Eating fruits and vegetables while they are in season provides the most flavor and nutrition. Produce shipped long distances or stored for months loses nutrients. Prioritizing seasonal, local options ensures you get the most from each bite. This guide highlights the best picks by season with tips for selecting, storing, and savoring seasonal bounty.
Spring welcomes lighter, brighter flavors after winter’s root vegetables and hearty squash. Early spring produce includes asparagus, spinach, lettuce and peas. As the weather warms, strawberries, cherries, and apricots arrive along with spring onions, artichokes, and fava beans.
- Seek out farmer’s markets and farm stands for the freshest local offerings. Sign up for a CSA or food co-op for regular deliveries.
- Choose firm, smooth-skinned strawberries with bright red color and fresh green caps.
- Look for cherries with glossy, taut skin and green stems. Avoid any with bruises or damp-looking splotches.
- Favor slender, firm asparagus spears with tightly closed tips. The thinner the stalk, the more tender it will be.
- Store strawberries unwashed in a single layer in a paper towel lined container. Eat within 2-3 days for maximum sweetness.
- Keep unwashed cherries loosely packed in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Enjoy within a few days.
- Stand bundled asparagus upright in a cup with water, or wrap ends in a damp paper towel and place in a plastic bag in the fridge.
- Roast asparagus and cherry tomatoes for a quick spring veggie side. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast at 400°F 15-20 minutes.
- Make an elegant yet easy salad with spinach, sliced strawberries, goat cheese crumbles, and balsamic vinaigrette.
- Grill meat kabobs using chunks of chicken, beef, or shrimp alternated with cherry tomatoes, onions, peppers, and pineapple.
Navigating Naperville’s Culinary Bounty
Exploring Naperville grocery stores for seasonal produce transforms shopping into a vibrant culinary experience. With each season offering a unique array of fruits and vegetables, local markets become a treasure trove of freshness. From the burst of colors in spring to the hearty root vegetables of winter, Naperville grocery stores cater to every palate. This guide navigates you through the seasons, helping you make the most of the flavors and nutritional benefits that each one brings to your table.
The bounty of summer overflows with juicy tomatoes, sweet corn, stone fruits, and cooling melons. Farmers markets burst with zucchini, eggplant, okra, beans, peas, herbs, and more.
- Seek out local farmer’s markets and stands. Ask when the produce was picked for ultimate freshness.
- Look for plump tomatoes free of bruises with taut skin. Heirlooms should feel heavy for their size.
- Choose corn with green, moist looking husks and plump, tightly packed rows of kernels when peeled back.
- Pick smooth, fragrant melons without dents, bruises, or soft spots. Cantaloupe should feel heavy; watermelon sounds hollow when tapped.
- Keep tomatoes at room temperature and out of direct sunlight. Use within a few days for the best flavor.
- Store unhusked corn in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for up to 2 days. Cook soon after shucking.
- Once cut, wrap the watermelon tightly and refrigerate for up to 5 days. Store whole melons in the room temp up to 2 days.
- Make bruschetta by topping grilled bread with diced tomatoes, garlic, basil, and olive oil.
- Grill slices of zucchini, eggplant, and onions brushed with olive oil to make quick veggie kebabs.
- Stir sliced okra into gumbo or onion and tomato stew for added thickening and flavor.
- Mix diced watermelon, feta cheese, mint, and balsamic for a fast, refreshing salad.
Fall brings hearty squash, sweet potatoes, apples, and pears. Stock up on Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and other nutritious crucifers. Finish the season with crunchy greens, leeks, mushrooms, and pumpkins.
- Shop seasonal farmer’s markets through October. Many farms also sell squash, apples, and greens in winter.
- Choose firm, heavy squash free of bruises and soft spots. Hard squash sounds hollow when tapped; acorns and buttercups should feel heavy.
- Pick pears that yield slightly when pressed near the stem. Avoid those with bruises.
- Look for glossy, firmly packed Brussels sprouts. Pass on yellowed leaves or mushy buds.
- Store winter squash and hardier apples in a cool, dry place for up to several weeks. Acorn squash will keep for over 2 months.
- Place pears, ripe apples, and Brussels sprouts in the refrigerator. Use pears within 5-7 days; apples and sprouts within 2 weeks.
- Wrap pumpkin innards in plastic and refrigerate for up to 5 days. Display whole pumpkins on the counter up to a week.
- Roast chunks of squash with onions, garlic, salt, and pepper for a simple, nutritious side dish.
- Simmer chopped apples with cinnamon and a touch of sweetener for an easy compote topping for yogurt or oatmeal.
- Brussel sprouts shred and sauté with garlic, lemon, and pine nuts for a fresh fall slaw.
- Blend pumpkin puree into soups, smoothies, pancakes, and baked goods for nutrition and natural sweetness.
While summer produce wanes, winter offers its own treasures, including vibrant citrus fruits, sweet potatoes, hardy greens, root vegetables, and dried beans.
- Buy citrus fruits loose instead of pre-bagged when possible for better quality. Seek out variety like blood oranges, Meyer lemons, and satsumas.
- Look for firm, smooth sweet potatoes without bruises, sprouts, or cracking. Small to medium sizes tend to be the sweetest.
- Favor tightly bunched collard greens and kale with crisp, brightly colored leaves. Pass on yellowing, wilting, or browning.
- Pick rutabagas and turnips that feel heavy for their size with fresh green tops when attached.
- Store citrus fruits and sweet potatoes in a cool, dark place for up to a week. Refrigerate cut citrus fruits.
- Wrap washed greens loosely in paper towels and keep them in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to one week.
- Store turnips and rutabagas in the crisper drawer, removing greens when attached. Use within 2 weeks.
- Slow cook beans from scratch during the winter for creamy texture and rich flavor. Pair with greens, onions, garlic, and spices.
- Mash roasted sweet potatoes with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger for a sweet, nourishing winter side.
- Sauté shredded greens like kale or chard with garlic, olive oil, lemon, and crushed red pepper flakes.
- Roast cubed turnips and carrots tossed in oil, thyme, rosemary and garlic until caramelized for a comforting cold weather dish.
Seasonal produce provides an ever-changing palette of flavors and nutrients. Paying attention to seasonal and regional offerings maximizes freshness, taste, and nutrition in every meal. Embrace eating with the seasons to reap the rewards of flavor and sustenance.
FAQs about seasonal produce shopping:
1. Why is seasonal produce recommended?
Seasonal produce picked at peak ripeness offers superior flavor, texture, and nutrition compared to out-of-season options shipped long distances. It also supports local farmers.
2. Where can I find seasonal produce?
Shop at local farmer’s markets, farm stands, and specialty grocers. Sign up for CSA boxes for regular seasonal deliveries. Choose seasonal options from your grocery store produce aisle.
3. How do I know what’s in season?
Check online seasonality charts for your region or ask vendors at farmer’s markets. Produce at peak season will be abundant and lower cost.
4. How should I store seasonal produce?
Some general tips: Store unwashed berries and stone fruit at room temp. Refrigerate cut fruit/veg tightly wrapped. Keep hard winter squash in a cool, dry place.
5. What are the best cooking methods?
Roast, sauté, grill, and bake to bring out seasonal flavors. Use minimal cooking time for tender greens and steaming for summer squash. Highlight produce simply by tossing in olive oil, salt, and pepper.