What to Eat This Fall

For most of us, eating seasonally is a foreign concept. Many people don't even know that foods have a season, let alone what foods are in season at any given time of year. In the US, we enjoy practically unlimited access to any food at any time of the year. Tomatoes in December are nice, but not without consequences. Flavor suffers, nutrient levels decline, and environmental impact soars with each mile a food must travel to reach its ultimate destination.

Seasonal food, on the other hand, is fresh and local! Boasting a host of benefits, including better flavor, more nutrients and less environmental burden, it's usually picked just hours or days before you buy it (while standard supermarket produce can weather many days or even weeks in transport). It’s also healthier for the environment because the food has traveled a shorter distance, meaning fewer fossil fuels are used in its transport from the farm to your table.

Possibly the best benefit though, is that seasonal food is always interesting, as each season brings a new crop of foods that you haven't had for an entire year. Before you've had a chance to tire of its bounty, the season changes to bring new, flavorful foods to add to your pantry.

Shopping for seasonal foods is easy—a fun trip to your local farmer's market will yield the majority of the ingredients you need. Availability will vary from region to region, but here's a general list of foods that make fall their season, along with tips on how to incorporate these ingredients into your meals.

Fall Vegetables
  • Squash. Acorn, butternut, and pumpkin are among the most popular fall choices. They look beautiful, but can be slightly intimidating when they're sitting on your countertop. Transforming them into a tasty dish is actually quite simple with these two methods. Option 1: Peel, cube and steam the flesh until tender. Option 2: Halve and bake face-down (with skin intact) in a 425-degree oven until the skin can be easily pierced with a fork (about 45 minutes to an hour). Once cooked, season with butter, salt and pepper for a savory flavor; or butter, cinnamon and maple syrup for something sweet.
  • Cauliflower. Cut into bite-size pieces, and steam until fork-tender (about 5 minutes) and top with butter and a dash of salt.
  • Celeriac. Soups and salads both benefit from the addition of celeriac, a root vegetable that has a celery-like flavor. It can be eaten raw or cooked.
  • Mushrooms. Take advantage of the ephemeral wild mushroom season by stocking up when you can. Look for mushroom hunters at your local farmer’s market. Mushrooms are delicious in stir fries or sautéed in butter and tossed into a veggie wrap.
  • Parsnips. Boasting a sweet, earthy flavor, these carrot-like root vegetables are a must in any fall stew.
  • Sweet potatoes. Enjoy this simple, vitamin-rich vegetable peeled, cubed and steamed until tender, or bake it like a regular potato. Top it with butter, cinnamon and a drizzle of maple syrup or honey.
  • Swiss chard. Rich in calcium, this dark leafy green is mild in flavor and easy to prepare. Thoroughly wash and chop leaves and stems, and steam for about five minutes. Then toss in a skillet with olive oil and garlic until wilted, just a few minutes more. Drizzle with hot pepper vinegar or soy sauce for a delicious side.
Fall Fruits
Fruit is always easy. It is ready to eat, tastes great and kids typically love it. But if you're looking for some new ways to incorporate fruit into your menu besides the "grab and bite" technique, try fruit smoothies, fruit cobblers and fruit-topped pancakes and French toast.
  • Apples. Try them baked with sweet potatoes and raisins. Or sauté them in butter in a skillet until tender, then sprinkle with cinnamon and drizzle with maple syrup.
  • Figs. Try fresh figs stuffed with goat cheese, cooked into a sauce and served over vanilla ice cream, or right out of the box.
  • Grapes. Grapes are a great snack food. They also make a yummy breakfast beverage when blended with vanilla yogurt.
  • Pears. Try pears on the grill. Cook until tender, then sprinkle with a pinch of sugar and enjoy (quickly!) with vanilla ice cream.
Fall Seasonings
If you've done a little cooking, you probably know that the seasonings can make the meal. Here are some seasonal seasonings for your fall suppers.
  • Ginger. To peel fresh ginger root, scrape with the edge of a small spoon. Mince and add to marinades of stir fries.
  • Garlic. Fresh garlic is most flavorful in the fall. Mince it and add it to soups, stir fries and guacamole for a kick. If you're really adventurous, peel and roast whole cloves to add to your favorite dishes.
If your pantry isn't stocked with the season's tastiest and most nutritious staples, then get yourself to your local farmer's market and add flavor to your meals with the best autumn seasonings. To find a farmer's market near you, visit www.localharvest.org, and enjoy the bounty of fall!    

