Summer Produce Favorites

The warmth of summer is finally here. This is the time of year when our gardens, farmers' markets, and local grocery stores overflow with an abundance of colorful and flavorful vegetables and fruits. The sheer freshness of summer produce is unparalleled. Fruits and vegetables are harvested at their peak ripeness, resulting in vibrant flavors, captivating colors, and enticing aromas. Chef Pete relishes the opportunity to work with ingredients that are bursting with natural sweetness, juiciness, and vitality. 

Eating seasonally has historically been seen as an important part of overall physical and mental health, since it allows you create a connection to your surrounding and where your food comes from, helps to expand your palate, provides you with the most nutrient dense options available. 

Summer Produce Favorites

Summer produce ignites culinary creativity. Their freshness and abundance of summer produce makes it a delight to incorporate into a wide range of dishes. In his summer menu, Chef Pete experiments with different combinations, textures, and cooking techniques to showcase their natural beauty and taste. Give some of our favorites a try in our meals and your recipes too.


Arugula is a peppery, nutty-tasting member of the mustard family. It is nutrient dense and packed with vitamins A, C, and K, folate, and iron. This versatile leafy green can be served raw, but is just as often used in cooked dishes.

Look for: Dark leaves indicate freshness and flavor; look for leaves that are uniformly green and avoid anything yellow, brown-spotted, wilting, or excessively moist-looking. Older (and larger) arugula is generally spicier than younger, smaller leaves, as is the wild variety.

Store it: Wrap the stems in a moist paper towel, place it all in a plastic bag, and refrigerate for up to three days. When it comes to packaged arugula, store it in its container in the fridge.

Use it: Arugula needs to be well washed and dried before use. It is delicious ground into pesto, as the base of a fresh salad or simply sautéed with garlic and olive oil.

Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Jicama & Arugula Salad with Strawberry-Mint Vinaigrette and Zucchini 


A relative of the beet, chard is a mellow, earthy green. Both the leaves and stems, which are often vibrantly colored, are edible. This leafy green contains beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, along with vitamins C and E.

Look for: Choose bunches with crisp stalks and fresh-looking leaves that are not cracked. Avoid wilted or browning leaves.

Store it: Store chard wrapped in a perforated plastic bag in the crisper drawer for up to 3 days, away from fruits like apples, apricots, melons, and figs. Stalks separated from the leaves will keep slightly longer.

Use it: Sauté the leaves simply with garlic and olive oil, stuff them with filling as you would grape leaves, or use them anywhere you would use spinach or beet greens. Chopped stems can be prepared along with the leaves. Simply cook until nearly done before adding the leaves, as the stems take longer to cook.

Lemon and Leek Chicken Sausage with Broccoli and Swiss Chard


Cucumbers are grown all over the world in numerous varieties, from tiny pickling cucumbers to the large, smooth, European greenhouse type.

Look for: Choose smooth cucumbers with brightly colored skins; avoid yellowing cucumbers and those that have been waxed.

Store it: Cucumbers keep if tightly wrapped to avoid drying out. Store them in a plastic bag in the warmest part of your fridge for up to 10 days, or store cut cucumbers tightly wrapped in the fridge for up to 5.

Use it: Enjoy cucumbers in all different kinds of salads, or pickle them! Thinner-skinned cucumbers, like Middle Eastern, Asian, and European varieties, don’t need to be peeled—simply wash in cold water before using. Larger cucumbers with thicker skins benefit from peeling.

Gyro Kebabs with Grilled Zucchini and Cucumber Garlic Parsnip Mash

Green Beans

The green bean family covers a wide range of varieties: from green beans to yellow wax beans, purple snap beans, French beans or haricots verts, Romano beans, dragon tongue beans, and more. They vary widely in appearance but are similar in taste and preparation. They contain many nutrients including vitamin C and Beta carotene.

Look for: Choose brightly colored, crisp beans that snap easily.  Avoid limp beans or those with blemishes or brown spots

Store it: Green beans will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week; store them in a paper bag or wrapped in a paper towel inside a perforated plastic bag.

Use it: Some varieties may have "strings" running down one side, which should be pulled off like a zipper before using. Add green beans to salads, stir-fries, and casseroles, or steam them and enjoy them as a side dish. Snip the stem end off the beans; boil them in water, chill, and marinate them to be used in a salad, or throw them into the frying pan with some bacon fat and fry until crispy.

