During the summer months, shopping for fresh vegetables is an intense sensory experience. Here are some tips for choosing the best summer vegetables.
During the summer months, shopping for fresh veggies is an intense sensory experience.
We’re blessed with the bright reds and yellows of fresh tomatoes and peppers, the snappy green of beans and peas, and the deep purple of eggplants.
Take home a basket full of local organic vegetables, and you can enjoy a feast of taste. Here are some tips for choosing the best of the crop.
|What to Look For||How to Store||Availability||Did You Know…?|
|Look for vibrant red, yellow, or orange. Skin should be wrinkle-free and shiny.||Store in the refrigerator in a paper bag. Stays fresh for about 1 week.||Late summer and fall||As peppers ripen, their flesh becomes thicker, sweeter, and more nutritious. Green peppers are unripe, which accounts for their bitter taste.|
|A ripe eggplant feels firm and heavy. Its skin should be a deep glossy purple and be free of brown spots. Leaves at the stem end should be attached completely to the skin.||Store in the crisper of the refrigerator. Stays fresh for 1 to 2 weeks depending on initial ripeness.||Late summer||Eggplants come in many shades of purple, and there is also a white variety.|
|A tomato should feel heavy for its size. They are available in red, yellow, and even brown and purple.||
Store in a cool place—not the refrigerator. Buy ripe tomatoes for immediate gratification, and slightly green ones to eat in a few days. Tomatoes with their stems still attached will stay fresher longer.
|Mid to late August||
To help the ripening process, place unripe tomatoes in a paper bag (not plastic) with an apple. Tomatoes, whose seeds were carried from Central America to Europe by explorers, were initially thought to be poisonous.
|Beans should be bright green and smooth with no spots. To test for freshness, bend the bean. If it bends slightly and snaps in half, it’s fresh. If it just bends, it’s not as fresh.||Store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Beans don’t shrivel quickly, so they seem to keep well. Sadly, they lose their flavour almost as quickly as tomatoes do. Eat as soon as possible.||Early summer to mid fall||Also called string beans because of the long, tough thread that ran along the length of the bean. Newer varieties are stringless. The Royal Burgundy variety is purple but turns bright green when cooked.|
|Pods should be firm and smooth. Open up a pod and check that the peas are bright, firm, medium-sized, and round.||Store, loosely wrapped, in the crisper. Garden peas begin to lose their sweetness as soon as they are picked, so eat them as soon as possible.||Late April to late June||Rule of thumb: for every cup (250 mL) of shelled peas, buy 1 pound (500 mL) of peas in the pod.|
|Zucchini (Summer squash)
|Look for firm, bright, and glossy zucchini with freshly cut stems. Those most recently picked will be covered with fine hairy stubble. Avoid zucchini that are soft or have brown patches.||Store in the refrigerator. Keeps for at least a week.||High summer to mid-September||The smaller the better—some markets will sell young zucchini with their flowers still attached—these are the most tender.|
|Look for bright, fresh-looking leaves.||Keep in the least cold area of the refrigerator. Wrap loosely in a paper towel before storing in a paper bag in the fridge. Stays fresh for 2 to 3 days.||High summer to fall||A member of the mint family, basil is happiest growing in hot sunny climates. It will wilt and turn black if its leaves are too cold. An ingredient in many perfumes.|