As hard as it is to say goodbye to the lazy days of summer, fall produce brings fresh and comforting flavors to your plate. Grab a cozy sweater, take a stroll through your local farmer’s market and fill your basket with these seasonal goodies!
Unlike summer squash, winter squash tend to be sweeter in flavor, particularly those with deep colored flesh. It can take the whole winter to get through all of the varieties. Try acorn squash, buttercup, butternut, delicata squash, Hubbard, kabocha, pumpkin and spaghetti squash, and you’ll never get bored. “Squash is a warming food,” says author of The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia, Rebecca Wood, “perfect for cool weather eating.” Use a sharp serrated knife to get through some of the tougher skins, or bake some of the smaller squashes whole to make it easier to get to the flesh inside. Winter squash store well in a cool, dry and well ventilated space, so stock up.
Ways to eat winter squash:
- Smaller, single-portion sized squashes, such as acorn, delicata and buttercup, are perfect for stuffing. Add some diced pears and toasted pumpkin seeds to your favorite grain blend for a delicious filling.
- Make a batch of vegan butternut squash pasta sauce to toss with any noodles you love.
- Substitute kabocha, acorn or butternut squash for pumpkin in your next pie.
Bright red, purple, golden fleshed and white, beets come in a beautiful array of colors. The beet root and beet greens are both edible. If you think you don’t like beets, try them a couple different ways. Raw and cooked beets have very different flavors and textures. If you choose to cook them, roasting beets brings out the sweetness of their naturally high sugar content. Never tried beet greens before? The especially young and tender leaves can be added to salads.
Ways to eat beets:
- Puree cooked beets with walnuts, herbs and olive oil for a delicious spread.
- Thinly slice beets, coat lightly with coconut oil and season with salt, cumin and chili powder. Roast in a 400°F-oven until crispy.
Late summer through early fall ushers in a new crop of figs. The fig, or Ficus carica is believed to have been a prehistoric plant. It originated in Asia but spread to the Mediterranean and then North Africa. A ripe fig can be green, brown or purple, depending on the variety. However, you can always count on a fig to rich, sweet and juicy – a real, natural treat!
Ways to eat figs:
- Top a pizza crust with arugula, goat cheese and fresh sliced figs. Finish it off with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
- Wrap whole figs in bacon and broil until crispy.
Grown in the U.S. alone, are 2,500 varieties of apples and 7,500 varieties grown throughout the world. As you know, apples are crispy, sweet, tart and juicy. The best part? Fall is the perfect time to try a new variety, visit a local orchard and fill your basket, because apples are at their peak freshness and flavor.
Ways to eat apples:
- Seek out a few heirloom varieties and host an apple tasting with a variety of cheeses.
- Scoop out the seeds from a baking apple, like Honey Crisp, Cortland, Jonah Gold or Granny Smith. Stuff it with granola, drizzle with maple syrup and bake until soft.
Related to onions and garlic, leeks are in season late summer through the winter months. Look for small- to medium-sized leeks, which are not as fibrous as the larger ones. Surprisingly, leeks add a lovely subtle sweetness to any dish. And don’t be shy – the green top and white bottom are fair game for feasting.
Ways to eat leeks:
- Add green tops to homemade vegetable stock or bone broth.
- Slowly sauté leeks; add white wine, herbs and a splash of cream for a rich and delicious sauce to serve with pasta or over fish.
- Cut white section of leeks into small pieces, clean well and freeze for easy use. Clean leeks well by slicing lengthwise and rinsing out any dirt.
Carrots have two crops: late spring and again in the fall, lasting through winter. There are several hundred varieties of carrots in various colors including white, yellow, orange, red and purple. Look for the deepest colored variety, because these carrots are rich in vitamin A. If you can get carrots with tender leaves attached, don’t throw them away – the leaves are edible, too!
Ways to eat carrots:
- Include carrot leaves in your next batch of pesto or gremolata.
- Roast a rainbow of colored carrots with a mustard and maple syrup glaze until caramelized, and top with toasted pecans.
- Add shredded carrots into a tomato sauce, carrot muffins or in homemade meatballs for extra veggies and natural sweetness.
Dark leafy greens
Though many greens are available year round, there are some that benefit from cooler days. Bok choy does not bolt as quickly in the cooler weather. Kale also grows easily in cool weather. When hit by frost, kale develops a sweeter flavor and nice texture. Swiss chard is another leafy green that benefits from cooler days. It’s less prone to bitterness in the fall than it is in summer months. Cabbage, escarole, spinach, collard greens and mustard greens are other peak leafy greens during fall. Try them all!
Ways to eat dark leafy greens:
- Braise greens and finish with coconut milk and crushed red pepper.
- Shred cabbage, sauté in avocado oil, add shredded apples, red onion and then top with a splash of red wine vinegar.
- Make a fall salad with bitter chicory or escarole leaves; add sweet pears, shaved fennel and top with fresh lemon juice and olive oil. Add some shaved pecorino Romano cheese to the top.
When you open your arms – and your kitchen – to these fall produce favorites, you’ll instantly feel comforted by fresh, warming flavors. Enjoy!