Have you ever told yourself this summer you are going to be the first one out there, picking fresh strawberries. Then, as usual, miss the deadline by a week or two?
There is much to be said about knowing when local fresh produce is in season to enjoy their true flavours as well as get their full dietary benefits. Here is a guide to make sure you won’t miss out on the finest summer-fresh Ontario produce.
Strawberry season begins in mid-to-late June and runs through to about mid-July. Keep an eye out as you really don’t want to miss fresh, Ontario strawberries. You will never be able to eat an imported berry again once you try locally grown strawberries. Don’t buy them at the grocery store. Instead venture out to farmer’s markets or better yet to a pick your own farm with the kids. Raspberries and blueberries appear a little later in July and again nothing beats these delicious gems right off the bush. Berries are great as they can be made into jams, be frozen and of course be added to everything from muffins to pies and crumbles.
Cherries also make their appearance mid-June or there about and will begin to disappear by mid-to-late July. Cherries are a favourite for many families and you have a choice of both sour and sweet cherries. Tart cherries are excellent in pies and jams and the sweeter varieties can be eaten as the perfect, messy snack.
Peas & Beans
Fresh peas and beans appear in June and will be around for the rest of the summer and well into the fall. Peas fresh off the vine are divine and can be eaten by the handful for the ultimate sugary, crisp snack. Fresh beans are lovely and can be eaten in salads raw when they are young as they have a pleasing snap and are sweeter.
Peaches & Plums
These summer favourites appear in July. Again, if you can get these fresh off the tree you will not be disappointed. Sweet and juicy peaches are perfect eaten on their own but are also popular in a number of desserts as well as jam. Plums come in a number of varieties and some have a lovely tart skin such as red plums, the perfect balance for their lovely, juicy sweet pulp. Prune plums are recognizable by their deep purple skin and are much “drier” but have a lovely, meaty bite.
By far the best way to enjoy a tomato is fresh off the vine from your own garden. In Ontario we suffer through a dreadful winter with awful, mealy tomatoes. However, come June, we are introduced to a very different animal with a lovely texture and flavour that is sumptuous. You can eat them like an apple or slice them in salads. They really need very little help and are ideal when sliced and served in a caprese salad, grilled in halves for the perfect side to a grilled steak, or chopped with fresh garlic and basil for mouth watering bruschetta served on grilled crusty bread.
Another much anticipated item on our list, nothing beats Ontario corn in season. You can pick your own or find a farmer parked at the side of the road with a truck load of freshly picked corn ready to be enjoyed. You don’t even have to peel back the husks to know this corn will be delicious and the best rule of thumb is to buy corn with the silk still damp. Corn is ready come mid-July and is lovely through until September. Some crops may even last until Thanksgiving although most of us have had our fill by then.
For a complete list of Ontario produce, Foodland Ontario’s Availability Guide is a great resource for what’s being harvested at any given time.