Summer is in full swing, which means you’re popping sweet, succulent blueberries, sipping refreshing cucumber water, and soaking up some sun. Life is good, and that feeling is palpable in all the lush fruits and vegetables that are thriving right now.
July is the peak of the summer growing season. Ample sunshine and heat gets fruits revving up and vegetables kicking into high gear. There’s a reason farmers call summer the easy season.
Eating seasonally has so many benefits—for one, peak season means peak flavor and nutrition. Most likely, in-season produce has been grown closer to you and harvested at their prime, rather than harvested prematurely in order to ship, all the while losing flavor and nutritional value. The abundance of in-season produce makes it affordable, too. And when unusual fruits, vegetables, and herbs pop up at the farmers market or produce section, you just might be inspired to pick up a pluot and expand your horizons, adding nutritional and flavor variety into your diet.
So what should you be shopping for right now? With some help from Alexandra Agajanian, co-chair of Slow Food Los Angeles, we’ve got your guide to the best of what July has to offer.
Apricots, plums, pluots (a plum-apricot hybrid), and yellow peaches season starts in May, but by July they are at their sweetest and most tart. No matter how ripe the fruit, they will only have the amount of sugar they had when they were picked, so this is prime time for these stone fruits.
While some berries are waning, blueberries are going strong. North America is the world’s top producer of these antioxidant powerhouses.
Picnics and prosciutto would be nothing without melons—cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon are a mid-summer dream.
Figs and green mangoes are on the verge of ripeness, gearing up for their end of summer peak. Also, get ready for grapes—their season starts right now.
With all kinds of tomatoes—red, yellow, green, and everything in between—thriving right now, it’s so hard to choose. Salsa medley, anyone? Or maybe a cooling gazpacho.
Green beans should be eaten early on in their seed stages, which is now. Choose ones that are crisp and firm. Once they mature (they’ll be limp and rubbery), they’re past their prime and will be harder to digest.
Summer squash, like zucchini, are perfect in a summer salad. Choose one that is small or medium, and as heavy as possible, with a soft, unblemished rind.
Summer heat brings super sweet bell peppers in July. Chile peppers are getting fired up now, but will be even spicier towards the end of summer when they’ve had more time to develop capsaicin, which gives them their piquancy.
Eggplant is about to peak as well. Choose a heavy one with smooth, shiny, vibrant skin. Gently press the skin with your thumb—if it springs back without leaving an indentation, it’s ripe.
Legumes and Grains
July is the beginning of fresh bean harvests, including lima beans. Every year, farmers expect corn stalks to be thigh-high by July, so right now these crops will be booming. Just look out for organic corn if you want to avoid GMOs.
Pick up some herbaceous basil, chives, dill, thyme, oregano, turmeric, and lavender this month for fragrant summer salads and cocktails.
Just in time to beat the heat, these seasonal foods will give your meals the freshness you crave at your summer picnics and alfresco dinners. Paired with all the organic spices and high-quality pantry staples you can find on Thrive Market, you'll have everything you need for scintillating summer meals.
Photo credit: Maja Petric via Unsplash