A hand holding a slice of watermelon.

Photo courtesy of @katiekhromova/Twenty20

If you’re a keen home cook, the arrival of summer produce at the local greenmarket is cause for celebration. The hardiness of winter’s root vegetables gives way to a brightly colored, juicy bounty. Heirloom tomatoes! Stonefruit! Rhubarb and ramps! And if you’re not a whizz in the kitchen, summer is a great opportunity to experiment with produce by working with raw and quick-cook vegetables to make fresh, flavorsome dishes that require minimum effort for maximum reward.

Prescribing to a local and seasonal diet will make you feel better,” says Jill Donenfeld, co-founder of The Culinistas, an in-home private chef service in NYC and the Hamptons, whose office is located right opposite the Union Square Greenmarket, where she sources ingredients for their test kitchen. Practically speaking, fresh products direct from the farmers last longer in the fridge. And, for us, making sustainable choices — choices that help sustain our planet as well as our own bodies — is life or death.”

A dozen or so vine-ripened tomatoes sitting on a table.

Photo courtesy of @ch_ch/Twenty20

This summer, look out for tomatoes, corn, snap peas, wax beans, and zucchini but also more unusual veggies like kohlrabi, sorrel and agretti — A frond‑y, Italian succulent that is heavenly sautéed with olive oil,” says Donenfeld, who gets most excited by berries, all the berries!” and snappy cucumbers of all varieties,” when June hits. In The Culinistas’ kitchen, warmer months call for lobster with marinated tomatoes, Gemelli pasta that uses equal parts summer squash and noodles for a lighter, healthier dish; cucumbers marinated in sweet vinegar, and berry crisp for dessert. Not in New York? Check out this handy online Seasonal Food Guide app, which you can tailor to your location. 

There are also health benefits from eating with the seasons. According to the ancient Indian wisdom of Ayurvedic medicine, warm weather calls for more sweet, bitter, astringent, and cold foods to help cool internal fire and aid digestion. Think water-containing plants such as lettuces, asparagus, cilantro, artichokes, jicama, celery, fennel, okra, dandelion greens, peaches, watermelon, mango, and pineapple. Summer microbes support balanced immunity, digestion, mood, energy, blood sugar, weight, sleep – and much more,” says Ayurvedic practitioner, Dr. John Doullillard. Summer is also associated with the qualities of Pitta,’ which are hot, light and dry. To stay balanced, focus on foods and activities that are cool, moist, heavy and oily.”

Articles from The Natural should not be considered medical advice. If you have any questions about your health, please consult a medical professional.