Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of the summer season for produce. By the last Monday in May a seasonal transformation is well underway at farmer’s markets and produce departments throughout the country. You’ll see less citrus, apples and pears as the spring harvests finish and storage supplies are exhausted.
Replacing them are the early varieties of summer fruit, as those harvests are kicking into high gear.
Growing locations also change as warmer weather and longer days activate production in more parts of the US. In fact, the Memorial Day weekend is one of the busiest for fresh produce, and it’s the first of many weeks ahead that showcase the abundance and variety of summer fruits and vegetables.
However, the end of May is also a complicated time for the produce business because seasonal transitions don’t always happen as expected. If growing conditions are inconsistent in th spring, the first fruits off the trees may actually not be the best.
Retailers need to be flexible with display planning and careful about what they’re offering in order to keep customers from souring (pun intended) on the season’s fruit first impressions.
Despite this there are plenty of new crop gems to look forward to this Memorial Day; here are just a few:
Potatoes: By Memorial Day new potatoes are being dug up all over the US. May and June potatoes are among the sweetest and most flavorful of the year with an incredible abundance of red, rose, white, yellow and russet varieties.
Summer Squash and Corn: In late May summer squash production crosses the border from Mexico and into the US. Depending on the weather there can be production overlaps resulting in an overabundant supply and great values. Shorter supply lines also mean fresher product and we come into a period where both the quality and the price of summer squash improves.
What’s true of summer squash is doubly true for corn; the quality and price both improve in direct proportion to the distance the product has to travel.
Melons: Like summer vegetables, melons make the transition to domestic production right around Memorial Day. With this transition, common melons like watermelon, honeydew and cantaloupe are joined by a dizzying array of varietal fruit. Sharlyn, Galia and Orange honeydew are just a few varieties that become more commonplace in produce departments during the summer.
Berries: Berries are the best fruit value by far this time of year. By late May US production in strawberries and blueberries are in full swing; raspberry production increases significantly going into June; and even blackberry supplies are strong. Chances are very good that you’ll find some great deals on these berries. Plus, the weather conditions are ideal, so they’ll taste spectacular.
Stone fruit: By Memorial Day we typically see a full complement of peaches, plums, apricots, cherries and nectarines. This is the group of products that see the biggest increase in varieties as we ramp up for the summer season and many of the early varieties are exceptional. Look for local availability (particularly in peaches) and choose your fruit carefully.
Ask someone in our Produce Department for help if you are not sure what to look for. Also, never hesitate to ask for a taste — we’re more than happy to show off our fruit and make sure you get just what you want. Some of the main things I look forward to every Memorial Day are the changes that take place on my plate.
The longer days make grilling outdoors a possibility almost every day, and my family and I are more active, so that means we eat lighter, simpler, more refreshing meals. And every day it seems there are new fruits and veggies to try that were mostly absent during the long cold winter and wet spring. Memorial Day is an important holiday to me for many reasons, and one is that it marks a remarkable seasonal change.
What do you look forward to every Memorial Day?