New Jersey is home to some of the country's finest produce - and a leading harvester of many summer favorites. From tart blueberries to sweet corn to fiery hot peppers, summers in New Jersey are made for eating fresh and local. (They don't call us the Garden State for nothing.)
With that in mind, here are some of the top-selling (and top-tasting) produce options our state is known for.
The Produce: Blueberries
Peak Period: July-August. Packed with antioxidants, fiber and vitamins, blueberries have become one of the most popular "superfoods" out there, topping nearly every list of healthy eats. And they're also at the top of New Jersey's produce list. The state ranks second in the nation in blueberry production, growing close to 65 million pounds of the superfruit every year. A whopping 95 percent of those berries are produced in Atlantic and Burlington counties, but there are numerous pick-your-own patches throughout the state - including DiMeo Farms and Lindsay's Blueberries in Hammonton; Haines Berry Farm in Pemberton; Emery's Blueberry Farm in New Egypt and Phillips Farms in Milford.
The Produce: Lavender
Peak Period: spring-summer. Explore the nearly 10 rolling acres of fields and cut your own fragrant lavender bundles at Pleasant Valley Lavender in Morganville.
The Produce: Sweet Corn
Peak Period: Lee Turkey Farm in East Windsor is not just for the birds. Pick sweet corn in July, or peaches watermelon or canteloupe.
The Produce: Tomatoes
Peak Period: July-September. In 2012, New Jersey produced almost 57 million pounds of tomatoes on 2,700 acres of farmland. That's a lot of America's favorite fruit-that's-really-a-vegetable (or is it a vegetable-that's-really-a-fruit?). You'll find plump Jersey tomatoes in farmers' markets and roadside stands across the state all summer long - just be sure to store them on the counter; refrigeration destroys their natural vine-ripened flavor.
The Produce: Hot Peppers
Peak Period: July-October. Keeping things hot during a New Jersey summer is easy with the plethora of fiery peppers grown here. Spice lovers may want to consider a pilgrimage to Cross Country Nurseries in Rosemont, which grows and sells 500 varieties of chile and sweet pepper plants. Topping the list of their tongue-scorching chiles is the bhut jolokia - also known as the "ghost pepper" - which holds the Guinness Book title for world's hottest chile. For those who prefer something sweeter, the nursery also sells approximately 350 varieties of tomato, basil, eggplant, cilantro and tomatillo plants.
The Produce: Cranberries
Peak Period: October-November. Fortunately for produce lovers, the harvest season doesn't end when summer does. The state ranks fourth in the nation for cranberry production, which only heats up when the weather starts to cool off. Most bogs are located in the Pine Barrens and some offer visitors a glimpse into the harvesting process. For instance, Whitesbog Village in Browns Mills hosts cranberry industry lectures and harvest tours on weekends in mid-October.