Where I live in Eastern Ontario, we have four seasons. Well, if you really want to get down to brass tacks we have two — Winter and Spraul (spring, summer and fall all mixed into one haha). One of the best ways to eat clean on a budget is to eat seasonally, meaning eat what is “in season”. I compiled this list of the most popular fruits and veggies for you to bring you a Produce Guide by Seasons so you can eat the yummiest produce at it’s peak, plus save money. #bonus
I just love blackberries! They have a deep purple colour and taste almost wine-like. Not a very sweet berry, but delish none-the-less. This is due to their tanins, the same compounds also found in grapes.
Peak Season: Late spring through the summer
How to Select: Look for deep, berry-wine coloured berries. Some varieties have two-tones, a lighter purple and a darker purple colour, but this doesn’t mean they’re unripe. They shouldn’t be packed too tightly, or appear shrivelled or wet.
Keep ‘Em Fresh: Place in a shallow glass container with paper towel on bottom. They’ll store well in the fridge for 3-6 days. Wash right before eating.
Pairs Nicely With: strawberries, peaches, blueberries, raspberries, nectarines, basil, mint and thyme.
Nutritional Info Ya Just Gotta Know: Blackberries are known to increase short-term memory and motor skills due to their antioxidant properties. They also keep your mouth healthy by delivering a compound that attacks oral bacteria.
Did you know that peaches are native to China? And here I thought it was California 😉 They range in colour from white to deep orange. There are two varieties, the clingstone and freestone. The clingstone variety literally clings to the pit, whereas the freestone variety gives up it’s pit…freely #TrueStory. Peaches are easy to freeze and make delish muffins and scones!
Peak Season: late spring thru the summer
How to Select: Look for a firm peach that gently yields when lightly pressed. Avoid peaches that are mushy, are already pitted (unless of course, they’re canned in water and it’s the middle of winter, when they’re not in season), and have a lot of green around the stem. This means they’re unripe. A ripe peach will have that unmistakable sweet, peachy scent.
Keep ‘Em Fresh: Store hard peaches at room temp. For faster ripening, you can store them in a paper bag, on your kitchen counter (add a ripe banana to the paper bag for even faster ripening!). Soft peaches will last nicely in the fridge for 3-5 days.
Pairs Nicely With: cilantro, arugula, vanilla, basil, balsamic vinegar, almonds and cardamom. Mmmm, don’t forget almonds, too!
Nutritional Info Ya Just Gotta Know: Peaches are fab at combatting heart disease and obesity-related diabetes.
Strawberries are easily my son’s fave fruit. Keep in mind I’m talking about Wizer, my yellow lab lol 😉 As I type I’m sharing my strawberry snack with him. He gets the too-ripe-to-eat ones! Fresh strawberries are delish just on their own, but I like frozen ones in the winter in my morning smoothies.
Peak Season: spring thru the summer
How to Select: Avoid strawberries that are dull, mushy and/or shrivelled. Select brightly coloured strawberries, with no white around the stem. Also pick ones with bright, unwilted green caps.
Keep ‘Em Fresh: Keep in a shallow glass container with paper towel lining the bottom.
Pairs Nicely With: Arugula, spinach, corn, shallots, feta, blueberries, blackberries, goat cheese, Brie, couscous, quinoa, balsamic vinegar, mint and basil.
Nutritional Info Ya Just Gotta Know: Strawberries are loaded with phytonutrients with work to provide cardiovascular benefits and reduce high blood pressure.
Did you know…there are over 100 varieties of plums in the US alone? Cray! And yum!!
Peak Season: late spring thru the summer
How to Select: look for plums that have a whitish cast to them — this is called the bloom. Avoid hard plums, semi-firm is ideal.
Keep ‘Em Fresh: You can keep plums in the fridge 1-2 days but they taste their best at room temp.
Pairs Nicely With: Pork tenderloin or chops, arugula, basil, goat cheese and raspberries.
Nutritional Info Ya Gotta Know: Plums contain oodles of vitamins and minerals. Studies have shown that plums fight metabolic syndrome, aka an obesity related condition.
