If you’re not a farmer and you don’t grow your own produce, a farmers market is the next best way to source fresh, local produce. It’s also a terrific way to learn more about eating and cooking with flavorful, healthful, seasonal ingredients. Most farmers will be able to tell you when something was picked and will often allow (and encourage) you to sample a berry or bean before you purchase it. They can also tell you their favorite ways to cook the produce and what kind of items you can expect in coming weeks so you can meal plan ahead.
Of course, you can’t pick the brains of these food connoisseurs during peak time. Hit up the market as soon as it opens (so you can get first pick) or just before closing time (if you’re a bargain shopper). And, bring cash in small bills, if possible.
In the spring and summer, you don’t have to look too hard to find a farmers market or produce stand near you. If not, however, your grocery store will likely have a “locally grown” area where you can buy what’s fresh from the field. If you’re having trouble figuring out what’s in season, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a great seasonal produce guide. We’ve put together a list some of our low-carb favorites that are in season during the spring and summer. We’ve also included some nutritional facts and storage suggestions to help you choose the best possible produce.
Keep reading for our low-carb seasonal spring and summer produce guide:
Full of potassium, vitamin C, folate, magnesium and dietary fiber, artichokes have more antioxidants than any other vegetable, according to the California Artichoke Advisory Board. TheSpruceEats.com recommends choosing firm artichokes with closed heads and tight leaves. Store them in loosely wrapped plastic in the fridge for up to a week.
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Nothing makes a dish feel fancier than a side of freshly steamed asparagus. According to Healthline, it’s rich in folate and vitamins K, A and C. It also boasts almost two grams of (mostly insoluble) fiber and protein in just a half cup serving. Fresh asparagus stalks are firm and linear with an even, smooth surface, says TheSpruceEats.com. The color can range from vibrant green, white or purple and the tips should be dense and firmly closed. Refrigerate unwashed asparagus, storing it upright with the cut ends in one inch of water.
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In recent years, the creamy avocado has worked its way to the top of many restaurant menus. According to Healthline, this popular fruit is rich in folate, fiber, healthy fats and vitamin K, C and E. Fresh avocados are very firm without any bruises or mushy spots, says TheSpruceEats.com. Store your unripe avocados at room temperature in a paper bag for two to five days. Once you cut your ripe avocados, prevent them from turning brown with a little lemon juice and store them in the fridge for about two days.
Your mom knew what she was talking about when she told you to finish your broccoli! These little crunchy trees are an excellent source of vitamin C, dietary fiber, potassium and vitamin A, says the PA Nutrition Education Network. They also contain sulforaphane, a phytonutrient studied for its role in cancer prevention. When it comes to choosing fresh broccoli, the PA Nutrition Education Network recommends picking those with firm, dense florets that are dark green or “greenish purple” with no yellowing or browning. Store your broccoli unwashed, in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to four days.
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Actually a fruit, cucumbers are 96 percent water and very low in calories, says Healthline. Maintain the peel to increase the amount of fiber and nutrients in every bite. TheSpruceEats.com explains that fresh cucumbers should be firm and are best if the skin is unblemished. Try to choose organic varieties when possible and refrigerate for up to one week.
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Garlic is a favorite ingredient in many households. According to Cleveland Clinic, these little bundles are rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals. The compound sulfur contributes to its well-known scent and has been shown to support cardiovascular health. It has antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Choose firm, solid bulbs without blemishes or black spots, as recommended by TheSpruceEats.com. Store unpeeled garlic in an open container in a cool, dry place.
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Eggplant is an underappreciated purple plant that is perfect for your low carb meal plan. According to Healthline, it’s rich in manganese, potassium, folate and fiber. Its beautiful violet hue is derived from the antioxidant anthocyanin, which may help prevent cancer and cellular damage. Look for smaller eggplants with firm, shiny and smooth skin, says the magazine Bon Appétit. The stem end should be green, not brown. Refrigerate and enjoy for up to a week.
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Sugar Snap Peas
Despite the name, these little green pods are low in sugar! They are an excellent source of dietary fiber, protein, vitamins A, C, K and more, says Healthline. Fresh peas are firm and should snap when bent, explains Los Angeles Times. Store them in a sealed plastic bag for up to five days in the fridge.
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However you pronounce the name, tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, fiber, potassium and antioxidants, says Medical News Today. Berkeley Wellness University of California explains that ripe tomatoes should be plump and heavy with an even surface. Find tomatoes that are unrefrigerated with a noticeable “tomato” smell.
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Zucchini & Summer Squash
According to Healthline, zucchini offers up to 40 percent of your daily recommended vitamin A. It also contains vitamin C, manganese and potassium. Saveur.com suggests choosing smaller fruits that are firm and storing them in the fridge for a few days.
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From raspberries to blueberries, these little nutrient-powerhouses are loaded with antioxidants, fiber, vitamin C and manganese, says Healthline. Iowa State University recommends choosing berries that are firm, full and colorful. Store them unwashed in the fridge.
Please note that on the South Beach Diet, we recommend extremely limiting fruit on our plan due to the amount of carbohydrates and sugar. However, if you decide to add a small amount of fruit to your day, choose options that are lower in carbs and higher in fiber. According to Healthline, berries tend to be relatively low in sugar. Count berries toward your allowed Extras for the day. One serving of blueberries is two tablespoons (about 15 berries). One serving of raspberries or strawberries is a quarter cup (about 15 raspberries or 3 medium strawberries). Just make sure to monitor your daily net carb intake to keep it below 50 grams.