UNITED STATES—After months of rain and relentless winds, spring is here, and summer is fast approaching. In Los Angeles, this means the arrival of 90-degree weather, weekends spent with the air-conditioning on full blast, and ice cream and shaved ice at every opportunity.
But one can’t subsist on frozen desserts alone, as ideal as it sounds. Here is where one of my favorite aspects of warmer weather comes in—the abundance of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables.
From April, blueberries and strawberries are large and juicy, bursting with sweetness. Vibrantly colored grape and cherry tomatoes are perfect for bite-sized snacks. From May and June, stone fruits such as peaches, apricots, and plums ripen and are no longer tough, stringy, and tart. We can also enjoy their hybrids—pluots, plumcots, and apriums, which have varying ratios of apricots to plums. And we can’t forget another popular stone fruit, the cherry, which is only in season for a few months out of the year, according to the Los Angeles Times “Seasonal Produce Guide.”
When the heat is particularly overwhelming, I gravitate toward lighter meals with a variety of vegetables. These aren’t necessarily limited to salads; spring and summer vegetables such as new potatoes and artichokes can be grilled, or served alongside meats or grains. Seasonal legumes such as green beans or peas are also great for light snacks that don’t require much time in the kitchen. Soft herbs such as basil, cilantro, and mint, which are in season from May to October, can add an extra layer of flavor to any dish.
So what do we do when a cherry-picking spree or a weekend trip to the farmers market leaves us with mounds of fresh produce? Let’s take a look at some ways to enjoy our seasonal finds while we still can.
Pies and Pastries
Pies and hand pies are a great way to showcase fruits that are in season. A buttery, flaky crust helps berries, peaches, and cherries shine without too many additions. Of course, a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top is always welcome. Try this fresh cherry pie with cherry pit whipped cream, or these adorable “Internet-speak” hand pies.
Jams, Jellies, and Preserves
These fruit spreads are easier to make than you think. A bonus is that they can be eaten for months if they have been properly stored in sterilized jars. Again, the fruit is the star of the show, so only basic ingredients are necessary, such as sugar, salt, and lemon juice. The most difficult step is boiling the jars after they have been filled. After that, your homemade jam or preserves can be enjoyed on toast, crackers, yogurt, or in baked goods such as thumbprint cookies or shortcakes. Making jams at home also allows you to come up with creative combinations, such as this raspberry-rose jam or this spicy peach jam.
On the Grill
Now we have another excuse to turn on the grill: grilled fruits and vegetables. Halved plums, peaches, and apricots are brushed with oil and grilled on each side for a few minutes. They can be served alone, with maple syrup or balsamic glaze, or on top of a bed of greens for a unique salad. Try some grilled peaches here.
Spring vegetables can be tossed on the grill as well. New potatoes are cut into wedges beforehand, and artichokes are seasoned and steamed prior to grilling. These can be eaten on their own, dipped into sauces, or with grilled chicken, steak, or rice. Find how to grill artichokes here.
When we’re short on time, throwing fruit into the blender for a quick smoothie is convenient. Overripe berries blended with almond milk and a banana are perfect for a healthier breakfast option. Toss in a few handfuls of spinach for some added nutrients!
On a Platter
Sometimes, simple is the best way to go. Slice up some cucumbers, which are in season until September, and serve them on a plate with green beans, snap peas, carrot sticks, sliced bell peppers, and grape tomatoes. Add a bowl of hummus or tzatziki for dipping.
I’m always wistful when summer comes to an end because of the months-long wait before I can have delicious stone fruits and berries again. This year, I intend to enjoy them every opportunity I get, before a fall staple arrives—apples!