Adulthood 101: Know your BC produce

A handy guide brought to you by a culinary school graduate and fellow broke student

Illustration credit, Tiffany Chan

By Courtney Miller 

Have you ever wondered how people just seem to know when apples, or peaches, or other produce are in season? Or, even further, what does “in season” even mean? Have no fear, friends: as a culinary school graduate, I’m here to educate you on all things produce. Buckle up for a crash course in what’s in season when, how to choose good stuff, how to store your produce, and what you can make with it.

First thing’s first, “in season” refers to when a fruit or vegetable is naturally available or grown in a given climate. So if you can visit a local farm and buy it, that produce is in season, and usually it will be less expensive. Scope out some of your favourites fruits and veggies below, and let’s give your student life an adult twist.

 

Apricots

In season: July–August

How to choose them: Firm with a bit of give to the touch, golden-orange in colour, no bruising, no mould around the stem area, and as blemish-free as possible.

How to store them: Room temperature for a few days, or in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week.

What to make with it: Grilled apricots. Cut them in half, remove the pit, and grill them. You can also make this easy apricot preserve.

 

Asparagus

In season: April–May

How to choose them: Firm stems, violet or bright green tipped stalks, and compact tips.

How to store them: Upright in a glass jar with an inch of water in it, covered with a plastic bag for up to a week.

What to make with it: Bacon-wrapped asparagus. Snap off the bottom end of the asparagus (it will snap off at a natural border between edible and inedible fibre). Wrap in bacon and roast in the oven for 30 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Protip: The thinner stalks of asparagus are sometimes cheaper (and called seconds because they aren’t the first picks) than the larger (first pick) stalks and are more tender to eat!

 

Beans

In season: July–September

How to choose them: Firm, bright green, no mould, and as blemish free as possible.

How to store them: In the fridge in a plastic bag or container.

What to make with it: Spicy beans. Trim the ends and cut them in half. In a pan, heat canola oil on medium heat. Add the beans and a tablespoon of chili garlic sauce. Stir. Add three tablespoons of water and cover for three minutes.

 

Beets

In season: June–December

How to choose them: Slender roots, small and crisp dark leaves, and firm to the touch. Blemishes are fine as long as there are no deep gouges, soft spots, or mould.

How to store them: Keep in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to three months.

What to make with it: Beet salad. Put whole, unpeeled beets in a baking pan. Drizzle with oil and cover with foil. Roast them at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour. Let them cool, then peel them and cut into wedges. Mix them into a salad.

 

Blackberries

In season: July–August

How to choose them: Deep purple or black colour, shiny, firm, no mould, and tight clusters of drupelets.

How to store them: In the fridge in a ventilated container lined with paper towel.

What to make with it: This blackberry cobbler recipe

 

Blueberries

In season: August–September

How to choose them: Dark purple/blackish blue in colour, firm, no mould, and plump.

How to store them: In the fridge on the bottom shelf in a ventilated container lined with a paper towel.

What to make with it: Blueberry pancakes. Rinse the blueberries gently as they bruise easily, then sprinkle them onto the dollops of pancake batter in your pan.

 

Broccoli

In season: June–November

How to choose them: Bright green, firm stalks, tight florets, and no yellow flowers.

How to store them: In the fridge, wrapped loosely in a damp paper towel for up to three days.

 

Carrots

In season: June–January

How to choose them: Bright orange, smooth skin, firm to the touch, no mould.

How to store them: In the fridge, tightly sealed in a plastic bag for as long as they’ll last.

What to make with it: This carrot cake recipe

 

Cauliflower

In season: June–November

How to choose them: White or creamy white, firm heads, no dark or brown spots, and compact clusters.

How to store them: In the fridge in a loosely sealed plastic bag lined with paper towel for up to a week.

What to make with it: Trim off the leaves and place in a large pot, stem at the bottom. Pour in two inches of water, cover, and bring to a simmer. Steam for eight to ten minutes. In another pot, heat two cups of milk until it lets off steam, add one cup of grated cheese, a teaspoon of mustard, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix until the cheese is fully incorporated and you have a sauce. Pour sauce over the cauliflower. Die une petite mort.

 

Celery

In season: June–October

How to choose them: Green stalks, pale green leaves, and firm, tightly packed stalks.

How to store them: In the fridge, wrapped in aluminum foil for up to four weeks.

What to make with it: This roasted celery soup

 

Chard (Swiss)

In season: May–November

How to choose them: Dark green leaves and bright red stems.

How to store them: In the fridge in a plastic bag for up to five days.

What to make with it: Melt a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of oil in a pan. Add minced or slivered garlic and red pepper flakes. After a minute, add chopped Swiss chard and stir. Cover the pan, but stir occasionally for eight minutes. Mix in about a tablespoon of lemon juice, season with salt and pepper, and boom.

 

Cherries

In season: July–August

How to choose them: Bright or dark red, shiny, firm and smooth skin, and flexible green stems.

How to store them: In the fridge in a plastic bag.

What to make with it: In a pot, combine half a cup of orange juice, three tablespoons of sugar, and a cup of pitted cherries. Simmer for 30 minutes, then stir in a splash of balsamic. Pour your cherry sauce over ice cream.

 

Corn

In season: July–October

How to choose them: Plump, firm kernels, no missing kernels, brown and sticky top.

How to store them: In the fridge, husk on, uncovered.

What to make with it: Corn on the cob. Peel off the husks and the wispy hairs, place in a pot of lightly salted water, and simmer for seven minutes. Remove the cobs and dress with seasonings of choice.

 

Cucumber

In season: July–September

How to choose them: Firm, bright green, even colouring, no sweat, and no flexibility.

How to store them: On the counter, away from fruit (including tomatoes).

What to make with it: This recipe for Greek Salad.

 

Currants

In season: July

How to choose them: Firm, bright colouring, and round.

How to store them: In the fridge for up to three days or in the freezer for up to six months.

What to make with it: Freeze a bunch of currants, and use as ice in your lemonade (or sangria!)

 

Gooseberries

In season: June–July

How to choose them: Firm, bright colouring, and dry.

How to store them: In the fridge for up to two weeks.

What to make with it: Gooseberry sauce. In a small pot combine a cup of gooseberries, a cup of water, a pinch of salt, two tablespoons of sugar, and a dash of balsamic vinegar. Simmer on low for 30 minutes or until the gooseberries are soft. Serve with poultry or toasted bread.

 

Mustard Greens

In season: May–November

How to choose them: Green leaves, thin stems, and freshly cut.

How to store them: In the fridge in a crisper, in a plastic bag, wrapped in paper towel for up to five days.

What to make with it: Sauteed mustard greens. Saute a chopped half onion in oil until caramelized. Add two cloves minced garlic and cook for one minute. Add roughly chopped mustard greens and saute until leaves are wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Protip: When making sauteed mustard greens, use ginger and garlic and season with soy sauce and sesame oil at the end for an Asian cuisine flair.

 

Nectarines

In season: July–August

How to choose them: Golden or orange in colour, firm but with a bit of give to the touch, and blemish-free.

How to store them: At room temperature if not fully ripe (more creamy in colour). In the fridge if fully ripe.

What to make with it: This recipe for nectarine cobbler.

 

Onions (Red and Yellow)

In season: August–March

How to choose them: Shiny skin, firm, and dry.

How to store them: In a cold, dark, and dry place for up to four weeks.

What to make with it: Pickled onions. In a pot, simmer together a half-cup of vinegar (any type), a cup of water, a tablespoon of sugar, and a tablespoon of salt. If you have pickling spice, add one teaspoon, but it’s optional. Place sliced onions in a jar. Pour the vinegar mixture over the onions, seal the jar, and refrigerate. Ready to eat whenever.

 

Parsnips

In season: August–February

How to choose them: Firm, white, heavy, no discolouration at core, and intact roots.

How to store them: In a cool, dark, and dry place for up to several weeks.

 

Protip: Smaller parsnips are sweeter and more tender!

 

Peaches

In season: August

How to choose them: Vibrant colour, fragrant, a bit of give to the touch (ripe), or firm to the touch (unripe), and blemish-free.

How to store them: If unripe, store at room temperature, stem down for up to a few days. If ripe, store in the fridge for up to three days.

What to make with it: Peach and tomato salad. Slice peaches and tomatoes and red onion, layer on a plate, crumble feta over top, and season with a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper.

 

Pears

In season: August–December

How to choose them: A little soft at the stem, otherwise firm, even colour, and blemish-free.

How to store them: At room temperature for up to three days.

What to make with it: This recipe for pear and bacon grilled cheese or this recipe for pear and arugula salad

 

Peas

In season: May–June

How to choose them: Firm, green, glossy pod, nd plump.

How to store them: In the fridge in a plastic bag for up to five days.

What to make with it: This recipe for a pea bruschetta, if you’re trying to save up for a house.

Protip: Don’t get large peas. Medium peas will be more tender, more flavourful, and sweeter

 

Peppers

In season: August–October

How to choose them: Firm, heavy, glossy, vibrant colour, and blemish-free.

How to store them: In the fridge in a crisper or plastic bag.

What to make with it: Griled peppers. Quarter the peppers, remove the seeds and stem, oil and season with your preferred spices, then toss on the grill or in the oven for roasted pepper instead.

 

Potatoes (Red, Russet, and Yellow)

In season: August–December

How to choose them: Firm, soil smell, no sprouts, no green skin, and blemish-free.

How to store them: Cool, dry, and dark place with good ventilation.

What to make with it: Slice them to your desired fry size, toss in oil and your favourite seasonings, then bake at 475 degrees Fahrenheit for 30+ minutes, flipping once halfway.

 

Raspberries

In season: July–August

How to choose them: Even colouring, reddish-pink, plump, firm, and dry.

How to store them: In the fridge in a ventilated container lined with paper towel for up to four days. Or freeze them for up to six months.

What to make with it: Just eat them. Add them to your lemonade, iced tea, sangria, ginger ale, ice cream, basically anything.

 

Squash (Summer)

In season: June–August

How to choose it: Firm, glossy, yellow, and blemish-free.

How to store it: In the fridge in a plastic bag for up to a week.

What to make with it: Baked squash. Halve the squash and scrape out seeds. Drizzle with melted butter or olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 35 to 45 minutes depending on the size of squash. Sprinkle with brown sugar or drizzle with maple syrup and bake another ten minutes.

 

Strawberries

In season: June–September

How to choose them: Bright red, and fairly firm.

How to store them: In the fridge in a ventilated container lined with paper towel for up to four days, or freeze them for up to six months.

What to make with it: They’re just a fun snack. Dip your strawberry in icing sugar if you like. That’s it.

 

Tomatoes

In season: July–October

How to choose them: Firm, plump, heavy, even colouring, smooth skin, and blemish-free.

How to store them: At room temperature, away from sunlight, for up to five days.

What to make with it: See the peaches entry.

 

Zucchini

In season: June–October

How to choose it: Dark green, heavy, smooth skin, and blemish-free.

How to store it: In the fridge in an unsealed plastic bag for up to a week.

What to make with it: This recipe for ratatouille, just like the movie

 

Don’t see your fave on the list? These fruits and veggies are also in season!

Apples: August-December

Artichokes: August–October

Cabbage: (Green) August-December, (Red and Savoy) September-January)

Crab Apples: August–October

Fennel: June–October

Garlic: August–October

Kale: January–December

Leeks: July–February

Lettuce: June–November

Melons: August–September

Mushrooms: January–December

Onions (Green): May–September

Plums: August–September

Potatoes (New): May–July

Potatoes (White): July–December

Prunes: August–September

Radishes: April–October

Rhubarb: April–August

Rutabagas: August–December

Salad Greens: April–November

Saskatoon Berries: June–July

Shallots: August

Spinach: April-October

Turnips (White): May–December