Food for Thought: What’s in Season?

Jessica Harlan by Jessica Harlan | October 14th, 2009 | No Comments
topic: Green Living

This weekend we made our annual pilgrimage to the country to visit an apple house and a pumpkin patch. Our car was a good 40 pounds heavier on the way home, loaded down with an enormous bag of apples and a wheelbarrow full of pumpkins and squash. Ordinarily, I’d feel overwhelmed with having such a bounty in my kitchen (it’s always a challenge just to use up all of my Community Supported Agriculture share for the week before it goes bad), but the beauty of many fall vegetables is that they last for awhile — Mother Nature’s way of helping us stretch that last harvest through the cold winter months, I suppose.

I also know I won’t have any difficulty making use of all the goodies because I just love fall foods and the produce that is being harvested this time of year. As you head to your farmers’ market, here are some fall fruits and vegetables to look for, and what you can do with them. (Not sure what’s in season in your neck of the woods? Find out with Epicurious’ Seasonal Ingredient Map.)


A sure sign of fall, apples are one of my favorite fruits. I love eating them raw (or sliced and slathered with peanut butter), but they are also delicious in pies, cakes and crumbles. Or make simple baked apples: Peel and core the apple; put them in a shallow baking dish; fill the core with a mixture of brown sugar, chopped nuts and raisins; top with a dot of butter; and bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the apples are tender.


You’re not supposed to like beets, right? That’s what I always thought, until I had a life-changing meal of beet ravioli at a restaurant I used to love inBrooklyn, NY. From then on, I was hooked. Roasting beets (the best way to prepare them to bring out their sweetness) can be a messy endeavor, but I read an article in the New York Times that suggested peeling the beets raw, then dicing them and roasting the cubes (which takes less time and stains hands and surfaces less). I particularly love roasted beets as a salad, warm or cold, with goat cheese.


This hearty fall/winter vegetable is usually served as a side dish, but it can also be part of a main course if you use the broad, sturdy leaves as a wrapping for a rice mixture, cooked ground beef or turkey, or cooked whole grains. Topped with a sauce, such as tomato sauce, it makes for a satisfying meal.


Spaghetti, acorn, butternut… fall squash is a real treat. The easiest way to prepare squash is to cut them in half, scoop out the seeds, drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper, and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until the flesh is soft when pierced with a fork (this could take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the squash). You can serve smaller squash like acorns in the shell, with a pat of butter and a sprinkling of brown sugar or maple syrup, or scoop out the soft flesh and serve it mashed.


It seems like most people buy pumpkins for their decorative value around Halloween andThanksgiving. But don’t forget they’re edible. After all, pumpkin pie does not have to come from a can! Even if you want to reserve your pumpkin to make a Jack O’Lantern, save the seeds and roast them. Just rinse the pulp off; dry them thoroughly; toss them with olive oil, salt and your choice of spices; and bake them on a sheet pan at 300 degrees Fahrenheit until they’re crisp (about 30 minutes). They’re addictive when eaten like popcorn or nuts, but you can also sprinkle them on soups or salads. Plus, pumpkin seeds are good for you: they’re high in zinc and magnesium, are anti-inflammatory, and can lower cholesterol.


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