Farmer's Market Favorites

Southern Living Farmers Market Cookbook shows you how to select, store, and cook summer's freshest produce.

  • Sweet Summertime
    Southern Living Farmers Market Cookbook

    Sweet Summertime

    Nothing says summer like juicy peaches, ripe tomatoes, or fresh basil. Seasonal produce from your local farmers market or backyard garden has a taste, smell, and uniqueness that gives recipes a flavor that's hard to match. Here's the season's bounty of produce options and ways to use in your home-cooked meals.


    Editor's note: For more seasonal produce tips and recipes, purchase the Southern Living Farmers Market Cookbook.


  • Basil
    Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner; Styling: Cindy Barr


    Select: Look for leaves that show no signs of wilting. Colors vary from shades of green to purple.

    Store: Store basil in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

    Cook: Phyllo Pizza with Feta, Basil, and Tomatoes


  • Blackberries
    Photo: John O'Hagan; Styling: Buffy Hargett


    Select: Select plump, well-colored berries with hulls detached. If hulls are still intact, the berries were picked too early.

    Store: Fresh blackberries are best stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. Choose a wide, shallow bowl to store berries, and cover with plastic wrap to keep them from drying out.

    Cook: Easy Blackberry Cobbler


  • Blueberries
    Photo: Colleen Duffley; Styling: Jan Gautro


    Select: Pick plump, juicy berries with blooms that have no trace of mold or discoloration. Look for firm, uniformly sized berries with deep color and no hulls or stems.

    Store: If eating blueberries within 24 hours of picking, store them at room temperature; otherwise, keep them refrigerated in a moisture-proof container up to 3 days.

    Cook: Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream


  • Cantaloupes
    Becky Luigart-Stayner


    Select: Pick a cantaloupe with a soft stem end. Look for a light yellow ridged or smooth outer shell. Avoid cantaloupe with a green cast.

    Store: Store unripe cantaloupes at room temperature and ripe cantaloupes in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days.

    Cook: Cantaloupe and Grilled Fig Salad


  • Carrots
    Photo: Randy Mayor; Styling: Cindy Barr


    Select: Choose carrots that are firm and brightly colored, avoiding ones that are cracked. If the leafy tops are attached, make sure they are not wilted.

    Store: Remove tops if attached; place carrots in plastic bags, and refrigerate up to 2 weeks.

    Cook: Steamed Carrots with Garlic-Ginger Butter


  • Celery Salad
    Randy Mayor; Melanie J. Clarke


    Select: Choose celery that is bright in color, firm, and brittle. Avoid stalks with wilted leaves.

    Store: Store celery in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, leaving the ribs attached to the stalk until ready to use. It will typically keep up to a couple of weeks.

    Cook: Celery Salad


  • Fresh Cherry Pie
    Photo: Randy Mayor; Styling: Jan Gautro


    Select: Choose cherries with firm, smooth, unblemished skins with stems still attached.

    Store: Fresh cherries should be eaten as soon as possible; they can be covered and refrigerated up to 4 days. After opening canned cherries, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to a week. Maraschino cherries last up to 6 months in the refrigerator.

    Cook: Fresh Cherry Pie 


  • Cilantro
    Photo: Ralph Anderson; Styling: Mindi Shapiro Levine


    Select: When choosing cilantro, make sure you see no signs of wilting on the leaves.

    Store: Store in the refrigerator in a plastic bag up to a week.

    Cook: Mixed Grill with Cilantro Pesto


  • Collards
    Photo: Jim Franco; Styling: Simon Andrews


    Select: Young collards with small leaves are more tender and less bitter. Avoid collards with large leathery leaves that are withered or that have yellow spots.

    Store: Wash collards, and pat dry. Place them in a plastic bag, and refrigerate up to 5 days.

    Cook: Southern-Style Collard Greens


  • Corn
    Photo: William Dickey; Styling: Rose Nguyen


    Select: A fresh husk is the number one thing to look for. Deep brown silk tips or ends mean it's ripe, but the whole silk shouldn't be dried up. Open the tip of the husk to see if the kernels are all the way to the end of the ear; kernels should be plump and milky when pinched.

    Store: The sugars in corn begin to turn to starch as soon as it's harvested, so plan to eat it as soon as possible. You can store it in its husk in the refrigerator up to a day.

    Cook: Fresh Corn Cakes


  • Cucumbers
    Photo: Ralph Anderson; Styling: Buffy Hargett


    Select: Choose cucumbers with a deep green color. Avoid soft patches or shriveled ends.

    Store: Refrigerate cucumbers up to 2 weeks. Use pickling cucumbers soon after picking.

    Cook: Cucumber Salad


  • Green Beans
    Southern Living

    Green Beans

    Select: Look for small, tender, crisp pod beans with bright color that snap when you bend them.

    Store: Fresh beans should be washed before being stored in the refrigerator in plastic bags up to 3 or 4 days.

