Experts Say It's Better to Eat by the Season
Eating seasonally means better-tasting and more nutritious fruits and vegetables
Mark Salter, executive chef at the Inn at Perry Cabin in St. Michaels, Md.,
looks forward to spring and summer when he can visit the local farmers markets
on Maryland's Eastern Shore and buy fresh produce such as locally grown
asparagus, wild watercress, mixed salad leaves, sweet white corn, vine-ripened
tomatoes, and ripe peaches.
"When you can buy produce that has just been picked, it tastes so much
better," says Salter, who changes his menu seasonally to take advantage of
the freshest ingredients. "That's one reason so many chefs like to have
their own garden ... you get to use the produce at its best."
Salter also likes buying at farmers markets because he knows that the
produce is grown "as naturally" as possible. "There's someone there
to vouch for the quality," he says.
Seasonal Produce Available to All
You don't have to be a professional chef, however, to enjoy the fruits --
literally and figuratively -- of the season. And if there are no farmers
markets near you, not to worry, says Claudia Gonzalez, RD, a spokeswoman for
the American Dietetic Association. "Most of the produce we get in the
United States is good," she says. "Of course, the fresher the better,
but if you have to go to the grocery store and not a produce stand or farmers
market, that's not a problem."
What's in season varies with location and weather, but in general, the
following fruits and vegetables are at
their peak during the spring and summer.
- Garlic greens
- Bok choy
- Mustard greens
- Tat soi
- Peas -- snap and snow
- Green beans
- Onions -- red and yellow
- Peppers -- hot and sweet
- Potatoes -- new
- Summer squash
- Sweet corn
Stone Fruits of Summer
Then there are those fruits knows as stone fruits. These fruits include
those from the fruit trees within the genus of Prunus. Peaches, plums,
cherries, apricots are just a few and are at their best in the summer. To
select these fruits at their peak, Whole Foods Market, a national
retail supermarket that specializes in organic produce, offers these tips:
- Look for peaches with skins that have a background color of yellow or warm
cream. Avoid rock-hard peaches and choose those that yield slightly to pressure
along the "seam." These peaches will soften in a few days if kept at
room temperature. Avoid dark-colored, mushy, or bruised peaches.
- Plums should be plump and well-colored for their variety. The fruit is
ready to eat when it yields to gentle pressure. Plums ripen well off the tree
at room temperature.
- Cherries should be glossy, plump, hard, and dark-colored for their variety.
Pack loosely to minimize bruising.
- Apricots should be plump and orange-colored and should yield to gentle
pressure. Avoid those that have shriveled skin or bruises or those tinged with