Seasonal Produce in Illinois: What You Need to Know for June

Farmers markets are opening for the summer. You are ready to start eating locally grown fruits and vegetables that are in season. You just aren’t sure what is currently in season. Here is a quick guide and handout to bring with you to the farmers market in June to help you.

Farmers Market Photo

Welcome back to my monthly blog post series where I help you learn about seasonal produce in Illinois in the month of June. We are entering the time of year where sustained periods of warmer weather become more common in our area and we start to see an increasing variety of local in season produce.

Here is what you can expect to see.

What’s in Season in Illinois in June?

Several foods from last month will still be in season and available throughout the month of June.

Illinois Fruits In Season in June

Illinois Vegetables In Season in July

Special note for strawberries, there are several u-pick locations within a couple of hours of Chicago and it looks like many will be open through the month of June.

Reminder That Seasonal Is Local

In case you didn’t see my article last month I am focusing on northern Illinois specifically with this series. Many of these same foods will also be in season in other areas across the northern tier of the country but because local climates are so variable it is hard to write about seasonal produce in a broad way.

You can get a sense of the regional variances by reviewing the seasonal produce guide from the USDA. For example, avocados are in season right now but do not grow in Illinois. Neither do limes or pineapples.

These national guides can still help guide your grocery shopping decisions. Foods that are in season now should be cheaper than those that are out of season. Try and include in season produce in your weekly meal plan and save a little money at the grocery store.

Watch out for foods that do not grow in your area. Sometimes you will see items that would not be expected to be in season quite so early in the year or do not grow in your area.

Review my article on farmers market fraud for more tips on how to make sure you are truly buying fresh local produce from honest vendors.

Eating produce that is in season is the best way to start eating local. It helps to be educated and know what to expect before you head out the door.

Seasonal Produce in Illinois: June Fruits

Strawberries will be the only fruit in town until about mid-June. As strawberry season in Illinois starts to dwindle we begin to see summer fruits make their appearance. Raspberries will appear first around the middle of the month followed by cherries toward the very end of the month.

At the very end of June you could start to see other berries like blueberries, black raspberries, and blackberries appear. Mostly these are available at the beginning of next month. Once they appear all of these fruits will available for at least two to three months.

Here are some tips to get the most from each in season fruit.

Raspberries

Pick of fresh in season raspberries in Illinois

Raspberries generally will appear at farmers markets around the same time as blueberries, if not a week or two earlier. My local farm stand often has raspberries available in the last week of June.

Fresh raspberries are much sweeter than those you buy at the store. They have to be enjoyed quickly. Even when stored in the fridge raspberries go bad within a couple of days.

Enjoy a handful of them mixed with Greek yogurt or add them to your morning cereal. They also taste great by themselves as a snack.

Raspberries are very high in fiber with one cup providing 8 grams. Most of us need about 21-30 grams per day. Raspberries provide about 25% of our total daily needs yet only contain 65 calories per cup.

One last point, because of their high fiber content raspberries do not spike blood sugar levels as much as other fruits and are a great snack for individuals with diabetes.

Cherries

Seasonal produce in Illinois includes cherries in mid to late June

Cherries will be the next fruit to appear at local farmers markets. I find that they are a little tart early in the season and then become very sweet as we move into next month. Look for cherries that are firm and free of dents and bruises.

A trick to getting the freshest cherries is to look at the stem. It should be bright green. The stem breaks down much faster than the cherry itself, if the stem is not green the cherries are fresh. Try buying them from someone else.

Cherries do not ripen after being picked so what you buy is what you get. Store fresh cherries in a plastic bag with several small holes poked into it. Keep that bag in the crisper with the humidity on high and they will last several days. Do not wash cherries until you are ready to eat them, the added moisture makes them spoil faster.

Enjoy them as soon as you see them, the season is short!

Seasonal Produce in Illinois: June Vegetables

Seasonal produce in Illinois in the month of June tends to lean more toward vegetables because it is earlier in the season. The lettuce, snap peas, and arugula that were abundant in spring enjoy cooler weather.

As soon as the temperature starts to warm up these cool weather veggies start to flower and turn biter. You have to wait until fall to see lettuce greens again, asparagus unfortunately will not be back until next spring.

Luckily many other favorites start to take their place. As June progresses you will begin to see beets, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and tomatoes take their place. Here are a few tips for each of those vegetables.

