May Seasonal Produce Guide

What produce should you buy in May?

By the time May rolls around spring crops are plentiful. This means there are new items in season this month. What is in season in May? Some of my favorites are strawberries and spring peas. Produce peaks at different times throughout the US so there will be some variances. But here is a general guide.

To make it easier for you to plan your meals and make a grocery list, I have created produce guides for every month letting you know what is in season along with a few recipe suggestions. Check out my other Seasonal Produce Guides for more information on how to choose, store and prepare seasonal produce every month of the year.

Why buy fruits and vegetables when they are in season?

Cost: Produce prices are subject to supply and demand. When produce is in abundance because it is in-season the prices go down.

Eco-Friendly: In-season produce is more likely to be grown locally meaning it doesn’t have to travel as far to get to you reducing its carbon footprint. Stop by your local farmers market to purchase some of the freshest produce available.

Taste: In-season produce is fresher and tastes better. It is grown during its optimal conditions and because it can be grown more locally it usually has a chance to fully ripen before it is picked

Nutrition: Fully ripened produce is more nutritious because it has had time to fully develop before being picked.

What’s in season in May?

Apricot, half and piece isolated on white background

Apricots

Apricots have a very short season from mid May to early July so pick some up while you can. Apricot flesh is usually firm and not very juicy. Its taste can range from sweet to tart. They taste great baked into a pie or cobbler.

Buying

Look for apricots that are golden in color and firm. Avoid apricots that are a pale greenish-yellow color, rock hard, very soft, or shriveled.

Storing

If your apricots are not quite ripe, place them in a paper bag at room temperature for 2 to 3 days to speed up the ripening process. Unripe apricots can be stored at room temperature up to 5 days. Refrigerate ripe apricots in an airtight container for up to one week.

Preparing

Apricots are in the stone fruit family meaning they have a large pit in the middle. Slice a ripe apricot around its natural seam, twist the two halves in opposite directions, and remove the pit.

Recipes

Artichokes

Artichokes

A cooked, unseasoned artichoke has a light delicate flavor similar to asparagus or celery. The fibrous outer leaves are often removed and discarded. The heart is eaten once the inedible choke has been peeled away from the base and discarded. The thin leaves covering the choke are also edible.

Buying

Choose artichokes that feel heavy for their size and have firm, tightly packed leaves that are green. Avoid artichokes that feel soft or have dry, split or brown leaves.

Storing

Do not rinse or cut the artichoke prior to storing. Sprinkle the artichokes with a little water, and place them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Fresh artichokes will keep for 3-5 days.

Preparing

Rinse the artichoke in cold water, using a soft brush or cloth to remove any film from the exterior. Trim one inch from the top (pointed end) of the artichoke. Cut a quarter-inch off the stem. Use your fingers to slightly separate the petals, opening the artichoke so that seasonings can be better distributed. Cook as desired.

To prepare the heart, trim the leaves and cut off the top so the fuzzy purple choke is exposed. Use a spoon or melon baller to remove all of the choke, which is not edible. Use a paring knife to remove the outer leaves and base of the stem, leaving only the tender inner stem, or the heart.

Once cut artichokes can begin to turn brown. Placing them in water slightly acidified with vinegar or lemon juice can prevent the discoloration.

Sometimes it’s easier to learn by watching. Watch this video from Samin Nosrat.

Recipes

Fresh organic asparagus on rustic background

Asparagus

Most of us are familiar with green asparagus but there are other varieties. You can also find white and purple asparagus. White asparagus is covered with dirt as it grows to prevent it from producing chlorophyll. This process is known as etiolation. Without chlorophyll, the asparagus turns white. Purple asparagus was developed in Italy and only comes from certain varieties of asparagus.

Green asparagus has a grassy flavor, while white asparagus is milder and slightly bitter. Purple asparagus is sweeter and nuttier because it has about 20 percent more sugar in its stalks. While the stalks are purple on the outside, the interior of the asparagus is the same as a green spear.

Buying

Choose asparagus with straight stalks and closed tips. Stem thickness indicates the age of the plant, with the thicker stems coming from older plants. Older, thicker stalks can be woody, although peeling the skin at the base removes the tough layer. As it spoils, the tips of asparagus become slimy.

Storing

Trim the ends of the asparagus and stand them upright in a jar with about an inch of water in the bottom. Cover with a plastic bag and refrigerate for up to three days.

