A savvy shopper keeps an eye on the the perimeter of the store, with its seasonal changes in selection and price being the easiest to track. But even though every grocery is filled with products boasting nonstop claims, I've yet to see a sticker on a container of strawberries that says, "Now in season: I taste better!"
Food marketers, please go forth and make this change upon our shopping experience. In the meantime, here's a list of what tastes great this month.
Let's start with the simplest and perhaps most obvious: yes, fruits and vegetables taste better in the summertime. Not just at the farmers market, but at the grocery store too.
'Tis the season for early harvest, when fruits and vegetables start to taste like, well, fruits and vegetables. For those lucky enough not to own an ice scraper, most produce bounty is year-round, but for the rest of us, now’s the time to choose salad over soup.
Most groceries will source at least a few crops locally, buying directly from farmers or local product auctions, so keep a lookout for the following this July:
- Fruit: Apricots, peaches, cherries, berries
- Vegetables: Broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, greens, green beans, lettuce, onions, peas, radishes, squash and zucchini
Au, terroir. No one describes the effect of diet on animals better than the Midwest’s Dairy Evangelist, Warren Taylor. “When you put food into an animal, you get it in the milk, and you get it quick. Milk shows the seasonality of the feed, the weather, and the state of gestation in a way that no other food that I know of us.”
When dirt is dry (enough) and the grass is high, our goats, sheep, and cows get a treat — and so do we. This is the time to buy fresh, locally grown, grass-grazed cheese and milk. And because “weeds,” like clover and dandelions, destroy any chances of grass being a monoculture, cheese and milk will taste different almost every week.
Forget farm-to-table — we’re talking three days for nuanced fresh and bright flavors to travel from ground-to-teat.
The availability of seafood at your local market varies, of course, by where you are in the country. Here in the Midwest, we’re looking forward to Lake Erie yellow perch. In the Pacific Northwest? Now’s the time to grab albacore tuna and smelt. Blue crab, shrimp and catfish are available in Louisiana, while barracuda, grouper and several varieties of snapper should be easy to find in Florida.
P.S. It’s okay to eat oysters in the summer. Happy July to you!
What else do you look out for at the grocery store in the summertime?