It may be true that we're developing a global economy, but when it comes to fruits and vegetables, locavores have the right idea. Folks who buy local produce and take advantage of the bounty each season has to offer are living greener and buying foods that are usually better tasting, more nutritious and less expensive. These 10 produce items are seasonal in the U.S. Let's see if you know when they're at their freshest and most appealing.
Tasty when they're steamed, these veggies are available in fall when the days get shorter and nighttime temperatures start to drop. They're high in fiber as well as vitamins A, C, K and B6. They're also a good source of copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin and thiamin. Yum!
Available in late summer through early fall, the lemony goodness of a fresh tomatillo adds zest to salsa and is a great addition to a tossed salad.
Apricots are a late spring to early summer (May to July) crop. They're high in vitamins A and C. For the sweetest, tastiest apricots, buy mature fruits with no trace of lingering green color, and store them at room temperature.
A spring favorite, asparagus can sometimes provide a double crop, once in spring and again in the fall.
Another later arrival, broccoli does best in the colder temperatures of fall and winter, although some of the newer cultivars can start their active season earlier in the year. George W. Bush may have hated it, but broccoli has lots to recommend it. An antioxidant super food, broccoli makes an effective side dish when steamed and lightly salted. It's also an excellent addition to stir-fry or green salad.
A summer and fall favorite, eggplant is available in purple, white and variegated varieties, and comes in a number of sizes. To remove any bitter taste, soak eggplant slices in a brine solution and drain them thoroughly before using them in recipes.
A spring favorite, red, ripe strawberries are one of the first fruits to ripen when the days get longer in spring. Want to pick the perfect strawberry? Look for specimens with a bright red shoulders and deep green caps. Even seed distribution is also a good sign. Strawberries should have a distinctive strawberry aroma, too. Avoid strawberries with bruises or discolorations. To keep strawberries fresh once you get them home, postpone washing them until you're ready to eat them or use them.
Sweet potatoes are a fall and winter crop that's becoming more popular every year. Try one as a baked side instead of an Idaho potato, and look for French fried sweet potatoes the next time you visit your favorite burger joint.
Zucchini is a summer crop that's a versatile addition to fried and baked dishes, as well as fresh fare like salads and crudités. Young zucchini sautéed in butter is delicious, and a little later in the season, larger specimens can be grated into breads or stuffed with ground meat.
Avocados are a summer crop, but you can usually find them (imported) in your market year-round. The Hass variety has the highest oil content of most commercially available avocados. You'll know them when you see them. They'll be dark green with a distinctive bumpy skin. Prefer specimens with a portion of the stem still attached to ensure that the fruit inside hasn't begun to oxidize.