    Cook: Green Bean-and-New-Potato Salad


  • Honeydew Melons
    Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner; Styling: Cindy Barr

    Honeydew Melons

    Select: Fresh, ripe honeydews should have a soft, velvety texture and be heavy for their size.

    Store: Ripe honeydews will keep up to 5 days in the refrigerator or in a cool, dark place. Seal in plastic wrap or an airtight container; they readily absorb odors and flavors of other foods.

    Cook: Prosciutto-Melon Bites with Lime Drizzle


  • Lavender
    Oxmoor House


    Select: When choosing fresh lavender, look for herbs that show no signs of wilting.

    Store: Treat fresh herbs like a bouquet of flowers. Douse the leaves with cool water, and wrap the stems in a damp paper towel. Place the towel-wrapped herbs in a zip-top plastic bag, remove as much air as possible from the bag, and refrigerate up to a week.

    Cook: Biscotti with Lavender and Orange

  • Lemon Balm
    Photo: Ralph Anderson; Styling: Rose Nguyen

    Lemon Balm

    Select: When choosing fresh lemon balm, look for leaves that show no signs of wilting.

    Store: Douse with cool water, and wrap the stems in a damp paper towel. Place herbs in a zip-top plastic bag, remove as much air as possible from the bag, and refrigerate up to a week.

    Cook: Lemon Balm Simple Syrup


  • Lima Beans
    Photo: Lee Harrelson; Styling: Cindy Barr

    Lima Beans

    Select: Fresh limas are available from June to September and are usually sold in their pods.

    Store: Store dried beans at room temperature in tightly covered containers up to 1 year, or freeze up to 2 years.

    Cook: Simple Garlicky Lima Beans

  • Nectarines
    Randy Mayor


    Select: Nectarines should be plump, rich in color, and have a softening along the seam.

    Store: Speed the nectarines ripening by placing them in a paper bag for several days at room temperature. Once ripened, store nectarines in the refrigerator, and use within 2 or 3 days.

    Cook: Nectarine and Radish Salsa



  • Okra
    Photo: Jennifer Davick; Styling: Buffy Hargett


    Select: Choose tender, bright green pods free of damage.

    Store: Store okra in a plastic bag in the refrigerator up to 3 days.

    Cook: Peppery Grilled Okra With Lemon-Basil Dipping Sauce


  • Oregano
    Southern Living


    Select: Choose fresh oregano that is vibrant green in color with firm stems. They should be free from dark spots or yellowing.

    Store: Keep fresh oregano in the refrigerator wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel. You can also freeze oregano, either whole or chopped, in airtight containers.

    Cook: Fresh Herb Mayonnaise

  • Peaches
    Photo: Beth Dreiling Hontzas; Styling: Rose Nguyen


    Select: Look for peaches that are firm with a taut, unblemished skin and no signs of bruising or wrinkles. If you smell peaches when you walk up to the stand, you know they are ripe.

    Store: Ripen peaches at room temperature. If ripe, put them in the refrigerator; they'll keep for a few days.

    Cook: Grilled Peach-and-Mozzarella Salad

  • Peas
    Howard L. Puckett


    Select: Fresh peas have a good green color.

    Store: Store fresh peas in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

    Cook: Fava, Sweet Pea, and Sugar Snap Salad


  • Plums
    Photo: Tara Sgroi; Styling: Angie Mosier


    Select: Choose plums that have a little give when you squeeze them and a sweet-smelling aroma.

    Store: Firm plums can be stored at room temperature until they become slightly soft. Refrigerate ripe plums in a plastic bag up to 4 to 5 days.

    Cook: Plum Upside-Down Pudding Cake

  • Raspberries
    Southern Living


    Select: Fresh, ripe raspberries should be plump and tender, but not mushy. Raspberries are sold in clear packaging, so make sure to check all sides for signs of poor quality.

    Store: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.

    Cook: Raspberry-Buttermilk Sherbet


  • Summer Squash
    Photo: Jennifer Davick; Styling: Amy Burke

    Summer Squash

    Select: Choose small, firm squash with bright-colored, blemish-free skins.

    Store: Refrigerate in plastic bags up to 5 days before cooking.

    Cook: Summer Squash Casserole

  • Tomatoes
    Southern Living


    Select: Smell them – a good tomato should smell like a tomato, especially at the stem end.

    Store: Place tomatoes at room temperature in a single layer, shoulder side up, and out of direct sunlight. To store ripe tomatoes for any extended period, keep them between 55º and 65º.

    Cook: Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes


  • Watermelons
    Photo: William Dickey; Styling: Rose Nguyen


    Select: Choose a firm, symmetrical, unblemished watermelon with a dull rind, without cracks or soft spots, that barely yields to pressure.

    Store: Store uncut at room temperature up to 1 week. Refrigerate 8 to 10 hours to serve chilled.

    Cook: Watermelon, Mache, and Pecan Salad


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