Sunshine, beach days, camping, cookouts—there’s a lot to love about summer. My favorite part of summer is when the seasonal summer vegetables hit my community farmer’s market. Strolling past table after table laden with freshly picked berries, heirloom tomatoes, and green vegetables galore makes me happy deep in my soul.
Summer’s also ripe (no pun intended) for getting out and digging in the dirt in your own backyard or patio planter boxes. Even if you don’t have a lot of space or a green thumb, you can get started with a little herb garden or a single tomato plant. There’s something incredibly satisfying about eating food you grew, even if it’s just sprinkling fresh parsley over your spaghetti squash chicken parmesan. You’ll feel like you’re starring in your own cooking show once you master that technique of sprinkling herbs and finishing salt from high above the plate. Bam!
The point is, fresh fruits and vegetables are one of the highlights of the season, so take full advantage of what these summer months have to offer.
8 Summer Fruits and Vegetables We Love
Depending on where you live, you might be able to harvest asparagus anywhere from late winter to early summer. Green asparagus is most common, but don’t miss the opportunity to try the purple or white varieties if you find them. All types of asparagus are delicious grilled, sautéed, or roasted, but take care not to overcook it. Limp, slimy asparagus is less than appealing. Or don’t cook it at all! Try shaving raw asparagus into salads using a vegetable peeler.
How to store asparagus: Trim the ends off the spears, then stand the asparagus upright in a jar of water in the fridge. Asparagus only keeps for a few days, so use it asap.
How to preserve asparagus: Asparagus can be frozen or pressure canned, though both change the texture significantly (and not always pleasantly). Also try pickling it.
How to freeze asparagus: Trim off the woody ends before freezing. Optionally chop the spears into two or three pieces each. Blanch the asparagus for two minutes for thin spears or up to four minutes for thick spears. Freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet, then transfer to an airtight container.
Freshly picked berries are one of the absolute highlights of summer. Even low-carb and keto folks make allowances for berries due to their high nutritional value and relatively low carbohydrate content compared to a lot of other fruits. You’ll find all manner of berries at your summer farmer’s market, including blueberries, strawberries, and “brambles,” the family of berries that includes raspberries, boysenberries, blackberries, huckleberries, and marionberries, among others.
How to store berries: To wash or not to wash, that is the question… and there’s no clear answer. Some people argue that you shouldn’t wash berries until you’re ready to eat them. Others claim that you should give them a dunk in a 3:1 solution of water and white vinegar to kill mold spores and prolong shelf life. (Except raspberries—everyone seems to agree that you shouldn’t wash raspberries until just before eating.) If you go the vinegar bath route, let them soak for a minute or two, give them a good rinse, and lay them out to dry on a kitchen towel. Either way, store berries in the fridge in a container lined with a thin towel to absorb moisture. Reuse plastic clamshells from the store or use a covered glass container, but keep the lid cracked. Change out the towel if it becomes damp. Store different types of berries in separate containers, as some spoil faster than others.
How to preserve berries: Freezing is the best way to preserve berries. You can also pressure can them as preserves or jelly, but look for recipes that don’t contain heaps of added sugar.
Cucumbers have a long and storied history as one of the first domesticated plants. What’s your favorite type of cuke? It probably depends on whether you grew up eating the thicker-skinned slicing cucumbers most common in America, English cucumbers with thinner skins and fewer seeds, smaller and more delicate Persian cucumbers, or something else altogether. There are almost 100 varieties to choose from.
How to store cucumbers: Cucumbers are happy hanging out in the crisper drawer in your refrigerator.
Eggplants, aka aubergines, are a dietary staple around the world. Fun fact: despite their vegetably taste, eggplants are actually fruit—berries, to be more precise, because they grow from a single flower.
How to store eggplant: Eggplants don’t last long after harvesting, and they don’t like cold. You can keep them in the fridge for a day or two, but they’ll start to wither after that.
How to preserve eggplant: You can try freezing or pickling, but it’s really best to eat eggplant fresh.
