In Tennessee, buying local is built into our culture. Forty percent of our state is farmland, which means Tennesseans have access to crops and livestock from more than 65,000 farms year round. And, since there are farms all across the state, buying local is typically affordable and good for the community.
“Buying local is really about two things,” says Leslie Cornett, registered dietitian-nutritionist at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, “You get to support local businesses, and you help the environment because products don’t have to travel as far to get to you.”
Tennesseans also have the added bonus of certain magical months where fresh produce is extra plentiful. August tops that list.
Here’s what to buy now, as well as some fun facts about lesser known Tennessee crops.
35 fruits and vegetables to try in August in Tennessee
In-season produce: August in Tennessee
Beans (lima, October, green, shelly, wax)
Peas (crowder, hull, sugar snap)
Peppers (bell, hot)
Squash (summer, winter)
People often think of apples as a fall fruit, but the peak harvest period in Tennessee is actually mid-August through October.
- Romes (great for baking)
- Red or golden delicious (sweet apples that share a last name but actually aren’t related)
- Winesaps (sweet, tangy heirloom apples)
Heirloom plants are any that have been passed down through families or farms from an earlier time.
Apricots are members of the rose family along with peaches, plums and cherries. Apricots are a great source of fiber, potassium and vitamin C.
Asian pears are crunchy and sweet — like a cross between an apple and a pear, which is where they get the nickname “apple pears.” Asian pears are rich in copper, which helps build collagen to cushion joints and strengthen bones.
Beans are a Southern staple that grow especially well in Tennessee
Commonly known as “butter beans” in Tennessee, lima beans are packed with iron. One cup contains a quarter of your daily recommended iron.
Also called “fall beans” or “speckled beans,” October beans are an heirloom shell bean that’s best between the end of summer and the first frost.
Shell beans are grown for their edible seeds, while snap beans are grown for their long pods which are cooked while young and tender, before seeds can mature.
Green beans are one of the most common types of beans in the South. The young snap beans are eaten before the seeds can grow large or tough. Green beans are known by many names, including “French beans”, “string beans” and “haricot vert.” Green beans with yellow pods are known as “wax beans,” while those that grow on vines are called “pole beans” due to the support system they need while growing.
Shelly beans are like a cross between a green bean and a soup bean. While you’ll likely have to shell them yourself, their sweet, creamy flavor is worth it — especially since they’re only seen at markets for a short time.
Boysenberries are a cross among:
- Dewberries (which look like black raspberries) and
- Loganberries (a mix between the North American blackberry and the European raspberry).
While their origin is confusing, their flavor is clear: part blackberry, part raspberry. Eat them as you would any berry for a boost of vitamin K, calcium and potassium.
Eggplant is part of the nightshade family, which includes other flowering crops such as peppers, tomatoes and potatoes. Technically a fruit, eggplants love warm climates, which is why they grow well in Tennessee.
Gooseberries are a small, tart berry that can be as small as a blueberry or as large as a grape. They’re usually pale green or red and taste like extra-sour grapes, so they’re great in salads, baked goods, jams or as an ice cream topping. Gooseberries are rich in manganese, which stimulates metabolism.
Nectarines originated from peaches in China more than 2,000 years ago. The two fruits are identical except for one gene which makes peaches fuzzy and nectarines smooth. Nectarines are packed with beta-carotene, which gives them their reddish-yellow color, and which the body turns to vitamin A to support healthy skin and eyes.
Peas are a cool-weather crop planted early in spring in Tennessee.
Also called “field peas” or “Southern peas,” crowder peas got their name because they’re closely crowded in their pods while growing. While they are related to black-eyed peas, crowders are typically a dark brown color rather than tan. Crowder peas are not only nutritious — they’re a good source of fiber and vitamin C — but they also enrich the soil with nutrients as they grow, so they’re good for the home gardener.
Black-eyed peas and purple hull peas are nearly identical. Both are cowpeas — native to Africa, tolerant of sandy soil and hot weather — that are high in protein and fiber, and both are actually beans, not peas. Purple hull peas, however, are green with a large purple or pink spot, and they’re generally tastier than black-eyed peas because of their sweet, creamy flavor.
As known as “snap peas,” sugar snap peas have edible pods with thick walls that can be cooked until tender and eaten whole, like snow peas. Snap peas were popular in the 1800s but were lost to cultivation by the mid-20th century. In 1952, they were accidentally recreated by researchers when a mutated shelling pea crossed with a snow pea.
Tennessee is one of the top 10 states for tomato production.
In August, look for heirloom varieties such as:
- Cherokee Purple (dark rose color with hints of green, sweet and slightly smoky taste)
- Brandywine Pink (rich flavor, odd shape, often weighing a pound a piece)
- Black Krim (similar to a Beefsteak, “Krim” is the Ukrainian word for “Crimea,” the island where these were cultivated)
- Mortgage Lifter (very meaty, few seeds)
- Old German (extra sweet, few seeds, golden yellow and red stripes)
More from WellTuned
- Tennessee herb guide with Honey Rock Herb Farm near Knoxville
- What’s in season in summer with St. Jude
Get more information about specific health terms, topics and conditions to better manage your health on bcbst.com. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee members can access wellness-related discounts on fitness products, gym memberships, healthy eating and more through Blue365®. BCBST members can also find tools and resources to help improve health and well-being by logging into BlueAccess and going to the Managing Your Health tab.