One of the pleasures of summer is driving through the countryside, the rolling fields of corn and wheat, to discover a little gem, a roadside stand, chock full of farm fresh picks of the day. I’m speaking, of course, of local farm stands. Those little handmade structures with handwritten signs and honor boxes.
Who does that anymore? Honor boxes, I mean.
Trust. Who would think in this culture that unmanned honor boxes could be profitable or successful? Right?
Jim Cochran, a berry farmer just north of Santa Cruz, CA says his farm stand has thrived for years on the honor payment system. “Though the trusting business model certainly isn’t crime-proof, honor boxes remain a point of nostalgic pride and practicality for a number of small farmers across the U.S… who think their time is better spent tending the crops than manning a roadside stand.”
Business is booming for local farm stands, even morphing into year-round enterprises. Spurred by the “eat local” and farm-to-table movement, family farms account for 96% of the 2.2 million farms in the U.S., according to MarketWatch. And those stands are gaining ground with food lovers from coast to coast.
If you want to discover some local farm stands in your state, use this link to LocalHarvest.org and enter your zip code. You can also search for family farms, CSA’s and farmers’ markets nationally.
Farmers’ Market and Roadside Stand Finds at Peak Now
As we near the heart of summer, coming into peak are some of our favorite foods. You won’t want to miss the peaches, summer berries, squashes, and cukes. We’ve rounded up the best Ripe in July list and paired it with some of our favorite seasonal recipes. Perfect for al fresco dinners, block parties, church potlucks or family gatherings. From pies to cobblers, salads to stews, ice cream and more, we’ve gathered ideas we think you’ll love.
Print the list, read your recipes… and try some of ours!
A wonder fruit, these berries are high in antioxidants and are just as easy to pop into summer salads as they are to bake into cakes, pies, and flavorful summer desserts. Try our Blackberry Cobbler with Ginger Biscuits in individual ramekins for a simple summer treat.
Cucumbers, a wonder food, are high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. We love it pickled, in salads, cold soups, and in tiny tea sandwiches.
Remove strips of cucumber skin, creating 1/2-inch-wide alternating bands of peeled and bare cucumber. Trim and discard the ends. Halve cucumber lengthwise; cut into 1/2-inch slices. Combine cucumber pieces and 2 quarts water in a large pitcher; steep for 1 hour, and serve over ice.
A summer standout favorite. Whether it’s in pies or crisps or buckles — or jam, it’s an essential. We love it tucked into green salads or fruit salads, in ice cream and all kinds of healthy treats like Spicy Blueberry Trail Mix. Take a look at our Healthy Blueberry Recipes. We always freeze at least 2 gallons for year-round recipes like Blueberry Muffins.
Ripe figs—fresh from the tree and bursting with flavor—should grace every summer table. They provide a perfect savory-sweet balance. Try Southern Living’s made-for-summer Figgy Foccacia.
6. Green Beans
A universal favorite, there are almost innumerable ways to prepare green beans — and nothing says summer quite like fresh snappy green beans straight from the garden. While I can’t begin to innumerate my favorite ways to eat this summer’s best vegetable, I always lightly saute them with shallots and bacon… and I always make Garden Fresh Green Beans with Garlic and Red Pepper.
To be honest, I’m not an okra fan. Short of using it in Kentucky Burgoo, I’ve not had a lot of experience with it. Southern Living recommends frying, pickling, and grilling. And suggest pairing okra with pecans for Fried Pecan Okra, which is breaded with crushed pecans and baking mix. I’ll have to take their word on that one.
My husband’s all-time favorite fruit. It isn’t summer for him until there is a peach pie cooling in the kitchen. And July is peach’s prime month in most states. We love them all kinds of ways. Peach cobbler is an absolute must as is peach pie. But I also love it sliced over cottage cheese or ice cream, grilled, see our Easy 20 Minute Summer Dinners for a delicious recipe using sauteed peaches with pork chops. My mom’s Blueberry Peach Pie is incredibly good.
9. Summer Squash
Any local farmers’ market vendors will be stocked full of summer squash this month. From crookneck squashes to zucchini – they’re coming off the vines and are a seasonal treasure. In my garden, they are one of our most prolific growers, so I’m adding it to literally every meal and almost every dish. With it’s grated, sauteed, pan fried or boiled – it’s healthy, fresh and seasonal. I most often grill them sliced in half lengthwise, brushed with a little olive oil and seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Here are some more ideas; Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies, Zucchini Tots, and Classic Ratatouille.
Tomatoes are another abundant summer favorite. And when they are vine-ripened, as they will be this month, there is nothing that tastes more like summer than that. I love to serve them sliced with a little olive oil and seasoned with fresh herbs (like basil) and salt and freshly ground pepper. A perfect addition to sneak into pastas, salads, and casseroles, a juicy accompaniment to any cold summer sandwich or grilled burger or pizza. Favorite ideas; Stewed Tomato, Zucchini and Pattypan Squash, One Pot Pasta with Tomatoes, Spinach and Zucchini and Heirloom Tomato and Eggplant Lasagna.
There’s nothing quite as refreshing as a slice of watermelon—juicy, dripping, and sweet—on a hot July day. We love them cut into all different shapes and sizes, wedges, slices, cubed, you name it and we love it. Try the Watermelon, Blackberry & Mint Salad or the Watermelon popsicle.