Can I tell you a secret? I really don’t like avocados. SHOCKING, right? 😉 I’m probably on my own with this admission as the world loves to celebrate this healthy form of fat. I’ll eat avos now and then, but only if they’re smashed really well in a dish of some sort. #LeSigh
Peak Season: winter to early fall
How to Select: When holding an avo in your hand, it should yield to a gentle squeeze. Colour is not always an indicator of ripeness. The woody stem should pop off easily. Avoid super soft avos unless you plan on eating it the day you buy it.
Keep ‘Em Fresh: Avos like to hang on your counter if you plan on eating/using them in a recipe the about 1 day. To slow ripening, store in the fridge veggie crisper. To speed up ripening, place in a brown paper bag with a banana or an apple.
Pairs Nicely With: Radishes, black beans, cilantro, goat cheese, lime juice, corn, eggs, ricotta cheese, mangoes and tomatoes.
Nutritional Info Ya Gotta Know: Much of the healthy fat in avos comes from anti-inflammatory compounds that have been shown to fight arthritis. The (healthy) fats in avos also help your body absorb carotenoids, often found in carrots and spinach. Next time you make a smoothie, add about 1/4 of an avo. You won’t taste it one bit, but it makes your smoothie sooooo creamy!
As a kid growing up, the only thing that I ate that came close to resembling a tomato…was ketchup. Oh how I hated tomatoes (it was all in my mind). Now I just love ’em. They are perfect in a sandwich, salad or as a soup! Hubsy even eats ’em (shocking, I know!).
Peak Season: spring thru summer
How to Select: Choose local, just-picked tomatoes when possible (the next town over from where I live has an open Farmer’s Market every Wednesday and Saturday, May thru October. Some of the most delish produce and nicest peeps there!). If you don’t have access to locally grown tomatoes, look for smooth, unblemished skin that is just slightly firm.
Keep ‘Em Fresh: Contrary to common practice, tomatoes do not belong in the fridge or on your window sill! Keep them at room temp, out of direct sunlight and eat asap. Just a heads up — when you do store them in the fridge, they go mushy…so keep em out of there 😉
Pairs Nicely With: garlic, onions, oregano, basil, eggplant, mushrooms, sea salt, pepper, beans, toast, bacon…hehe. Tomatoes are so versatile, they go with almost everything.
Now this is one veggie I did like as a kid. It was probably one of the very few veggies I did eat back then. Corn and potatoes and cucumber, carrots and celery. That was pretty much it. Nowadays I have an on-going love affair with all sorts of veggies (except beets. They taste like earth. Don’t ask me how…they just do) 😉
Peak Season: spring thru summer
How to Select: The ears should have light to medium green husks and fresh looking silks (the stringy stuff that hangs out the top of the ear of corn). Kernels should be in tight rows and plump at the tip. One way to see if the corn is fresh and not old is to gently press on a few kernels with your fingernail. If it pops and squirts out at you, it’s a nice ear of corn. If it pops and just plunks onto your finger, it’s probably past it’s prime. Select another ear.
Keep ‘Em Fresh: Keep in the husk in the fridge for up to 2 days. The longer you wait to et it, the tougher it becomes.
Pairs Nicely With: Steak, bell peppers, black beans, feta cheese, tomatoes, and cilantro. Oh, this recipe sounds delish!
Nutritional Info Ya Gotta Know: Corn is rich in anti-oxidants, especially luetin, which helps with healthy eyesight.
Wanna know a secret? The only way I’ll eat mushrooms is if they’re fried in butter, red wine and lots of fresh garlic. That being said, I don’t eat mushrooms a whole heckuva lot. Hubsy loves em though. Again, one of the few veggies he will eat lol 😉
Peak Season: late spring to fall
How to Select: For button mushrooms, look for firm, pale white mushrooms. For the cremini variety (my preference), opt for light tan ones. Caps should be unblemished, but make sure to avoid shrivelled, spotty or (bleck) slimy ones. Oh, an the stems should be firm and gills (underneath of mushroom cap) barely visible.