                    Try It! 
Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese 

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You Won't Believe It's Cauliflower
Pizza Crust

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Celeriac, Parsnip, and Leek Curry 

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Stuffed Portabello Mushrooms
on the Grill 

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          Sauteed Parsnips 

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Sweet and Spicy Potato Oven Fries 

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         Tasty Swiss Chard 

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Nutty Baked Apples with Raisins 

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Honey Bran Muffins with Mission Figs 

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Chicken Salad with Grapes and Almonds 

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Caramelized Pears with Toasted
Almonds and Yogurt

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  Easy Ginger Garlic Sauce

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 Garlic Brown Sugar Chicken  
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Member Comments

These are some good ideas. Thank you. Report
I have ginger growing all over on my farm. I pick it and make gingerale by combining it with sparkling tonic water. Yummy. Today I bought apples, cantaloupe, celery, and butter squash at the farmer's market. I plan to make a pot of soup. Report
Thanks for the ideas. I love it when the seasons change and we can make some seasonal recipes like soups and roasts. Report
Good article. Report
Good article. However, I have to depend on grocery store. Report
I live near several Farmer's Markets and get fruits and veggies most of the year. Report
I subscribe to a CSA and the fruits and vegetables are so nice and fresh! They all taste so good,it is not like the grocery store at all. I receive incredible produce and I am supporting a local farrmer. They provide produce year round. Report
Around here going to a farmer's market is just the same as going to a grocery store. So many set up a stall claiming to be fresh produce which they have gotten from a warehouse. I don't even try going to them anymore as it was just a waste of time. Mostly all they had was baked goods or sweet stuff. Not many people actually grow the stuff they sell, they just go to a warehouse buy and then resell it with beefed up prices. Report
Good article until it got to the fruit section. Why add sugar to fresh fruit? And why suggest adding it to ice cream? But I guess this isn't just for people trying to lose weight. Report
I love how they assume that EVERYONE has access to a farmers market all year long. Ours run from July to the end of September, period. After that? It's back to Walmart. Food desserts do exist. Try to keep in mind that not all of us live in California or NYC, okay? Report
Why all the hate for butter? Butter is DELICIOUS, healthier than any of the so-called
healthy alternatives, and fits nicely in to your plan in moderation. Report
Yum! 'nuff said. Report
Parsnips, sweet potatoes & cauliflower all are wonderful roasted in the oven. Please don't just boil. Roast cauliflower is a revelation!

You can "bake" an apple with some cinnamon & raisins in the microwave. No sugar, fat, & takes just a couple of minutes. I love autumn produce! Report
The author did not mention that you can cook squash and pumpkin in the microwave. I used to cook pumpkin and preserve it by drying it. In the oven, this takes forever. Cooking in the microwave gives perfectly acceptable results. Two nights ago, I cooked a half butternut in the microwave, using the potato setting. It came out perfectly. I can go ahead and use it just like canned pumpkin. Report
Giventhanks - I thought the same thing. I enjoy many of my foods plain now. Or if you have to have something - olive oil is great on cauliflower. My apples I now "bake" them in the microwave. I core them, cut in half, sprinkle with just cinnamon - no sugar, in for a few minutes, they are wonderful. You can even put a splash of vanilla or almond soy milk on them!
Also for squash - butternut - use a really good peeler, peel it, chop it into big squares - a splash of olive oil, bit of salt and pepper and roast in the oven. Then mix them with potatoes or risotto or have plain. They are delicious.
I grew up with my mother always making acorn squash, cut in half with butter and brown sugar. I made it recently - plain! It was amazing.
Before adding the added calorie ingredients try the fresh vegetable first - you may like it! Report


About The Author

Liza Barnes
Liza Barnes
Liza has two bachelor's degrees: one in health promotion and education and a second in nursing. A registered nurse and mother, regular exercise and cooking are top priorities for her. See all of Liza's articles.