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Annie Campbell
April 01, 2019
Photo: Daniel Agee; Prop Styling: Kashara Johnson; Food Styling: Mary Claire Britton

Nothing brings about the joys of warmer weather quite like a stroll around your local farmers’ market. With its abundance of fresh produce and new choices every week, it’s easy to get overwhelmed without a tour guide.

However, once you have your bearings, you can save yourself a few trips to the supermarket and swap your grocery store staples for farmer’s market finds. Some don’t even need to be cooked to make delicious, fresh meals.

Here's the bounty of produce options you’ll see at the market this season and unique ways to use them in your everyday meals.

Asparagus

Select: Colors can range from white to green to purple, but no matter what hue you choose, look for tightly closed tips and stalks with no sliminess or dryness. The roots should be green, not brown.

Store: Keep the stalks moist by wrapping them in a damp paper towel or standing upright in a few inches of water. Store in the fridge and wash just before eating.

Cook: Phyllo-Wrapped Asparagus with Prosciutto

WATCH: How to Make Phyllo-Wrapped Asparagus with Prosciutto

Basil

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 or in a vase with about 2 inches of water. You can also freeze the leaves to keep them fresh through the summer months.

Cook: Chicken Panang Casserole

Photo: Daniel Agee; Prop Styling: Kashara Johnson; Food Styling: Mary Claire Britton

Beets

Select: Whether you’re choosing golden, red, or striped, pick out bulbs that feel heavy for their size and have few surface cracks. If the greens are attached, they should be vibrant rather than wilted.

Store: Stored correctly, beets can have a shelf-life of up to 3 months. Remove the stems from the bulbs (but don’t throw out the greens, you can eat those too!) and keep the bulbs in a sealed plastic bag in your crisper drawer. Leave them unwashed until ready to use.

Cook: Hasselback Beets with Tangy Dill Sauce and Caraway

Photo: Aaron Kirk; Prop Styling: Christina Daley; Food Styling: Robin Bashinsky

Blackberries

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. Make sure to use them up before they go bad!

Cook: Blackberry Turnovers

Blueberries

Select: Pick plump, juicy berries with blooms that have no trace of mold or discoloration. Look for firm, uniformly sized berries with a 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 sealed container up to 3 days. Wash right before eating to keep the berries fresher longer.

Cook: Blueberry-Sour Cream Muffins

Photo: Iain Bagwell Styling: Heather Chadduck Hillegas 

Brussels Sprouts

Select: You’ll either find them still attached to a long stalk or loose in small groupings. Look for tight, green bulbs with no yellowing.

Store: Keep them in any spot in your fridge. You can wait to trim and clean them until you’re ready to use them.

Cook: Brussels Sprouts with Tonnato Sauce

Photo: Eric Wolfinger

Cantaloupe

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: Summer Melon Salad with Ham and Mint Vinaigrette

Photographer: Jennifer Causey 

Carrots

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 an open plastic bag and refrigerate up to 2 weeks.

Cook: Rum and Honey-Roasted Cayenne-Cumin Carrots

Dylan + Jeni

Cauliflower

Select: Look for compact florets and crisp, green leaves with no signs of yellowing. Don’t be concerned about small brown flecks (those can be cut off). Before buying, flip it over to look at the stem. A dry, browning stem will indicate it was harvested too long ago.

Store: Cauliflower is more perishable than you might expect. Sealed in a plastic bag with no air, cauliflower can stay in the crisper drawer of your fridge for 3 to 5 days.

Cook: Creamy Roasted Cauliflower and Onion Dip

WATCH: How To Make Creamy Roasted Cauliflower and Onion Dip

 

Celery

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

Store: Celery needs to stay hydrated, so wrap it in aluminum foil or store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will typically keep up to a couple of weeks.

Cook: Warm Shiitake and Celery Salad

Photo: Annabelle Breakey

Cherries

Select: Choose cherries with firm, smooth, unblemished skins. Make sure the stems are still attached.

Store: Fresh cherries should be eaten as soon as possible. They can be covered in a plastic or aluminum foil wrapping and refrigerated for up to 4 days. And remember, you can pit them without buying a gadget.

Cook: Grilled Camembert with Macerated Cherries and Rosemary

Photo: Jennifer Causey Styling: Missie Neville Crawford

Cilantro

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

Store: Store in the refrigerator as if you’re storing freshly cut flowers. Chop off the ends and stand upright in an inch of water, covering the top of the container with a lid or plastic bag. If your cilantro goes limp, you can attempt to revive it with cold water.

