Summer has come and gone with its abundance of brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Fear not! Fall is here with a unique array of fresh produce in fall colors. Oranges, yellows, browns, greens, reds, and whites go along with the falling leaves, harvests, Halloween, and Thanksgiving.
Some people do not eat as much produce once all the fresh summer bounty is over, but I encourage everyone to continue their streak of healthy eating by including the fall fruits and vegetables of the season. Instead of berries in your cereal, why not add crisp apples to your oatmeal?
You can find the freshest produce at farmer's markets that continue into the fall, or at your local grocery/produce store. Fall produce has the nutritional power to keep you going strong after a fun summer of eating. Some seasonal foods are not as popular, but with the correct preparation, they will become your new favorites. Give them time and some TLC.
Fabulous Fall Foods To Try
- Celery root. Also called celeriac, celery root is celery's green cousin with a tough outer layer. It tastes like a cross between a strong celery and parsley. Choose one that is small and firm with minimum rootlets and knobs. It can be eaten raw or cooked after peeling. Mix with mashed potatoes or puree it into a smooth and creamy side dish. Celeriac contains small amounts of vitamin B, calcium and iron.
- Brussels sprouts. This hot, new and exciting vegetable is now popping up in a lot of restaurants. Brussels sprouts are part of the cabbage family. Buy small, bright green sprouts with compact heads. They are high in vitamins A and C, and are a fair source of iron. Brussels sprouts are delicious roasted.
- Pumpkin. In the group of orange produce (carrots, sweet potatoes and yams), pumpkins are abundant in the fall. A member of the gourd family which includes watermelon and squash, pumpkin has a mild, sweet flavor and the seeds are nutty. Choose pumpkins that do not have any blemishes, are smaller (will be more tender) and heavy for their size. It can be prepared in any way suitable for winter squash, and is a good source of vitamin A. Even the seeds pack health benefits.
- Kale. Another trendy vegetable these days, kale comes in many different colors and varieties. A member of the cabbage family, kale is packed with vitamins. Choose richly colored, small bunches without any limp or yellowing leaves. The center stalk should be removed before using. Kale can be prepared in place of spinach (sautéed) and makes a nice addition to salads. It is a cruciferous vegetable with a lot of vitamins A and C, folic acid, calcium, and iron.
- Cauliflower. Also in the cruciferous vegetable group, cauliflower can be eaten raw or cooked – boiled, baked, and sautéed. Be sure to choose a firm cauliflower with compact florets, and the leaves should be crisp and green. Separate the head into florets and wash. Try it roasted with a squeeze of lemon juice (will prevent discoloration) and some garlic. It is high in vitamin C and a fair source of iron.
- Jerusalem artichokes. They are longer and less round than the artichokes we see on salad bars, sometimes called sunchokes at restaurants. The white flesh is nutty, sweet, and crunchy. Choose one that is firm and fresh looking. They can be peeled or washed well since the skin is very thin and nutritious. Eat them raw in salads, boiled, or steamed as a side dish. Roast them with cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and a drizzle of olive oil. They are a good source of iron.
- Apples. There are so many different types of apples, many with names that some have never heard. Honeycrisp became popular a couple of years ago, but what about green ginger? The list goes on. Good eaten raw or baked by itself or for a dessert. They have antioxidant (flavonoid quercetin) and anti-inflammatory properties, which may prevent some cancers and protect the arteries of the heart. Apples contain fiber and vitamins A and C.
- Pears. There are many different varieties of pears and they come in different shapes, from round to bell-shaped and in colors from green to yellow to red. Ripe pears are juicy and can range in flavor from spicy to sweet to almost tart depending on the variety. Choose ones that are fragrant without any blemishes. They are full of fiber and have a slower release of sugar into the blood. They also contain vitamin A and C.
- Cranberries. You can find fresh cranberries in 12-ounce plastic bags. Discard any discolored or shriveled berries. Besides traditional cranberry sauce, they also make good chutneys, pies, cobblers, and other desserts. They are very tart so are best when combined with other fruits such as apples or dried apricots. Fresh cranberries are high in vitamin C. They have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Check out these fall-veggie-packed recipes for Thanksgiving or for sides for any meal.
By Kelly Devine Rickert, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN
Registered Dietitian, Franciscan WELLCARE