Grown locally instead of imported, the fruits and vegetables of summer taste even better having been harvested practically in your own backyard. And there's no better place to find what's in season than your local farmers' market or farm stand, where not only can you see what's being grown, but you can meet the people who plant and gather the vegetables you're about to eat up.
Here, we bring the farm stand to you, rounding up the best of what's in season, and sharing some delicious dishes you can cook up with these July favorites. All that's left is to fire up the grill -- summer is finally here!
Gorgeous Season Produce for July
The saying "cool as a cucumber" is especially true in summer, when the cucumber's high water content (96 percent!) can provide important hydration. Cukes are best eaten raw, especially in light salads -- be sure to store them in the refrigerator to keep them crisp and cool. You can also easily turn them into delicious homemade pickles. Look for short, slightly prickly cucumbers known as kirby cucumbers--they're sweet and crunchy and our favorites.
Zucchini and Summer Squash
A quintessential summer vegetable, zucchini just screams to be grilled--the flesh becomes smoky and tender, the skin burnishes, and the natural sugars caramelize. Give zucchini the center stage in grilled zucchini tacos, or dress in a vinaigrette for a simple summer side dish. Zucchini fall within the summer squash family--one of our favorite families, ever. And summer squash come in shapes and colors beyond green zucchini: you'll see long yellow squash, squash light green squash--known as gray squash--and pretty little bright yellow sunburst squash.
Corn is another great grilling vegetable, though we often don't think of it as being so. You can place the cobs directly on the grill to char the kernels (like we did here), or wrap them in either foil or their own husks--either way, you'll have a sweet, smoky, delicious treat to enjoy all summer long. Corn is also an essential ingredient in succotash--a summery vegetable sauté. Fields of corn grow higher and higher through July and August, the yellow or white kernels getting ever sweeter. Then you've got tons of options: cut the kernels off or leave them on; grill the corn in the husk or outside of it. Top with butter or with mayo and Mexican cheese. Yum.
A member of the onion family, shallots actually grow in bulbs like garlic, and it's easy to find them fresh from the field this time of year. Their subtle flavor is great for dressings and sauces, like in our shallot tarragon butter, or try them in the place of an onion, for all the sweetness without any of the kick!
From teeny cherry tomatoes to sprawling heirlooms, the variety of tomatoes available in the summer months is astounding. Tomatoes will generally be sweeter, firmer, and more fragrant than they are in other months, making them a great option to eat raw, like in our panzanella salad. When buying tomatoes, look for ones that gift off a strong tomato-y scent--they'll have the most flavor. And, though it's not intuitive, the uglier the tomato, the tastier it will be, so look for ones with crags, dark colors, and not-perfectly-round shapes.
Summertime calls for crisp, crunchy green beans, perfect when mixed with flawless summer basil into pasta with pesto. The best way to achieve this is through blanching, which will keep the beans perfectly fresh, crisp, and a beautiful bright green in color; blanching also retains the multitude of vitamins that green beans boast, including vitamins A, B6, and C.