In August, there are so many types of foods ripening in the fields and on the trees, I am just like a kid in a candy store when I hit up my local Farmers Market.
Have you been to the market lately?
I truly believe that we need to support our farmers and shopping at your nearest market is the best way to do that. More of the cash goes in your farmer’s pocket, and you get the freshest food available to you, that you can’t or won’t grow yourself.
The following is a breakdown of what foods are in season in August in most parts of the United States.
Note: This list will vary depending on where you live!
August Farmer’s Market Guide
Health benefits: Vitamins A and C, beta-carotene, fiber (well-reputed for keeping doctors away)
What to look for: I could tell you to buy apples that are firm and free from bruises, but you already knew that. Give your apple a sniff. A good fresh apple will smell like a good fresh apple.
Tip: Yes, apples are available all year long, but they are at their absolute best when you get ‘em fresh off the trees. Buy organic apples when possible because of how heavily sprayed this tree fruit is.
Health benefits: Vitamins A and C, potassium, copper, fiber, antioxidants
What to look for: Choose apricots with rich, orange-colored skin. They should be soft to the touch and smell like apricots.
Tip: Try drying your own apricots in the oven or food dehydrator. (If you turn your oven on its lowest setting and prop the door open, it will dehydrate your halved apricots in about 8 hours.)
Health benefits: Cancer prevention, antioxidants, fiber, liver health, digestive aid and hangover cure.
What to look for: Squeeze the leaves. Fresh artichokes have squeaky leaves. Choose small artichokes for the sweetest hearts.
Tip: Best enjoyed steamed for 15 or 20 minutes
Health benefits: Anti-inflammatory, carotenoids, vitamins B6, C, E, and K, magnesium, potassium, folate, fiber
What to look for: Gently squeeze the ends of the avocado. If you have some give, the fruit is ripe. If it’s very soft, it is probably overripe. If it’s hard, it’s underripe and needs more time on the counter before slicing into it. Also, you can pull off the little stem to check the color—it should be greenish, not brown.
Tip: To store your avocado once it has been opened, squeeze fresh lemon juice on the exposed flesh and store it in the fridge, wrapped in plastic wrap. It should be eaten within a day or so.
Health benefits: Magnesium, Vitamin C, fiber, folate
What to look for: Choose beets that are heavy for their size, with no surface cuts or nicks.
Tip: Enjoy beets raw in juice or salads, or you can cook them in a variety of ways: steamed, stir fried, or roasted. (They are best with a squeeze of lemon juice and some butter.)
Health benefits: Vitamins A and K
What to look for: Select beet greens that are a bright, deep green and fresh looking. They should not be wilted and limp.
Tip: When you get your beet greens home, give them a good rinse before chopping them into bite-sized pieces. I like them steamed with a squirt of vinegar. They are delicious with a serving of fresh fish.
Health benefits: Antioxidants, fiber, folate, anti-inflammatory, vitamins C, K, and E
What to look for: Choose blackberries that are black in color, which is an indication that they’re fully ripe. Sniff the berries. If they are too sweet smelling, they’re overripe. If they don’t smell like berries, they are underripe. They should smell slightly sweet.
Tips: When storing blackberries, don’t use containers more than 5 inches deep because the berries at the bottom will be bruised. A 9×13 inch pan does the trick!
Health benefits: Fiber, Vitamin C, manganese, antioxidants
What to look for: Look for blueberries with a deep blue or purple black color and a nice silvery sheen.
Tip: Do not wash your blueberries before you store them. For easy freezing, spread blueberries onto a cookie sheet and pop in the freezer. Store them in containers after they’re frozen.
Health benefits: Vitamins A, C, and K, calcium, antioxidants
What to look for: Baby bok choy is better in my opinion than the bigger bok choy, so get the little ones if you can. Leaves should be nice and crisp.
Tip: The green leaves should be separated from the big white stalks as the leaves take very little time to cook and the white takes a little longer, so cook the chopped stalks first, add the leaves at the end of cooking.
Health benefits: Fiber, folate, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, phytochemicals and vitamins A, C, K, B-6, and E.
What to look for: Choose heads with tight green and brightly colored buds. Yellowing is a sign of broccoli past its prime. Stalks should seem young and tender. Look for moisture where the broccoli was cut at the stem. That’s a sign it was just picked.
Tip: Enjoy broccoli in stir fries, eaten raw with other veggies or added to soups and salads.
Health benefits: Vitamin C, fiber, folate, manganese, omega 3 fatty acids
What to look for: Cabbage should be brightly colored and firm to the touch.
