These days it's not too hard to find fresh veggies all year round, but if you buy your veggies when they're in season you'll find they have the best flavor and in many cases, will be more affordable. So here's a breakdown of the best times to buy and how to select your favorite vegetables.
Spring: March, April, and May
It's easy to find artichokes in cans or jars, but if you love fresh artichokes, the best season is spring.
Look for artichokes that have tightly closed leaves and no blemishes. They should also feel a little heavy for their size when you hold them. When you take them home, put them in the fridge and use them up within a week.
Fresh tender asparagus is delicious, and it's at its best right now. The stalks should be fresh-smelling and firm, but not woody. Stay away from asparagus that is wilted or looks straggly. Keep asparagus fresh by wrapping the ends with a wet paper towel and put them in a plastic container. Eat them within a week or so.
Such a versatile vegetable, broccoli can be used in salads, side dishes, and stir-fry meals. Choose broccoli that's deep green in color, smells fresh, and isn't wilted. Keep it in the refrigerator and use it up within three or four days before it goes bad.
You'll start to see fresh ears of sweet corn in late spring, although it's more plentiful in the summer.
Choose ears with green husks and look for kernels that are plump and not dehydrated. Take your corn home and put it in the refrigerator and use it up within two or three days for the best flavor.
Simple green beans are always available in cans or frozen in bags, but they're so much better when they're fresh.
Look for green beans that feel like they're going to snap when you bend them. Avoid them if they're limp or look dehydrated. Keep your fresh green beans in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Green peas are another veggie that you can find in cans and the freezer section. But fresh peas are just so good, and the spring is the best time to find them in the produce section. You might find peas that are still in their bright green shells or they may already be shelled for your convenience. Keep them refrigerated and use them within three days or so.
Fresh spinach can be used raw as a salad green or on sandwiches, or it can be cooked and served as a side dish. Spinach is at it's best during the spring months. Look for spinach leaves that are nice and green and crisp. Keep your spinach in the refrigerator for up to five days.
Swiss chard is a lovely vegetable with its dark green leaves and colorful stems. And the color is key to selecting fresh Swiss chard. Go for chard that's clean looking and doesn't have yellow or brownish leaves. Keep it in the fridge but be sure to use it up within three or four days.
Summer: June, July, and August
Sweet corn, green bean, and peas continue their peak freshness right into summer.
Beets are one of the first root vegetables to ripen in the summer. Choose beets with firm skins and leaves that have a healthy appearance. Both the root and the leaves are edible, so when you get home, cut the tops off about an inch or two above the root and store the roots in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Cook up the beet leaves within two to three days.
Bright yellow crookneck squash is ready in the summertime. Choose squash that are firm and feel heavy when you pick them up. Avoid squash that are too big and select smaller to medium sized squash. Crookneck squash will last in the refrigerator for up to a week or so.
Cucumbers are always available as pickles but in the summer is when you'll find the best fresh cukes. Buy ones that are firm, heavy, and dark green. Avoid cucumbers that are discolored or shriveled. Keep your cukes refrigerated for up to a week.
Here's another summertime veggie. Choose eggplants that are shiny and dark in color and feel heavy for their size. Stay away from eggplants that are cracked or badly discolored. When you get your eggplants home, place them in the fridge for a week or so.
Lima beans are always available in cans, but they're nowhere near as tasty as the fresh beans you can find this time of year. Choose lima beans that are still in the shell. Take them home and store them in the refrigerator for a few days.
Okra is available everywhere during the summer months. Look for firm, light green pods. Bring your okra home and keep it in the refrigerator, where it will last up to three or four days.
Here's another summer root vegetable. Look for smooth, bright red radishes that have a fresh aroma and healthy green tops. Small or medium sized radishes are best because the larger ones tend to get a little woody. Keep radishes in the refrigerator for a week or so.
Grocery stores carry fresh tomatoes year-round, but they tend to be a little bland. The tastiest tomatoes are the ones you'll find at grocery stores and farmers markets in the summer.
This well-known summer squash is everywhere this time of year. Choose zucchini squash that is bright green and feels heavy for its size. Take your squash home and keep it in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Fall: September, October, and NovemberBroccoli remains in season during the autumn months, and Swiss chard comes back for a second season.
Here's a winter squash that's shaped like a giant acorn. Winter squash ripen in the fall, and the reason they're called 'winter' squash is that they'll last for up to three months in a cool, dark part of your kitchen. They don't need to be refrigerated; just keep them out of the sun and heat. Choose acorn squash that is dark green and feels heavy when you pick it up.
