As the cold, drab winter gives way to warmer temperatures and the crisp colors of spring, our longing for stews and other comfort foods ebbs, making way for some warm-weather favorites. Picnics, hiking and other outdoor activities heighten the appeal of lighter, fresh salad greens, fruits, and vegetables. From strawberries to broccoli, apricots to artichokes—we offer a few tips to help you pick the best of the season’s offerings.
The artichoke takes a bit of time to peel and prepare, but it is a versatile veggie whose leaves can be eaten individually, sautéed with other vegetables, or added to a spicy rice dish. Artichokes should have deep green, tightly-packed leaves closed at the top. They should be firm and with some weight.
Apricots can simply be washed and eaten, or try slicing them up and adding them to a green salad. It makes no difference how they are eaten because this sometimes underrated fruit has stood the test of time, is always delicious, and has a renewed fan base. Select apricots that are plump with a golden orange color, but avoid ones that are pale yellow, greenish-yellow, shriveled or bruised. Soft apricots tend to be the most flavorful. Serve them at room temperature to experience their full flavor.
Broccoli is a fantastic food that is a staple in households across America and a party tray essential. When selecting broccoli, look for medium green to dark purple head with brightly colored stalks. The head should be compact and firm when squeezed slightly, with no visible flowering. Remember to wash broccoli with cold water just prior to use.
Raw or cooked, cherries are an easy crowd-pleaser. For fresh cherries, look for firm, plump, glossy cherries with bright green stems and no blemishes. Keeping the stems intact maintains freshness and offers a built-in handle.
Strawberries are a favored staple and one of the most versatile fruits. Eat them fresh, dip them in chocolate, or slice them for a cake or ice cream topper. They also make a sweet surprise in a fresh spinach salad. Strawberries should be bright red with a natural shine and fresh green cap. Berries should be plump, not mushy, with no sign of mold. Wash them in cold water with the cap on to keep the juice inside the berry.
At USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), we offer grading and verification services for a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Visit our website to learn more about grading standards, Good Agricultural Handling Practices (GAP) and the many other ways we help ensure the quality of America’s food.
But most of all pick your favorite fruits and veggies and enjoy all the warmer weather has to offer!