Figs are now in season—so hurry up and grab some because this small window of opportunity is closing a little everyday. How can you resist? Their soft, chewy skin gives way to their beautiful pink innards of microscopic seeds and sweet juicy pulp. But handle with care, because these little beauties are just as delicate as they sound. Keep them refrigerated and safe from possible bruising, and make sure to eat them within a few days of buying them.
Eggplant, aubergine, whatever you want to call it—we're just happy that this tasty veggie is season. It's incredibly versatile, delicious grilled, roasted, sauteed, or pureed; it's hearty enough to bulk up a plate, yet just as delicious in a light salad. Eggplants are great for soaking up flavor in any dish, but at their peak, are perhaps best enjoyed simply, maybe grilled with a dash of salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
Nothing compares to an in-season tomato, picked at the height of summer. And while we may be getting a little ahead of ourselves, we have tomato season seriously on the brain.
You may be accustomed to red radishes, but at some farmers' markets, you'll see white, purple, pink, and even black in addition to the red ones. Once they are dug up, these root vegetables are perfect for adding a peppery bite to a salad, fancying up your bread and butter, or even roasting.
The pale flat seeds of fava beans, while difficult to extract from their pods, are buttery and a bit nutty once cooked. They are versatile and delicious. Here are a few recipes for you to experience them at their best.
Seeing beautiful strawberries in the market is a sure sign of summer. Strawberry edibles that first come to mind are jams and tarts, or simply whole berries; but this fruit is pretty versatile. Consider more savory options, too. How do you eat summer strawberries?
Ancient Greeks rubbed mint on their tables as a sign of hospitality and mint tea has long been served in the Middle East to welcome guests. For me, the small, bright green leaves of the mint plant welcome warm weather and a new season of cooking.
With spring comes the welcome return of rhubarb. Though often prepared as a dessert, it's an unexpected, and pleasant, addition to savory dishes as well. When using rhubarb, be careful of the leaves on top; they contain toxic substances, but you'll find most stores usually remove them before they're sold. Try to find long, firm stalks to ensure freshness.
While they freeze better than many vegetables, green peas are definitely at their best in the spring when they can be pulled straight from the pod. Fresh peas have a crisp texture and a bright, sweet flavor. And don't forget the pea tendrils: the thin, young shoots from the pea plant are crisp, earthy and especially good when sauteed.
There's a lot to love about asparagus, from their cheery green color to that great little snap they make—but perhaps best of all is that they announce the arrival of spring. In peak season April through June, the slender stalks are time-consuming to grow—plants need at least a year from seed to harvest—and once picked, they're best eaten as soon as possible. But even though asparagus may be labor-intensive to grow, they're great for a quick meal.
On Sunday mornings when I wake up early enough, I make pancakes from scratch and pour real maple syrup all over them—the deeply sweet syrup just doesn't compare to the imitation stuff. The golden syrup is available all year, but new syrup is harvested in late February and March. Expect to see freshly bottled maple syrup at farmers' markets.
Raw, fried, baked, stuffed or made into a sandwich, oysters are always satisfying. The bivalves are available all year, but they're best eaten in the colder months from September to April. While a long-standing myth says oysters should not be eaten during months that do not contain an "R" (May through August), oysters generally are thin in the summer because they devote their energy to reproducing.
While much of the country won't see artichokes at farmers' markets for awhile, California residents are lucky to have the pine-cone shaped perennials in season now. Artichokes are available all year on the West Coast, but they peak from March to May and again in October. Originating in the Mediterranean, an overwhelming majority of artichokes grown in the United States are from California. The plants are actually the buds of thistles, which are in the sunflower family.
Peak season for mandarin oranges is from early winter to early spring. They are smaller than regular oranges and are easier to peel; even in early March, grocery stores have stacks of clementines in crates, or piles of the bagged fruit.
Meyer lemons combine the best attributes of lemons and oranges in a tart citrus fruit that doesn't make your face pucker. Peak season for these lemons begins in November and runs through March. Meyer lemons are thought to be a cross between a conventional lemon and a mandarin orange.
Turnips are vegetables that don't mind the cold at all. If turnips grew in temperatures over 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the turnips would mature too soon, becoming bitter and woody, according to the National Gardening Association. Available year-round in retail grocery stores, peak supplies of the root vegetable run from October to March.
Onions and other vegetables in the same family might be the first vegetable that's cut in preparing a meal. Check out Kenji's Knife Skills posts on "How to Cut an Onion," "How To Prepare Leeks" and his latest, "How to Peel Pearl Onions." As a major ingredient, a garnish, or just a supporting flavor, they're essential to so many of the dishes we love.
When I was a kid, I used to poke a potato several times with a chopstick, wrap it in a paper towel and cook it in the microwave. After a few minutes, I'd turn the potato over to cook the other side. When the potato was steaming hot, I'd break it open with a spoon, slather butter all over it and eat it. There are a million other ways to cook potatoes—and there are many, many types of potatoes to choose from.
Slice open a blood orange and its red flesh radiates. Generally available from winter to early spring, they bring color to salads, add zing to drinks and brighten meat, poultry and seafood dishes. Why are blood oranges such a sexy red? They have large amounts of anthocyanin pigments, which act as antioxidants and are responsible for red, purple, and blue colors in a lot of vegetables, fruits, and flowers.
Okay, dried beans aren't "in season"—they're always available and always the same. But this is really the season for them. As the winter months drag on, I just want to curl up on a couch with a bowl of chili that's filled with a lot of beans—not beans that come out of a can, but beans that were soaked overnight. Dried beans are best when we're hibernating. The beans swell and swell and swell as they stay submerged in water, and then they become soft after they're cooked.