South Carolina, with its gentle climate (well, as long as the heat doesn't get to you), grows a wonderfully wide variety of produce. Growing seasons and thus crop availability will vary year-to-year, but this guide is a good place to start figuring out what fruits and vegetables to expect when. You can also look up produce by seasons (spring, summer, fall, winter) or region.
Apples, August through November (local apples may be available from storage into spring).
Arugula, April through June (some farmers use hot houses and hoop houses to extend the growing season, so you may see it available well before April).
Asparagus, April through June. Look for freshly cut stems and firm stalks—earlier crops will be skinnier than later ones; contrary to common misconception, the thickness of the spear does not indicate how tender or delicious the asparagus will be.
Beans, May through October. This nice long season is the result of plants continuing to flower.
Beets, April through June for spring beets, often sold with their yummy greens (cook them like mustard greens) still attached; beets are in-season again as larger specimens in the fall and into winter from storage.
Blueberries, May through August.
Cultivated varieties are developed to fruit at different stages, keeping the season fairly long in warmer climes
Bok Choy, October through June. This cold weather crop adds crunch to salads and stir-frys.
Broccoli, May through June and October through December. Like many cruciferous vegetables, broccoli doesn't fair very well in the heat, turning bitter.
Brussels sprouts, November through February. Look for sprouts sold on their stalk for ultimate freshness (just be sure to store them off the stalk once you get them home).
Cabbage, October through May. Like broccoli and brussels sprouts, this cruciferous vegetable tastes best when the air is cooler.
Cantaloupes, June through August. Smell 'em before you buy 'em! They should smell like how you hope they'll taste!
Carrots, October through May. The season for mature carrots in the fall morphs right into the season for true baby, field-thinning carrots in the spring.
Cauliflower, October through December. Choose cauliflower heads that feel heavy for their size, and remember that their leaves are tasty when chopped and cooked like bok choy or cabbage.
Celery, October through February. As with most vegetables, you want celery that feels heavy for its size.
Chard, October through May. These bright bunches are best when the cut stem-ends look fresh and the leaves are full and vibrant.
Collard greens, October through June.
Look for stiff, hearty leaves that will need some long cooking to tenderize them.
Corn, June and July. Tight, moist-looking-but-not-damp husks are what you want. A worm here or there just means the corn wasn't sprayed with insecticide.
Cucumbers, June through August. These really are cooler inside than the ambient temperature, sometimes by up to 20 degrees.
Edamame, June through September. Firm pods full of solid beans are the item of choice.
Eggplant, June through October. Tight, shiny skins and vegetables that feel heavy for their size will be the best at the market.
Figs, July and August, and a second crop come fall. These delicate creatures require special handling, so buy them on your way home so they can balance on top of all the other produce.
Garlic, May through October (available from storage year-round).
Green garlic, March through May. This result of farmers thinning the fields are a delight of spring eating.
Grapes, July through October. Ask to taste before you buy to make sure you're buying grapes that meet your sweetness needs.
Kale, October through May. Fresh stems and vibrant leaves are the name of the kale game.
Leeks, October through May. Dirt hides between those leaves, especially if it's been raining, so give them a good cleaning before cooking them.
Lettuce, September through June. One look tells you if lettuce is fresh (no wilting, no browning).
Melons, June through September. Heavy, heavy, heavy for their size is your best bet for a fully ripe, totally tasty melon.
Mushrooms (cultivated), year-round. These are best stored in a paper bag in the fridge—no plastic please!
Okra, May through October. A Southern favorite with a luxuriously long growing season.
Onions, March through November (available from storage year-round).
Parsnips, October through December. These babies can get woody, so look for thinner ones that feel heavy for their size for the smallest cores.
Peaches, May through August. Heavy, heavy, heavy for their size and beautiful peachy smell is what you want.
Peanuts, September through December. Many markets will have vendors selling boiled and/or fried peanuts alongside fresh ones.
Peas and pea pods, February through May. The warm clime makes this season deliciously early.
Pecans, September through December. In-shell, ready to crack.
Peppers, June through September. Tight, shiny skins are what to look for if you want the best peppers.
Persimmons, September through November. Heavy and fragrant, but limited, if any soft spots are what you seek.
Plums & pluots, May through July. Different trees ripen at different times, but any individual tree tends to come on like gang-busters.
Potatoes, May through August (available from storage through winter).
Radishes, March through June. Bunches with vibrant leaves still attached are the best bet (and those leaves work in salads, too!).
Spinach, November through May. Cooler weather means less-bitter and less-tannic spinach.
Squash (summer), May through October. Avoid woody squash by choosing smaller ones that feel heavy for their size.
Squash (winter), August through December. Don't forget to save the seeds and roast them up for a snack!
Strawberries, April through June. Like all berries, when you buy too many, the best way to keep them around is to freeze them.
Sweet Onions, May and June. Savor these during their short season.
Sweet potatoes, August through February. Like all root vegetables, these will store the longest if you don't clean them until you're ready to use them. A paper or loosely wrapped plastic bag will protect your veggie drawer from the dirt.
Tomatoes, June through October. Store these lovelies at room temperature—or pop them in the freezer to use for sauce in the future. The fridge turns them mealy.
Turnips, October through April. Another root vegetable whose main season in the fall runs into the "baby" season in the spring.
Watermelons, June through September. There are many hints and myths around choosing a tasty watermelon. Knocking, a hollow sound, etc.—but everyone agrees a good melon should feel very heavy for how big it is. Surprisingly so.
Zucchini, May through October. These can get so prolific you can't give them away—watch out for the giant ones, since they can get real woody.
Zucchini Blossoms, May through September. Tradition says to fry them up, but they're also delicious chopped and tossed into salads.