As we transition from summer into fall, buying produce can be a little tricky. I’ve been noticing a lot more of my favorites are coming in under-ripe and picked too early, green or flavorless. Fall provides its own selection of in season items, and although you might be used to seeing some of them year round, knowing when they are in their prime will help you get the best quality and the most flavorful and nutritious.
Get out of your comfort zone and try eating more of these (and other) fall favorites:
Squash- Not only are these festive gourds used for fall decoration, but it’s the prime time to try some new recipes with these autumn favorites. Every part of the squash can be eaten, including the leaves and shoots. Some of the squash varieties you might recognize are available all year long, but keep in mind their peak season is right now. There are tons of varieties of squash available, so try something new you’ve never had!
Pears- Pear season starts in late summer with the Bartlett. This is the most common pear of them all, perfect for simply eating like an apple. While the Comice and Anjou pears come next and are also ideal for eating, the Seckel and Bosc pears are best for cooking. Look for the Bosc later in winter. Pears are a good source of dietary fiber and vitamin C, and eating the skin of the fruit will ensure the most intake of vitamins.
Persimmons- These are one my favorite fall fruits and come in two varieties, fuyu and hachiyas. These beautiful fruits are a normal part of Chinese, Korean and Japanese cuisine, but are becoming more known worldwide. Their season ranges from October to February, with peak flavor happening in November. Ripe persimmons are a great addition to a smoothie or for baking, and hard fuyu are often just chopped up and thrown in as a salad topping.
Quince- Looking like a short-necked, fuzzy pear, the quince is quintessential fall. This pome fruit smells of pineapple, guava, and pear, turning from a sour taste when first picked, to a sweet tartness when cooked. Medieval cooks thought quince was the most useful fruit and spiced it with ginger, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg — how perfect for this time of year!
Turnips- Make way for this ancient root vegetable! Apparently they were the first Jack O’ Lanterns, as people would carve faces in them and put a piece of coal inside the turnip as a flash light. In season from October through March, turnips have carried a bad rap for being ‘poor man’s food’ in the middle ages. They’ve since made their way back to the table, and for good reason! Not only are they still an economical choice, but they are rich in vitamin C, phosphorus and fiber. Plus they have indoles, which are compounds that help the body generate beneficial enzymes.
Sapote- This popular fruit comes into season October through December, peaking with flavor in November. The sapote looks similar to a green apple but has a custard like flesh tasting of mild flavors that hint at apricot, banana, lemon, mango, vanilla, coconut, peaches or caramel. The skin is tart but edible, yet two to six inedible seeds are implanted within the flesh.
Pumpkins- I know I already listed squash, but this time of year warrants pumpkins as having their own space for fall cooking! Most people know they can scrape out the seeds and bake them in the oven for a crunchy treat, but did you know you can roast a whole pumpkin without even opening it? Just poke a few holes in it with a knife and pop it in the oven on a baking sheet! Once you cut into an already cooked pumpkin, scraping out the stringy pieces is much easier.
This is just an ever so small sampling of some of the produce items that may be in season near you. To find out what is grown locally in your area, try this interactive map which shows what’s in season by state and time of year.
Eating seasonal food helps us to reconnect with nature’s cycles and the passing of time, and if possible, supports the local economy. Just think how good your summer favorites will be if you wait until they come back in season next year! Enjoy autumn and all it has to offer.
Photo Credit: Image: Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net