When the temperatures are soaring, there’s something about having a plate of summer fruit in front of you that cools and soothes. A few luscious melon slices with a sprinkling of blueberries, plucked fresh from the bush. Or a cluster of crisp grapes cut from the vine. Or maybe berries, peach and mango, blended in an icy smoothie that glides deliciously down your throat.

There’s something about that tangy taste of citrus or that tart taste of berries that just makes us feel like summer is the best season. Even though many of us are working away in an office, that bowl of fresh, summer fruit makes us think of lazy summer days.

What bounty does summer bring us? Here are, in general, the fruits of summer:

  • Apricots: early to late summer. They should be rich in orange color and, in texture, slightly soft. Apricots are a great source of vitamins A & C and a good dietary source of fiber and potassium.
  • Avocados: spring to summer. Avocados can grow all year long, but they’re best in the spring and summer months. Choose firm ones with a slight neck. Avocados will ripe well in a paper bag or basket.
  • Blackberries: mid to late summer. Look for blackberries that are shiny and plump. When you’re about to eat or freeze them, rinse them. If you rinse them right away, they rot faster.
  • Blueberries: May through October. Look for blueberries that are a deep, blue hue with a whitish, silvery bloom. They should be firm and feel a little heavy. The taste should be tart and sweet.
  • Cantaloupes: June through August. Thump on the melon. Does it sound hollow? That’s a good thing. They should also feel a little heavy for their size and have a slightly strong yet sweet aroma to them.
  • Cherries: May through August. Choose cherries that are plump, bright in color and without blemishes. The best cherries to pick are ones with stems still joined together as cherries tend to cultivate in groups or pairs.
  • Grapes: end of summer. Save the wrinkles for raisins. The grapes you want to buy are plump and don’t have wrinkles. Look for healthy stems. Grapes have large amounts of vitamins C, B1 and B6 and are a good source of manganese.
  • Mangos: late spring into summer. With mangos, don’t concern yourself so much with color than their feel and smell. Are they slightly soft and have a fruity aroma? Then they’re ripe. Mangos have a lot of potassium and vitamins C and E.
  • Papayas: summer into fall. While papayas grow all year long, they’re at their peak in late summer to fall. Pick soft ones with orange-red skin for immediate eating or ones that are more yellow if you’re waiting a few days.
  • Peaches and nectarines: early to late summer. Look for peaches that feel heavy for their size, but are a little soft. The same goes for nectarines, because they’re basically peaches without the fuzz.
  • Plums: May through October. Look for slightly soft tips on the plums. They should feel heavy and smell sweet. Did you know plums are high in antioxidants and vitamin C?
  • Strawberries: April through June. Strawberries should have a deep, red color. They should be firm and still have their green stem leaves attached. As for vitamins, it’s no secret that strawberries are full of vitamin C, antioxidants, manganese and other vitamins. Some say they help prevent cancer and have a good effect on the cardiovascular system and blood sugar.

These days, many people are watching their intake of sugar. Added sugars in our diet increases the chance of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and strokes. That can make eating some fruit problematic, because of the sugars they contain. Sure, we’re all looking for sugar substitutes, but what can evoke that fresh, fruity taste of summer?

Let’s talk about stevia. What is stevia? Stevia is a plant native to Paraguay that is used as a natural sweetener instead of sugars in foods and beverages. SweetLeaf uses water to extract the sweetness from the stevia plant, creating a product without aftertaste so you can use that packet of SweetLeaf® Stevia Sweetener or drops of SweetLeaf® Liquid Stevia Sweet Drops™ in beverages or foods without any added sugars.

Take still or sparking water from boring to wow with just a squeeze (or to taste) of SweetLeaf® Water Drops™.  With six delicious water enhancer blends, daily hydration is a real treat. And did you know that adequate hydration is vital and improves body and brain health, while also promoting healthy skin?

And now, that summer smoothie comes guilt-free when you use a few drops of SweetLeaf® 50ml Liquid Stevia Coconut Sweet Drops™ with blueberries, raspberries, hemp seeds, milk and plain yogurt to make a mouth-watering Very Berry Coconut Protein Smoothie—only 122 calories with 8g of sugar!

Summer was made for ice cream delights, right? Use SweetLeaf® Liquid Stevia Valencia Orange Sweet Drops™ mixed with heavy whipping cream, half-and-half, yolks, oranges, vanilla and orange extract to make a healthier-for-you (only 0.3g of sugar!) Sugar-Free Orange Creamsicle Ice Cream.

Round out the hazy days of summer with light desserts, too. Adding SweetLeaf® Liquid Stevia Lemon Drop Sweet Drops™ to gelatin, heavy cream, lemon zest, lemon juice and Greek yogurt creates a heavenly Lemon Panna Cotta that has a mere 1.2g of sugar.

Going to a summer’s day brunch? Whip up Orange Chocolate Chip Whole-Wheat Scones, made with SweetLeaf® Liquid Stevia Valencia Orange Sweet Drops™ and SweetLeaf® Stevia Sweetener. Only 8g of sugar per scone, you’ll have cut the sugars of a regular scone using whole-wheat pastry flour and Valencia Orange Sweet Drops instead of sugar. These scones come out soft and flaky with a sweet hint of summer citrus. They’re great for snacks, too—perhaps for that afternoon visit you’ve been planning with your friends.

If you’re looking for a little summertime heat in your meals or snacks, mix SweetLeaf® Liquid Stevia Lemon Drop Sweet Drops™ with cantaloupe, mango, serrano chile, mint, lime, pineapple ginger, cilantro and chili powder for a low-calorie but flavor-packed Mango-Melon Salsa. Guess what? There’s only 1g of sugar and 5 calories in each dollop.

Enjoy all the flavors of summer—in a healthier-for-you way with no guilt!