how to use the last summer produce
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The last summer produce may be the most precious of all—so here are our favorite ideas for making the most of it, even in early fall.

Autumn AbundanceThe 50 Best Apple Orchards & Pumpkin Patches in the CountryWe’re already feeling wistful about those golden-hued days of lolling in the summer sun with our bright watermelon wedges, grinning over our cobs of fresh corn, and getting our faces sticky as we chomp into our juicy peaches (even if that’s now quite how the warmer months unfolded in reality). Silhouetted by the setting sun (earlier and earlier now), we recall those nectar-sweet days gone by like they were six months ago already. Sigh.

Well, it’s not too late to embody the cliché: “Today is a gift. Enjoy the present.” Get going and do something with the remaining bounty around you as the season ends—or see how to make lackluster already-out-of-season produce shine almost as brightly as it does under the summer sun. It’s your duty to love what you got while you got it—tomatoes, peaches, and corn included.

Apples, pumpkins, squash, and pears will have their time in the limelight soon enough, but for now, focus on making the most of all the final summer produce you can get your hands on:

1. Corn

summer corn chowder recipe

Chowhound

Combine your love of munching on summer’s sweet corn on the cob left-to-right like an old-fashioned typewriter with the coming chill of fall by making a batch of this soup. It takes those golden (or sugar-white) kernels and incorporates them into a chowder that’s creamy like the New England clam variety but seafood-free. This one does have bacon, though! And if all those fresh ears are nowhere to be found, it’s still good with frozen kernels. Get our Summer Corn Chowder recipe.

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2. Peaches

streusel peach pie recipe

Chowhound

Some of us are eating a peach a day while the local late-summer bounty lasts because you can’t compare the juiciness and sweetness with what you get shipped in year-round. The heavenly nectar just squirts right out when you take a bite! If you’re still seeing that type of textbook-perfect peach, highlight it in something simple like this Peach and Hazelnut Mascarpone Bruschetta recipe.

But if stone fruit is already a bit sad in your neck of the woods, bake it into a peach pie that simultaneously disguises any imperfections and boosts the sweet-tart flavor of the fruit; our Pecan Streusel Peach Pie recipe has a crumbly, toasty cinnamon topping that makes it perfect for sliding into fall.

3. Watermelon

best watermelon recipes for summer

Chowhound

When it’s hot outside, food with a high water content quenches your thirst as well as hunger. Watermelon delivers on its name. And it’s such a summer icon. Our Grilled Watermelon Salad recipe makes even melons that are starting to seem pallid a bit more vibrant, and the salty feta and fresh mint helps it sparkle. If you’ve already packed the grill away for the season, make it in a cast iron grill pan indoors.

4. Summer Squash

Savory Summer Squash Quick Bread recipe

Chowhound

Zucchini bread gets all the love, but you can make a savory quick bread with any summer squash, from pattypan and crookneck to the more familiar yellow squash and green zucchini. The squash is cheap and easy, two qualities that may be controversial in some senses, but here, it’s right on the mark. This bread also has feta in it, which is a surprising, salty twist. Get our Savory Summer Squash Quick Bread recipe. Pair it up with your first fall bowl of soup for a season-bridging combo.

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Related Reading: 9 New Ways to Use Your Loaf Pan in Between Batches of  Bread

5. Tomatoes

herbed heirloom tomato salad

Chowhound

Oh, tomatoes. The greenhouse-raised or shipped-from-afar varieties we see all year round just, well, suck. They’re often watery and tasteless. Grow your own indoors during winter if you can. Otherwise, make all the Caprese, salsa, and other raw tomato recipes you can now before the last gnarly heirlooms are all gone.

Our Herbed Heirloom Tomato Salad recipe keeps it real, letting your tastebuds focus on the fresh tomato flavor at hand, without getting distracted from too much else, besides some fresh herbs. If you have a real windfall, make your own tomato sauce for the autumn and winter months ahead. And if all you have are the out-of-season spheres, try stuffed tomatoes, or any dish where they’re roasted to concentrate their flavor for at least an approximation of that intense summer flavor.

6. Mint

mint syrup recipe

Chowhound

Maybe you can grow this lovely wakening herb indoors, so not all hope is lost during the winter doldrums. You don’t have to settle for gum, toothpaste, and that artificially green mint chocolate chip ice cream to get your tingly fix; the fresh mint you grow on your windowsill is simply wonderful in salad, drinks, dip, and dessert. Honestly, even the overpriced leaves you buy in plastic clamshells from the store are pretty tasty all year round.

But to make a bunch last even longer (up to two weeks in the fridge), try making this Mint Syrup recipe. Add it to tea, Irish coffee, or hot chocolate, or try brushing it on chocolate cake before frosting.

