How to Cook with Seasonal Vegetables

By TBSP Susan
Created March 7, 2017
Choosing your vegetables based on what's in season is a great way to make sure you're getting super fresh goods, which may have even been grown by a farmer right in your area. MORE+ LESS-

There's a growing number of people who believe cooking with seasonal produce is best – and they may be on to something.

Choosing your vegetables based on what's in season is a great way to make sure you're getting super fresh goods, which may have even been grown by a farmer right in your area.

Considering the culinary and community benefits of shopping at your farmer's market instead of a big box store, this summer may be the time to get into seasonal eating. Besides, you have tons of choices during the warmer months, so take advantage of them!

1. Greens

Whether you like spinach, baby greens, kale, Swiss chard or even good ol' mustard greens, you can usually find them in abundance during the summer. Best part is that there are about as many ways to prepare your greens as there are varieties of these vegetables.

For example, serving your goods raw – like in this delish Easy Beet and Greens Salad – is a great way to go, as you don't need to turn on your stove in the sweltering heat. With heartier greens, you can saute them in a little olive oil and garlic, and finish with a sprinkle of lemon juice. Wanna get more creative? Try these Baked Chipotle Kale Chips.

2. Mushrooms

These fantastic fungi add savory – some would say "umami" – flavor to just about any dish, making them a perfect main ingredient for vegetarians and carnivores alike. They're the star in this Onion and Mushroom Quinoa, which is a side that's hearty enough to be served as an entrée.

If you want to go a little off the beaten track, look for some specialty mushrooms and make these amazing Sauteed Lobster Mushrooms.

3. Eggplant

Ah, the eggplant: A funny-looking vegetable, no doubt, but also a delicious one. We don't recommend it raw, but when cooked, the aubergine takes on an almost creamy texture and a neutral, earthy flavor. Serve roasted chunks in a salad, pop 'em on a kabob or even saute slices to use in a sandwich.

Wanna get a little fancier? Try making this Eggplant Lasagna in place of your regular carb-heavy Sunday dishes.

4. Green beans

Sweet and crunchy when raw, savory and tender when cooked, the green bean is one of summer's greatest culinary stars. It's time to bring this veggie out of the shadows and into your kitchen, baby, because it's green bean season.

Toss your green beans into a stir fry, or just give the little guys a quick blanch and a bit of butter and lemon juice. Oh, that's not enough for you? Well, try these recipes for Green Beans with Almonds and Bacon (recipe featured below!) and Green Beans with Colored Peppers on for size.

5. Tomatoes

Okay, they're technically a fruit, but they're more often seen in savory dishes than sweet, so let's just go with it. Tomatoes are probably best when eaten seasonally, as there's nothing quite like a vine-ripened 'mater. During the winter, these wannabe veggies are picked when green and artificially ripened, resulting in a tasteless, mealy tomato.

That said, it'd be a shame to eat these guys in any other form but raw when you've got a fresh, locally grown variety. (That is, unless you've got too many and need to can them or make them into a sauce. In which case, we understand.) These recipes for Garlic-Basil Tomatoes with Mozzarella and Avocado-Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes are great ways to showcase the tomato's natural beauty and flavor.

So go ahead and blast out to your local farmer’s market or local veggie stand – and have a ball jazzing up all kinds of summer dishes!

What summer veggies do you crave?