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What’s in Season in Summer in Tennessee

If it looks good, get it — that’s the rule Charlotte Tolley lives by all summer long. The executive director of Nourish Knoxville, a nonprofit that oversees the Market Square Farmers’ Market, simply finds what’s fresh and figures out the details later.

“The great thing about summer foods is a lot of them don’t even need to be cooked, so you don’t have to worry about how to prepare this or finding a recipe for that,” she says. “I eat a lot of stuff raw: melons, tomatoes, fruits — most things you can just eat as-is. What’s easier than that?”

Here are Tolley’s tips for making the most of a market trip:

1. Get there early

“You’ll have your pick of produce, and children won’t get overheated,” Tolley says.

2. Go without a recipe

Shopping for ingredients works at a store, but you have to be more flexible at a farmers market.

“I always suggest people get inspired to cook based on what they see rather than trying to look for ingredients,” says Tolley. “If you find something you like, the farmer can give you suggestions or you can search for a recipe once you get home.”

3. Switch it up

If you know you want to make tacos but can’t find jalapenos for your salsa, try a new pepper like a serrano or habanero. Sometimes the best way to test out unfamiliar things is to add one new ingredient to a dish you know well.

“A lot of produce is really interchangeable,” Tolley says. “Swiss chard instead of kale in soup, or nectarines instead of peaches in a dessert. I love to incorporate different vegetables into salads or stir-fries. Don’t get too hung up on having all the ‘right’ ingredients — some of the best combinations are surprises.”

4. Plan for perishability

“Make a plan to eat more perishable things first,” says Tolley. “Eat tomatoes, cucumbers and berries first and save root vegetables, peppers or onions for later in the week because they’ll keep.”  

5. Grow herbs

“A kitchen or backyard herb garden is the best way to get inspired to cook at home,” says Tolley. “Buy pre-potted basil, thyme and mint and experiment with adding fresh herbs to everything you make. It’s so much easier — and better — than buying bundles of herbs every time you want to make something.”

6. Join a CSA

“If you know you don’t have time to pick out produce, consider trying out a CSA [community-supported agriculture],” Tolley says. “It’s a great way to get fresh produce without having to set aside time to go pick it yourself, and you might get some new and interesting things to try.”

Here is all the produce that’s in season in Tennessee in summer:

Apples
Artichokes
Basil
Beets
Bell Pepper
Blackberries
Blueberries
Boysenberries
Cabbage
Cantaloupe
Cherries
Cherry Tomatoes
Cucumbers
Eggplants
English Peas
Field Peas
Garlic
Gooseberries
Grapes
Green Beans
Herbs
Honey
Honeydew Melons
Hot Peppers
Leeks
Lima Beans
Mushrooms
Okra
Onions
Peaches
Plums
Pole Beans
Potatoes
Raspberries
Snap Beans
Sugar Peas
Soybeans
Squash
Sweet Corn
Sweet Peppers
Sweet Potatoes
Swiss Chard
Tomatoes
Turnip Greens
Watermelons
Wax Beans
Zucchini

Peak season in late summer

Here is Tolley’s advice for preparing summer produce:

Blackberries

“I like to incorporate fruit into drinks, and with blackberries I make a shrub — a sweetened vinegar-based syrup also known as ‘drinking vinegar.’ Shrubs keep for a long time and you can add them to soda or use them to make cocktails.”

Cantaloupe

“A lot of people like to wrap it in prosciutto [Italian ham], but honestly I never do anything other than eat it! In the summer slicing and chilling it makes a really lovely cold snack on a hot day.”

If it looks good, get it — that’s the rule Charlotte Tolley lives by all summer long. The executive director of Nourish Knoxville, a nonprofit that oversees the Market Square Farmers’ Market, simply finds what’s fresh and figures out the details later.

“The great thing about summer foods is a lot of them don’t even need to be cooked, so you don’t have to worry about how to prepare this or finding a recipe for that,” she says. “I eat a lot of stuff raw: melons, tomatoes, fruits — most things you can just eat as-is. What’s easier than that?”

Cherry Tomatoes

“I have these on hand all the time because they go with everything. One of my favorite recipes that uses them is Mark Bittman’s chicken. You roast it all on one baking sheet with olives and cherry tomatoes. It’s a simple, perfect dish.”

Eggplants

“Ratatouille is one of my favorite things to make in the summer because it allows you to use so many vegetables in one thing. It’s basically just a French stewed vegetable dish, and typically it includes tomatoes, garlic, onions, zucchini, eggplant, fennel, bell peppers and herbs like basil, marjoram or bay leaf. But the great thing about it is you can make it with whatever is available.” Find a recipe here.

Grapes

“In Tennessee mostly we see muscadine grapes, which have seeds, so I like to juice them. That way you get all their nutrients and flavor in a light, refreshing juice.”

Hot Peppers

“I’m not a huge fan of heat, so I like to use peppers to infuse vinegar or olive oil — it gives you a little bit of heat without setting you on fire.”

Plums

“Plums are tart, so they’re great to pair with savory items in salad like goat cheese and pecans.”

Pole Beans

“For any bean — pole, snap, wax — I like to steam them with a little bit of salt and pepper and toss them with crushed garlic, soy sauce and sesame seeds.”

Raspberries

“Raspberries have a short shelf life, so use them quickly. I love to put them on top of ice cream, or pair them with almonds in this tart — it’s typically made with blueberries, but it’s great with blueberries, raspberries or a mix of both.”

Sugar Snap Peas

“Every time I see sugar snap peas it inspires me to make stir fry, but I also love to use them in potato salad with garlic scapes [the bud of the garlic plant] and dill. It’s an unexpected and delicious combination.” Find a similar recipe here.

Sweet Corn

“I like to mix raw or slightly grilled corn with lime, cherry tomatoes, onions and cilantro to make a salad or slaw. It’s a great side dish or topping for tacos.”

Tomatoes

“Tomatoes will go bad before you know it, so if you see yours are starting to turn, puree them in the food processor and freeze it. You can use the puree to make soups or sauces all winter.”

Watermelons

“I love watermelon, but it’s kind of a pain to eat because it’s so messy, so I just go ahead and juice it, put it in pint jars and freeze them. When I’m out at the market all day long, I pull one out, and it melts throughout the day into a watermelon slushy. It’s a sweet, refreshing way to stay hydrated.”

Zucchini

“Zucchini makes a great light base for things. You can use it as noodles in place of pasta, as a vessel to stuff for boats or even as pizza rounds. Mini zucchini ‘pizzas’ are a great, healthy way to satisfy a craving for Italian food using fresh ingredients.”

Ashley Brantley

Ashley Brantley

Ashley Brantley has been writing about food, culture and health for more than a decade, and has lived in three of Tennessee’s four major cities (Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville). As Content Producer/Writer at bohan Advertising, she is a writer, editor and social media strategist.

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1 Comment

  1. Mary stroop says

    I would like to get this wonderful information. Thank you

WellTuned provides inspiration and practical advice for healthy living.
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