Fresh Food Tips to Add Flavor

1 / 4
Fresh asparagus, straight from the farmers' market, tastes great for any meal.
2 / 4
A color display at this farmers' market stall invites customers to take home fresh produce.
3 / 4
Summer fruits and vegetables at a local farm stand make great additions to your shopping bag.
4 / 4
A crowd enjoys the fresh produce at this farmers' market.

Eating foods that are fresh and in-season can add a great deal of flavor to any dish. It can also be easier on the pocketbook and help the environment, all at the same time. The problem is that most people don’t know what foods are in season, because they are used to finding whatever they want, year-round in grocery stores.

“You may be able to go to the market today and buy many foods year-round, but that is only because they have often traveled thousands of miles to get to you,” says John Kuropatwa, executive chef of Spigola Ristorante, Hamilton Township, New Jersey. “Sticking with foods that are in-season here – and local, if possible – is better, all the way around. You just need to know what foods are in season and how to pick them out.”

Here are some tips on what’s in season, and how to select and store it:

? Asparagus – Select stalks that are not dry, closed or soggy. Smaller stems are more tender, while larger ones are bolder. To keep them fresh, wrap a moist paper towel around the stems. Then place them in the refrigerator by letting them stand upright in two inches of water.

?·Summer squash – Look for squash that are unblemished and feel heavy for their size, while avoiding those with rinds that are hard. Store squash unwashed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

?·Sweet cherries – They should be bright, shiny, clean and free of blemishes. Those with stems intact will last longer. Store them unwashed in the refrigerator.

?·Sweet corn – Peel back the husk to see whether the corn is missing kernels or looks discolored. Opt for ears that are a nice shade of yellow and look healthy. The silk should not be brittle and the stems should be light green and moist. Keep the corn in the husk, and store in a bag in the refrigerator until ready to use, which should be within a day or so of purchasing, for the best freshness.

?·Berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries) – Berries should represent the color they are intended to and should look healthy. Store them in the refrigerator and use them within a week, only washing berries right before you use them.

?·Eggplant – Choose eggplant that have smooth, shiny skin and that feel heavy for their size. If you gently press your finger on the skin and it springs back, the eggplant is ripe. Store it in the refrigerator crisper until ready to use, up to one to two weeks.

?·Cantaloupe – Choose one that feels heavy for its size, does not have soft spots, and has a hollow sound when you tap it. Cantaloupe can be stored for several days on the counter; once it has been cut, however, it needs to be tightly covered and put into the refrigerator.

?·Watermelon – They do not ripen after being picked, so you need to select a ripe one. The “ground spot” where the watermelon rested on the ground should be yellow or cream-colored. The rind should be smooth and, if you thump it, you should hear a thud. You can store it on the counter until ready to use, within 7 to 10 days. Once you cut into it, store it, covered, in the refrigerator.

“A lot of people are afraid to try new produce because they aren’t sure how to choose a good one,” Kuropatwa says. “Just get in there and find a good piece. Summer sets the stage for many great flavors to be in season. Take advantage of it!”

Spigola is a modern Italian restaurant based in Hamilton Township, New Jersey. The restaurant features a full menu of traditional and modern Italian cuisine, as well as an extensive wine list and bar. Executive Chef John Kuropatwa has more than 20 years experience in the culinary field, with 15 years of them in an executive chef role. The establishment also offers weekly live entertainment, events, specials and daily happy hour, as well as catering services and private party facilities. To learn more about Spigola, visit the website.