Cook: Fiesta Chicken and Carrot Rice

Caitlin Bensel

Collard Greens

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

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

Cook: Collard Greens Panzanella with Hot Sauce Vinaigrette

Jennifer Causey

Corn

Select: A fresh, snug 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 keep it on the counter if you plan to eat it that day, or store it in the fridge in its husk for up to a day.

Cook: Street Corn Salad

WATCH: How To Make Street Corn Salad

 

Cucumbers

Select: Choose cucumbers with a deep green color, avoiding ones with soft patches and shriveled ends. Inspect for any breaks in the skin.

Store: Stored in a sealed plastic bag, cucumbers can stay in your fridge for up to 10 days. If washed and sliced, wrap them tightly in aluminum foil or plastic wrap and store for up to 5 days in the fridge.

Cook: Cucumber and Green Tomato Gazpacho

Photo: Erin Kunkel Styling: Chelsea Zimmer

Green Beans

Select: Look for small, brightly-colored pod beans that snap when you bend them. Avoid beans with any bruising or brown spots.

Store: Store unwashed inside a sealed plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your fridge. Stored whole, they should last up to 7 days.

Cook: Prosciutto Green Bean Bundles with Crispy Mushrooms

Jennifer Causey

Honeydew

Select: Fresh, ripe honeydews should have a dull, smooth texture and be heavy for their size. The skin should be pale in color (not overly green) and have no punctures. You can also smell the root for a sweet fragrance.

Store: Ripe honeydews will keep 2-4 days on the countertop or longer in the fridge. Make sure to wash the skin before slicing. Once cut, seal in plastic wrap or an airtight container for 1-2 weeks. If you choose to eat it raw, we suggest adding seasonings.

Cook: Shrimp Kebabs with Mint and Melon Salad

Greg DuPree

Kale

Select: Look for moist, crisp leaves with a vibrant, deep green due. Watch out for browning or tiny holes. Bunches with smaller leaves will be more tender and milder in flavor.

Store: Because kale is a sturdy green, it can be washed before its stored. Wash thoroughly in cold water, then wrap in a damp paper towel and seal it in an airtight bag. The kale can last in your fridge for up to week.

Cook: Peppered White Bean, Kale, and Egg Stack

Photo: Jennifer Causey; Styling: Claire Spollen

Kohlrabi

Select: This green or dark purple vegetable can be sold with or without the leaves attached. For the best flavor and texture, look for small bulbs that feel heavy for their size.

Store: The greens should be eaten within a few days, but the kohlrabi bulb can last up to a month if stored in a cold, dry place. After washing, wrap loosely in a paper or plastic bag and store it in the fridge.

Cook: Kohlrabi and Apple Slaw

Caitlin Bensel

Mushrooms

Select: Mushrooms can range in shade from white to dark gray, but look for caps that are tightly closed and firm to the touch. Avoid mushrooms with lots of spots or any wetness.

Store: Wrapping the mushrooms in a paper bag with the top open will keep them fresher longer. Store in the fridge but out of the crisper drawer (which is too moist) for 4 to 7 days.

Cook: Sauteed Mushrooms with Garlic

Photo: Christopher Testani Styling: Kaitlyn Du Ross Walker

Okra

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

Store: The crisper drawer is a good spot for okra because it needs moisture to stay fresh. Store okra in a paper bag or plastic bag with a paper towel for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.

Cook: Pan-Fried Okra with Cornmeal

Photo: Alison Miksch; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Oregano

Select: Fresh oregano is vibrant green in color and has firm stems. Choose herbs free from dark spots or yellowing. If the herbs are sold potted, we recommend taking the whole plant.

Store: Keep fresh oregano in the refrigerator wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel. You can also freeze oregano, either whole or chopped, in an airtight container to preserve it for weeks.

Cook: Spanish-Style Roasted Potatoes

Jennifer Causey

Parsley

Select: When you can, choose Italian (or flat-leaf) parsley. It has more flavor than the curly-leaf variety. Look for fresh, deep green leaves with no signs of wilting.

Store: To keep the herbs fresh as long as possible, trim the stems and stand them up in a jar with about 2 inches of water. Keep in the fridge loosely covered with a plastic bag for up to 2 weeks. Make sure to use the stems!

Cook: Chicken and Cucumber Salad With Parsley Pesto

Caitlin Bensel

Peaches

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

Store: Ripen peaches at room temperature in a paper bag. If ripe, put them in the refrigerator to eat within 4 days.

Cook: Spiced Peach Galette

Photo: Alison Miksch; Styling: Caroline M. Cunningham

Peppers

Select: Be cautious when selecting peppers that might surpass your heat tolerance. Ask the farmer questions to make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. Regardless of variety, look for skins that are vibrant, taut, and unblemished.