Keep ‘Em Fresh: Store in the fridge, in a paper bag for 3-5 days or so. Keep them on the shelf as your veggie crisper drawer is too moist (I didn’t know that one before I researched this article!).
Pairs Nicely With: butter, steak, onions, red wine, leeks, rosemary, quinoa, sharp cheese, thyme, peas and tarragon
Nutritional Info Ya Gotta Know: ‘Shrooms have anti-microbial qualities which helps support your immunity and may protect against cancer. They also contain an amino acid (L-ergothioneine) that could also prevent DNA damage and neurodegenerative diseases, espesh Parkinson’s.
I’ve tried. Really I have! I have tried my darnedest to eat beets. Hey, they’re the cool veggie of the moment. But I just don’t dig the flavour. Btw, don’t say you don’t like a veggie if you’ve never tasted it before. Cuz how do you know? You don’t. So take one bite, or three. Then you can claim to the world you don’t like something. Let me be clear, here…I don’t like beets! haha
How to Select: Select firm, smooth beets. Avoid ones with dark spots, soft areas, or shrivelled or loose skin. If the taproot is still attached, it should be thin and firm. The green on top should be crisp and dark green, without yellow or dark spots.
Keep ‘Em Fresh: Loosely wrap your beets in paper towels and store in a plastic baggie in the fridge for up to 7 days. Make sure to cut the green tops before storing, though. Leave an inch or two of stem to prevent bleeding.
Pairs Nicely With: Fennel, rosemary, spinach, pears, vinegar, oranges, apples, walnuts, ginger dressing. Try this recipe for a quick side dish to your lunch or dinner.
Nutritional Info Ya Gotta Know: Beets contain loads of anti-oxidants (betalains) that reduce inflammation and may also protect against cancer.
I ate a lot of raw carrots as a kid. Cooked veggies (except corn and potatoes) didn’t mesh well with my palate — I was quite the picky eater! Nowadays carrots are always in my crisper and more often that not I eat them steamed. Simple. Delish.
Peak Season: spring to fall
How to Select: If the green tops are still attached, make sure they’re fresh and green without signs of yellowing or withering. The carrots themselves should be crisp and firm. Avoid pale, rubbery carrots or ones with splits, cracks or hairy roots.
Keep ‘Em Fresh: Remove green tops before storing. Seal carrots in plastic baggie (or if you are like me, glass container) and put in fridge for up to a week.
Pairs Nicely With: Parsley, Brussels sprouts, cinnamon, raisins, coconut, ginger, orange, mint, onions, pecans, celery, mustard, thyme.
Nutritional Info Ya Gotta Know: Carrots are dense with carotenoids, a type of phytonutrient that supports healthy immune function.
I didn’t start eating peppers until my 20s or so. Now they’re a staple in my weekly grocery shop. Actually, tonight I’m making one of his faves, Chicken Stuffed Peppers from the Fixate cookbook. Oh my, I’m drooling already hehe 😉
Peak Season: spring thru summer
How to Select: Peppers of any colour should have smooth, taut skin (no wrinkles!) and feel heavy for their size.
Keep ‘Em Fresh: Keep in your fridge, after washing and drying, in a plastic baggie and eat within 5 days. I like to add a piece of paper towel to the baggie; I find this helps most of my produce last a lot longer. If the skin begins to slacken, eat up asap.
Pairs Nicely With: Corn, beans, rice, quinoa, couscous, onions, feta cheese, cilantro, chicken and beef, eggplant.
Nutritional Info Ya Gotta Know: Peppers are rich in phytonutrients (which can help with Type 2 diabetes). They’re also loaded with carotenoids, which are immune-boosting phytonutrients.
Did you really think I’d write up an epic blog post on produce and not include kale? 😉 Love it or leave it, kale is one powerful super-food, and if you haven’t tried it yet, do that this week! Not a fan of the taste? Cut out the woody stems and put it in your next smoothie. Pinky Promise, you won’t taste it, but you will get all the healthy benefits!