Yes, green beans are legumes, but before you toss that green bean casserole, I have good news. Green beans are, and have always been, considered Primal-friendly as long as you don’t have any issues eating them. Fresh green beans don’t have the same phytate concerns as dried beans, and many folks who avoid dried beans can enjoy green beans without issue, at least occasionally.
How to store green beans: Keep in a storage bag in the crisper drawer. Try to use within three days or so.
How to preserve green beans: Frozen and home-canned green beans are both fantastic, or try pickling them.
Herbs don’t just make food taste good, they also offer a variety of health benefits from antioxidant properties to treating digestive distress. All herbs flourish in the summer. They’re easy to grow indoors or out, in small containers or large garden beds—perfect for beginning gardeners or folks who want to plant a small kitchen garden.
How to store herbs: When possible, wait to cut fresh herbs until you are ready to use them. If you buy them from the market, pull off any dead leaves, trim the bottom of the stems, and place bundles of herbs in jars of water like flower bouquets. Store jars of tender-stemmed herbs like parsley and cilantro in the fridge, optionally covered loosely with a food storage bag. Woody herbs like rosemary, oregano, and thyme can stay on the counter. Basil should also stay on the counter; cold temps make the leaves turn black. Refresh the water as needed. Most herbs will keep for a couple weeks or more with this technique.
How to preserve herbs: When it comes to preserving herbs, you have two main options. The first is drying–using a dehydrator or let fresh herbs dry in the sun. You can even use a microwave to dry herbs! The second is freezing– blend herbs in olive oil, avocado oil, or water, then freeze in ice cube trays. Oil-based herby sauces like pesto and chimichurri also freeze well jars or ice cube trays. Or make compound butter, which can also be frozen wrapped in freezer paper. (Tip, slice it before freezing so you can thaw individual pats of butter as needed.)
You can also use infuse fresh herbs into oil, salt, or spirits like vodka or gin.
Is there anything more quintessentially summer than garden fresh tomatoes? There are a million and one ways to enjoy summer tomatoes, so eat up! (And yes, for the record, tomatoes are a fruit.)
How to store tomatoes: If your tomatoes aren’t quite ripe when you get them home from the farmer’s market, you can place them in a loosely closed paper bag on the counter to encourage ripening. For ripe tomatoes, there’s considerable debate about whether the counter or the crisper is the appropriate place to keep them. Some say the crisper saps them of flavor, so you should only refrigerate them if you need them to stay fresh for longer than a few days.
How to preserve tomatoes: Can whole tomatoes, chopped tomatoes, or one of the many salsa and sauce recipes featuring these delectable fruits. Salsa or sauces freeze well, too. Dry tomatoes and store them in oil.
Like eggplants, zucchini are botanically classified as berries (as are cucumbers and pumpkins). Zucchini plants are prolific, which is why your neighbor with the green thumb is always trying to pawn off excess zucchini come late summer. They’re also incredibly versatile as an ingredient in everything from salads to desserts, so accept any and all offers of free zucchini!
How to store zucchini: Keep in the crisper and try to use within a few days.
How to preserve zucchini: You can freeze zucchini, but probably best ways to preserve it are to make zucchini chips in the dehydrator or zucchini muffins or bread to stick in the freezer.
Lindsay Taylor, Ph.D., is a senior writer and community manager for Primal Nutrition, a certified Primal Health Coach, and the co-author of three keto cookbooks.
As a writer for Mark’s Daily Apple and the leader of the thriving Keto Reset and Primal Endurance communities, Lindsay’s job is to help people learn the whats, whys, and hows of leading a health-focused life. Before joining the Primal team, she earned her master’s and Ph.D. in Social and Personality Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, where she also worked as a researcher and instructor.
Lindsay lives in Northern California with her husband and two sports-obsessed sons. In her free time, she enjoys ultra running, triathlon, camping, and game nights. Follow along on Instagram @theusefuldish as Lindsay attempts to juggle work, family, and endurance training, all while maintaining a healthy balance and, most of all, having fun in life.