Picking Out Summer Produce

The benefits of eating local produce in-season are numerous. The main benefit of locally-grown produce is it is picked when it is much closer to ripeness, which means that it has reached the natural end of its growth process. Fully-ripened fruits and vegetables are more delicious and contain far more nutrients than produce that is picked weeks before it is ripe. As an added bonus, locally-grown food tends to be less expensive because you aren’t paying for transportation costs, and it’s better for the local economy and global environment. In short, if you can buy local, you should!

Summer Fruits

Summer fruits are known for their soft flesh and incredibly sweet flavor. Many of them also have a wonderful aroma when they’re ripe, so visiting a farmer’s market in summer can be a little intoxicating (in the best way). Each fruit has certain characteristics that let you know when they’re at their best.


The berries that arrive in summer are likely the most popular, plentiful fruit of the season. Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries (among others) are small, sugary, slightly tart, and can be bought in amounts ranging from “modest snack” to “stomachache-inducing.” With the exception of blueberries, berries are at their ripest when their skin is shiny and deeply-colored. They should also have a perfume that echoes their flavor—a strong aroma is an indicator of how good it will taste!

Plums and Peaches

Fruits of this variety are at their best when they’re slightly soft with only a little resistance. Make sure there’s no green coloring anywhere on the fruit, as this indicates it was picked too early. The color you’re looking for is an even, deep yellow in the background color, between the red spots. Another good indicator of ripeness is the crease, which should be deep and well-marked.


Melons are a summer staple. The key to buying a good, ripe melon is its heaviness. If it feels heavy for its size, it’s likely to have a great deal of juicy, flavorful fruit under the rind. The other key to a good melon is its smell. If it smells like a melon, it will taste rich and juicy, with a soft, slightly grainy texture. The only exception to this is watermelon, whose sweetness is often undetectable by smelling it.

Figs and Cherries

These two fruits are grouped together due to their limited availability. Figs are often unavailable because they are so delicate that they cannot be transported very far before they are destroyed. California, fortunately, has the climate that’s perfect for these honey-flavored fruits. A good fig will often have a strong aroma, and will be very soft to the touch. Regarding cherries, their season is very short, but when they are in season, they are tart and sugary with shiny and deep-red skin.

Summer Vegetables

Summer vegetables are often also sweet, and the warm weather often brings out the brightest, softest colors and textures. This group of vegetables includes grains like corn, cylindrical vegetables like cucumbers, and bean-type veggies like fava beans and string beans.


Good corn is fully-grown, so you should be able to see kernels at the very top of an ear of corn. They should be slightly soft, and the ear silk should be soft as well with some moisture in it. It is best to eat these sooner rather than later so that the sugars don’t begin to convert to starch. The longer you wait, the more quickly the corn loses its sweetness.


Cucumbers are at their absolute best in summer, which is perfect for their cool temperature and refreshing taste. The phrase “cool as a cucumber” is a literal truism—cucumbers are often up to 20 degrees less warm than outside temperatures. Cucumbers should be a deep green and still be firm to the touch.

Green Beans

Good beans are firm, and they should contain sizable beans along the whole length of the pod. Young beans (which are smaller) may be slightly sweeter and require less peeling, but larger beans provide more servings. There should be no dark or soft spots on the pods, but white streaks are normal.

Summer produce is plentiful and rewarding, and the food is a great reminder of why our ancestors celebrated summer every year. Let your grocery shopping be a celebration of the season as well—buy local and seasonal food to enjoy their best taste and health benefits.

This article contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. The information is not advice and should not be treated as such. The information is not intended to replace the advice or diagnosis of a physician.

If you have any specific questions about any medical matter you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.