This post was originally written as a test piece for a job interview I had with 2 prominent food bloggers, Jessica and Maria. The writing is entirely original. The graphics are mine, using photography from their respective websites.
One of the biggest challenges I came across when I was first trying to plan my family’s meals was when to buy what. It can be overwhelming because most grocery stores have every kind of produce all year round, so it tricks you into thinking it’s a great time to buy tomatoes (but maybe it really isn’t!). Knowing when to buy what produce comes down to knowing what’s in season. Buying in season is best for everyone for a couple of reasons.
First, in-season produce will taste better. If you’ve ever bought a mango in November, you know what I mean! It may look beautiful, but it was probably grown 3,000 miles away and artificially ripened on a truck. A November mango from South America will never taste as good as a July mango from Florida or California.
Second, it’s cheaper! Like, way cheaper. When produce is in season, it’s abundant and easy to grow, so supply and demand are working in your favor. Corn can be as little as ten cents an ear if you buy it in the summer (and 5 times that in the off-season)!
When I go to the grocery store, I look for the big bins of produce that are on sale. There’s a reason you see a huge bin of watermelons in July and a huge bin of acorn squash in October. Just go with it! Your meals will taste better, and you’ll end up spending less money.
Also, buying in season can also help you get out of your comfort zone. It’s really easy for me to just buy broccoli every single week because my family likes it, and it’s easy to cook (drizzled with olive oil, salt, and pepper and roasted at 425 degrees for 15 minutes). But it’s kinda fun to get something different like okra or bok choy and seeing what I can come up with!
One more thing about buying your produce: when should you buy organic? Organic is pricier, so for me it’s not an option to buy all organic, all the time. Some foods are actually okay to buy non-organic, and they’re usually types of produce with a thick skin that doesn’t allow pesticide residue into the part you eat (stuff like lemons, bananas, or melons). There’s a list floating around out there called The Dirty Dozen — types of produce that are most likely to have pesticide residue on them, and so you should always try to buy them organic. I put a (*) next the Dirty Dozen items in the list below.
So let’s get started! Here’s what in season in August, plus a few recipe ideas for each type of produce:
apples*: try brie, apple, & honey crostini or oatmeal stuffed baked apples with maple brown butter
avocados: try bbq shrimp and lime avo toast or avocado goat cheese pasta
beets: try golden beet chips with spicy goat cheese dip or beet caprese salad+
berries*: try watermelon, blackberry, & mint salad or no-bake cashew coconut crusted summer fruit tart
broccoli: try get your greens salad or blackened broccoli pasta with charred lemon & goat cheese
cabbage: try bang bang shrimp with napa cabbage slaw or roasted chickpea taco salad
carrots: try carrot cake cinnamon rolls with mascarpone icing or asian salad with soy ginger vinaigrette
cauliflower: try roasted cauli shells and cheese or cauliflower lentil sloppy joes
celery*: try vegetable quinoa soup or mediterranean celery & olive salad+
cherries*: try balsamic grilled cherry, blueberry, goat cheese, & candied hazelnut salad or butter roasted cherry swirl overnight oats
corn: try whipped mexican grilled corn dip or zucchini ribbon salad with corn & avocado
cucumbers*: try cucumber & avocado sandwich or sesame cucumber ribbon avo toast
dates: try savory pear, date, & burrata flatbread with crispy sage or warm dates with olive oil, sea salt, & lemon zest+
eggplant: try roasted vegetable stuffed shells or eggplant parm grilled cheese
endive: Try endive, pear, & roquefort salad+ or sauteed endive with balsamic butter+
fennel: Try mediterranean trout with olives, fennel, & tomatoes+ or grilled fennel with parm & lemon+
garlic: Try garlic butter grilled veggie pizza or skillet chilaquiles
ginger: Try thai coconut curry shrimp noodle bowls or cauli steaks with ginger soy sauce
grapes*: Try spinach quinoa salad with roasted grapes, pears, & almonds or roasted grape, goat cheese, & honey stuffed sweet potatoes
green beans: Try loaded skillet toasted green beans or green beans with lemon & feta
greens*: Try watermelon, blueberry & jicama arugula salad or charred tomato & garlic butter mini skillet pizzas
herbs: Try pesto pasta with burrata or orzo salad with chickpeas, cucumbers, lemon, dill & feta
leeks: Try roasted apple, pear, & parsnip soup or pulled pork pizza with leeks, roasted garlic, & cheddar
lemons: try lemon zucchini bread or lemon almond pudding cake
lettuce: try panzanella with marinated chickpeas and chimichurri or roasted vegetable pita sandwich
mango: try crunchy chicken spring rolls with blood orange dipping sauce or black quinoa salad with mango, avo, & tomatoes
melon: try cucumber, watermelon, and feta salad or tropical banana rum & melon breakfast bowls
mushrooms: try chipotle marinated kale & smoky mushroom tacos or creamy polenta with roasted mushrooms
okra: try crispy indian okra+ or stewed okra & tomatoes+
onions: try marinated grilled veggies with avo whipped feta or spinach & cheese green chile enchiladas
oranges: try orange, avo, & kale salad or beer glazed citrus chicken with orange arugula greens
pears: try pear and blue cheese flatbread or caramelized pear upside down bread
peppers*: try thai beef bowls or grilled shishito peppers
potatoes: try 3 ingredient roasted parm pesto potatoes or summer chicken pot pie galette with herbed crust
radishes: try summer grain bowls or a rainbow veggie sandwich
scallions: try tabbouleh salad or sweet thai chili salmon skewers
shallots: try stone fruit kale salad or blue cheese stuffed portobello burgers with grilled corn & crispy shallots
shelling beans and field peas: try chinese chicken salad with sesame garlic vinaigrette or mediterranean three bean quinoa salad
stone fruit*: try honey glazed chicken quesadillas with peach guac or plum cornmeal cake
summer squash: try zucc applesauce oatmeal cookies or mini zucchini pizzas
tomatillos: try tomatillo ranch chicken+ or roasted tomatillo salsa
tomatoes*: Try bacon fried green tomato BLTs with special sauce or heirloom tomato pesto galette
* means you should buy organic if possible
+recipes linked from around the web
(complete produce guide found at http://www.cuesa.org/)