Eating seasonally has been shown to help increase nutrient intake, contribute to a more sustainable environment and support local farmers. With that said, growing and buying summer vegetables from your local farmers market is a great way to improve your health and contribute to your community.
What are the best summer vegetables to enjoy during the warmest months of the year? Some include leafy greens like kale, shallots, bell peppers, squash, garlic and herbs, such as basil.
Top 9 Summer Vegetables (Plus Benefits)
What vegetables are in season during the summer? Here’s a list of some of the healthiest ones, along with their benefits:
1. Kale and Other Summer Greens
Kale is one of the healthiest greens available considering it’s full of antioxidants, including isothiocyanates; vitamins C, A and K; manganese; copper; magnesium; potassium; and more.
Other heat-tolerant greens to try in the summer include Manoa lettuce and mizuna, which have bright colors and yield greens every three to five weeks.
2. Zucchini/Summer Squash
With loads of different types to try — such as delicata, crookneck, cousa, pattypans or yellow summer squash — these veggies are low in calories, easy to blend into recipes, and good sources of vitamin C and B6.
These purple veggies hold unique compounds within their dark-colored skins, including polyphenols such as anthocyanins, the same type found in berries and red wine. Eggplant can help fight free radical damage and also provides you with manganese and folate, which support bone and metabolic health.
Tomatoes are excellent for boosting your intake of vitamin C and A, fiber, and disease-fighting antioxidants, such as lycopene. Since each type has its own unique taste, plant several different species if possible, such as grape, roma, heirloom and beefsteak tomatoes.
Cucumbers are extremely low in calories and carbs and very high in water, so they’re hydrating and make a great post-workout snack. Not only can you eat and juice them, but they can be used on your skin to de-puff bags under your eyes and curb swelling.
As members of the allium plant family, shallots are related to onions and garlic. Organosulfur compounds found in allium vegetables have been shown to have antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties, meaning they generally support immune defenses.
7. Bell Peppers
Whether you like sweet, spicy, green, yellow or red peppers best, you’ll benefit from a high intake of vitamin C, vitamin E and antioxidants, such as beta-carotene, when you consume them. Spicy peppers, which contain the compound called capsaicin, also support a healthy metabolism and can help curb your appetite.
One of the most popular herbs in the world, basil’s signature sweet taste makes a great addition to both meals and beverages. Basil is also used to make essential oil because it’s very high in protective compounds, including eugenol, linalool and citronellol, which help fight inflammation.
Garlic is the best dietary source of the compound called allicin, which has the natural ability to fight pathogens and help protect against infections. You can even save garlic peels and use them in many ways, such as for composting and warding off insects from your garden.
How to Add to Your Diet
Here are some ideas for using summer vegetables at home to make healthy meals that the whole family will love:
- Make sautéed summer veggies with tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini and onion, plus any herbs and spices you like. This makes a great side dish served with protein or even a sauce or chilled soup if blended. Sautéed veggies are also the perfect ingredients for pasta primavera.
- Add whichever peppers you love, such as sweet or hot peppers, to homemade tacos, pizzas or burritos. Shallots and zucchini are other good additions to these recipes.
- Mix together homemade salsa using roasted tomatoes, peppers and garlic.
- Stuff zucchini, peppers or eggplant with beans, whole grains, garlic and spices.
- Roast and spread garlic on fresh bread, or use raw garlic to marinade meat or fish.
- Try basil in homemade pesto, fresh marinara pasta sauce, or even mocktails and cocktails. (It pairs well with lemon and strawberry.)
- To bring out the natural flavor of summer veggies, toss them in oil, and then grill them so they caramelize.
How to Grow
Which summer vegetable crops can you grow at home? Just about all of them, assuming you have the room. The exact types of summer veggies that will do best in your yard depends on the climate where you live.
Here are some tips for growing summer vegetables in your own garden:
- Tomatoes love sun and can grow to be pretty tall if the conditions are right, so put them in large pots with plenty of sunlight. Plant them as soon as the weather warms in spring for the best yields.
- Peppers grow well with tomatoes and eggplants, since all require the same conditions: full sun, rich soil and space to expand.
- Basil and other herbs are great for deterring pests and rodents, therefore grow them by other plants to keep them protected.
- Cucumbers like to climb up trellises or arbors, so give them something to hang on to. They also love full sun exposure and soil that is moist.
- Eggplant roots like to be kept moist and cool. If planting them in the ground, spread mulch around their base to prevent them from heating too much or drying out.
- To grow the most greens over the summer, water and pick them regularly, and consider moving them to the shade if possible or giving them coverage on very hot days.
- Shallots do best in full sun when planted in loose soil that drains well. Try not to overwater them.
If possible, grow organic veggies at home instead of using pesticide sprays. You can help keep plants healthy and free from pests by growing citronella and other herbs near your garden and by adding leftover coffee grounds and garlic peels to your garden, which naturally repel insects and rodents.
Other tips for maintaining an organic garden over the summer include:
- Composting food waste from your kitchen.
- Rotating plant families every year.
- Testing the soil to see if it needs an adjacent in pH.
- Using a greenhouse if necessary, such as if you’re starting to grow seeds in the spring when it’s still cold outside.
Risks and Side Effects
While most of the vegetables above are safe for children and adults to eat, allergies are always a potential concern. For example, if you have a known allergy to nightshade veggies, avoid eggplant and peppers.
If buying conventional produce, wash your veggies thoroughly before eating them. Most can be stored at room temp for several days, but then transfer them to the fridge to prevent fruit flies and mold from forming.
- What vegetables are popular during the summer? Some of the best summer veggies include kale, squash, garlic, herbs like basil, peppers, eggplant, shallots and tomatoes.
- Aim for a variety of summer vegetables to boost your nutrient intake, since each type provides its own unique mix of vitamins, minerals and other compounds.