. In my household, this sandwich is in frequent rotation until the season for good, juicy tomatoes is over.

Depending on where you live, your local fresh produce offerings will change dramatically, but here are some fruits and vegetables to look for at your neighborhood farmers’ market, or if you're lucky enough to have a supermarket that also carries locally grown produce.

Get ‘Em While You Can

Before the weather gets much cooler, get your last fix of sweet corn, because it won't be around much longer. Look for a green husk, a silk that's golden and not dried out. A ripe corn kernel will give off a milky liquid if it's pierced with your fingernail. Eat your corn the day you buy it-it loses its sweetness quickly.

Watermelon is also on its way out. Look for a yellowish patch on the underside, where it sat on the ground to ripen, and a dried stem. Cut watermelon should be bright red and not frosty looking. 

Figs are also a favorite of late summer and early fall. They should be heavy for their size, with a yielding skin. Try serving them quartered, with goat cheese or blue cheese, and drizzled with honey.

And don't forget about tomatoes. If you can't stand the pale, mealy, flavorless hothouse versions that are available the rest of the year, eat your fill of the field-ripened varieties that are in abundance during the last warm weeks. At farmers’ markets, check out some of the more unusual heirloom varieties with the intriguing colors and names, such as Black Krim, Green Zebra, and Mortgage Lifter. The best way to enjoy the subtle flavor contrasts and colorful appearance of these varieties is simply to quarter them and toss them with salt, pepper and a little olive oil for an easy salad. Or why not try canning them for the long winter?

At Its Peak

Many a joke has been made about bumper crops of zucchini, which is certainly bountiful this time of year. Luckily, there's plenty you can do with zucchini to maximize this abundance—it can be eaten raw, particularly if grated or peeled into strips, or it can be roasted or stir-fried, or baked into bread. A perfectly ripe zucchini should be firm, shiny, heavy and unblemished.

It's also a good time to enjoy cucumbers and eggplant, both of which should be firm and unblemished. To cut the bitterness in eggplant, slice it, sprinkle it with salt, and let it drain for 10 minutes before cooking. You can grill eggplant for a meatless sandwich, or layer it into lasagna.

Green beans are at their peak right now-look for crisp, unwilted beans, which you can refrigerate in a plastic bag for a few days before using.

It's a good time of year to enjoy broccoli, which will be around for the next few months. When choosing broccoli, the head should be dark green and tightly packed, with little or no yellow tinge. The stems should be firm and the leaves crisp.

And, of course, it's the start of apple season, particularly if you're in the north. With around 2,500 varieties available, you're sure to find one you like, whether you prefer your apples to be crisp and tart, or sweeter.

For more information about what's in season, Californians can check out this chart, while those in New Jersey or other Northeastern states can look at New Jersey State's in-season chart. If you're looking for a farmers’ market in your area, the USDA has a helpful database that can make your search easier. 

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