Preparing

Cut off the bottom couple of inches of the stalk, or bend each spear until it breaks naturally. Using the breaking method will ensure tender spears of asparagus without any waste. Asparagus can be roasted, steamed, grilled, or sautéed in a pan.

Purple asparagus turns green when it is cooked. To preserve the color serve it raw in a salad.

Recipes

Cherries

Cherries

There are two types of cherries. Sour or “pie” cherries are tart in flavor and bright red in color. Sour cherries are best when baked. There are also many varieties of sweet cherries, Bing and Ranier probably being the most well known. They are super sweet and juicy and best when eaten fresh.

Buying

Cherries should be clean, bright, shiny, and plump and without any blemishes. Look for cherries with fresh, intact stems, which increases their shelf life. Sweet cherries should be firm but not hard. Sour cherries should be medium-firm. As a general rule the darker the cherry the sweeter the cherry. Avoid cherries with cuts, bruises, or dry stems.

Storing

Refrigerate cherries for up to 10 days.

Preparing

Wash and remove stems just before eating. When baking with cherries you will want to remove the pits. A cherry pitter makes this task easier.

Recipes

Close up of fresh butterhead lettuce isolated on white background

Lettuce

Lettuce is most often used raw in salads and sandwiches but it can also be grilled. Lettuce is an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A, folate, and iron. It has a high water content making a great choice as temperatures continue to rise.

Buying

Look for fresh crisp leaves that are tightly bunched. Avoid lettuce with wilted or brown leaves.

Storing

Lettuce should be loosely covered and can be refrigerated for up to one week.

Preparing

Rinse lettuce under cold water. Use a salad spinner or pat the leaves dry to remove excess moisture. Slice, chop or tear as needed.

Recipes

Mango with slices on a white background.

Mangoes

Mangoes are sweet, juicy, and are an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamins C, and beta-carotene. They are also one of the most commonly eaten fruits in the world, with a majority of them coming from India. Mangos are stone fruits, meaning they have one hard seed surrounded by fruit.

Buying

Mangos should yield to gentle pressure and be without blemishes or dark spots. They should also have a sweet fragrant aroma. Color has little to do with ripeness and can vary depending on the type of mango.

Storing

Mangoes can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Place mangos in a paper bag to speed ripening. Freeze chopped and peeled fruit in a plastic bag with the air squeezed out for up to 3 months.

Preparing

Mangos contain a large, flat pit. To cut a mango, insert the knife into the mango’s flesh until you reach the pit. Slice horizontally against the pit, then continue along the other three sides. To remove the flesh from the skin, score the flesh by cutting just until you reach the skin. Turn the skin inside out and use a paring knife to remove the flesh from the skin.

Recipes

okra pods on a light wood surface

Okra

Okra is a green, finger-shaped vegetable that is very popular in southern cooking. Okra can be grilled, sauteed, fried, pickled, or stewed. It is a great source of fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin K. 

Buying

Okra should be dry, firm and without blemishes. Okra should also be fuzzy like a peach. Avoid okra that is soft, wet, or moldy.

Storing

Okra pods can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Preparing

Wash and remove the stem. Slice as desired. Cook okra with vinegar or an acidic food to prevent it from becoming slimy.

Recipes

Pineapple

Pineapples

Pineapples grow as a small shrub. Pineapple is rich in manganese and vitamin C and is very sweet but low in calories.

Buying

Look for pineapples with dark green compact leaves that are heavy for their size. Pineapples are ripe once a majority of the base has turned yellow with very little green left. Avoid pineapples with soft or dark spots and dry yellow leaves.

Storing

Store pineapples at room temperature for up to 2 days or refrigerate for up to 5 days. Refrigerate cut pineapple in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Preparing

Use a sharp knife to remove rind and leaves, then cut as desired, removing the core as needed.

Recipes

Red Radishes

Radishes

Radishes are a root vegetable and are often eaten raw on salads. Radishes have a sharp spicy flavor.

Buying

Look for radishes that are smooth and brightly colored. The leaves should be green and fresh looking. Avoid radishes that are soft or dull looking.

Storing

Remove the radish greens, which are edible, before storing in a plastic bag. Refrigerate for up to one week.

Preparing

Slice off the roots and leaves, wash and pat dry. Radishes can be served whole, sliced, diced, minced, and/or grated, depending on the recipe. Cook radishes to temper their bitter flavor.

