From Our Chefs

Summer Ingredients Guide: The Top 15 You Need in Your Kitchen Today

Ahh, sweet summertime. As our routines and lifestyles were disrupted with the insanity of current events, it’s easy to feel like summer is slipping away! If you read last week’s blog about the benefits of seasonal eating and you’re ready to dive in, read on to check out our list of delicious summer ingredients.

While this list may vary slightly depending on geographic location, it serves as a good rule of thumb.

Photographer: Gareth Hubbard | Source: Unsplash

The top 15 must have summer ingredients:

Fresh herbs.

Can you picture the smell? Basil, chives, rosemary, and thyme thrive in hotter months.

Fresh herbs are guaranteed to elevate the taste of your dish and make for a beautiful presentation.

Sourcing tips: Whether you're picking them from a home garden or your local farmers market, they’re sure to delight. Select herbs with a vibrant fragrance, bright color and crisp stems. Avoid any that are overly moist or musty.

Preparation tips: Chop them up in salads. Create infused oils. Make a ton of homemade pesto and freeze it for year-round summer flavors.

Berries

Nature's candy. Low- carb sweetness. Perfect for breakfast OR desert. Need we say more?

Sourcing tips: Look for plump, bright berries with a fragrant scent. Avoid soft or mushy batches and look out for mold.

Preparation tips: An amazing addition to cakes, pies and cobblers. Berry season provides a great opportunity to get creative with berry infused sauces as well. But, we may argue that the best preparation is as simple as possible; nothing beats a handful of berries.

Berries stand in Slovenia in late May
Photographer: Alex Block | Source: Unsplash

Watermelon

Duh. What summer ingredient list would be complete without the quintessential summer food. This hydrating fruit also has a surprisingly long list of health benefits.

Sourcing tips: Choose a smooth, symmetrical melon. A gentle hollow sound when tapped signals that the melon is ripe. Avoid flat sides, bruises or dents.

Preparation tips: Fantastic eaten straight out of the rind with a spoon. Roast the seeds. Pickle the rind. Add the juicy flesh to a sweet summer salad. Puree the fruit for a refreshing slushie. The possibilities are endless.

Tomatoes

Another summer staple. Fresh picked and ripe in the summer, they can turn a tomato hater into a convert.

Sourcing tips: Pick tomatoes that are firm, plump and have a bright color. Smell for an aromatic earthy scent. Avoid soft, over ripe ones with cracks, spots or disfiguration.

Preparation tips: Do less! Add a sprinkle of salt and serve as a side. Brighten up salads by mixing in variations of tomatoes. Whip up a killer tomato sauce. Create a fresh salsa.

Tomatillos

Tomatoes green cousin, encased in a papery husk. Citrus like and tart when raw. Tangy and fruity when cooked.

Sourcing tips: Pick out firm tomatillos with close fitting husks. Smaller tomatillos have a more flavorful punch. Avoid shriveled or dried husks and soft blemish fruits.

Preparation tips: Broil or puree to create salsas, moles, soups and stews.

Leafy Greens

Didn’t anyone ever tell you to eat your greens? Spoiler they can actually taste good, especially when they’re in season. Arugula, swiss chard, spinach and salad greens are bountiful during the summer.

Sourcing tips: Think crisp, smooth and a glossy dark green. Avoid any bunches that look wilted, moist or overly blemished.

Photographer: Jonathan Ybema | Source: Unsplash

Cherries

Some of us look forward to cherry season all year. The two main varieties are sweet (such as Bing or Rainier) and sour (such as Early Richmond or Morello). Best served when cooling off near a lake or pool.

Sourcing tips: Look for bright, plump and shiny cherries.

Preparation tips: Cook into a sauce or preserve. Add to a pie or cobbler. Liven up a salad or eat them straight from the stem.

Green beans

Mmmm, crisp string beans. “Green beans” are actually a large family of varieties including common green beans, haricots verts (French Beans), yellow wax beans, purple snap peas and dragon tongue beans, just to name a few.

Sourcing tips: Pick out beans that are bright, crisp and snappy. Avoid beans that are limp or have spots.

Corn

Sweet corn, another traditionally American summer staple. Harvested by ancient Native American tribes and loved by children and adults alike today.

Sourcing tips: Choose ears that have tight, bright husks and plump kernels. Eat it as fresh as possible; as soon as it’s picked it begins to lose its sweetness. Avoid husks with small brown holes and browning near where the ear was broken off the stalk.

Grilled Corn
Photographer: Dragne Marius | Source: Unsplash

Stone Fruit

Peaches, plums, apricots, and nectarines. It’s so satisfying to bite into the juicy fruits on a hot summer day. Called stone fruit because of the pit (stone) they contain in the middle.

Sourcing tips: Smell for a sweet fragrant aroma. Look for fruit that is firm. Avoid fruit that is wrinkled, bruised or browning.

Preparation tips: Amazing savory and sweet. A great addition to sangria, pies or salads. So yummy grilled and served with chicken or fish. Nectarine and plum tagine anyone?

Zucchini

Anyone with a garden knows how these guys explode during summer months.

Sourcing tips: look for bright colored medium sized zucchinis (larger sizes tend to have less flavor). Avoid nicks, bruises and wrinkles.

Preparation tips: Grill it, fry it or bake it into breads and muffins. The plant is as versatile as you are creative.

Eggplant

Technically a berry?! The fruit comes in a range of sizes and colors from slender Asian varieties to the smaller and sweeter Italian varieties.

Sourcing tips: Pick out firm, heavy eggplants that feel a bit heavy. Avoid soft fruits with blemishes.

Preparation tips: Bake, broil or fry. A great vegetarian replacement for a summer BBQ. Grill and puree for a delicious baba ganoush. The neutral flavor lends itself to several styles of cuisine.

Photographer: Markus Spiske | Source: Unsplash

Cucumbers

Coming in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, this hydrating fruit is a refreshing summer must have.

Sourcing tips: Pick out bright and smooth cucumbers. Avoid yellowing or ones that have been waxed (waxing is common in some grocery stores).

Preparation tips: Enjoy raw, make pickles. add to a sauté, yogurt dip or to a refreshing cocktail.

Chile Peppers

Turn up the heat! Larger peppers tend to be less spicy as they have fewer seeds than smaller ones.

Sourcing tips: Look for vivid colors! Avoid soft spots and shriveling.

Photographer: Ryan Kwok | Source: Unsplash

Preparation tips: pickle the peppers so they last all year round. Add to salsa, stir fries, sauces or drinks! Word to the wise: if you’re dealing with the hotter varieties, be careful around your eyes. What’s spicy on your tongue will be intensified on your eye.

Which summer ingredients have you used before? How creative can you get? Tag College Chefs in what you’ve whipped up this summer on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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