By this point in the summer, it's an embarrassment of riches at the market. String beans, tomatoes, berries, stone fruit, and more are all still in play, plus there are a bunch of newcomers to welcome. Juicy melons and delicate figs add intrigue on the sweet side of the spectrum, while zucchini, eggplant, tomatillos, and all kinds of chile peppers allow us to expand our savory repertoire. Here’s what you need to know about our favorite late-summer bloomers.
1. Summer Melons
It’s prime-time for watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, and more! Get to know all the delicious varieties, then follow our guide on how to choose the perfect ripe melon. Once you’ve lugged one home, try tossing a savory melon salad, making these adorable mini melon “cakes,” or shaking up a batch of watermelon cocktails, including our new favorite White Tea Melonade (trust us, frosé will be a thing of the past once you have a sip of this!). Sweet, cold, juicy -- summer melon is a treat no matter how you prepare it.
One of our favorite splurges at the market! While dried figs have their place in the winter, there’s nothing like biting into a fresh, ripe fig. Both the purple-black Mission and pale-green Calimyrna varieties peak in summer and are available through early fall. Fold figs into your morning yogurt, pair them with peppery salad greens, serve them on your next cheese plate with a drizzle of honey, or cook them with port into a rich sauce. Don't forget dessert: let figs shine in a tart, crostata, or even ice cream.
While we’re certainly fans of the ubiquitous globe eggplant, we encourage you to expand your nightshade horizons with our eggplant glossary! Try the smaller, less bitter Italian and graffiti varieties, tender, sweet Chinese eggplants (also known as Japanese eggplants), or firm, quick-cooking Thai eggplants. You can’t go wrong with any of these colorful vegetables, plus they couldn’t be more versatile -- eggplants are wonderful grilled, roasted, broiled, stewed, steamed, or fried.
In spite of their name and appearance, tomatillos are only distantly related to tomatoes and are actually much closer to Cape gooseberries. The small green-tomato look-alikes encased in paper-thin husks are most abundant in summer, so now is the best time to experiment! When raw, they have a distinctive tangy-citrusy flavor that brightens any salsa. They’re also great cooked, adding depth to savory stews and sauces.
5. Chile Peppers
While you can get peppers year-round, they’re most plentiful in the summer, so get ready to play with fire in the kitchen. In general, size and heat go hand in hand: Larger varieties tend to be milder, while small, pointy peppers deliver more burn. Learn about all the different types and heat levels in our chile pepper guide, then spice up everything from sauces and soups to pastas and vegetable dishes.
We love zucchini so much that we’re currently celebrating 31 days of it! We’re always happy to find ourselves with a bumper crop on our hands because there are so many delectable ways to eat the tender, subtly sweet vegetable. When raw, zucchini is an excellent partner for summery herbs and citrus. When roasted or baked into a bread or cake, the squash takes on a nuttiness that's enhanced beautifully by a multitude of spices. Try grating zucchini before cooking for a different texture, tucking it into casseroles, or teaming it with two essential pantry ingredients, garlic and Parmesan.