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What is it about summer that makes everything taste so much better? Maybe it's that meals are a little more relaxed, and the days a little less structured. Or maybe it's that glass of sangria? Whatever the reason, now is the season for these four favorites that peak during the summer months.
Once you have tasted tomatoes ripe and straight from the vine, you won't look back. Grocery store tomatoes rarely measure up to those from your garden or the local farmers market. Look for countless varieties of traditional and heirloom tomatoes to reach peak season June through August. Choose tomatoes that are firm, yet give a little under the slight pressure from your thumb. The skin should be shiny with good color. The longer tomatoes are left on the vine to ripen, the better they will be — so anything locally grown will be the best.
Always store tomatoes at room temperature, away from the direct sun, as refrigeration steals their flavor and changes the texture. Use within five days or so of purchase for best flavor.
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Quite possibly the signature fruit of summer, nothing tastes quite like a ripe cherry in the hot summer sun. From the traditional dark red Bing cherries to Rainier or Queen Anne varieties, there's a favorite cherry for every taste. Use them in pies or cobblers, or toss them in a bowl for a great summer snack. Cherries are only in season for a short time — usually appearing from June to August — so when you see them showing up locally, grab them while you can. The best cherries are firm, have beautiful deep color and are not bruised at all, with green stems.
Cherries can be stored in your refrigerator — unwashed — for up to a week after purchase. Wash right before you are ready to eat them.
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Practically a sign of summer, people from corn-growing regions eagerly watch the fields for clues that corn is almost ready to harvest. There are many different varieties of what we call "sweet corn" or corn on the cob, but most of us are familiar with either white, yellow or a mix of the two. Corn peaks in late summer, although it starts hitting the markets as early as May. The best corn is the freshest corn, so visit your local farmers market if you are lucky enough to live in a corn-growing area of the country. Choose ears that are tightly wrapped in the green husks, but pull back the husk a little bit to see if the corn looks fresh and uniform underneath.
It's best to eat the day you purchase it, but if you leave the husks intact you can refrigerate ears for a few days before cooking and enjoying them.
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Not a fan of eggplant? We think you should try again this summer — with fresh eggplant from your local farmers market. There are more varieties than most people know, in various shapes and shades from purple to orange. Have you tried Japanese eggplant? Longer and more narrow than traditional globe eggplant, it has fewer seeds and a milder flavor that you might prefer. While you can get eggplant year-round, it peaks in season during the summer. Look for eggplants with firm flesh that gives to slight pressure and smooth, shiny skin.
Keep your eggplant in a cool place for a few days, but don't keep it in the refrigerator. As with tomatoes, refrigeration will change the texture and taste of the eggplant.
What seasonal foods are you enjoying right now?