There are few things as satisfying as a summer barbecue - beer in one hand, burger in the other, and very few complaints. But another perk of the summer months is access to the year's freshest fruits and vegetables, and all the ways to use them.
Ahead, learn how to properly pick, store, and use summer produce for National Fruit & Veggie Month (with tips from an expert) and check out more storage tips here.
1. Buy seasonal.
During the summer months, stick to what's best - berries, watermelon, squash, and other popular produce that thrives during the warmer weather. That way, you have a better chance at preserving it and enjoying recipes most associate with summer.
2. Grow your own.
Nothing says summer produce quite like outdoor gardening. "Start with herbs in pots such as cilantro, mint and basil. If you have a balcony and have space for a larger pot grow some jalapenos, and tomatoes," Dr. Malena Perdomo, registered dietician nutritionist, certified diabetes educator, and cookbook writer advises." Look for urban gardens in your area to grow more! It's also a great way to get outside (for Vitamin D) and stay active."
3. Keep some frozen.
Not all of your summer fruits and veggies will be viable for the fridge. Store some frozen fruit for smoothies and frozen veggies for soups. Instead, buy fresh summer produce for salads and recipes where it really counts.
4. Hit the farmer’s market.
To add more variety to your produce intake, go to the farmer's market rather than your local grocery store. "In the farmer’s market I look for items such as local honey, and some heirloom tomatoes," Dr. Perdomo explains. "I watch the cost of produce and ask questions to the farmer to see how food was grown. I even learn a tip or two about gardening."
5. Ripen up.
To get the most out of your summer fruits and veggies, it's important to keep an eye on the timestamp. That means waiting enough time for the produce to ripen, while not waiting too long where it's no longer edible. "To ripen faster use the brown bag method. For avocados, store them in the brown bag with an apple," Perdomo adds.
6. Store and preserve.
Perhaps the most important produce tip is storage. Aim for single-layer storage (in a plastic bag or container) and tightly sealed so not to be exposed to air.
7. Buy what you need.
The market might be overflowing with beautiful, bright produce - but that doesn't mean you should buy it all. One way to get the most out of your fruits and veggies (and wallet, by association) is to only purchase what you need at the time. "If there is a deal, however, you can save it, freeze it, ferment it, or pickled it for later," Perdomo notes. Otherwise, make a couple of trips per week so as not to waste anything.