Tip: Cut your cabbage in quarters before cutting up to use (unless you’re making cabbage rolls!). Having the cabbage quartered makes it easier to slice. Store by wrapping plastic wrap around the cut pieces. Use up within a few days to prevent too much vitamin C loss.
Health benefits: Vitamins A, B, C, and K, copper, potassium, folate, fiber
What to look for: To choose a ripe cantaloupe, start by picking cantaloupes that are heavier than they look. When you have a good heavy one for its size, tap it and listen for a deep, dull sound to indicate that it’s ripe. If the sound is hollow and high, it’s probably not quite ready to be eaten yet. When you press the stem end of a ripe cantaloupe with your thumb, it should give away a little bit. If it feels squishy, it’s probably overripe. Smell the bottom end of the cantaloupe, and if it smells like a cantaloupe, it’s probably ripe. If it smells extremely sweet, it’s past its prime. No scent at all? It’s not ready.
Tip: If you purchase an underripe cantaloupe, you can keep it on the counter at room temperature for a day or two, but only if it’s whole and intact.
Health benefits: Vitamin A, beta carotene, fiber
What to look for: Choose stiff and unbending carrots. If carrots are limp, they’re not fresh. If the tops are attached, they should be fresh and bright green.
Tip: Remove the greens when storing carrots. Keep carrots wrapped loosely in plastic in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer. New carrots need only be scrubbed and eaten raw or steamed until tender.
Health benefits: Cancer fighting abilities, digestive aid, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, B vitamins and Vitamin K.
What to look for: Choose cauliflower with creamy white curds and firmly attached, bright green leaves. Avoid cauliflower with loose sections or brown spots.
Tip: Take the stem off your cauliflower, and keep the cauliflower in an opened plastic bag in the fridge. It will last a good week or longer. Best enjoyed raw or lightly steamed.
Health benefits: Anti inflammatory, fiber, vitamins A, E, and C
What to look for: Choose fruit with the stem still attached. The stem should be nice and green and not wilted. A fresh looking stem is a sign that the fruit was picked recently.
Tip: Cherries bruise easily, and they are very perishable. Cherries will only stay fresh in the fridge for a few days, so eat them shortly after bringing them home.
Health benefits: Manganese, B vitamins, fiber, antioxidants
What to look for: Choose ears that feel plump. The silk coming from the top of the husk should be pale golden yellow and slightly sticky.
Tip: Only buy corn if you can find it organic. You’ll notice farmers bragging about their organic, pesticide-free grown corn. Organic=GMO free, fyi.
Health benefits: Anti-inflammatory, magnesium, manganese, silica, cancer prevention, vitamins C, K, and B5
What to look for: Choose firm cucumbers with no soft spots.
Tip: Enjoy sliced into salad or chopped up and served alongside spicy curry dishes.
Health benefits: Folate, fiber, potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, calcium, B vitamins, Vitamin A
What to look for: Don’t purchase eggplants with bruises or tan patches. A ripe eggplant will be smooth with shiny skin. It will be heavy for its size, and when you gently press its skin, your finger should leave an imprint.
Tip: Sprinkle your cut eggplant with salt and let it sit for an hour, to cut bitterness. Of course rinse the salt off before using. The skin of an eggplant is edible, but it may also be removed.
Health benefits: Vitamin B6, potassium, manganese, fiber
What to look for: Fresh figs are extremely perishable, so buy them the day before you need them. Choose figs that are free of bruises, plump and that smell mildly sweet. When shopping for dried figs, make sure they’re soft and watch out for mold.
Tip: Keep ripe figs in the fridge on a paper towel-lined plate. Do not cover them or they will dry out. If you’ve purchased under-ripe figs, store them on a plate at room temperature and don’t set them in direct light.
Health benefits: Rich in vitamins, lowers cholesterol, good for heart health, lowers blood pressure, antiviral and antibacterial, prevents cancer, and aids in iron absorption.
What to look for: Choose smooth, blemish-free garlic bulbs with no sprouting or signs of decay.
Tip: Garlic burns quickly, so when adding minced garlic to your cooking, add it in closer to the end, and never toss right into a hot pan or it will turn bitter.
Health benefits: Vitamin B2 and K, copper, antioxidants
What to look for: Ripe grapes are nice and plump. They should be firmly attached to their stems.
Tip: Give your grapes a rinse and freeze them for a nice summer treat.
