10 In-Season Fruits & Veggies (& Why You Need To Eat Them)

We’re all for supermarket produce — hey, the more fruits and veggies in your life, the better — but now’s the time to take advantage of the offerings at your local farmers’ market. Why? They a) taste infinitely better, and b) are actually healthier. “The nutritional value of fruits and veggies declines over time, so freshly picked produce is going to pack more nutrients than items that have been sitting in a warehouse for weeks,” says Sara Haas, RDN, a chef and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. And, since farmers’ finds have been picked at their peak, they taste better than those that were artificially forced into ripeness.
Another boon to hitting the local farmstand is that you get to meet the people who actually grew your food. “Farmers are the most valuable thing at the market,” says Haas. “They can tell you exactly where a food came from and how to use it.” Not sure what to do with garlic scapes? Don’t be afraid be afraid to speak up; most farmers will happily share their secrets.
Right now, you’ll find row after row of colorful options, from fresh berries to basil. Indeed, with so many choices, navigating the market can be a little overwhelming. Haas’ advice? “Stick to items that are unique to this time of year,” she says. “For example, unless you live in California, you can’t always get fresh figs — so that’s something you’d want to buy now.” If you’re not sure which items to go for, don’t fret. We did the work for you and sussed out the season’s tastiest, healthiest picks. Consider this your guide to hacking the farmers’ market all summer long.
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Health benefits: “Basil is an easy, low-calorie way to add bright flavor to dishes,” says Haas. “Plus, it’s a good source of antioxidants, beta carotene, and vitamins A and C.”
How to buy: Look for bright, fresh leaves that are dry — not slimy or wilted. If possible, buy bunches with their root ends still on and store in a jar of water when you get home.
How to use: Basil tastes best when eaten fresh. Thinly slice the herb intro ribbons and toss it into pasta or onto pizza just before serving.
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Health benefits: “Rich in fiber, potassium, and iron, beets are one of the most nutritious vegetables out there,” says Haas. “They’re also great for pregnant women since they’re an excellent source of folate, a B vitamin that reduces the risk of birth defects.”
How to buy: Choose beets that still have their tops attached (they should be crisp and dark green). Make sure the bulbs are smooth, hard, round, and free of cuts or blemishes.
How to use: Love kale chips? Try making beet chips: Thinly slice beets and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, flipping once. Top with fresh herbs, if desired.
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Health benefits: “The biggest selling point of watermelon is its water content,” says Haas. “It contains more than 90 percent water, so it’s great to eat in summer when you need to stay hydrated.” Watermelon is also a good source of lycopene, a nourishing carotenoid that has been proven to protect against certain cancers.
How to buy: Pick a melon that feels heavy for its size. If it feels too light, it’s probably not ripe yet. Look for a rind that’s not too shiny or too dull; colors can range from deep green to gray. The underside should have a creamy-white spot (where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun).
How to use: Watermelon is delicious when sliced and eaten fresh. But, it can also make a great addition to summer drinks. Try pureeing watermelon and freezing it in ice-cube trays. Add the cubes to cocktails or smoothies instead of regular ice.
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Health benefits: “This veggie is virtually fat-free and is a good source of fiber,” says Haas. “Just one cup of cooked eggplant has 2.5 grams of fiber.”
How to buy: Like watermelon, eggplant should be heavy for its size (a light one may turn out to be overly seedy). Look for eggplant with satin-smooth skin and no blemishes, tan patches, cuts, or bruises.
How to use: Transform eggplant into mouth-watering baba ghanoush by baking it and mashing it with lemon juice, parsley, garlic, and a touch of peanut butter or tahini sauce. Use it as a spread or as a tasty dip for vegetables.
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Health benefits: “With only 100 calories per cup, cherries are a dessert you can feel good about,” says Haas. “They’re also a great source of pectin, a type of soluble fiber that’s been shown to help lower cholesterol.”
How to buy: Select cherries that are large (an inch or more in diameter), glossy, plump, hard, and still have their stems attached. They should have a vibrant, deep color and be free of soft spots or blemishes.
How to use: A handful of plain cherries makes for a satisfying snack. Another idea: Add chopped cherries to a spinach salad, along with toasted nuts and red onions.
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Health benefits: “Peaches are packed with antioxidants and are a good source of vitamins A and C,” says Haas. “They’re a perfect snack since one large peach contains about 70 calories and three grams of filling fiber.”
How to buy: If you want to eat them immediately, choose peaches that are soft, fragrant, and free of blemishes or bruises. Don’t mind waiting a few days? Go for those that are firm but not hard (they should yield slightly to pressure). Fruits produce a natural ripening chemical called ethylene, so placing unripened fruit in a paper bag — especially if you place a riper piece of fruit, such as an apple, in there too — will trap this gas and speed up the process.
How to use: Grilled peaches make a great dessert: Brush halved, pitted peaches with a small amount of oil or butter and grill on each side for two to three minutes. Top with Greek yogurt and cinnamon, if desired.
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Yardlong (Or Chinese) Beans
Health benefits: “Like other types of green beans, yardlong beans are low in calories and rich in fiber,” says Haas. “They also have good stores of folate and vitamin C.”
How to buy: Make sure yardlong beans are brightly colored and firm, with no blemishes or bruises. Because of their length, it’s ok if they’re a little bend-y.
How to use: Blanch yardlong beans by boiling them for a few minutes and then plunging them into an ice-water bath to stop the cooking process. Toss them into a salad or sauté them with grated garlic and ginger for a flavorful side dish.
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Bell Peppers
Health benefits: “All bell peppers have good stores of vitamin C and dietary fiber,” says Haas. “However, color does matter — both yellow and red peppers contain more than twice the amount of vitamin C found in green peppers.”
How to buy: Like melons, peppers should feel heavy for their size. Look for those that are firm and have taut, glossy skin. Avoid bell peppers that have cuts or black/soft spots.
How to use: Top toasted or grilled bread with an assortment of colorful, roasted peppers and drizzle with olive oil — or, stuff peppers with chili, pasta, rice, or vegetables and bake.
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Swiss Chard
Health benefits: “Swiss chard is great for vegetarians since it’s a good source of iron,” says Haas. In addition to being rich in beta carotene, potassium, fiber, vitamin C, and magnesium, Swiss chard also delivers great stores of vitamin K, which is essential for bone growth and health.
How to buy: Choose Swiss chard that has crisp, green leaves (they should not be yellow or brown). Make sure the stems are firm and intact.
How to use: Chop the stems and leaves and sauté in olive oil with a little chili powder. Use as a filling for tacos or an omelet.
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Health benefits: “Tomatoes are most famous for being a good source of lycopene, an antioxidant that gives the fruit its red color and may help prevent prostate cancer and heart disease,” says Haas. “They’re also rich in potassium, which helps control blood pressure.”
How to buy: Look for plump, heavy tomatoes that have smooth skin and are free of bruises, blemishes, or cracks. They should be firm and yield slightly to pressure. Most importantly, make sure they’re fragrant; if they have no aroma, they were likely picked when immature and may never ripen.
How to use: For a simple side or appetizer, slice beefsteak or heirloom tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Another idea: Sauté cherry tomatoes with garlic and herbs and use as a topping for pasta or fish.