Those dried beans in your pantry started out as shell beans. But during their brief season, you can buy those same beans fresh in their pods. The fresh beans have an incomparably creamy texture, don’t need to be soaked before cooking, and cook more quickly. One of the most widely available shell beans are cranberry beans, identifiable by their pink-and-cream mottled pods. Edamame and lima beans are other varieties that you may be most familiar with in their frozen forms, but are worth seeking out fresh. Also keep your eyes open for heirloom varieties of shell beans, including scarlet runner, Jacob’s Cattle, Ojo de Cabra (Goat's Eye), and Black Calypso.
Tomatillos look like small green tomatoes but are actually related to the Cape gooseberry. Their papery husks should be removed before eating. You may know these tart, refreshing fruits, a staple in Latin cuisine, from their starring role as the main ingredient in salsa verde.
Cucumbers peak in the summer. Several types of cucumbers are available: short; stout pickling; spiny slicing; long, thin Asian types; seedless; and a number of novelty kinds, including egg-shaped, yellow, and white.
Heirlooms are so-called because the seeds have been handed down over generations, and they are open-pollinated, meaning they produce seeds that resemble the parent plant, not always the case with commercial hybrids, which are bred for durability rather than taste. There are 100-plus kinds of heirloom tomatoes growing on vines these days, and most have names and flavors -- Sun Golds, Green Zebras, Black Krims -- as unique as their looks.
Because they're easy to grow, tomatoes are the most common backyard garden crop. There are thousands of varieties, including beefsteak, plum, and small-size cherry, grape, and pear tomatoes; all are at their most flavorful in late summer.
Famously prolific summer squash plants bring plenty of zucchini, yellow crookneck, and pattypan squash into our lives at this time of year. The mild-tasting, versatile vegetable (okay, technically a fruit) is equally delicious in savory and sweet dishes.
Our collection of refreshing salad recipes includes choices that work as first-course appetizers or as Thanksgiving sides. In addition to lettuce-based green salads, you'll find dishes centered around green beans, wild rice, and root vegetables.