You can buy Brussels sprouts any time of the year, but they're at their peak during the autumn months. They're even better if you buy them while they're still on the stalk (they're a little extra work that way, but totally worth it!). Choose Brussels sprouts with tight leaves on the bright green heads. Keep them in the fridge for up to a week.
This fall favorite is the sweetest of the winter squashes. Choose buttercup squash that is heavy when you pick it up and doesn't have any major blemishes or soft spots. Buttercup squash will keep nicely for up to three months as long as it's out of direct sunlight and in a cool, dry space.
You'll find that these pale yellow squash are at their best in the fall months at both farmers' markets and grocery stores. Choose squash that are heavy when you pick them up. When you get home, keep your butternut squash in a dark, cool place where it will keep for up to one month.
Fresh cauliflower is much more flavorful this time of year and less likely to be wilted and covered in brown spots. Look for firm cauliflower that isn't limp. If it has any leaves attached, they should be bright green and fresh. Keep your cauliflower in the fridge for five or six days.
You're probably more likely to pick pumpkins for Halloween decorations, but they're certainly edible, plus you have all those delicious pumpkin seeds. Choose pumpkins that are firm, bright orange, and heavy. As long as you don't turn them into Jack-o-lanterns, they'll keep nicely in a cool, dry place for up to two months.
Here's another root vegetable that's at it's best in the fall. Buy sweet potatoes (or they may be called yams) that are firm, with smooth skin, and don't have cracks, soft spots, or blemishes. Store your sweet potatoes in the fridge or another cool, dry place for a month or more.
Turnips and Rutabagas
Turnips are purple and white root vegetables that are ready to go in the fall. Choose turnips that are firm and not too big. Put them in the fridge when you get home, but unlike most root veggies, turnips don't last too long. Use them up within a week.
Winter: December, January, and FebruaryBrussels sprouts, buttercup squash, sweet potatoes, and turnips are still at their best during the winter months.
Winter is a good time for collard greens. Choose greens that are dark and have no yellow or brown spots. Keep them in the fridge for up to a week.
Kale is easy enough to find most any time but the leaves are the most tender in the winter months. Choose kale that is dark green with no brown spots or wilted leaves. Keep them in the fridge for four or five days.
Green, red, yellow, and orange bell pepperscome into season during the summer months. Buy peppers that have brightly colored smooth skins. Stay away from peppers that are dull or look like they're dehydrated. Keep your bell peppers in the fridge for four or five days.
Light green and purple cabbages are easy to find all year. Choose firm tight heads of cabbage that don't have any discoloration or feel 'too light' when you pick them up. Cabbage will keep in your fridge for up to a week.
Some root vegetables are in season all year round, including carrots. Look for bright orange carrots that smell fresh and feel firm. Avoid wilted soft carrots. Keep your carrots in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Fragrant fresh celery is easy to find and easy to choose. Pick out straight stalks that have bright green fresh leaves. Stay away from celery stalks that are limp and have wilted leaves. Celery will keep in your refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Green, red, iceberg, and other types of lettuce are in season all year. Look for fresh, crisp leaves and avoid lettuce that is discolored or wilted. Take your lettuce home and keep it in the fridge for a week or two.
Yellow, white, and red onions are everywhere all year. Look for plump, heavy onions and stay away from onions that are soft, or feel light when you pick them up. Onions will keep in your refrigerator for up to a month.
Parsnips resemble white carrots, but they have a lovely flavor. Choose smaller parsnips that feel firm and not rubbery. Take them home and keep them in the refrigerator for up to a month.
Potatoes are one of the most popular vegetables and you'll find all kinds of processed forms in the grocery store. You'll also find fresh white, yellow, red, and maybe blue potatoes in the produce section. Choose firm potatoes that don't have any soft or squishy spots. Avoid potatoes that have a green cast to their skin. Store your potatoes in a dry, cool spot where they'll last for two to three months.
Crisp green snow peas make a nice addition to salads or stir fry meals. Choose bright green fresh smelling pods. Avoid snow peas if the peas inside appear to be overdeveloped or if they're wilted and rubbery. Snow peas will keep in the fridge for up to five days.
By Shereen Lehman, MS
Hi I'm Kelly Richards Mulloy a stay at home mom of 6. I am on a journey to change my life inside and out. Health and fitness, staying young, join me.