Seasonal eating: Summer


Although it doesn’t seem like a series since the posts are 3 months apart, this is the second installment in the Seasonal Eating posts. (The first one about spring is here and the third one about fall is here.)

As I always do, I want to give you some information about seasonal eating for summer before we get into what’s in season…

Traditional Chinese Medicine

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), there are two elements for summer. The first is Fire and and the second is Earth, which represents late summer from mid-August to mid-September.

Fire represents maximum activity in all parts of nature from the plants to us. It symbolizes growth and maturation. Summer is a time of abundant movement and energy, which gives us a chance to replenish from the long winter, and is characterized by laughter and joy.

After the heat of the summer comes late or Indian summer, a time of reflection about the bountiful production during the summer months. It is a short season that gives us time to be mindful, which allows us to move forward in awareness.

As it relates to nutrition, summer is a time to support our Fire and Earth elements by eating foods that represent their colors and flavors. The color for Fire is red and the flavor is bitter. All red vegetables and fruits, such as tomatoes and red bell peppers, are good for keeping the Fire element in balance. Eating bitter greens like endive and collard greens can give the bitter flavor of the season, while chile peppers bring the heat associated with fire. However, don’t overdo the heat in your food, since it is hot outside, and eat raw foods which are cooling in the body.

The color for Earth is yellow and the flavor is sweet (not surprising given how many fruits are ripe for harvest at this time of year). You’ll notice that the season associated with the sweet taste is the shortest season of the year! This is no accident (see the warning below). As well, this is a time when we start to shift from eating raw foods (like salads) to lighter cooked foods that might include yellow grains (like quinoa, millet, barley and oats), yellow potatoes and corn.

Recommit to healthy eating

The summer is a perfect time to recommit to any nutrition-related New Year’s resolutions you made. Or really, any commitment that you have to give your body all of the nutrients it needs to thrive.

You see, the food of summer is light! Fish are abundant, as are fresh fruits and vegetables. Eggs are feeding on fresh grass, so pasture-raised chicken and eggs are loaded with the nutrients that are passed from the grass to the chicken to us.

As well, the better weather and longer days mean we have the chance to be playful and adventurous, rather than holed up in our homes trying to stay warm and dry with nothing better to do than eat! Really, it’s the perfect time of year to focus on our relationships and our health by sharing the abundance of fresh, nutritious food with friends and loved ones.

One warning about summer eating

These days our mindset about summer tends to be on skimpier clothes and swimsuits, so we think that we’ll be better about what we choose to eat … at least I know I think that. But if we aren’t careful, we can end up indulging too much in summertime foods that cause blood sugar spikes.

All of the ice-cream and summer pies and even fresh fruit can keep our blood sugar riding high, if we aren’t careful about when and how much of it we eat. So while I encourage you to eat fruit, especially when it’s in season, and to thoroughly enjoy the occasional indulgence, I also want you to be mindful of the risks of constantly raising your blood sugar.

What’s in Season

Two notes before getting into all the foods that are in season for summer:

  • This list does not include things that are considered in season year round like arugula, carrots and celery.
  • True seasonality varies by location, so check with your farmers’ market or on-line local publications (like this one for the US from Epicurious) to get the most accurate list.

Vegetables and herbs:

Anaheim chile Basil Beets Bell pepper
Butter lettuce Chayote squash Chinese long beans Chili peppers
Collard greens Corn Crookneck squash Cucumber
Eggplant Endive French beans Garlic
Green beans Green soybeans (edamame) Hearts of palm Jalapeno peppers
Lima beans Mint Okra Peas
Radishes Rhubarb Shallots Sugar snap peas
Summer squash Tomatillo Tomatoes Yukon gold potatoes


Apricots Asian pears Bananas Black currants
Blackberries Blueberries Boysenberries Breadfruit
Cantaloupe Champagne grapes Cherries Crenshaw melon
Elderberries Figs Grapefruit Grapes
Honeydew Jackfruit Key limes Lemon
Limes Loganberries Lychee Mangoes
Melon (all kinds) Nectarines Passion fruit Peaches
Plums Raspberries Rose apples Strawberries
Sugar apple Watermelon

Sea animals:

Summer continues to be a great time for fresh fish. Fresh water varieties include black bass, muskellange, northern pike, pickerel, striped bass, trout and walleye.

From the salty seas and oceans, barracuda, black sea bass, corvina (drum, croaker), john dory (not from US waters generally and only later in the season), halibut, lingcod (pacific greenling), blue marlin, salmon – chum (late in the season), salmon – coho (later in the season), salmon – king, salmon – pink (later in the season), salmon – sockeye, skate (later in the season), true Dover sole (if you can afford it!), tuna – albacore, tuna – yellowfin (ahi), and uku (not from US waters except Hawai’i) are in season.

If you are feeling especially decadent, lobster is in season starting in July!

And, of course, you can continue to get year round fish like amberjack (yellowtail kingfish), American shad, artic char, black drum, catfish, crappie, hiramasa (sashimi grade yellowtail kingfish), ono (wahoo), opah (moonfish), sunfish, swordfish, tilapia and yellow perch.

Please note that some fish are regional, so take that into consideration when thinking about the freshness of your meal.

Land animals:

Although most pasture-raised and game meats are best in fall and winter, chicken and their eggs are best during the summer when fresh grass is available (always choose pasture-raised when you can). As well, lamb and duck are in season throughout the summer.

I hope you enjoy the warmer weather, fresh produce, and sunshine (especially for the boost in vitamin D it can give you!) of summer as much as I plan to.


—Chef’s Resource Inc. Fresh Fish Availability Chart. Accessed on March 20, 2015.
— Eat the Seasons. Accessed on June 17, 2015.
— Elias J. Summer: The Season of Abundance. Accessed on June 17, 2015.
— Kling E. Foods for Late Summer. Accessed on June 17, 2015.
— New York State Department of Conservation. Statewide angling regulations. In Outdoor Activities. Accessed on June 17, 2015.
— Orange County Herb Society. Seasonal Guide to Herb Gardening. Accessed on June 17, 2015.
— Pacholyk A. Summer and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Accessed on June 17, 2015.
— Produce for Better Health Foundation. What’s in Season? Summer. Accessed on June 17, 2015.
— Reichstein G. Wood Becomes Water: Chinese Medicine in Everyday Life. New York, NY: Kodansha International; 1998.
— Salatan J. Seasonal Eating Supports Local Farmers. Mother Earth News. 2007. Accessed June 17, 2015.
— United States Department of Agriculture. Seasonal produce guide. In SNAP-Ed Connection. Accessed June 17, 2015.
— Weber J. What’s in season during the summer? In Food: Blogs. Accessed on June 17, 2015.

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