By : Leanne Ely
This is one of my favorite months to visit the farmers market because all of the things I love (well, almost all of them!) are ripe for the picking.
If you don’t know what’s freshest and in season right now, this guide will help. You’ll also get the low-down on why each food is good for you, how to check it for ripeness, and a tip for each and every one.
This list will obviously vary depending on where in the country you live, so please keep that in mind.
Here’s what’s in season in July in most parts of the United States
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: Zinc, magnesium, calcium, disease prevention, 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, smaller 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—your evoo is perfect!
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: 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: 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: 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: Fiber, potassium, B vitamins, vitamin A and C
What to look for: When shopping for grapefruit, choose unblemished fruits that feel heavy for their size.
Tip: Even though you’re not eating its peel, you should always rinse grapefruit under clean water before cutting into it. Cutting into fruit that hasn’t been washed can transfer dirt, chemicals, and bacteria from the surface of the peel to the part you’re about to eat.
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: Vitamin C, fiber, antioxidants
What to look for: Ripe kiwi is firm and should give slightly when pressed.
Tip: If your kiwi is underripe, place it in a paper bag with a banana or an apple, and it will ripen in a day or two.
Health benefits: Vitamin C, fiber, 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: Vitamin C, pectin, magnesium, limonene
What to look for: Lemon peels should be bright yellow and glossy, without a hint of green. The fruit should be firm, plump, and heavy for its size.
Tip: Choose smooth, thin-skinned lemons for juicing, and bumpy thick-skinned lemons for zesting.
Health benefits: Phosphorous, fiber, folate, 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: Flavonoids, anti-carcinogens, citric acid, Vitamin C
What to look for: Limes should be heavy for their size with a deep green, glossy skin.
Tip: Squirt lime juice on your salads and into your marinades, or squeeze some into your daily juice or smoothie to obtain its benefits, rather than drinking straight lime juice (sour!).
Health benefits: Fiber, iron, vitamins C and K, riboflavin
What to look for: Select mulberries that are nice and plump. They should not be green or pale yellow. This goes without saying, but don’t buy bruised, soft, and bleeding mulberries!
Tip: Before washing your mulberries, put them in a sealed plastic bag in the fridge, and use within one week. Wash before serving.
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: Fiber, iron, copper, phytonutrients, Vitamin A
What to look for: In the case of passion fruit, you want to look for fruits with wrinkled skin as that’s an indication of ripeness. Passion fruit that is hard should be avoided.
Tip: To enjoy passion fruit, cut it in half and scoop out the yummy pulp. The seeds are edible, but if you prefer, you can strain the flesh of the passion fruit through cheesecloth to avoid them.
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: 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: 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: Calcium, lutein (good for your eyes and your skin!), antioxidants, 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. Rhubarb is 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. 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: 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!