Cajun Roasted Chicken with Southern Green Beans and Sweet Potato Wedges 


Peppers are an essential part of cuisines all over the globe. While they vary greatly in size, color, and heat. Larger peppers tend to be milder and sweeter, since proportionally they have fewer seeds and veins than smaller varieties. Peppers are packed with vitamins A, C, and K as well as folate, lycopene (in sweet red peppers), and potassium.

Look for: Choose peppers with vivid colors and firm skins. Avoid any shriveling or soft spots.

Store it: Store at room temperature for up to 5 days or for longer keeping, in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator. Store hot peppers separately from other vegetables, as their oils can transfer to other produce.

Use it: Slice them up and eat them alone or with a dip, fold them into omelets, or add them to salads and stir fries. Roasted peppers are delicious marinated in olive oil or used to make a dip, sauce or soup. It is best to wear gloves when prepping hot peppers, as washing your hands may not remove all the oils.

Moroccan Chicken with Bell Peppers and Onions and Dill Cauliflower Rice 


Spinach is available year-round, but it is especially flavorful in spring and summer. This leafy green is often celebrated for its high iron, calcium and vitamin content.

Look for: When buying fresh spinach, look for leaves that are crisp, dark green, smooth, and glossy. If you are choosing pre-packaged spinach examine the bag to make sure no leaves are wilted, crushed or rotting.

Store it: Remove any damaged or wilted leaves. Wrap the rest lightly in paper towel or a cotton dishtowel and store in a perforated plastic bag in the most humid part of your refrigerator.

Use it: Spinach boasts a sweet, slightly bitter taste when eaten raw. The flavor becomes more complex and mildly acidic when cooked. It is delicious puréed with nuts, spices and olive oil for a take on pesto, sautéed or cooked in some bacon fat, or bedded beneath a poached egg topped with creamy hollandaise sauce for real food breakfast (or anytime) treat.

Beef Tikka Masala with Cilantro-Coconut Cauliflower Rice and Garlic-Ginger Spinach 

Summer Squash

Zucchini is the most popular summer squash variety but others include crookneck and straightneck squash, globe squash, pattypan yellow squash, cacozelia, and scaloppini. Summer squash is a good source of insoluble fiber and contains vitamins C B6.

Look for: Small to medium summer squashes with bright-colored skin free of spots and bruises are your best choices. Larger specimens can be woody, bitter, and lacking flavor

Store it: Summer squash is quite perishable. The blossoms should be eaten as soon as possible. Store squash in a perforated plastic bag and refrigerate (in the vegetable drawer) for a maximum of five days.

Use it: When fresh, the sweet, buttery flesh of summer squash can be eaten raw, or prepared in numerous ways including grilling, roasting, steaming, pan-frying or even bakes into Paleo breads and treats. The blossoms of the summer squash plant are edible, too and can be stuffed and fried as a gourmet appetizer.

Braised Beef with Peppers, Shallots, & Summer Squash


There are thousands of known tomato varieties and colors with popular ones including Jersey or Beefsteak, plum or Roma tomatoes, cherry or grape tomatoes and countless heirloom varieties. Tomatoes are packed with vitamin C, potassium, and lycopene. They can help improve gum, skin, and blood health as well help in certain types of cancer prevention.

Look for: Try to sample tomatoes before you buy them - even beautiful, heavy, unblemished specimens can lack the flavor you want. Look for firm, plump tomatoes with an aromatic earthy fragrance and a rich red color. Avoid overripe ones with blemishes, soft spots, or growth cracks.

Store it: Store your tomatoes upside down at room temperature. Ripe tomatoes will keep for up to a week. Tomatoes should never be refrigerated as this deadens the flavor and gives the tomato a mealy texture.

Use it: Tomatoes can be enjoyed in alone, in salads, in salsa, roasted, grilled, stewed, sautéed, made into sauces, soups and bases for stews. The true pleasure of tomatoes can be enjoyed alone with a simple sprinkle of sea salt, or halved and roasted as a delicious side.

Chicken Chili with Oven-Roasted Tomatoes and Spaghetti Squash

For some great recipes and ideas on how to shop and cook, seasonal, delicious Paleo food, grab a copy of Chef Peter’s book Paleo by Season >>>>>>

At Peter’s Real Food, our meals are made with the best quality, organically grown, seasonal produce from local farmers.

Our menu changes weekly and is filled with these, and more of our summer favorites. Explore your options and order your favorites here >>>>>>>

Admittedly, our top summer produce picks will change from one summer to the next, or even one week to the next, depending on what was harvested and tasted particularly good. There are so many delicious options it is difficult to be too partial to any item for too long. Enjoy a full summer harvest of your favorites anytime they become available to you

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