Eat Seasonal Food – The Only Guide That Matters

August 3, 2008 at 12:11 pm

Rob Gardner

Really, it is not too hard to write a guide to what’s in season about now, because it’s all in season.  Illinois farmer, Sandhill Organics had a sign yesterday at the Oak Park Farmer’s Market, “believe it or not, spinach in August.”  My buddy Farmer Vicki’s Genesis Growers had mesclun.  The local eater has much to choose.  Unless your guide’s talking grapes, it has a chance as being as accurate as the one below.

Ending Soon

If you want to eat these, eat them soon, they won’t be around much longer: cherries sweet and tart; some lettuces, the spinach that’s been hovering.

Limited Window

Get these now: apricots have been around for a few weeks; they won’t be around much longer. Certain types of plums, like the metheny may already be gone by the time you read this.  At the market this week, I tried a tartly intense wild plum.  Things like carrots and zukes and potatoeswill be here for a long while, but them in tiny versions, well them’s the time to get them. Now. Related, now you may also find squash blossoms.

Other things early

Garlic‘s pretty ossified now but onions are still in their soft stages. Look for Vidalia-ish (store in the fridge) onions as well as immature versions of other onions.

Stoned on Fruit

In the Chicago area, we are lucky enough to be near the SW shores of Michigan, some of the prim-est territory for growing stone fruits. The breezes over the lake keep things just warm enough, while the existence of cold brings extra sweetness to the fruits. Look for early versions of peaches and nectarines–white versions are hitting the market as well. Mentioned above, apricots, cherries, plums. With plums, various varieties will be around for ages, with the Stanley and the like not get going until the fall.

Common Fruit

Hard to imagine with all of the summer fruits in season that now is also the season of the apple. Several varieties of apples come to fruit now; now, when you think you should just be munching a peach. Summer apple varieties tend to have a few things in common. Most, if not all, are quite puckery in the mouth. They tend to be soft and are often (typically) used for sauce. Most importantly, they are not apples to keep. In selling me a few apples today (for a daughter who somewhat unexpectedly* had a taste for apples) Lloyd Nichols warned me that they would only last a few days.

All the Rest of the Fruits of the Season

OK, don’t forget the raspberries (black, red and golden), blueberries, and blackberries around now. Theses berries will peter out for a bit then will reappear into the fall.  Melons, needer of heat and sun have started to arrive in Chicago area markets.

All the Rest of the Vegetables

Can I name everything in the market these days. Maybe. Maybe because this is the time of year it’s all here. All you think of as summer produce at least: tomatoes (the ones now are mostly grown in hoop houses or early varieties of cherries); eggplants, cucumbers, hot and sweet peppers, summer squashes, okra, sweet corn, cabbages, green beans, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, chard, collard greens, fennel, celery, beets, and the dreaded k word, kohlrabi(which we took to calling jicama in our house, especially after we realized we really liked it!).


As always, there’s River Valley with their organically cultivated mushrooms. I have not seen any wild mushrooms of late, although someone, somewhere must have some chantrelles. You should find plenty of fresh herbs in your market.

Speciality Vegetables

Oh, there’s more baby. Kinnikinnick Farmat Evanston and Green City; Green Acresat the Tuesday Federal Plaza market as well as Green City and Evanston; Farmer Vicki’s Genesis Growers at Oak Park and Green City; Sandhill Organics at Oak Park; Henry and his farmstandat Evantson; Nichol’s Farmall over the place; these guys will have plenty more things than I thought of tonight.

Coming soon: heirloom tomatoes, more types of potatoes, more types of peppers, fresh (shelling) beans. It’s good to be a locavore.

*One of the things that warms my local heart is the ability of my kidz to never tire of apples.