Beets

fresh local beets in a bunch on a table top

Buy beets with the greens still attached to ensure freshness. Select the darkest red beets for those highest in antioxidants. Canned beets at the store are just as nutritious as fresh but will have the same flavor.

The leaves of beets actually have a higher concentration of antioxidants than the beets themselves. Try sautéing the leaves in a little olive oil and garlic just until they wilt. Store beets with greens removed in the crisper on high humidity for up to two weeks.

Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage, and Kale

Fresh broccoli and cauliflower

All of these vegetables belong to the cruciferous family of vegetables and you should start to see them show up at the farmers market in June, possibly even the last week of last month.

In an ideal world you should eat at least four cups of these vegetables per week. But let’s be honest, start with once per week and work up from there!

At the farmers market buy whole heads of broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. Aim to eat broccoli, kale, and cabbage with one to two days of purchasing for freshness. Cauliflower heads will last about a week in the fridge.

Store all of these vegetables in the crisper with the humidity on high. No need to keep them in an extra bag. Wash them right before you are ready to cook.

Broccoli and cauliflower are best lightly steamed or tossed in a little olive oil and roasted for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Mix in a little Parmesan cheese and a squirt of lemon juice and thank me later!

Kale is great lightly steamed for just until it wilts. My children actually fight over kale when we serve it covered in a little bit of goddess dressing.

Later in the summer you might see more colorful varieties of cauliflower at the market. If you do give them a try. Roasted orange cauliflower is a favorite in my house.

Carrots

A bunch of mixed color carrots

You might not know this, but baby carrots are just shaved down regular carrots. That’s important to know because many nutrients are in the carrot skin which is shaved off to produce baby carrots.

If you have ever tried to grow carrots on your own you know how hard it is to grow perfectly straight carrots. When farmers grow crooked carrots they are shaved down and become the cute baby carrots we love.

Instead of buying baby carrots try to buy fresh carrots at the farmers market. Purchase them with the greens still attached to ensure they are fresh. This is true when you buy carrots at the store too, sometimes those carrots in bags have been in storage for months.

Clip the greens when you get home, then store carrots in sealed plastic bag in the crisper with high humidity for up to a week. You can also store fresh carrots in a bowl of water for up to a week. Carrot greens are edible and there are a bunch of great things you can do with them.

Tomatoes

Several varieties of seasonal tomatoes in Illinois

At home your tomatoes likely will not be ready until mid summer but many area farmers use greenhouses to help get tomatoes earlier in the season. Remember, when in doubt, ask!

Tomatoes will continue to ripen after they are harvested. If you hate store bought tomatoes it is probably because commercial tomatoes are harvested when green then forced to ripen in storage using ethylene gas.

Fresh ripe tomatoes are juicy and full of flavor. Store bought tomatoes not so much.

Heirloom does not necessarily mean tomatoes are healthier, they are just a different variety. To purchase the best tomatoes look for those that are bright red and free of dents and bruises. They will probably be pretty expensive early in the season and then come down in price as they become more abundant. 

And please, store tomatoes on the counter until they are ripe.

Generally the advice is to keep them on the counter until you are ready to use them which allows the to continue to ripen. You can store ripe tomatoes in the fridge for a few days but I find the taste and texture change due to the cold temperatures.

Zucchini and Squash

zucchini and squash in season at the end of June in Illinois

Zucchini and yellow squash are from the same vegetable family but are different foods. To confuse matters more you might also see yellow zucchini.

Zucchini will start to show up at local farmers markets around the end of June into early next month, with yellow squash appearing soon after.

Look for firm and brightly color zucchini and squash. Zucchini has a very thin skin so a few nicks in the skin are ok. Both will store well wrapped in a plastic bag and kept in the crisper for a week or two.

This is one vegetable that if you are a fan of them you will see them super cheap at the farmers market. They both grow prolifically and often times you can get three or more for about $1. If you enjoy these vegetables be sure to stock up.

Wrapping Up

That is it for my June guide to seasonal produce in Illinois. Hopefully you start to find some items you like at the farmers market. And brace yourself for next month as we head into the peak summer months everything starts to be in season at the same time. I can hardly wait.

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Author: Matt Knight RD, LDN

Matt works hard to share his knowledge of nutrition and help empower his clients to take control of their health with food choices that best support their specific health condition. Click here to learn more about Matt.

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