10 produce items for fall dining
Fall has finally arrived. With the changing of seasons comes cooler weather, colored leaves and fall produce. Fall is one of the best seasons to buy fresh produce as there is quite a variety available. Whether you are shopping in your local farmer’s market or grocery store, here are the top 10 produce items to add to your favorite fall meals:
The prime harvesting time for apples is August through November. During this time, apples will have the most flavor and crunch. A few Missouri-grown varieties to try are: Blushing Golden, Golden Delicious, Ida Red, Jonathon, Red Delicious and Royal Gala.
2) Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts are primarily harvested September to December. Bring out their flavor by roasting, sautéing or blanching them. If you buy them on the stalk, cut them off to help them last longer.
Winter squash is available from July to December. Surprisingly, summer squash is also available in fall and winter, May through December. Winter squash varieties include acorn squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, Sweet Dumpling squash, Golden Nugget squash and pumpkins. Summer squash varieties include zucchini, golden zucchini and globe squash. Squash can be stored for up to one month in a cool, dry place. If you don’t use all of the squash, it can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Roast, sauté, boil or mash the squash for the best taste.
Cauliflower can be harvested any time of the year; however, cauliflower tastes best in the fall at its peak harvest time, specifically September and October. Cauliflower should be white with bright green leaves. It can be stored for up to 5 days in a refrigerator. For maximum flavor, sauté cauliflower instead of boiling or steaming, since this can make the cauliflower waterlogged.
Pears are best July through November. Once pears are picked, they continue to ripen. Pears in the grocery store typically need a few more days to ripen. They will ripen at room temperature and the process can be expedited by putting them in a brown paper bag. Once ripened, the flesh of the pear will give a bit when pressed and can be stored in the refrigerator for 5 days.
Potatoes, especially sweet potatoes, are available in abundance from August to December. When choosing a potato, avoid potatoes with green patches, those green patches can be bad for you. If choosing a sweet potato, choose a potato with smooth, evenly colored skin. Store your potatoes in a cool dark place for up to 2 weeks.
Popcorn, which comes from a type of corn, is only harvested in the fall, August through December. As a general rule one ounce of kernels will yield 1 quart of popcorn. Store your popcorn in an airtight container and not in the refrigerator. The greater the moisture, the less the popcorn will pop. While plain popcorn is better for you than buttered popcorn, you can make popcorn more flavorful by seasoning with pepper, garlic powder, olive oil, cinnamon or paprika.
Broccoli will taste the best when harvested from mid July to November. The cooler the weather, the less bitter the broccoli will taste. You can store broccoli in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Cranberries are a quintessential fall food. They are harvested August through November. Whole cranberries can be a bit expensive, since they are handpicked. Dried cranberries are a little cheaper. Fresh cranberries can be stored up to 2 months in the refrigerator.
Eggplant is best bought in August through the beginning of November. The heavier the eggplant, the better tasting it will be. Do not use aluminum when cooking with eggplant, it will cause discoloration. Eggplants will go bad quickly, so use them within 4 days of purchase.
Including these items in your meals will add color, nutrients and the freshest flavor.
When buying produce, you have the inevitable question of organic vs. non-organic food. Organic foods are grown without the use of additives, coloring, fertilizers, pesticides and hormones while meeting USDA standards. In terms of quality of produce, organic and non-organic should have the same quality. You will find less consistency in size, shape and color in organic foods as these are grown without manipulation. Organic produce tends to be more expensive than non-organic produce, as it is more labor intensive to keep the produce pest free. However, research has not found significant differences in nutritional value between the two.
These fall produce items are also important in part of your heart health. Find great recipe ideas in our Heart Healthy Recipes section.