Peak Season: midsummer thru winter
How to Select: You want bright and crisp leaves. Avoid kale that has leaves with holes, yellowing or are wilted. Stems should be tender and free from cracking.
Keep ‘Em Fresh: After washing, wrap in paper towel and store in a plastic baggie, in the fridge for up to a week. Remove as much air as possible from plastic baggie before storing.
Pairs Nicely With: red peppers, beets, lemon, lime, potatoes, olives, cauliflower, tomatoes, chickpeas, salmon, sharp cheese
Nutritional Info Ya Gotta Know: Kale is high in glucosinolates, a powerful anti-inflammatory compound.
I’m a fan of green onions (aka scallions). I love em chopped in a salad, or sautéed in a stir fry. They’re a nice alternative to regular onions, and easier on my tummy, too.
Peak Season: spring to fall
How to Select: Choose bunches with firm white or pale green bulbs and small roots. Bulbs shouldn’t have any spotting or rot. Tops should be bright green and crisp.
Keep ‘Em Fresh: After washing, wrap green onions in a paper towel and store in a plastic baggie in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can also place the onion, root down, into a small glass with 1/2″ of water and keep in fridge for 3-4 days.
Pairs Nicely With: limes, miso, spinach, ginger, corn, peppers, basil, cilantro, sweet potatoes, and rice.
Nutritional Info Ya Gotta Know: Green onions are famous for their quercetin, a powerful antioxidant that supports healthy immune function and also protects against inflammation.
While I personally am not a fan of arugula (too peppery for me), I know it has quite is cult following. It’s also known as rocket or baby arugula too. Baby arugula is notably milder in taste.
Peak Season: early spring and fall
How to Select: The leaves should be bright green and tender without any yellowing, dark spots or wilting. If the stems are still attached, they should be slender and springy, not fibrous and tough.
Keep ‘Em Fresh: After washing and drying (use a salad spinner), wrap arugula in paper towel and store in a loosely sealed plastic baggie for up to 5 days.
Pairs Nicely With: asparagus, olives, garlic, avocado, pears, almonds, sharp cheddar, beets, pasta, pizza, citrus fruit.
Nutritional Info Ya Gotta Know: Again, as asparagus is a cruciferous veggie, it contains glucosinate. It’s also rich in nitrates to help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
If you’ve ever trued to grow mint in your backyard garden, you’ll know how easy it is…and how much it spreads. I am a huge fan of mint in pretty much anything…tea, salads, chocolate lol 😉
Peak Season: late spring to early suummer
How to Select: Buy bright green, fragrant bunches that aren’t wilted or blemished
Keep ‘Em Fresh: Trim stems and loosely wrap washed and dried mint in a damp paper towel. Seal up in a plastic baggie and keep in your fridge for 2-4 days.
Pairs Nicely With: Peas, strawberries, tomatoes, potatoes, lamb, rhubarb and dark chocolate (mmmmm)
Nutritional Info Ya Gotta Know: Mint contains rosmarinic acid which is an antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals and inhibits the production of inflammatory chemicals in the body.
I think I prefer basil fresh rather than dried, but will use it both ways. My fave is rolling up a bunch of basil and thinly slicing it into ribbons (aka chiffonade), and sprinkling it on an Asian salad. Mmmmm, mmmmmm!
Peak Season: spring thru summer
How to Select: You want to select basil with deep green leaves that are unwilted, smooth and shiny, free of any brown spots.
Keep ‘Em Fresh: Trim off the ends and store in damp paper towel (after washing and drying) before placing in a plastic baggie. Store in fridge for up to 2 days.
Pairs Nicely With: Oregano, tomatoes, corn, eggplant, strawberries, peaches, parsley, mint and mozzarella cheese.
Nutritional Info Ya Gotta Know: Basil contains flavonoids which protect your cells from oxygen damage. It also has an anti-inflammatory effect that could relieve rheumatoid arthritis.
Now that you have a reliable guide to assist you with selecting produce at the right times for the least cost, leave a comment b’low and let me know what new food(s) you’re going to try! Bonus points if you include your fave recipe!