According to the calendar, autumn is the exact same length of time as the other seasons, but it always seems like such a small sliver of time that’s wedged in between a far-too-hot summer and a when-will-it-stop-snowing winter. To stretch out the season as much as I can, I like to plan fall fun activities such as apple picking, walking in tree-line parks to gawk at leaves, and cooking as much tasty fall-themed food as I can.
Most people think of summer as the peek time to buy produce, but fall brings quite a lot of tasty fruits and vegetables. These foods are heartier and more grounding than the light fare that grows earlier in the year, which is perfect for the cooler weather.
Here are my ten favorite fall fruits and vegetables:
Pears – The most common types of pears in North America are bosc and bartlet, and they’re at their peek ripeness at the very beginning of autumn. Pears are chock-full of vitamins and minerals, so they’re great for the immune system. They’re also one of the highest-fiber fruits around, making them excellent at fighting heart disease, keeping the colon working, and reducing the risk of diabetes.
Apples – Did you know that there are 2,500 types of apples grown in the U.S.? Apples are packed with antioxidants, which can help prevent chronic illness, and also help you fight off winter colds. I usually go apple picking at the beginning of the season and snack on them for next few months.
Winter Squash – There are many types of winter squash, such as butternut, acorn, kabocha, and delicata. They’re warming and hearty, and they’re incredibly versatile – I like to puree them for soups and stews, mash them like potatoes, cubed and roasted and roast, and stuff them with grains and veggies. They’re also loaded with vitamins and minerals that are known to help fight off many ailments.
Pumpkin – Pumpkin is ubiquitous in the fall, and it’s probably the most popular of all of the winter squashes. Most of the products that are being marketed as “pumpkin spice” don’t contain any pumpkin at all, but rather cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. I say skip those and go straight to the pumpkin, which can help boost vision, lower blood pressure, improve quality of sleep, and protect the heart, among other things.
Brussels Sprouts – I used to hate Brussels sprouts, until I discovered how tasty they are when roasted, and now I can’t get enough of them. I like to shred them for salads, roast them, and pan sear them. If I can get my hands on them in the summer time, I’ll even throw some on the grill. Brussels sprouts are part of the cruciferous vegetable family, and they have many health benefits, including warding off various cancers, improve digestion, keeping the heart healthy, alkalizing the body, fighting inflammation, and strengthening bones.
Broccoli – While most kids were told they had to sit at the table until they finished their broccoli, I was scarfing mine down and asking for seconds. It has always been my favorite vegetable. Broccoli is available all year, but its peek season is in the fall. Like Brussels sprouts, it’s part of the cruciferous vegetable family, and it has similar heath benefits to Brussels sprouts.
Sweet Potatoes – Most people use the terms “sweet potato” and “yams” interchangeably, but they’re actually two different vegetables. What we know as “yams” here in the U.S. are really sweet potatoes. I like to bake sweet potatoes and stuff them with chili, slice them into French fries, and add them to curries. They’re a good source for vitamin B6, vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, iron, and other nutrients, and they’re excellent at balancing blood sugar.
Mushrooms – Many mushrooms are in season in autumn, including porcini, chicken of the woods, and chanterelle. I used to dislike mushrooms, but now their one of my favorite vegetables, and I eat them several times a week. Mushrooms are not only extremely beneficial for optimum health, they’re also a good source of umami, which is known as the fifth taste. Umami often described as the savory or meaty ‘mouth-filling’ taste, which a lot of foods in the plant world are missing.
Parsnips – Parsnips look like white carrots, and they have an earthy, peppery flavor. They are high in vitamins and minerals, especially potassium. They also contain antioxidants and a high amount of dietary fiber. I like to add them to stews, or roast them with a mixture of other hearty fall vegetables.
Beets – Beets always make me think of Dwight from The Office. I tend to “cheat” with beets, and buy the cooked, packaged beets that can be found in the produce department in an attempt to avoid dying my hands and kitchen counters red. Beets can boost energy, lower blood pressure, help ward of cancer, reduce inflammation in the body, and aid in weight loss, among other things, so they’re definitely worth the mess they make.
What are your favorite autumn fruits and veggies?
Reprinted with permission from Dianne’s Vegan Kitchen