Bring on the summer barbeques, picnics, parties, and roasts! Summer is officially here which means great food is hitting grills across North America, and our stomachs are much happier for it. Just like Spring and Fall, there are a variety of amazing fruits and vegetables that farmers and gardeners are harvesting from their gardens and orchards.
To help you navigate the impending influx of summer produce, we thought we’d pull together a helpful guide to the seasonal harvest that can help prepare you for what will be hitting grocery store shelves and farmer’s market baskets this summer.
Not only will we discuss the top 5 most popular fruits and veggies of the season, we also provide some gardening tips for gardeners both new and advanced, interesting facts that will surprise you, and a quick reference guide to help you identify the ripest and most delicious produce.
Cauliflower is having its moment in the sun in 2019 as a popular low-carb diet alternative. Walking through the grocery isle’s you are now introduced to healthy new alternatives like cauliflower rice, pizza crust, breadsticks, and macaroni and cheese just to name a few. Since the formerly inauspicious vegetable’s meteoric rise in popularity, the rice industry has decided to fight back against the term “cauliflower rice” due to the unprecedented drop in rice sales over the past year.
Regardless of your diet or stance on the issue of whether cauliflower rice is actually rice, cauliflower the vegetable has worked its way into the hearts and stomachs of an increasingly health-conscious America, and we’re all a little bit better for it.
Interesting Fact: White cauliflower may be the most popular variety, but there are an assortment of cauliflower colors available such as:
- Orange cauliflower
- Purple cauliflower
- Green cauliflower
- Romanesco (which is beautiful and tasty)
If you want to make your next cauliflower recipe one to remember, we recommend adding a splash of color!
Grower’s Tip: Cauliflower is surprisingly difficult to grow compared to its cousin’s cabbage and broccoli. If you want to grow this amazing vegetable yourself, we recommend starting from 25-35 day old seed sprouts. Make sure that the plants are growing in loose soil and are planted in an area that receives a steady 6 – 8 hours of sunlight. The key is to make sure that temperatures consistently hover as close to 65 degrees as possible.
What To Look For: Cauliflower heads that are round with compact and evenly shaped curds. *This applies to cauliflower only, for Romanesco tips, try here.
Any serious list of summer produce is incomplete without watermelon. The watermelon may epitomize the summer season more than any other vegetable or fruit on our list. There are incalculable reasons for this, but most of them revolve around the fact that it’s ridiculously sweet, juicy, refreshing, and basically delicious in every sense of the word. This fruit is so refreshing because, as the name suggests, it’s 92% water, making it a great treat for those summer scorchers.
Although most people throw out the bitter-tasting rinds, the entire fruit is actually edible. In fact, different cultures have remarkably delectable ways of utilizing the less sought-after watermelon rinds. In China, for instances, the rinds are stir-fried, sauteed, and added to tasty dishes in a variety of ways.
Interesting Fact: The watermelon plant originates from Africa which is why the plant loves warm weather. It prefers temperatures at or above 80 degrees and plenty of sunlight.
Growers Tip: Watermelon has a longer-than-average growing time and typically take around 80 days to mature. For this reason, it is important to make sure you get your seeds in the ground when the soil temperature reaches about 70 degrees and the air temperature will hover in the 80 degrees or warmer range for the duration of its growth.
What To Look For: Look for average sized fruits that aren’t too large or too small. Fruits should be nice and green with a creamy yellow spot on them that indicates the fruit is ripe. Picking the perfect watermelon is quite complex so for more information, we recommend this farmer’s take on the matter.
When someone says “Summer Squash” they are actually referring to a variety of very closely related vegetables consisting of yellow squash, green, zucchini, golden zucchini, and more. These veggies have essentially been combined because of their family heritage, harvest time, and the stage of maturation in which they are harvested. The squash and zucchini are harvested while still immature, meaning their skin is thin and the vegetables are firm but tender and are usually characterized as having a mild flavor.
Similar to the cauliflower in popularity, summer squash, especially zucchini has fast become one of the hottest vegetables of the season thanks to the low-carb diet. “Zoodles”, as they have become known, are zucchini noodles created with a spiralizer device that can come in a variety of noodley shapes and sizes and are an extremely healthy alternative to traditional grain-based pastas.
Interesting Fact: Squash are categorized by industry professionals and gardener’s alike as either summer or winter squash. Summer squash, as mentioned, are picked while immature and during the summer, and are generally eaten. Winter squash are harvested in the fall, have thick skin, and can be edible, but are often times used for decoration or even as containers.
Growers Tip: Summer squash have a quick maturation time of about 50 – 60 days depending on who you talk to. This means that your window to get your seeds in the ground is very forgiving. Aim for late spring, early summer, or whenever there’s no longer a risk of frost.
What To Look For: Choose summer squash that are soft and firm to the touch, and that are around 5 to 6 inches in length.
Rainbow Swiss Chard
It’s hard to miss Rainbow Swiss Chard when you see it at the store or farmer’s market. The bright purple, ruby, orange, red, and yellow stalks are a beacon of color in an otherwise sea of greens. In the case of Swiss chard, and many vegetables, brighter colors are not always accurate indicators of sweetness. This hypothesis may apply to fruits, but Rainbow chard and its direct cousin Swiss chard fall squarely into the realm of the “greens” when it comes to taste.
Rainbow and Swiss chards are basically identical in every aspect except for color and are known to taste like a cross between spinach and beet greens. For those who don’t know what either kale or beet greens taste like, think of a slightly more leafy and bitter version of spinach. The stalks have a uniquely different flavor, offering a slightly sweet flavor profile that is great either raw or cooked.
Interesting Facts: Despite its uncanny resemblance to celery, Swiss chard is actually part of the Beet family.
Growers Tip: The chard family, unlike many other fruits and vegetables, do not mind the frost. For a summer harvest, plant your chard seeds 2 to 3 weeks before the final spring frost sets in.
What To Look For: Make sure you are choosing Rainbow chard with thick and full shiny green leaves without blemishes or holes in the leaves. Also, aim for stalks that are 6-8 inches long.
If you are a fan of the Allman Brothers Band, live in the state of Georgia, or enjoy a nice cobbler dessert, then you probably consider yourself a big fan of the peach. These velvet-skinned, orange and yellow fruits typically reach peak deliciousness from late June through August and are about as close to a summer delicacy as you can get. In fact, the people of the great state of Georgia love the fruit so much that each year they bake the world’s largest peach cobbler for the annual Georgia Peach Festival, the most gigantic of which measured in at 11 feet by 5 feet and was 8 inches deep.
Few people are aware that peach trees can do more than produce intoxicatingly good fruit. They also have ornamental properties, producing beautiful white and pink flowers throughout the early spring and before the tree begins producing its leaves.
Interesting Fact: The saying “You’re a real peach” is a term of endearment that originated when someone would give a person that they liked or enjoyed their company, a peach.
Growers Tip: If you want to grow your very own peach tree, you can do so with the pit of the next peach you eat. All you have to do is wait until fall, find a location that receives plenty of sunlight, place the seed in a hole that 3 to 4 inches deep, and cover with hay or mulch for “overwintering.” Don’t feel like waiting until Fall? You can germinate your seeds now by following the instruction in this video tutorial!
What To Look For: The most important indicator of a ripe, ready to eat peach is how firm it is. If the fruit has a little “give” when you press the top portion of the fruit near the stem, then you’ve got yourself a good one.
Prepare yourself for the parties, cookouts, and lazy days of summer ahead with our Botanist’s Guide to Summer Cocktails!
Want more Hungry Gardener’s Guides? Check out the other guides!
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