Health benefits: Vitamin A, Vitamin C, folate, potassium, manganese, fiber
What to look for: When shopping for green beans, to make sure they’re fresh, snap one in half. If it breaks when bent, the bean is fresh. If it bends along with you, it’s old!
Tip: Don’t boil green beans for more than seven minutes or they will turn a brownish color on you. Four or five minutes in the boiling water should be enough to cook fresh young green beans.
HONEY DEW MELON
Health benefits: Vitamin B6 and C, potassium
What to look for: When you’re shopping for honeydews they ought to have a smooth, almost velvety surface and feel heavy in weight. And don’t forget the sniff test–a ripe melon will tell you it’s ready to refrigerate by its smell!
Tip: Honeydew is a great snack to include in your diet if you’re trying to lose weight. Add a little string cheese and you’ve got salt and sweet together; very complimentary and satisfying.
Health benefits: Fiber, iron, vitamins C and K, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, liver health, calcium, sulfur, digestive aid
What to look for: Leaves should be brightly colored and crisp with no signs of wilting.
Tip: Toss kale leaves into salads, stir fries, and soups. Juice it, braise it, and make it into chips. Kale=love.
Health benefits: Vitamins A, B6, C, E and K, manganese, copper, folate, iron, fiber, magnesium, calcium, omega-3 fatty acid
What to look for: Leeks should have nice long white stems. Look for crisp-looking leeks with their stem attached.
Tip: For optimal health benefits, let your chopped leeks rest for at least 5 minutes after you cut them, before cooking.
LIMA BEANS (BUTTER BEANS)
Health benefits: Vitamin B1 and B6, fiber, copper, manganese, folate, phosphorus, protein, potassium, iron, magnesium
What to look for: It’s not easy to come by fresh lima beans, so if you find them at the market, buy them! Look for firm, dark green beans that are free of blemishes.
Tip: Because they’re so hardy, lima beans make a perfect soup bean.
Health benefits: Vitamins A and C, antioxidants, fiber
What to look for: A ripe nectarine will smell good enough to eat! Gently press the fruit with your thumb and if there’s some give to it, the fruit is ripe.
Tip: Enjoy nectarines raw in salads or grilled for a delicious treat when served with Greek yogurt.
Health benefits: Vitamins A, C and K.
What to look for: Choose small, bright green and unblemished pods that are crisp and firm to the touch.
Tip: Okra is normally prepared by cutting away the crown and tip and cutting the rest of the pod into circular bite-size pieces.
Health benefits: Vitamins B1, B6 and C, manganese, copper, fiber, phosphorus, potassium, folate
What to look for: Buy onions that have crisp, dry outer skins. They should not have sprouting or dark patches.
Tip: Cut onions should be stored in a sealed container and used within a couple of days, before they start losing their nutritional benefits.
Health benefits: Fiber, vitamins C and A
What to look for: Use your whole hand to gently check if the flesh of the peach has some give to it (the pressure of your fingertips might leave bruises). The skin of a ripe peach will look creamy yellow or golden in color.
Tip: Peaches are good for sweet or savory dishes. They can be eaten out of hand, chopped into salads, or served atop pork chops.
Health benefits: Vitamin C and K, fiber, copper, antioxidants
What to look for: Pears should not be hard, but they should be slightly firm to the touch. Look for smooth skin that’s free of bruises. And don’t buy pears with puncture wounds.
Tip: Sliced pears are perfection on top of a salad.
Health benefits: Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, manganese, protein, fiber, folate, phosphorous, magnesium, copper, iron, potassium, zinc, omega 3, blood sugar regulator, vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, C, and K
What to look for: Choose peas with velvety pods that are smooth and firm. Avoid peas with pods that are yellowish or light green in color. You can tell how full the pods are by shaking them. If there’s a rattling sound, there’s probably too much empty room in that pod.
Tip: I enjoy peas raw, but they are also delicious in soups or steamed and served as a side dish.
Health benefits: Vitamin C, beta-carotene
What to look for: Choose firm peppers that sound hollow and are free of wrinkles.
Tip: As the pepper gets more ripe, it not only has a better taste, but it also gets more nutritious. Enjoy peppers raw, roasted, or in a stir fry.
Health benefits: Vitamins A and C, fiber
What to look for: Look for smooth-skinned plums without discoloration.
Tip: Eat them while they are at their ripest because not only will they be as sweet as can be, but they’ll also be at their max for antioxidants. Also, refrigerate your ripe plums. The coolness will be refreshing in the heat, and they’re juicier when cold.
