In-season foods are always preferred for their flavor and nutrition, and in fall, there is so much to take advantage of. If you’re looking for an opportunity to venture away from the monotony of repeating the same foods over and over and trying something new and fresh, we invite you to check out this fabulous seasonal eating guide to fall nutrition from Rebekah Fedrowitz to help you fully appreciate the bounty of the harvest.
As I impatiently waited through June and July for my peppers to ripen and okra to grow, my small backyard garden reminded me that while summer is a time of growth, fall is truly the season of harvest. The seeds planted in the spring and the care given throughout the summer, along with the miraculous process that occurs with sun, rain, and soil, lead to the bountiful gift of the most flavorful fruits and vegetables in the fall.
Fall renders a wider variety of produce than other seasons with several in-season foods overlapping or reappearing. After months of sun and rain, the fall season is the crown of glory for many fruits and vegetables that reach their peak ripeness just as the weather starts to cool. The flavors of fall are rich and satisfying, lending themselves to the warmer, heavier dishes our bodies crave at this time of year.
In-season foods are always preferred for their flavor and nutrition, and in fall, there is so much to take advantage of. It’s a great season to venture away from the monotony of repeating the same foods over and over and to try something new and fresh.
Fall Seasonal Produce
Fall is like the glamorous cousin to summer with its vibrant colors and indulgent flavors, and its age offers a maturity of nutrients that satisfy the body, and perhaps even the soul. As you’re selecting your produce and planning your meals for these cool, autumn months, favor these seasonal fruits and vegetables for the best flavor fall has to offer:
- Apples: While apples are readily available any time of the year, they are actually in season in the late summer and fall. This is the time of year to try different varieties than you may normally see—some are ideal for baking in your favorite apple pie recipe whereas others are best for slicing and eating raw.
- Citrus: After a long growing season during the heat of the year, lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits are harvested in the late fall and early winter in tropical climates. Of course, it’s easy to find citrus any time of the year, but they will often be at their juiciest and sweetest during this peak season. Plus, it’s a great time to find unique varieties that you may not see in the middle of the summer.
- Cranberries: These small, tart berries arrive just in time to grace our Thanksgiving tables, but they are good for much more than just cranberry sauce served once a year. The light sourness of this fruit nicely contrasts the heavy sweet nature of many other fall foods. Try roasting them with butternut squash or Brussel sprouts, using in a glaze for pork, or adding to baked goods like scones or muffins. They also freeze very well so they can be used throughout the year. Bonus tip: freeze them and add them to smoothies for a nutritional boost!
- Cruciferous vegetables: Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussel sprouts are all part of the cruciferous family, and while they are typically accessible year-round, they are at their best in the cooler months. You’ll find these vegetables to be sweeter and more tender in the fall and into the winter. Enjoy them roasted, sautéed, in soups and salads, or in a casserole. The options are almost endless!
- Eggplant: This late summer to early fall vegetable is a great transition between the light flavor of summer to the rich, hearty flavors of fall. Try it roasted, in a salad, or pureed with chickpeas for a Baba Ghanoush-like hummus.
- Fennel: This cool weather plant’s harvest season begins in fall and carries through until the spring. In these cooler months, fennel’s sweetness shines, making it a nice compliment to salads, soups, and roasted recipes.
- Figs: This rich and savory fruit boosts caramel flavors that shine in the fall and holiday seasons. Eat them fresh and raw, slice them into a salad, add to a flatbread, roast with a leg of lamb, or use in a decadent dessert—just to name a few potential options.
- Garlic & Onions: While uniquely different, garlic and onion—both part of the allium family—store well throughout the year, but most varieties are actually harvested in the fall. This can lead to a sweeter taste so now is a great time to stock up and enjoy these essential cooking elements.
- Grapes: Clusters of these juicy round fruits hang heavy on the vines in the early fall, ready for harvesting and enjoying fresh and raw. But don’t be afraid to think outside of the box with this familiar fruit. Try roasting them alongside a whole chicken, or adding them to a salad or flatbread in place of tomatoes.
- Leafy Greens: Greens like swiss chard, kale, collards, and spinach are sweet and tender in the cooler months. Some varieties, like collards, are actually best after a frost, so stock up and enjoy at this time of year. Great in a hearty salad, added to a soup, braised, or sautéed.
- Leeks: Part of the onion family but worth mentioning separately because of their mild flavor. With the appearance of a giant spring onion, both the green and white parts of the leeks can be enjoyed roasted, sautéed, braised, or in many other ways you would use other varieties of onions. They pair nicely with many other fall flavors, especially potatoes, cauliflower, and mushrooms.
