We're in the second half of August, which means days are getting shorter, the air is cooler, and markets are running out of fresh produce, right? Wrong!
Many fruits and vegetables are at their peak this month and the growing season extends into September.
For this list, we've gone with foods that are available fresh in the majority of Canada in August and September, but keep in mind that the growing season varies across the country. Wherever in Canada you are, hit up a farmers' market near you and wrap up your summer with a delicious meal (or two).
Here are a dozen of the many fruits and vegetables you can still find at your local market:
These might not be the most popular berries — that honour goes to strawberries — but they're definitely one of the healthiest. Those dark blue skins are full of antioxidants, which help keep your body healthy inside and out.
If you go berry picking while they're in season, feel free to freeze them — wild blueberries hold on to their nutritional benefits if frozen fresh, which means you can enjoy them year round. Blueberry season extends into September.
Like spinach? Give swiss chard a try. It's a dark green vegetable full of healthy nutrients like iron and folate, but it's also less bitter than other leafy greens like kale. Right now you can find beautiful rainbow chard in markets — look for the multi-coloured stems. Try it raw in salads, chopped and added to soups, or sauteed with a bit of garlic and oil.
Artichokes have an intimidating look, but they quick to prep and can be cooked in well under an hour. If you love corn on the cob, try artichoke petals dipped in a melted butter sauce with garlic. Delicious!
This Chinese vegetable — related to cabbage — is easy to find year round, but it's great when you can get it fresh. You can actually grill it, which is a great way to use this vegetable while the weather is still great for eating al fresco, but you can expect to find it fresh well into the fall.
Cauliflower has a reputation for being bland, but that's just if your preparation is uninspired. Diets containing cruciferous vegetables like this one have been linked to cancer prevention, so get them in your diet at least a couple of times a week. You have lots of options: roast, saute, steam, cook, blend, and use mashed cauliflower instead of potatoes as a lower-calorie substitute. Find a few favourite recipes, because cauliflower will be around for a few months.
Smoothies are delicious and can be very healthy, but they can also be expensive. In-season field cucumbers — sometimes called garden cucumbers — are an inexpensive way to add liquid and vitamins to your smoothies. They're also great chopped and added to your salads, of course, or even sliced and eaten with a Greek yogurt dip.
Vegetarian? Eggplant is a great way to add some "meaty" texture to your dishes. You can slice it and grill it, or cook it for a longer period of time to bulk up dishes like curry. The season for this veggie,which comes in several different varieties, starts in August and continues into fall.
Garlic is an amazing way to add flavour to your food without adding calories, and fall is the perfect time for it. As a bonus, it's amazingly healthy: it's been linked to cancer prevention in medical studies. And did you know that you can grow your own garlic? Conveniently enough, fall is the perfect time to plant it.
Wild leeks, or ramps, are in season earlier in the year, but full-sized leeks are available now. You can use leeks as you use onions — they have a similar flavour, though leeks are milder as the weather gets cooler. Try this heart potato-leek soup.
Fall is all about parsnips. They have a great taste, and can be used a ton of different ways, from roasting to mashing into soups. These root veggies are in season well into the fall.
OK, so peach season is coming to an end, but nectarines are here and that's a pretty good replacement. Nectarines are actually the same species as peaches — the theory is that the nectarines are grown because of a recessive allele, and peaches from a dominant allele for fuzzy skin. You can eat them as is or add them to salads or desserts.
Apple pie, apple butter, an apple on your new teacher's desk... what's autumn without apples? It turns out late summer is helped by a basket of these amazing fruits as well. This year is a great one for Ontario apples, which means that there are plenty already available.