Your Fall Produce Guide

As the calendar turns to fall, the produce bins at your local farmer’s market will start to see some new occupants. The cooler weather and shorter days help some fruits and vegetables thrive, and farmers maximize their yields by re-planting crops with shorter growing cycles. Many of these vegetables benefit from the cooler weather, reaching their full potential during the fall growing season. In this fall produce guide we will take a look at some of the healthiest, tastiest produce available this autumn.

Apples

In season from July-October.

While most orchards harvest throughout the summer, there’s a reason Apple Harvest Festivals occur in the fall. This is when the crop reaches its peak. Phytonutrients and antioxidants provide the truth behind the old “apple a day” adage.

Arugula

In season from May-September.

Though the primary crop is harvested in early summer, a secondary crop is planted in the late summer in warmer climates and harvested right up until first frost. Packing vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals galore, these low-calorie greens can help you get full flavor from a healthy meal.

Beets

In season from September-November.

Beets don’t do well in the intense summer heat, so those of you who received beets in the first few weeks of your CSA this year should see an encore as farmers re-plant them toward the end of summer to prepare for a second fall harvest. They also offer two-for-one nutrition. Between the roots and the greens, beets contain just about every nutrient you can think of.

Broccoli

In season from September-November.

The first of many vegetables on our list that yields a sweeter product when grown in cooler weather, broccoli is a bona fide superfood packing more vitamin C than an orange, folate, potassium, dietary fiber and more.

Brussel Sprouts/Cabbage

In season from September-March.

These cruciferous cousins can grow right through winter in some milder climates, so everyone can enjoy local produce through the fall. Vitamins A and C highlight the nutrient list, which also includes glucosinolates, a cancer-fighting compound.

Carrots

In season from June-September.

Packed with beta-carotene, an important antioxidant, the carrot harvest really reaches maturity in late summer and fall. Studies suggest that cooked carrots might be more nutritious than raw, as more antioxidants are released during the cooking process than are usually found in raw carrots. Raw carrots are good for snacking, as their sweetness can be a healthy way to satisfy your sweet tooth craving.

Chard

In season from September-November.

Like all hearty “braising” greens, chard can be bitter when its growing climate is too warm. Fall harvest yields a sweeter crop. Chard contains omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals — just about everything you could pack into a natural food.

Mushrooms

In season from September-November.

Since mushrooms these days are mostly grown inside, their growing season easily extends into the fall and winter. Mushrooms contain niacin and riboflavin, and certain varieties, like the shiitake, contain lentinan, a cancer-fighter. Use them as a meaty substitute if you are looking to reduce the red meat in your diet.

Pumpkins

In season from October-November.

Might seem to be the obvious choice, but they are the very symbol of autumn for a reason. The flesh contains beta-carotene, and the seeds are packed with minerals, omega-3 fatty acids and anti-inflammatory compounds. Don’t throw those seeds away when you make your jack-o-lantern!

Spinach

In season from September-November.

Like chard, spinach can benefit from a cooler growing climate, so the fall harvest can be of exceptional quality. Spinach is another so-called “superfood” packed with Vitamins A and C, folic acid, antioxidants, iron and calcium.

Sweet Potatoes

In season from September-November.

A healthy option to satisfy your sweet tooth, so long as you don’t drown them in brown sugar and butter. Sweet potatoes are loaded with B vitamins, minerals, beta-carotene and dietary fiber. Though they are available year-round in most places, the first fall harvest is usually the best of the crop.

This list is hardly exhaustive. The families of most of these fruits and vegetables belong to other members with useful fall harvests. Squash related to the pumpkin, hearty greens related to chard, and cauliflower related to brussel sprouts and cabbage is all great this time of year. The end of summer doesn’t have to mean the end of your fresh, healthy diet.

Photo: Elle Ann

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