7. Cucumbers

Creamy Cucumber Salad recipe

Chowhound

Cucumbers are like the watermelon of the vegetable world. They’re so fluid, it’s almost like you can drink them. Sure, you can pickle them for winter snacking and sandwiches, but get in some more while they’re at their freshest. Our Cucumber Salad recipe combines the luscious tang of sour cream and fresh herbs for a simple side that still sings with flavor, and is just as good with a homey roast chicken as it is with some of the last BBQ chicken thighs of the outdoor-cooking-and-eating season.

8. Lima Beans

halibut with succotash

Chowhound

These summer beans are buttery, smooth, and filling as beans should be. But they’re almost like vegetables—fresh and green. They make great succotash, a Southern bacon-infused salad with corn, black-eyed peas, and onion. Get our Halibut with Orange-Parsley Butter and Succotash recipe. It works with frozen lima beans too, but if they’re out of season, it’s probably time for something heartier like these creamy bacon-studded beans.

9. Strawberries

Strawberry Bread Pudding recipe with Crème Fraîche Whipped Cream

Chowhound

The difference between a fresh, locally grown strawberry and a standard supermarket strawberry grown out of season is quite real. Biting into its paler doppelganger makes us miss that naturally sweet, so-strawberry flavor that comes only from summer. But you can make those lesser strawberries taste pretty great by roasting them to concentrate their flavor, like in this Strawberry Bread Pudding recipe. Alternatively, if you manage to snag any strawberries that still taste amazing as-is, preserve them in a batch of strawberry jam.

Related Reading: 15 Canning Tips for Complete Beginners

10. Cherries

cherry cobbler recipe

Chowhound

These bite-sized stone fruits have such a short time in the sun and in our local markets. We already feel the ache of nostalgia. If you can still get your hands on some fresh cherries, make a cherry dessert classic that must be served a la mode, like cherry pie…or even easier, get our Fresh Cherry Cobbler recipe. The cornmeal topping adds a rustic touch. Out of luck finding fresh fruit? It tastes almost as good with frozen cherries (just thaw them first). Or try dried cherries in our Port-Cherry Swirled Coffee Cake with Almond Streusel recipe for something more suited to chillier weather that still contains a whisper of summer flavor.

11. Lavender

how to cook with lavender (fresh, dried, and extract)

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How often do you cook with lavender? If you’re like us, not often. Now’s the perfect time, though, before it gets so cold that the only aromatics in your kitchen are warmly spiced elements like cinnamon and nutmeg, or resinous fall herbs like rosemary and sage. One last breath of summer, basically. Put some lavender in the spice or coffee grinder and then mix it up with some sugar to sprinkle in your iced green tea, sugar cookies, vanilla cake, or whatever sounds good to you. Or, with only two ingredients and no cooking involved, this Lavender-Infused Gin recipe sounds like the perfect thing to sip on those evenings that don’t require a sweater yet. It’s a sophisticated yet easy thing to do, and tastes like a literal last sip of summer.

12. Dill


Fresh dill jumps out at your from the meat, vegetables, and potatoes it accompanies, and it just tastes like warm weather to us. It’s an underrated herb that’s so much more than a pickle companion. But we’re down with dill in all of its ways. Try it with a heavy hand in our Herbed Potato Salad recipe with grilled or roasted sausages, or scattered in a Roasted Beet Tzatziki Salad recipe that proves fall produce is great in salads too. Pair it with salmon for a Nordic nod to gravlax. Or put it front and center in this Persian Butter Bean Stew recipe (if your fresh dill tastes lackluster, no worries; dried is fine for this dish).

13. Blueberries

spiced blueberry coffee cake recipe

Chowhound

Last—but might as well be first for how beloved they are—are blueberries, the jewels of summer dessert (and breakfast too). Make your muffins, pies, cobblers, crumbles, pancakes, scones, and other baked goodness with fresh berries for the best flavor, but know that frozen are (almost) just as good when the taste of the fresh ones leave you feeling blue. The frozen fruit is preserved at the peak of season, after all. If you’re blending them into smoothies or baking with them, you’ll never know the difference. For a summer-into-fall treat to test the theory, try our Spiced Blueberry Coffee Cake recipe.

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Amy Sowder wrote the original version of this story in 2016. It has been updated with additional images, links, and text.

Header image by Chowhound

Amy Sowder is a writer and editor based in NYC, covering food and wellness in publications such as Bon Appétit, Women's Health, Eat This, Not That!, Upworthy/GOOD, Brooklyn Magazine, and Westchester Magazine. She loves to run races, but her favorite finish lines are gelato shops. Learn more at AmySowder.com.
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