- Mushrooms: If you’re tired of white button or baby bella mushrooms, watch for special varieties to show up in the late summer and fall. Meaty and hearty, mushroom’s umami flavor makes a great addition to a wide variety of fall dishes, from roasted vegetables and meats to soups and grain dishes.
- Okra: Carrying over from the end of summer into the beginning of fall, the last of the okra crops are great for throwing on the grill, adding to gumbo, pickling, or slicing and freezing for use through the rest of the year.
- Pears: Less popular than an apple but just as accessible to buy and enjoy, pears are a great fruit choice for all of the fall and even into the winter. Take a bite out of it, slice it, or find a new way to incorporate them into sweet and savory dishes alike. Try poached pears with a maple cream for dessert, a cinnamon-pear sauce for a snack, or slow-cooker pear and pork tenderloin for the main meal.
- Peppers: Commonly thought of most frequently in the summer, many peppers are best after a little more time on the vine, reaching their peak in the late summer and early fall. Sweet varieties will often be even sweeter, and spicy varieties kick their heat up a notch. Serve sliced with hummus, chopped in a salad, stuffed with grains and meat, or sautéed in fajitas or stir-fry.
- Persimmons: A less-than-familiar fruit, persimmons have a very short harvest season so if you blink, you may miss them. This orange tomato-meets-apple fruit is a little sweet and a little tart, and it’s great both raw and cooked.
- Pomegranates: Another short-season, tropical-climate fruit, pomegranates are a prized find in the fall, arriving right in time to don our holiday tables. It can be a bit cumbersome to cut and free the seeds, but it’s well worth the effort. Add the seeds to a fall fruit salad with pears and persimmons, roast them with Brussel sprouts, or mix them into a warm quinoa salad with fresh spinach and herbs.
- Potatoes & Sweet Potatoes: As a type of root vegetable, both sweet and savory varieties of potatoes are usually available year-round but are typically harvested in the fall. Watch for a wider variety of potatoes to show up in your grocery store, especially different types of yams and sweet potatoes. From purple skin and white flesh to ruby-brown skin and bright orange flesh, each type of potato offers a unique taste that can add a surprising complexity to common dishes.
- Pumpkin & Winter Squashes: Pumpkin may arguably be one of the most quintessential fall foods, and its winter squash relatives are just as plentiful at this time of year. Having used the warm summer months to grow and ripen, these large fruits (yes, technically a fruit) overflow in the grocery store bins, farmers’ markets tables, and fall festival fields.
- Root vegetables: Carrots may be your initial thought when you hear root vegetables, but there are so many more options to choose from! Beets, parsnips, radishes, rutabagas, and turnips, to name a few. Start the fall by using these in salads and light soups, and as the weather cools, try them roasted or pureed for heavier, warmer dishes.
While this list is not fully exhaustive of all the produce you may find in the fall, it does show just how plentiful this season really is. Keep your eyes open for specials at your local grocery store, and be sure to check out your farmers’ market for produce that is unique to your area.
Where & How To Buy
In-season produce is usually easy to find at your grocery stores and supermarkets, farmers’ markets, or through a local community-supported agriculture (CSA). Refer to the Guide to Spring Nutrition where I introduce how and where to buy seasonal produce.
When you’re buying produce, remember to take the time to both look and smell. Does it look ripe, plump, firm, or is it wilted, browning, or limp? Does it smell sweet and aromatic? Our eyes and nose are our guides before we buy, and our taste is our guide after. If we let our senses do the work they were meant to do, we may just find ourselves eating in a more wholesome way.
Recipes to Try
Look for some unique ways to enjoy the delectable flavors of fall? Check out some of these recipes for inspiration:
- Beet and Apple Salad
- Curried Parsnip & Spinach Soup
- Roasted Sweet Potato & Fig Kale Salad
- Cranberry Chutney with Orange, Figs & Mustard
- Persimmon & Chèvre Bites
- Spicy Spaghetti Squash with Black Beans
- Orange & Fennel Roasted Cod
- Potato & Roasted Cauliflower Salad
- Creamy Broccoli & Red Lentil Soup
- Sweet Potato & White Bean Chili with Sage
As you experiment more with the flavors of the season, share your favorites and any new ideas you have in the comments below.
For a collection of recipes featuring many fall foods, including fennel, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, citrus, cranberries, and more, grab a copy of my Healthy Holiday Feast menu. These recipes are great for your Thanksgiving table, but you may find yourself fixing some of them for a random Tuesday night, too.
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