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June 2, 2024

Making the Most of Summer Fruits and Vegetables: Creative Produce Ideas

by Mindy McCullough, MS, RDN, LDN, CDCES

Summer is just around the corner and with it, comes delicious fruits and vegetables.  This is what we wait all winter to have.  There is so much to delight in when you have flavorful strawberries, juicy peaches, cold watermelon, and crisp cucumbers in an endless supply for months.  It is a plus that all these tasty foods are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber!

The plethora of fresh produce choices can be dizzying and cause a person to wonder, what can I do with all this produce?  Read on for tips and tricks on making the most of your summer harvest.

Tips and Tricks to Avoid Spoilage

Making the most of your produce starts with your shopping bag.  Make sure to place heavier items at the bottom of your bag and place more fragile, easily bruised items on top.  Avoiding bruising of your produce can help extend the life of your fruits and vegetables.  Bruising can cause spoilage to occur faster.

Where Do I Store Produce?

  • Refrigerator: berries, chard, cherries, cut/peeled fruits and vegetables, green beans, peas
  • Counter: avocados, bananas, bell peppers, melon, stone fruit (apricots, peaches, plums), tomatoes.  These can all transition to the fridge once ripe as needed to help them last.
  • Pantry (or other cool, dark place out of the refrigerator): potatoes, onions, garlic

Try to keep fruits and vegetables stored separately whenever possible.

Great PDF: Produce Storage Cheat Sheet

Make sure to cook or freeze your produce before it spoils.  Preserve fruits and vegetables by washing, chopping, and storing them in freezer bags for use later.

Compost your food trimmings.  Properly disposing of your food trimmings, waste, and spoiled produce through composting can help our environment and provide amazingly rich soil for your yard, garden, and plants.  Wake county residents can purchase a discounted composting bin every year in May or drop your food items at a few different locations such as the farmers market or landfill sites.  If in Wake County, you can use this website for more information Wake County Backyard Composting. You can also search online for composting information for your town or county!

Ideas for Using Summer Produce

Soup and Stock

Try gazpacho, which is a chilled summer soup that originates from Spain.  It can be a blend of different vegetables, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and onions.  The mixture is then flavored with herbs, spices, and vinegar.

When chopping vegetables for the gazpacho or any dish, save all the trimmings and use it to make vegetable stock.  You can freeze trimmings until you have enough to make the stock.


Have you ever tried a stuffed pepper, zucchini boat, or stuffing a tomato?  If not, now is the perfect time with all options being plentiful.  Halving and then coring a zucchini creates a “boat” that can be stuffed with seasoned meats and cheese or even veggies and beans that once baked creates a filling summertime meal.  Zucchinis lend themselves to any flavor, so get creative and try using pizza toppings, taco fillings, or even Greek inspired flavors.  Tomatoes can be halved and stuffed with chicken or tuna salad for a quick refreshing lunch.


Thinly slice cucumbers, peppers, zucchini, and carrots.  Wrap these in store bought rice paper and dip in a spicy sauce for homemade spring rolls.


If you are into canning you can go that route to preserve your pickled goods longer, but if you are only making a few jars you can store in the refrigerator.  Quick pickling options are great to add some flavor to a weeknight dish.  Pickled red onions can spice up anything from a sandwich to a taco to a grain bowl.

Get creative and try a variety of pickled vegetables.  Pickled cabbage, carrots, okra, and green beans make delicious snacks to grab quick from the fridge.


Grilling brings out extra flavor and the bright colors of your vegetables.

Cut heartier veggies like zucchini, onions, peppers, and eggplant into thicker slices, brush with olive oil, season, and place directly on the grill to cook.

Alternatively, you can use a grill pan, the foil packet method, or even place a cast iron pan directly on the grill grates to cook your veggies.

Make Veggie Chips

You can turn most vegetables into a chip for a nice crispy crunch anytime of the day.  Air fryers are an easy way to make veggie chips, but never fear if you do not have one.  A regular oven will do the trick too!  Thinly slice a vegetable of choice, brush with olive oil and seasoning, place on sheet pan in oven and roast at high temperature until crisp.

Try different types of vegetables, such as carrots, zucchini, potatoes, or kale for something different.

If you were surprised by how many different options there are for using summer produce, and would love some of that creativity added into your meal plans, grocery shopping, and family nutrition, learn more about our Nutrition Services today! We partner with people for all different purposes, including sports and pediatric nutrition, chronic disease management, GI conditions, and more.

Additional Resources:

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