In a world where you can buy any fruit, all year long, it's hard to remember what's in season when—if you ever knew at all. Below are the freshest picks, with advice about how to pick the perfect produce.
Peak Season: June to August
Perfect Pick: Plump, uniform indigo berries with taut skin and a dull white frost. Check the bottom of the container for juice stains indicating berries have been crushed. Those with a red or green tinge will never fully ripen.
Handle with Care: Transfer, unwashed, to an airtight container and refrigerate for 5 to 7 days. Blueberries spoil quickly if left at room temperature.
The Payoff: More disease-fighting antioxidants (especially in wild blueberries) than most commonly consumed fruits, according to Cornell University researchers. Get a morning boost by using them in this super smoothie.
Peak Season: May to September
Perfect Pick: The stem end should have a smooth indentation. Look for a sweet aroma, slightly oval shape, and a good coverage of netting. The blossom end should give slightly to pressure. Avoid those with soft spots—an indication of an overripe melon.
Handle with Care: Ripe cantaloupes should be stored in plastic in the fridge for up to 5 days, after which they begin to lose flavor.
The Payoff: Loads of vitamin C, which may offer protection against having a stroke.
Peak Season: July to September
Perfect Pick: Plump with deeply rich color; soft but not mushy to the touch. Avoid those with bruises or a sour odor.
Handle with Care: Place fresh figs on a plate lined with a paper towel and eat them as they ripen. They bruise easily, so gentle handling is prudent. They also ripen quickly, so eat within a few days.
The Payoff: Phytosterols, which help keep cholesterol levels in check.
Peak Season: June to December
Perfect Pick: Plump, wrinkle free, and firmly attached to the stems. There should be no browning at the stem connection, but a silvery white powder ("bloom") keeps grapes, especially darker ones, fresher longer. Green grapes with a yellowish hue are the ripest and sweetest.
Handle with Care: Loosely store, unwashed, in a shallow bowl in the fridge for up to 1 week.
The Payoff: Reseveratrol, a potent antioxidant in red/purple grapes that offers protection against cardiovascular disease.
Peak Season: June to August
Perfect Pick: A ready-to-devour kiwi will be slightly yielding to the touch. Steer clear of those that are mushy, wrinkled, or bruised with an "off" smell.
Handle with Care: Store at room temperature to ripen. To quicken the process, place in a paper bag with an apple. Once ripened, place in the fridge in a plastic bag for up to 1 week.
The Payoff: Only 56 calories for a large kiwi and 20% more of the antioxidant vitamin C than an orange.
Lemons & Limes
Peak Season: Lemons, year-round; limes, May to October
Perfect Pick: Brightly colored, well-shaped with smooth, thin skin. They should feel sturdy but give every so slightly when squeezed. Small brown splotches on limes do no affect flavor (although they are a sign of deterioration and those with splotches should be consumed first).
Handle with Care: Store at room temperature, in a dark location, for about 1 week or refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
The Payoff: Phytonutrient liminoids, which appear to have anticancer, antiviral properties.
Peak Season: April to August
Perfect Pick: Mangoes to be eaten shortly after purchase should have red skin with splotches of yellow, and the soft flesh should give with gentle pressure. Mangoes for later use will be firmer with a tight skin, a duller color, and green near the steam.
Handle with Care: Ripen at room temperature until fragrant and giving. Ripe mangoes can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days.
The Payoff: A good showing of vitamins A, B-6, and C, plus fiber.
Peak Season: June to September
Perfect Pick: Fruity aroma with a background color that is a yellow or a warm cream color. Those destined for immediate consumption yield to gentle pressure along their seams without being too soft. For future intake, opt for those that are firm but not rock hard.
Handle with Care: Store unripe peaches at room temperature open to air. Once ripe, transfer to the refrigerator and consume within 2 to 3 days.
The Payoff: Vitamin C, the antioxidant beta-carotene, fiber, and potassium.
Peak Season: March to July
Perfect Pick: Look for vibrant green leaves with a bit of softness and a sweet, fragrant aroma from the stem end. Avoid spongy fruit with brown leaves and/or a fermented odor.
Handle with Care: Keep a pineapple with a weak aroma at room temperature for 2 to 3 days until it softens slightly. Then refrigerate for up to 5 days.
The Payoff: Bromelain, an enzyme with potent anti-inflammatory powers.
Peak Season: May to November
Perfect Pick: Plump and dry, with good shape and intense, uniform color. Examine the container carefully for mold or juice stains at the bottom. Raspberries with hulls attached are a sign of underripe, overly tart berries.
Handle with Care: Place highly perishable raspberries, unwashed, on a paper towel in a single layer. Cover with a damp paper towel and refrigerate for no more than 2 to 3 days.
The Payoff: More fiber (8 grams per cup) than any other commonly consumed berry. Plus, the anticancer chemical ellagic acid.
Peak Season: June to August
Perfect Pick: Seek out unblemished berries with a bright red color that extends all the way to the stem. Good berries should have a strong fruity smell and be neither soft and mushy nor hard and firm. Smaller strawberries often have more flavor than the oversized megamart versions.
Handle with Care: Place unwashed strawberries in a single layer on a paper towel in a covered container. They will last for 2 to 3 days in the fridge.
The Payoff: The most vitamin C of any of the commonly consumed berries.
Peak Season: May to August
Perfect Pick: Dense, symmetrical melons that are free of cuts and sunken areas. The rind should appear dull, not shiny, with a rounded, creamy-yellow underside that shows where ground ripening took place. A slap should produce a hollow thump.
Handle with Care: Store whole in the fridge for up to 1 week. The cold prevents the flesh from drying out and turning fibrous.
The Payoff: Citrulline, an amino acid that’s converted to arginine, which relaxes blood vessels, thus improving blood flow.