Recipes

rhubarb

Rhubarb

Rhubarb is classified as a vegetable, but it is often used as a fruit. The leaf stalks can be eaten raw, they have a crisp texture similar to celery. Rhubarb is commonly cooked with sugar and used in pies, crumbles, and other desserts. Rhubarb has a strong, tart taste. 

Buying

Look for rhubarb stalks that are flat and firm. Avoid rhubarb stalks that are limp and curled.

Storing

Refrigerate unwashed rhubarb stalks in a plastic bag up to 3 days.

Preparing

There is no need to peel the stalks just pull off any obvious strings. Trim off any rough areas. Next, cut the stalks into 1/2 to 1-inch pieces against the grain of the stalk to help break-up stringiness. Rhubarb has a high amount of acid and it is best to cook rhubarb in non-reactive cookware.

Recipes

spring peas

Spring Peas

There are several varieties of peas. English peas or garden peas are larger and must be shelled before eating. Sugar snap peas or snow peas are most often eaten with the whole pod. The peas inside are small, and the pods are crisp, sweet, and delicious.

Buying

Peas should be bright green and feel crisp and fresh. Peapods should snap. Avoid cracked or limp pea pods.

Storing

Store peas in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Preparing

Wash peas before shelling and cooking. To shell peas, pinch off the ends, pull down the string on the inside, and pop out the peas. Snow peas do not need to be shelled, just wash and trim them before cooking or eating raw. Sugar snap peas need the string removed from both sides before cooking or eating raw.

Recipes

Strawberries with leaves. Isolated on a white background.

Strawberries

Strawberries are one of the most popular fruits in the world. They are a juicy mix of sweet and tart. Strawberries are frequently eaten fresh, as part of a mixed fruit salad, topping a dessert like a fruit tart or my favorite angel food cake, or in a savory salad. They can also be cooked into jams and compotes or baked into cakes and breads.

Buying

Look for brightly colored plump strawberries with fresh green caps. Avoid strawberries that are wilted, moldy, bruised, or have white or green parts.

Storing

Strawberries can be refrigerated for 3 to 5 days. Take them out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before consuming. They taste sweeter when at room temperature.

Preparing

Just before eating or cooking strawberries, swish in a bowl of cold water to clean. Do not soak the strawberries. Hull (remove the leaves and green caps) and slice strawberries as desired.

Recipes

Raw Organic Rainbow Swiss Chard on a dark wood Background

Swiss Chard

Swiss chard is less bitter when it is raw rather than when it is cooked. Swiss chard is a great source of vitamin A, vitamin K, and vitamin C.

Buying

Swiss Chard should have dark green leaves and brightly colored stems, Avoid swiss chard that is dried out and brown.

Storing

Swiss chard can be kept in the refrigerato9r for up to five days.

Preparing

Swiss chard can be eaten raw or cooked. Before using chard, cut the leaves away from the stems and wash leaves in cold water. Rinse stems and trim off any blemishes. Swiss chard stems are tougher than the leaves and require a longer cooking time of an additional five minutes.

Recipes

Zucchini

Zucchini

Zucchini is considered a summer squash. Meaning its prime season is May to August. Summer squash has a thin, soft skin and soft edible seeds, whereas winter squash has hard skin and seeds. Zucchini can grow really big! The biggest one ever recorded was 7 feet 10 inches. Most zucchinis would grow to be as big as a baseball bat but they are usually picked when they are much smaller because as they grow they become tough and fibrous.

Buying

Look for zucchini that are no longer than six inches and one to two inches in diameter. Zucchini should have firm, shiny, and slightly prickly skin, be free of cuts and blemishes, and have at least one inch of stem attached. Avoid longer and bigger zucchini they tend to be tough and fibrous. Also, avoid zucchini that are soft or have cuts and blemishes.

Storing

Store zucchini, unwashed, in a perforated plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator for up to 5 days. If  zucchini starts to wilt, use immediately. Cooked zucchini should be covered, refrigerated and used within two days. To freeze zucchini, slice into rounds, blanch for two minutes, plunge into cold water, drain, and seal in airtight containers or baggies. Frozen zucchini may be kept up to one year.

Preparing

Wash zucchini just before preparation. Peeling is not necessary.

Recipes

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May Produce

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