If waiting around for spring to spring felt interminable this year—and if waiting around for your favorite produce to hit the market has felt doubly so—well, let’s just say you’re not alone.
It’s a long, slow climb to tomato season, especially if the winter has been bad (and I think we can agree that 2018 ranks as one of the worst). Get to know your growing community with this quick and helpful guide as to what’s growing when. With a little help, you’ll never miss out on that short-lived sour cherry season again. The harvest is fullest during July and August, and begins to wane toward the end of September, but you should visit your local market as long as it stays open.
Let the abundance begin! Asparagus really comes into its own in May, followed by the season’s first fruit (which is technically a vegetable): rhubarb. Vegetable lovers can also look forward to collard greens, peas, radishes, and, if the season has been warm and forgiving enough, strawberries. The latter arrive toward the end of the month and reign supreme through most of June.
Cruciferous veggies begin to sprout in June. Welcome your beets, cabbage, and broccoli, which are joined by other greens: lettuce, kale, beans, early-ripening cucumbers, sugar snap peas, and Swiss chard. You can also expect onions, the season’s first zucchini, and, of course, more of those strawberries. Most important, this is the one and only time to get cherries. The sweet variety hangs around from mid-June through the first week of July. Sour cherries, on the other hand, tend to appear at market during the last week of the month and are gone shortly after the holiday.
Fruit lovers, this is your month to shine. Cherries may be barely past due, but here’s what else you can look forward to: blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, nectarines, apricots, and even the first of the apples. Sweet corn arrives mid-month, accompanied by eggplant, lima beans, okra, peppers, carrots, potatoes, and, of course, summer’s holy grail… tomatoes. You can also find your fresh flowers and herbs in full bloom—they’ll extend through October. Zucchini and summer squash continue to thrive through July well into August.
Tomatoes go on and on and on (though I’ll never tire of them) and some of the best are August-bred. Corn season also extends through August and into September, depending on the season. Brussels sprouts arrive in August, as do the fall kale harvest, turnips, cauliflower, and other heartier varieties. Plums and melons come to market in August, too, along with the first of the fall pears, and, of course, more apples. Finally, this is the beginning of the winter squash season. Pumpkins won’t be ripe for a month or two yet, but you can expect to see acorn and butternuts appearing at your market as the weather begins to shift.
There’s very little new to the market after Labor Day, but you will see an explosion of items that were only first appearing earlier in summer. Potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and kale are bountiful heading into fall, and winter squash begins to grow abundantly. Some pumpkin varieties are fully ripe early in the month, while others will arrive at market closer to the first of October. You’ll see the full range of apples and pears as the fall progresses. This is also the prime time to buy and can tomatoes, which, while at the end of their seasonal life, are perfect for tomato sauce, salsa, and any other manner of preserved goods.
This is really the final harvest month. In particularly warm years, you may see the sweet corn at market as late as October, along with all of the other fall players. Much of the produce available at the October market (squash, turnips, sweet potatoes, apples, potatoes, onions) can be wintered over in a root cellar, should you wish to keep your cool weather larder full.