What’s in Season? Your Guide to the Best Late-Summer Produce

by Gennefer Gross

 

Sundays in the summer are synonymous with strolling through Farmers Markets, picking up fresh produce and other seasonal selections. The possibilities are endless during the late-summer months, with colorful crates of plump passion fruit, full-bodied figs and juicy jelly top grapes. As part of our continuing celebration of National Farmers Market Week, we teamed up with Robert Schueller at Melissa’s Produce to give you insider tips on what produce is in season and how to spot if it’s ripe. This way  you can enjoy the fruits of your labor. That is, if you consider shopping for tasty treats labor, which we certainly don’t!

Grapes

Grapes are definitely in season.

There’s a veritable cornucopia of grape varieties that hit their peak in June to September, so this is the ideal time to stock up on these bountiful berries bursting with flavor. They’re perfect for popping as a healthy snack, making jams, or even this super simple sorbet with white grapes, honey, and thyme that will whisk you away to a sunny paradise where calories are minimal.

How To Tell If They’re Ripe: They should have green stems and be plump and thick to the touch.

Figs

Figs are those often elusive fruits that elevate every dish they touch. From fig and olive tapenade to being paired with cheese or tucked inside ravioli with fluffy dollops of ricotta, this festive flowering plant packs a syrupy yet earthy punch, hitting its peak in August and September. Make the most of the plush pulp of figs with this fig and apricot jam that can be spread on a crusty baguette or atop a wheel of Brie for a sweet and savory afternoon nibble. Or, add some spice to your night with a Fig and Maple Bourbon Fizz that’s a tantalizing toast for your taste buds. Cheers!

How To Tell If They’re Ripe: They should be brown or purple, larger in size, and soft to the touch when gently squeezed.

Cherimoya

Cherimoyas are one of those secret Farmers Market gems that most people don’t know about, but fall in love with after just one bite. Hailing from Central America, the Cherimoya is a trio of tropical flavors such as banana, pineapple and strawberry, whose nectar is best enjoyed on its own. With its peak between July and November, it’s the perfect poolside punch or exotic Autumn elixir. Just crack open the outer shell to spoon out its soft flesh.  You can enjoy by the chunkful or squeeze its sweet juice into a cocktail or smoothie. But be sure not to eat the skin, and always discard the seeds.

How To Tell If They’re Ripe:  They should be soft to the touch with green that’s browning in color. The stem should also be easily removed to ensure maximum ripeness. (Pro-tip: Don’t cut into it when it’s rock hard and fully green.)

Passion Fruit

This tart tropical fruit takes sweet or creamy snacks to the next level by balancing rich flavors with hints of citrus and guava. Peaking in August through November, passion fruit works best when puréed in any number of desserts from custard to cake. It also creates a dreamy summertime salsa, and imparts a tangy zip as marinades or dressing for chicken, shrimp and fresh fish. You also can’t go wrong with passion fruit cocktails that taste like vacation in a glass. Just don’t forget to put up the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign!

How To Tell If They’re Ripe: The skin should be very wrinkled, almost prune-like.

Jackfruit

Jackfruit is referred to as a ‘miracle crop’ because it’s composed of hundreds to thousands of individual flowers with edible petals. With a texture and taste similar to pulled pork (seriously!), it’s often used to mimic its meaty counterpart in plant-based dishes like this BBQ Jackfruit Slider that will satisfy vegetarians and carnivores alike. April through October is peak jackfruit season, giving you ample time to experiment with this versatile vine-dweller. Replace ingredients like carnitas and fish for meatless tacos or even a jackfruit ‘tuna’ melt. Its shredded filling is also excellent for vegetarian chili, crab cakes, or battered and fried as a chicken substitute. Kentucky Fried Jackfruit, anyone?

How To Tell If They’re Ripe: The skin is yellowing and should be softer to the touch.

Sprinkle finger limes on fresh oysters for a hint of tang.

Finger Limes

Finger Limes are available from July through December, but September, October, and November are their ripest months. Known as the ‘caviar of limes’ for their bulbous inner vesicles and  bursting with lemon-lime flavor, they can accent just about any seafood dish. They can be sprinkled atop fresh oysters, drizzled on grilled salmon, or accompany raw fish like ceviche or sashimi to impart a roe-like crunch. And similar to its key lime cousin, you can also transform finger limes into a fluffy custard pie for a smack of salty summertime air during your Fall festivities.

How To Tell If They’re Ripe: Finger limes don’t ripen off the tree, so if they’re available at your local Farmers Market, they’re ready to eat!

Dragon Fruit  (Types: white flesh, red flesh, and yellow flesh)

While dragon fruit may have a mythical-sounding name, its full-bodied filling is 100% real. With a consistency similar to kiwi, its spongy center has a mild flavor that can be eaten raw with a squeeze of lime juice and a dash of sea salt and ancho chile powder for a subtly sweet and spicy snack. You can also toss dragon fruit on the grill and drizzle with honey, or mix in some yogurt for a healthy smoothie loaded with antioxidants, fiber, and Vitamin C. This delicacy of the cactus family hits its peak from July to October, giving you plenty of time to add a tropical twist to your dishes.

How To Tell If They’re Ripe: They should have bright, evenly colored skin. If there are several dark blotches, the fruit is likely overripe, but a few spots are perfectly normal.

Pomegranates

Pomegranates are one of those rare fruits whose seeds are the star of the show rather than the flesh. Similar to a cranberry in tartness, these bold red jewels are available from August to February, but reach their maximum ripeness in September through December, just in time for hearty Fall creations. They’re delicious paired with rum like in this Pomegranate Mojito, and make the perfect glaze for a rustic Stuffed Beef Tenderloin. Their juicy beads can also be added to salads, yogurt, oatmeal, or desserts.

How To Tell If They’re Ripe: The best way to gauge the ripeness of a pomegranate is to hold it. It should feel heavy, as if it’s full of juice (which it is)!

This is some easy-to-prepare kiwi jam.

Kiwi Berries

Basically just mini kiwis, this adorable fruit tastes the same as its parent, and has bountiful health benefits from antioxidants that help reduce the chances of cancer and cardiovascular disease to slowing down the aging process. Yes, you read that right. The nubile nectar of kiwi berries can also have a youthening effect. You can reap these benefits as a topping for your morning toast in this Apple-Kiwi Jam recipe, or sprinkle its tropical candy on your cereal or pancakes. But act fast because these beauties are only at their ripest in September, which is a scrumptious sendoff into the indulgent winter months.

How To Tell If They’re Ripe: They should be soft to the touch.

Feijoas

Dubbed the “healthiest fruit you’ve probably never heard of,” feijoas can decrease the risk for heart disease, and are high in Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and potassium, which all have been known to improve heart health. They are also almost as rich in fiber as avocados, the highest source of fiber in the fruit family, making its nutrition-packed pineapple flavor an excellent addition to smoothies or salads. They’re also enjoyable scooped directly out of their shell. You can savor the flavor during their peak season from March through May.

How To Tell If They’re Ripe: They should be soft and squeezable to the touch, but don’t squeeze too hard!

Now that you’ve got your handy produce guide in tow, head on over to your neighborhood Farmers Market to stock up on these seasonal varieties. Not only will you get to sample an array of unique flavors, you’ll also be doing your part to support your local community, so everybody wins!