By: Leanne Ely
There’s just nothing like watching those little green tendrils poking up from the soil! I grow as much of my own food as I can, but I have neither the acreage nor the time to grow everything myself. It’s also just not always necessary (I don’t need to grow my own mangoes, but I do like one every once in awhile). So, for the foods I don’t grow myself, I rely on the local farmers market.
I strongly suggest you become a regular visitor of your own local farmers market. To help you plan your weekly shopping trip, I’ve put together the following guide to show you what you might find in season right now, how to use the foods in your cooking, why they’re good for you, and how to select for ripeness.
Depending on where you live and how your growing season is going, this list will obviously vary.
Here’s what’s in season in the Northern United States in May
Health benefits: Folate, dietary fiber, protein, copper, potassium, and vitamins K, B1, B2, B3, B6, A, E and C. Asparagus helps regulate blood sugar, has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and it may even prevent several types of cancer.
What to look for: Choose stalks that are rounded, not fat or twisted. They should be firm with closed purplish or dark green tips.
Tip: Store your asparagus upright in a cup of water in the fridge or with the ends wrapped in damp paper towel. Eat your asparagus within a day or two of purchasing. Best steamed just until it turns a bright shade of green.
Health benefits: Magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, calcium and vitamins A, B, C and D. Dandelion greens are commonly used in contemporary herbal medicine because of their diuretic properties. They’re used to suppress appetite and as a digestive aid.
What to look for: Choose pale green leaves (the pale green leaves are tastiest), and get them before the plant flowers.
Tip: Wrap them in damp paper towels, and keep them in the fridge for up to a week. You can freeze dandelion greens after they’re cooked. Best raw in salads or wilted like spinach.
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: Rich in vitamins, lowers cholesterol, good for heart health, lowers blood pressure, antiviral and antibacterial, prevents cancer and aids in absorption of iron.
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: Phosphorous, fiber, folate and vitamins A, C and K.
What to look for: Avoid heads with wilted leaves.
Tip: If you’ve purchased a head of living lettuce, keep it in its original packaging and wash just before you use it. Enjoy lettuce raw in salads or juices.
Health benefits: Protein, selenium, copper, potassium, phosphorous, iron, calcium, zinc, niacin, magnesium, riboflavin, folate, antioxidants and B vitamins.
What to look for: Choose mushrooms with light-colored gills. The undersides should be nice and tight.
Tip: Store mushrooms in a brown paper bag in the fridge for no more than ten days. Enjoy raw or fried. Save the woody stalks for flavoring stocks.
Health benefits: Fiber, vitamins C and K, cancer prevention, folate, B vitamins, manganese, potassium, iron, magnesium, calcium, copper, zinc and 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. Leaves should be in tact. 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. 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: Calcium, lutein (good for your eyes and your skin!), antioxidants and Vitamin K.
What to look for: Firm stalks that are crisp and not limp.
Tip: You’ll find rhubarb stalks sold at farmers markets and in grocery stores, usually in two-pound bunches. You’ll yield about 3/4 of a cup of cooked rhubarb from a pound of stalks. Excellent stewed with honey.
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.
Tip: Get more leafy greens into yourself by adding a couple handfuls of organic spinach to your morning smoothie.
Health benefits: Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, manganese, protein, fiber, folate, phosphorous, magnesium, copper, iron, potassium, zinc, omega 3, blood sugar regulator and 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: Cancer fighter, fiber, potassium, calcium, lutein, zeaxanthin and 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 extremely quickly, so you should eat them the day they’ve been picked. You also shouldn’t wash them until you’re just ready to use them. Or freeze and enjoy later.
Health benefits: Potassium, iron, calcium, Vitamin C, flavonoids, antioxidants, fiber and 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.
Health benefits: Zinc, magnesium, calcium, disease prevention, and vitamins A, B, C and K.
What to look for: Larger arugula leaves tend to be more peppery than the smaller leaves, so you might want to save the larger ones for cooking and use the milder leaves for raw salads.