Store: Refrigerate the peppers, unwashed, in a plastic bag for 4 to 5 days. Keep them dry because too much moisture will speed up spoilage.

Cook: Everything Cream Cheese Jalapeño Poppers

Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Blakeslee Giles; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

Potatoes

Select: Look for potatoes with a smooth skin and few blemishes. Don’t buy wrinkled potatoes or ones with a green hue.

Store: Potatoes can last anywhere from 3 weeks to 4 months if stored correctly. Keep them in a cool, dry place inside a paper bag or box (not plastic). The fridge is usually too moist for potatoes, so try keeping them in a dark, cool spot in your pantry or basement.

Cook: Potato and Leek Gratin

Jennifer Causey; Styling: Heather Chadduck Hillegas

Radishes

Select: Radishes come in a slew of shapes, colors and sizes, but keep your eye out for small to medium sized bulbs with crisp, green leaves and unblemished skins.

Store: To keep the radishes crisp for 1-2 weeks, cut off the roots and stems before storing. Wash, then wrap in a layer of paper towels and a plastic bag. Keep in the crisper drawer of your fridge.

Cook: Radish Carpaccio

Ramps

Select: Ramps are only available for a few weeks out of the year, so grab them while you can. Look for a bright green color and firm stems. Check the roots for any signs of rotting.

Store: Ramps can last 3 to 4 days if wrapped in a damp paper towel and sealed inside an airtight bag in the fridge.

Cook: Scrapple Steamed Buns

Raspberries

Select: Pick out a box of clean, dry berries without mold or discoloration. Plump raspberries will last the longest.

Store: Remove any mushy or squashed berries from the bunch immediately. Without washing, store them in a breathable container and make sure they are not packed in too tightly. Keep out of the crisper drawer to avoid moisture and eat within 2-3 days.  

Cook: Raspberry Cobbler

WATCH: How To Make Raspberry Cobbler

Strawberries

Select: Look for bright, red berries with vibrant, green stems. The skin should be taught and the outer seed should have no sign or browning. Don’t be afraid to ask the farmer to sample the merchandise.

Store: Throw out any berries that are showing signs of molding. Keep the fruit dry by storing them in an open plastic bag lined with dry paper towels in the fridge. Wash just before eating.

Cook: Sweet Summer Strawberry Tart

Photo: Thomas J. Story

Sugar Snap Peas

Select: Choose peas that are medium to deep green and contain firm, plump pods. Peas with any limpness or dampness will not last very long. Try breaking one in half to look for a crisp snap. Don’t be concerned about a little white scarring on the outer shell.

Store: Without washing them, refrigerate the peas in a sealed plastic bag for up to 4 days.

Cook: Soba Noodle Salad with Pork, Snap Peas, and Radishes

Photo: Jennifer Causey; Styling: Claire Spollen

Tomatoes

Select: The denser the tomato, the juicier it will be. You can also smell the stem, which should be fragrant if ripe. The skins should be taut and smooth, but they don’t have to perfect. Chances are, the tomatoes will become a sauce eventually.

Store: Keep the tomatoes at room temperature in a single layer (stem side down and not touching) and out of direct sunlight. Once they ripen fully, you can move them to the fridge for up to 2 days, but bring them back to room temperature before serving.

Cook: Creamy Tomato Gazpacho with Shrimp

Photo: Jennifer Davick; Styling: Linda Hirst

Turnips

Select: Look for small, young bulbs with fresh greens attached. The bulbs should be firm and the skin should be smooth and dry. You’ll find them in colors ranging from white to deep purple.

Store: Sealed in an airtight plastic bag, turnips can stay in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. Don’t forget to also use the greens!

Cook: Stir-Fried Turnips

Caitlin Bensel

Watermelons

Select: The melon should feel heavy for its size when you pick it up. Also, tap the shell to listen for a hollow sound. Note the large white spot where the melon was resting on the ground—if it’s pale yellow, the melon is ripe.

Store: Keep whole melons at room temperature and out of sunlight. Try to cut it within 10 days of purchasing. Washed and cut watermelon can be wrapped in plastic and stored in the fridge for up to a week.

Cook: Double-Serrano Watermelon Bites

WATCH: How To Make Double-Serrano Watermelon Bites

Zucchini

Select: Choose a squash that’s small and skinny (6 to 7 inches in length) but heavy for its size. Look for a smooth green skin that’s free of wrinkles and blemishes.

Store: Stored whole and unwashed in the fridge, zucchini can last 1 to 2 weeks. Keep in an open plastic or paper bag in the crisper drawer.

Cook: Zoodles with Shrimp and Green Goddess Dressing

Photo: Kelsey Hansen; Food Styling Karen Ranken; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis