Supermarket produce sections abound with colorful fruit all year thanks to scientific advances in agriculture. But there’s nothing quite like biting into an in-season strawberry. Fruit is at its freshest, most flavorful and most nutritious when it’s at its peak. And guess what? The best time to eat summer fruits like berries, peaches and watermelon is right about … now. With that said, there are a few variations based on the type of fruit and the part of the country you live in.
Here’s a rundown of when the most delicious summer fruits are at their absolute prime.
Epicurious says that June is the sweet spot for strawberries in most of the country. But as with any fruit, strawberry season varies based on geographical area and variety. Southern Living says that in Florida, you can pick prime strawberries as early as the end of February. In Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi, they peak starting in late April and May; and in Tennessee, Arkansas and North Carolina, it’s more like late May or June. Cooler states in the mid-Atlantic and mountains see their strawberries ripen as late as June. In California, strawberries can grow all year long, but Epicurious points out that the best time for them is between April and July.
Strawberries need to be refrigerated, but they will hold up fine on the counter for a few days. When storing strawberries, keep in mind that moisture can cause mold to form. HGTV suggests putting strawberries in an open container that’s lined with paper towels. Another great idea? Keep them in a colander for perfect ventilation.
Who doesn’t love blueberries? Eating this berry at its peak is one of the highlights of summer. In North America, the blueberry season goes from April to late September. According to Better Homes and Gardens, blueberry plants thrive when the days are hot, and the nights are cool. Those conditions happen at different times in different areas of the country. But as a general rule, follow this guideline:
If you live in the Northeast or the Northwest, the best blueberries arrive in July through September. If you live in the Southeast, it’s April through May. And in the Southwest, it’s April through June.
Refrigerate your blueberries, and if you can, store them in a short, wide container so the ones on the bottom don’t get crushed. Wash them right before eating. (They are No. 11 on the dirty dozen list.)
Peaches are one of those fruits that really have to be in season to taste good. In fact, Kathleen Purvis, the former food editor for the Charlotte Observer, famously wrote that “peaches should never be eaten before the Fourth of July. From there, one has six weeks to fill up.” But of course, the peaches in North Carolina are different from those in New Jersey or California.
Farmers grow peaches in about 33 states. In Georgia (the Peach State), peak harvest time is mid-May through mid-August. In California, it’s late June through mid-September. In Florida, it’s April through mid-May. In Colorado, it’s late June through early October. And in New Jersey, it’s early June through mid-September.
Delectably ripe peaches should be washed (they’re number four on the dirty dozen list) and eaten right away. But if that’s not possible, The Kitchn advises storing them in the fridge for a few days. This will slow down the ripening process, but it can also dehydrate the fruit. So eat ’em quickly!
Country Living says the best time for watermelon depends on where you live: June in the Midwest and the South, followed by July on the West Coast and later in the summer in the Northeast. But just because watermelons have shown up in your supermarket doesn’t mean they’re ready to eat.
Here’s how to choose one that’s sweet and juicy, according to Real Simple: Pick a watermelon with a strong stripe pattern (dark green and pale yellow stripes) and not too shiny (which means it’s probably underripe). The field spot (where the watermelon sat on the ground) should be creamy yellow or nearly orange. The stem should be yellow-brown (not green). Also, go for round rather than oval, and heavier rather than lighter.
The Pacific Northwest is one of the leading areas for blackberry production, with Oregon being the highest-producing state for blackberries. Livestrong says that in that region, blackberries are at their best in July through September.
But lots of other states grow blackberries, too, including Georgia, Texas, Arkansas and North Carolina. Blackberries are ready earlier in Southern states. In southern Georgia, for example, blackberries are best between May 15 and June 15.
As with other berries, store blackberries in the refrigerator in a vented container.
Cherries are grown primarily in the state of Michigan and in the West and Northwestern U.S. According to Allrecipes, sweet cherries in the western and northwestern states are at their peak between May and July. The window for tart cherries on the other hand is shorter. You can typically find tart cherries for a couple weeks in June, and in cooler areas the season may extend into August.
Always wash your cherries (which are number 10 on the dirty dozen list) before eating them. Unlike strawberries, cherries last longest in an airtight container, not a ventilated one. But do be sure to refrigerate them!
Anyone hungry for fruit salad?