Tip: Your body will make better use of some of arugula’s nutrition when eaten raw and others when cooked. So, it’s a good idea to switch things up from time to time. Some of the compounds in arugula are best absorbed when paired with fat. This is the perfect place to add an olive oil dressing.
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: 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: 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: Vitamin A, beta carotene, and fiber.
What to look for: Choose stiff and unbending carrots. If it’s limp, it’s 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: Fiber, iron, vitamins C and K, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, liver health, calcium, sulfur and 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.
Health benefits: Lowers cholesterol, prevents cancer, vitamins C and E, manganese, beta-carotene, detox, anti-inflammatory and fiber.
What to look for: Choose nicely colored green leaves with no dark spots or blemishes. There should be no wilting.
Tip: Do not overcook.
Health benefits: Reduces gassiness , anti-nausea, anti-inflammatory, immunity boost, cancer prevention, cures heartburn and eases migraine pain.
What to look for: Choose ginger root heavy for its size. It should smell spicy, and it should be firm with smooth skin. Avoid wrinkled ginger.
Tip: Freeze your ginger root for easy grating
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: Vitamin C, fiber and cancer prevention.
What to look for: Choose firm kohlrabi with no bruising. You can find purple kohlrabi or light green kohlrabi—of the two varieties, the green one is sweeter, while the purple has a bit of a spicy kick to it. Young kohlrabi is tastiest, so look for smaller kohlrabi at the market.
Tip: Kohlrabi delivers different health benefits when cooked and raw. Try raw kohlrabi grated into a salad or served braised or roasted as a side dish.
Health benefits: Anti inflammatory, fiber, and 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: Anti-inflammatory, magnesium, manganese, silica, cancer prevention and 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: Cancer fighter and 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.
Health benefits: Vitamin C and 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.
Here’s what’s in season in the Southern United States in May
Health benefits: Fiber, vitamins A and C, folic acid, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, and phosphorous.
What to look for: Don’t focus on color. It is not the best indicator of ripeness. Instead, squeeze the mango gently. A ripe mango will give slightly. Ripe mangos will sometimes have a fruity aroma at their stem ends. Mangoes will continue ripening when left at room temperature. You may speed up ripening by placing mangoes in a paper bag at room temperature.
Tip: Once ripe, mangos should be moved to the refrigerator, which will slow down the ripening process. Whole, ripe mangos may be stored for up to five days in the refrigerator.
Health benefits: Fiber, potassium, phosphorus, vitamins A and C, calcium and digestive aid.
What to look for: Pull a leaf from the top center of the pineapple. If it comes out easily, it’s ripe.
Tip: Enjoy pineapple raw or grilled.
Health benefits: Antioxidants, fiber,folate, anti-inflammatory and 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: Vitamins A and C, antioxidants and 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: Fiber and 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, served in salads or atop pork chops.
SUMMER SQUASH (yellow squash and zucchini)
Health benefits: Vitamins A and C, folate, fiber, magnesium and potassium.
What to look for: Choose zucchini or yellow squash that are less than eight inches long and firm, with bright skin.
Tip: Enjoy summer squash grilled, steamed, roasted or raw.
FAVA BEANS (aka BROAD BEANS)
Health benefits: Fiber, protein and iron.
What to look for: Select pods that are firm and filled along the entire length. If you choose pods with the smallest bumps, you’ll get the youngest beans.
Tip: Try fava beans fried with the skin cut open with a bit of salt.
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: 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: magnesium, Vitamin C, fiber and 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: Potassium and 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!
Health benefits: Lower cholesterol, fiber, folate, vitamins C and K, cancer preventing.
What to look for: I prefer to purchase brussels sprouts right from the stalk at the market. These tiny cabbages should be smooth and free of blemishes.
Tip: Undercook. Undercook. Undercook.
Health benefits: Fiber, folate, vitamins A, C and K.
What to look for: Choose endive with crisp yellow and white leaves.
Tip: Wash only when ready to use. Enjoy raw in salads or as a cooked side dish.
Now that you know what’s in season, let’s get cookin’ good lookin’! Check out our brightest and best answer to what’s for dinner, Dinner Answers!