Want to be a Farmers Market Connoisseur? Check out Russ Parsons’ Seasonal Produce Guide

Everything you need to know about storing, selecting, and cooking fresh produce
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A month ago the Los Angeles Times announced their latest culinary digital endeavor, California Cookbook, a searchable database with nearly 5,000 recipes (which they say is equivalent to 25 full cookbooks) culled from over a decade’s worth of material. Broken down into neat categories with accompanying photos and links to tested recipes, the California Cookbook features meal plans from the likes of Thomas Keller, Nancy Silverton, David Lebovitz, and the Times’ very own, Russ Parsons.

This begs another question: if you’re going to try their suggested eggplant parmigiana recipe, do you refrigerate the eggplant beforehand? And how do you ensure that your fava beans for the mint, burrata, and pistachio salad are at their peak? The intrepid Parsons–who recently squared off with Michael Cimarusti at The Taste–aims to answer these questions with a companion piece called the Seasonal Produce Guide, available on both desktop and mobile.

“I’ve dreamt about doing this for a long time,” says Parsons. “It struck me that a book was not as effective at getting this information across. And even searches on the internet could be incredibly vague. I’d read something that would say ‘this vegetable is in season for ten months.’ And while that may be technically true, its peak exists in a much shorter span.”

Organized by month, the guide breaks down into four categories: description with a recipe link, storage method, selection process, and extra tips. That means next time you’re at the market and you click on the September tab, you’ll see that bell peppers are in season from September to October. Keep your eyes out for ones that are firm, deeply colored, and glossy, and refrigerate them in a tightly sealed plastic bag. For something like shelling beans, refrigerate them in the pods if you plan to use them within a couple of days. Otherwise, shuck them. These are the first steps to becoming a farmers market connoisseur.

“We wanted to provide enough information so that people will feel empowered. This wasn’t about giving a doctoral thesis on eggplant varieties,” laughs Parsons.

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