What To Pick in August
August is one of the best months for produce– between harvesting crops in your own garden, exploring the variety at a local farmers market, or simply perusing the “locally-grown” section at the grocery store, shopping for produce during August is a joy: there’s more variety during the Dog Days than in any other month of the year. Below, Garden Collage spotlights some of the best produce to look for at your local farmer’s market in August. Based on flavor, seasonality, and ripeness, there’s no better time to visit Farmers Markets across the Northern Hemisphere.
Look for tomatoes with bright, shiny, firm skin that has a little give when gently squeezed. Tomatoes taste best when served un-refridgerated at room temperature.
Referred to more commonly in Europe as Aubergines, Eggplant is the distinctive Mediterranean vegetable, gracing seasonal culinary delicacies from Italy to Greece and beyond. A ripe eggplant will have a bright green stem, but if it is at all brown or fading, the eggplant is overripe and you probably shouldn’t buy it. The skin should be deep purple, free of scars, and slightly elastic. Try our Garden Collage recipe for easy eggplant caponata and enjoy the flavors of summer!
Beets– roasted or juiced– are considered one of the world’s healthiest foods, rich in phytonutrients called betalains. Betanin and vulgaxanthin are the two best-studied phytonutrients in beets, and both have been shown to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification support. The good news for gardeners is that fresh beets are hard to mess up: as long as they are at least 2 inches in diameter and without mold, they are ready to be chopped, roasted, boiled, thrown in a salad, or prepared however you like.
Grapes need a many hours of sun and heat to develop their flavors, and they concentrate all their sugars in August. “We will see all sorts of varieties from champagne to cotton-candy grapes,” Whole Foods Chris Romano told TIME: “A good way to select grapes is to pay attention to the color of the stem. If the stems are brittle it means they likely won’t last very long once you bring them home. Grapes with a flexible green stem are a good bet.”
Because of the high water content necessary to produce succulent fruit, melons really come into season after the peak heat and rainstorms that most areas experience in July. To pick a good melon, look for symmetry, a heavy weight, and no bruising.
Summer is the season for stone fruit like plums, peaches cherries, and pluots. The deeper the color, the sweeter the fruit. Most stone fruit can be preserved during the summer months into jam or other preserves, and as long you fruit is cut off the stone, it can be frozen and enjoyed for months to come.
August is a good month to keep an eye out for okra, TIME reports. Look for small green pods without bruises. In the United States, okra has become a Southern cuisine staple, but people living in other U.S. regions also choose to grow it when the August heat kicks in. Be sure not to over-cook okra as it can have a slimy texture if neglected.
The earlier fennel appears in August and will continue to prosper into the Fall months. Fennel is ready when the bulb is between 2 and 3 inches in diameter, and the fronds are ready once they surpass six inches in height. Roast the bulb and slice it over a salad, or serve by itself with olive oil and pepper. Meanwhile, the fronds can be used to make everything from homemade ice cream to tangy pesto. Check out our recipe-filled article on how to use fennel fronds here.