14 Fruits and Veggies That Outshine the Rest in August
While lots of produce is stocked in stores year round, there’s no denying that most fruits and veggies taste best when eaten in-season. And for late summer produce, that moment is now. August is, after all, prime time for plump peaches, ripe summer squash, juicy tomatoes, eggplants, sweet corn, and so much more. Here’s what not to miss this month. If you find yourself with more than you can use—what's better than a few farmers' market impulse buys or an excessively generous garden?—check out our guide to freezing fresh fruits and veggies. That way, you can reap the benefits of your precious produce all year long.
Out of season tomatoes are bland at best, mealy at worst. But they steal the show when devoured in their prime (now!), and need little more than a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt to shine. When choosing a tomato at the farmers' market or in the grocery store, look for one that is deeply colored, smells sweet, and feels firm but not hard.
Try them in: Beefsteak Tomato Bread Salad
Nutritional bonus: Tomatoes are a great source of Vitamin C (one medium tomato contains about a quarter of your recommended daily intake) and packed with antioxidants.
A cross between a plum and an apricot, these juicy fruits are not to be missed. They begin popping up in stores in mid-May, but are at their peak in August, when they are packed full of flavor and bursting with sweet juices. Though they’re delicious eaten out of hand, their firm texture and natural sweetness make them ideal for cooking and baking, too.
Try them in: Pluot and Cucumber Tabbouleh
Nutritional bonus: Pluots are a plum/apricot hybrid, both of which are a healthy source of Vitamin C and fiber.
Raspberries start showing up earlier in summer, but if they’re picked too soon, they never fully ripen. That’s why it’s best to wait until August, when the berries have reached maximum sweetness and can be enjoyed by the handful. To score the perfect pint, look for berries that are dry and uniform in color, with no signs of molding, and with their hulls removed.
Try them in: Raspberry-Rhubarb Compote
Nutritional bonus: A cup of raspberries contains more than half of your daily Vitamin C.
While eggplants are available for purchase year round, they’ll taste better in the coming weeks than they will at any other time. Look for ones that are smooth and naturally shiny, and feel heavy for their size. Only extremely large eggplant need to be salted before cooking (to reduce bitterness); average-sized ones are ready to be roasted, fried, sautéed, or pureed right away. Sliced eggplant can make a great substitute for meat or pasta.
Try them in: Eggplant and Chicken Caponata Pizza
Nutritional bonus: Eggplants are a great, low-calorie source of fiber.
Is there anything more wonderful than an end-of-summer peach? Eat them straight from the market (with a napkin in tow), or put them to use in both sweet and savory dishes. Grilled peaches taste and look impressive, but couldn’t be simpler: cut them in half, grill three to four minutes on each side, then pair with ice cream and a drizzle of honey.
Nutritional bonus: Peaches are a healthy, low-calorie source of fiber and Vitamin C.
Tart enough for breakfast but sweet enough for dessert, plums taste great at every time of day. Though they won’t ripen much after they’ve been picked, placing them in a paper bag at room temperature can help soften them a bit. Try stirring slices into iced tea for a refreshing summer sip.
Try them in: Roasted Plums With Yogurt and Walnuts
Nutritional bonus: Plums are packed with healthy fiber and Vitamin C.
Cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon are all at their best—meaning they’re sweet, juicy, and ready for a picnic. For a fun summer breakfast the kids are sure to love, cut a cantaloupe in half, scoop out the seeds, then fill each half with yogurt and granola. In need of more melon-spiration? We’ve got 16 genius ways to use up an entire watermelon.
Try them in: Melon, Cucumber, and Burrata Salad
Nutritional bonus: A serving of cantaloupe has about the same amount of Vitamin C as a small orange. And watermelon, as its name suggests, is packed with water—which makes it great for re-hydrating on a hot day.
For the fuzz-averse, smooth-skinned nectarines are the perfect peach replacement. A ripe nectarine should have a strong, sweet fragrance, and be free of green coloring, wrinkly patches, and bruising. When it comes to matters of size, it’s best to pick the medium ones—too big, and they may be mealy, too small, and they may be underripe.
Try them in: Cherry Nectarine Crisp
Nutritional bonus: One medium nectarine contains just over 60 calories, and 2 grams of fiber. Even better? Preliminary research has suggested that stone fruits, like nectarines, may contain compounds that help to stave off obesity-related diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Bell peppers, jalapeño peppers, poblano peppers, you name it—now’s the time to start chopping, seeding, and serving them all month. Yellow and orange peppers are the sweetest of the bunch (red peppers are just mature green peppers), and are best when grilled, baked, or sautéed. In need of some heat? Look for jalapeños with “stretch marks,” which indicate hotter peppers.
Nutritional bonus: How's this for some good news: Research has shown that throwing some hot peppers into a meal might help to promote weight loss. Can't take the heat? Bell peppers have plenty of health benefits too—one small red bell pepper has almost twice the Vitamin C as an orange.
Whether it’s boiled, steamed, or cooked on the grill, corn on the cob is a sweet summer favorite. Don’t miss your chance to eat it while it’s best—we suggest making corn a weekly staple all month long. Look for tightly wrapped husks that feel firm when squeezed, and use within two days of purchasing, if possible.
Try it in: Spicy Corn and Cucumber Salsa
Nutritional bonus: Corn is packed with dietary fiber and phytochemicals that help with vision.
A surefire way to add a bright note to any dish, basil pairs well with most fresh summer produce. Once you buy it (look for whole, smooth leaves), act fast—it will begin to brown and mold after just a few days. To maximize basil’s life, store a bunch as you would cut flowers: at room temperature with the stems sitting in a small glass of water. Ready to get cooking? Try it in a caprese salad, crushed into a pesto, or layered atop homemade pizza.
Try it in: Fresh Mozzarella, Beet, and Basil Sandwiches
Nutritional bonus: Basil is packed with iron.
Summer Squash (Yellow Squash and Zucchini)
Be wary of summer squash that is longer than 8 inches, as bigger squashes tend to taste bitter. Look for bright, naturally shiny skins, and squeeze the stems to check for firmness. Then, thinly slice the squashes to enjoy them raw in salads, or bake with butter, cheese, and breadcrumbs for a warm and gooey gratin.
Try it in: Zucchini, Radish, and White Bean Salad
Nutritional benefits: Summer squash may have some added heart benefits, thanks to its potassium and Vitamin C. And zucchini makes a delicious (and healthier) alternative to pasta.
Peeling back the papery husk of a ripe tomatillo will reveal a tart green fruit that’s great for salsas and stews. Though they may look similar to small green tomatoes, tomatillos are actually more closely related to the Cape gooseberry. For a tangy twist on guacamole, replace a quarter of the avocado with husked and chopped raw tomatillo, and top with fresh cilantro.
Try them in: Fresh Tomatillo Salsa
Nutritional bonus: Tomatillos are a decent source of potassium.
The entire okra pod is edible, and tastes great when steamed, fried, sautéed, or baked. Though fresh okra is only available in the summer, pickling okra preserves it year-round. Break out the canning jars, the vinegar, and seasonings of your choice—you’ll be thankful for the veggie come the dreary winter months.
Try it in: Sautéed Tomatoes, Sausage, and Okra
Nutritional bonus: Okra is a good source of vitamin B6 and folic acid.