Those lazy, hazy days of summer are finally upon us, which means
luxuriously drawn out days, delectably balmy weather and a seasonal
bounty of delicious fruit, vegetables and herbs at our fingertips.
Keep these produce picking, storing and serving tips at hand all
summer to ensure the warm weather harvest is always done
Basil is at its tastiest during the month of July. The leaves of
your basil should be deep green and free from yellow or brown spots
or wilted edges. Store it in the refrigerator, wrapped in a
slightly damp paper towel, for up to three days. Alternatively, dry
the basil by hanging it for a week, then store in an airtight
container. Enjoy a no-cook summer side dish by layering sliced
tomatoes, bocconcini cheese and fresh basil and drizzling with
Beets can't be beat for flavour and nutrition from July to
mid-October. Choose small, firm roots that are a dark maroon colour
and are still attached to bright green leaves which are free from
wilt and blemish. When you get home, trim the leaves to two inches
from the root immediately and store them separately in a plastic
bag for up two days. Bag the roots as well and store in the crisper
for up to ten days. Sautee the leaves in butter or olive oil and
salt or serve in a salad medley. Wash and trim the ends off the
beet root, then roast until the skins slip off easily. Toss with a
vinaigrette and serve warm or cold.
Blueberries are beautiful from July to September. Choose firm,
bright ones and store in a covered container in the fridge. They'll
keep for about a week. Enjoy blueberries fresh or use them to bake
fabulous pies and cobblers, which can be frozen and served as a
Broccoli hits its peak from July to late October. Select compact
clusters that are green or deep purple with no bruising, yellowing
or flowering. Any attached leaves should be vibrant and smooth and
the stalks should be firm, with no brown lesions. It will keep for
about a week in an open plastic or paper bag. Lightly steam
broccoli and toss it with olive oil or butter, lemon juice and pine
nuts, sesame seeds or sunflower seeds. For a broccoli salad, cool
and add poppy seed dressing, shredded carrot, raisins, salt and
Cherries peak in late June and hold out until early August.
Choose plump, firm cherries that are still attached to their stems
and are deep red in colour if you plan to eat them immediately or
bright red if you plan to store them for a few days. Cherries are
nature's candy, and need little embellishment. Simply wash, and
Corn is sweetest in late summer and early fall, but begins to
ripen in July. Heat quickly converts the sugar in corn to starch,
so be sure the ears you buy have been stored in a cool place.
Choose corn with a bright green husk that does not lack moisture
and has a firm hold on the husk. Pull back slightly and check for
plump, juicy kernels that release a cloudy liquid when pressed with
your fingernail. Corn can be frozen, husk on, for several months in
thick plastic bags. Otherwise, corn should be cooked immediately.
Try grilling corn in the husk. Soak in cold water for three hours,
and then grill for fifteen minutes. The silks are easier to remove
after cooking. Serve with butter, salt, pepper or spices such as
cumin and chili powder for a unique twist on an old favourite.
Green beans are ready in July and can be enjoyed all summer.
Choose bright green beans that are long, slim, and do not have
large seed protrusions, this indicates an older, tougher bean.
Avoid beans with very noticeable blemishes, or a withered look.
Store them in the refrigerator in a clear plastic bag. They will
last three to five days. For a simple side dish, wash and remove
the stem ends. Blanch the beans for three minutes in rapidly
boiling, salted water, or steam for five minutes. (If you are
freezing beans, do it at this point in plastic containers.) Toss
with butter, garlic, lemon juice and slivered almonds. Sautee for
Peaches begin to sweeten and ripen in mid-July and taste like
candy by mid-September. Most supermarket peaches still need to be
ripened, so don't worry if they seem a bit too firm. Choose faintly
blushing peaches that smell slightly sweet -- these promise to
ripen wonderfully. To speed up the process, store in paper bags for
up to two days, then enjoy as soon as they are soft to the touch.
Create a memorable side dish by slicing peaches in half and
removing the pit, then drizzling with balsamic vinegar and grilling
face down for ten minutes. Sprinkle with blue cheese and
Peas (fresh and in the pod) should be purchased from mid-June to
late July. Choose medium green pods with a smooth texture and no
signs of water retention, bruising or blighting. They are best
enjoyed the day of purchase, but if you must store them, use an
open bag or unsealed container and keep for up to a week. For
simple shelling, snap off the top and bottom of the pod, and pull
on the "thread" that lines the seam. The peas will tumble out.
Enjoy these summer sweet morsels in salads and stir fries or as a
bite sized snack.
Raspberries are perfect in July, but can sometimes be enjoyed
until September. They are extremely perishable and should be used
immediately. Store in the fridge in their original container, or
spread on a plate lined with a paper towel. Be sure to remove all
spoiled berries first. Wash just before eating, and try adding the
sweet berry to cereals, pureeing with olive oil and drizzling over
salads and grilled vegetables or reducing with balsamic vinegar to
create a unique chicken glaze.
Spinach can be enjoyed fresh from June to October. Choose deep
green leaves with no yellow spots or wilted edges. Store it fresh
and unwashed in a loose plastic bag at the top of the crisper. It
will last up to four days. For an unbeatable summer salad, toss
spinach with walnuts, goat cheese, halved cherry tomatoes and a
light vinaigrette. Replace lettuce with spinach in hamburgers and
add to wraps and sandwiches.
Strawberries are sensational from early June to late July. In
some cases they can be enjoyed until September. Pick out bruised,
moldy berries and do not wash -- they will become soggy if not
eaten immediately. Spread the berries on a tray or plate and
refrigerate uncovered, enjoying as quickly as possible. Add sliced
strawberries to spinach salads or use to top frozen yogurt
Tomatoes are at their best in Canada from July to late
September. Choose bright red tomatoes that yield slightly to
pressure and are free from cracks, blemishes, bruises or very soft
spots. Tomatoes are cold sensitive, so store them at room
temperature, away from direct sunlight and use for up to a week. If
you must refrigerate them, keep them in the butter compartment,
which is a few degrees warmer. Taste the best of summer by
sandwiching thick slices of tomatoes between hearty slices of
multigrain bread. Add salt, pepper, mayonnaise, mustard, whatever
Zucchini is most delicious from July to late September. A
variety of summer squash, zucchini is at its best in the late
summer months. Choose dark green specimens that feel heavy for
their size. Place in a perforated plastic bag and store in the
crisper for up to a week. Bring out their distinctive flavour by
slicing lengthwise, drizzling with olive oil and grilling for four
minutes per side.