Health benefits: Vitamin B6 and C, potassium, fiber, antioxidants
What to look for: Look for clean, smooth potatoes that are firm to the touch with no cuts, bruises or discolorations.
Tip: Because of how heavily sprayed potatoes are, you should only buy organic.
Health benefits: Fiber, vitamins C and K, cancer prevention, folate, B vitamins, manganese, potassium, iron, magnesium, calcium, copper, zinc, sodium
What to look for: Choose radishes with medium-sized firm, crisp roots. Smaller is better when it comes to choosing radishes. Leaves should look crisp, be in tact, and be of good color. Radishes should not be soft or wilted.
Tip: Radishes are delicious sliced into salads and eaten raw, but they also add a nice spice to a pot of vegetable soup. You can roast radishes for another unique spin. Radish sprouts are amazing in a salad, giving it a nice peppery heat. Store your radishes in the crisper drawer of the fridge for no more than one week.
Health benefits: Cancer fighter, fiber, potassium, calcium, lutein, zeaxanthin, folate
What to look for: Choose fully ripe raspberries—those that are slightly soft, plump, and deep in color. Avoid overripe raspberries that are very soft or mushy.
Tip: Raspberries go moldy quickly, so you should eat them the day they’ve been picked. Important: Do not wash raspberries until you’re just ready to use them. You can also freeze them to enjoy later.
Health benefits: Fiber, potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, Vitamin C and cancer prevention.
What to look for: Choose rutabaga with purplish skin. Avoid bruised or blemished rutabagas. If there are green shoots coming from the rutabaga, it’s overripe.
Tip: Enjoy rutabagas in soups, baked (rutabaga fries!) or mashed with sweet potatoes.
Health benefits: Vitamins A, B6, C and K, fiber, iron, folic acid, niacin, thiamin
What to look for: Buy snow peas that are bright green, fresh looking and crisp.
Tip: Double up on the snow peas next time you make a stir fry. Eat them hot for dinner one night, refrigerate overnight, and recycle them into a salad for lunch the following day. They’ll have a completely different feel and you’ll get a two-fer; cooked once, eaten twice in two different ways!
Health benefits: B vitamins, vitamins C and E, omega 3 fatty acids, beta carotene, glutathione, and an endless list of additional minerals and phytonutrients. Fights heart disease, macular degeneration, cancer, and cataracts!
What to look for: Dark green leaves that are not bruised, wilted, or slimy. The smaller the leaf, the tastier the spinach.
Tip: Get more leafy greens into you by adding a couple handfuls of organic spinach to your morning smoothie.
Health benefits: Potassium, iron, calcium, Vitamin C, flavonoids, antioxidants, fiber, folate
What to look for: Choose organic red berries with no signs of bruising or mold.
Tip: Freeze strawberries to have on hand for smoothies.
SUMMER SQUASH (yellow squash and zucchini)
Health benefits: Vitamins A and C, folate, fiber, magnesium, potassium
What to look for: Choose zucchini or yellow squash that are less than eight inches long and firm, with bright skin. Organic is important for yellow squash!
Tip: Enjoy summer squashes grilled, steamed, roasted, or raw. Fabulous chopped up in stir fries, or try them grated as well—raw and cooked.
Health benefits: Cancer fighter, lycopene
How to choose: Choose deeply colored tomatoes that are firm and free of wrinkles. Tomatoes should smell sweet.
Tip: Tomatoes can be eaten raw, roasted, grilled, or sauteed. Freeze these summer beauties for later cooking use in the middle of winter.
Health benefits: Fiber, calcium, potassium, digestive aid, anti-inflammatory, manganese, antioxidants, and vitamins A, C, and E.
What to look for: Choose turnips free of scars or soft spots. Choose small turnips that are firm to the touch with fresh leafy green tops.
Tip: Add chopped turnips to almost all of your different salads: chicken salad, tuna salad, apple fruit salad, etc. They can also be easily added to most stews and soups.
Health benefits: Vitamin C and chromium.
What to look for: Choose onions that are firm with no visible signs of decay. Skins should be dry, and the onions should not be sprouting.
Tip: Vidalia onions should not be eaten raw.
Health benefits: Potassium, Vitamin C
What to look for: Choose a blemish-free specimen with a creamy yellow underside (this is the side it was growing on). The melon should feel heavy—remember, it’s about 90% water.
Tip: Cut leftover watermelon into chunks (removing seeds and rind), place in a blender, and blend till pureed and smooth. Freeze the juice in ice cube trays and add to lemonade for a refreshing and colorful drink!