The Best of Fall

Image courtesy of Rebecca D

As the days start to get shorter and the nights just a little cooler, and we say goodbye to our favorite sun-filled time of year, it’s time to start looking forward to something else – fall foods. September brings a wealth of magnificent fruits and vegetables that can make the shorter days seem that much brighter.

What to Buy and When

The fall season begins on September 22nd and ends on December 21st – four months of food choices. Take a look at what is available:

Fall = comfort food + warm drinks.

With so much to choose from starting in September, it’s hard to decide which to eat first.  Apples make sweet and delicious tarts for eating or warm and comforting ciders for drinking.  Squashes feel cozier than wool socks when made into a creamy and decadent soup.  Watermelons and limes give us a burst of freshness to welcome the fall and end the summer with a positive note.

Whichever fruit or vegetable you choose, numerous recipes are available for them.   From soups to desserts to drinks, and even for pickling and jams, you can find a new dish to make for each fall day.  Use them as the star of your dinner, or simply as a supporting actor to meat, poultry, or fish. 

Fall’s Top Ten

10. Cabbage

This food chameleon takes on the flavor of other ingredients it is cooked with, making it a versatile choice for fall foods.

Cabbage (especially red cabbage) eases inflammation and helps raise levels of heart-protective antioxidants.  It also lowers oxidized LDL (linked to the hardening of arteries). Great to eat raw in salads or cooked, it is easily a top-ten fall favorite!

9. Key Limes

When one thinks of key limes, we think of the Florida Keys.  That makes sense because that is where they are mostly grown.  Fortunately for us, key limes are imported and are easy to find in any supermarket year-round.  They are high in Vitamin C and antioxidants and have numerous health benefits.   Key limes may improve immunity, reduce heart disease risk factors, prevent kidney stones, and promote healthy skin.  They are slightly tart and bitter and are commonly used for desserts or in dressings.   Their unique flavor balances well with sweets and lets you think of summer one last time while welcoming fall.

8. Cranberries

When you think of cranberries, you think of Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Although they are often used to make a sauce for turkey during these festive occasions, they are an extremely versatile fruit.  This tiny red berry packs a huge amount of flavor and is one great superfood.  Their high nutrient and antioxidant content has been linked to the prevention of certain types of cancer, improved immune function, and decreased blood pressure.  Not too tart and not too sweet, they can be eaten raw, dried, cooked, or in juices in a multitude of recipes. 

7.  Blueberries

Like their cousin, the cranberry, blueberries are an antioxidant superfood.  They are packed full of nutrients like potassium, Vitamin C, and phytoflavinoids that help prevent damage to cells throughout the body.  Studies have shown they can reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s diseases.  No wonder these little blue balls are the top choice of doctors and nutritionists around the world.  Small but juicy, blueberries have a sweet taste and are perfect for baked goods.

6. Cauliflower

Naturally high in fiber and B-vitamins, cauliflower can help protect against cancer, enhance weight loss and digestion, and help with learning and memory.  This nutty and sweet vegetable has a mild enough flavor that it easily blends with other ingredients.  

5.  Eggplant

Like its fall friends, eggplant is good for you. High in Vitamins A and C, both of which protect cells against damage, and polyphenols that help process sugar more efficiently (ideal for diabetics), it is a versatile, tasty, and healthy vegetable choice.  Eggplants have a rich, mild taste when cooked with a soft and creamy texture.  They are also one of Greece’s most famous vegetables. (Moussaka anyone?)

Moussaka

4.  Squash

Squash comes in many different varieties, and each is ideal for several dishes from sweet to savory. Several of them are rich in vitamin B6 and vitamin C, as well as antioxidants. Some of the most popular varieties include:  

Acorn – A small squash with dark green/orange skin and a subtly sweet and nutty taste that is great in soups or casseroles.

Banana – Shaped like a banana, this is one of the most versatile squashes. It has a sweet flavor and a fine texture that makes it great for many dishes, including desserts.

Butternut – The butternut squash is shaped like a bell and is usually beige to orange in color. 

It has a sweet, nutty flavor similar to sweet potatoes. Great in soups and casseroles, it is also delicious oven-roasted.

Buttercup – This turban-like shaped squash is much sweeter than other varieties. Buttercup squash is ideal for mash and casseroles.

Spaghetti – This watermelon-shaped squash can grow up to 5 pounds and has a mild, nutlike flavor. The most yellow is the ripest and the best to eat. When cooked, the flesh separates into strands that resemble spaghetti pasta. It is often used as a pasta substitute for just this reason.

Other varieties include Ambercup (available April to November), Autumn Cup (September to December), Carnival (year-round, but best in the late summer to early fall), Delicata (same as Carnival), Fairytale (September to November), Gold Nugget (year-round, but best in the late summer to early winter), Hubbard (year-round, but best in the fall to winter), Kabocha (year-round), Turban (same as Carnival), and Winter.

3. Corn

Driving by any Ontario fields, you will probably see corn growing.  Corn is the largest volume crop with an average of between 7.5 to 9 million metric tons a year grown on 2 million acres.  That’s a good thing because corn is a versatile vegetable that is also good for you.  Rich in Vitamin C, corn can help fight cancer and heart diseases.  It is also reputed to help prevent the lens damage that leads to cataracts.  Corn is extremely sweet, and cooking intensifies this flavor.  Eat it in stews, bread, salads, or on the cob slathered with butter.

2. Leeks

Leeks belong to the onion family and add a sweet depth to any dish – from soups to stews to stuffing.  Rich in flavonoids, leeks have anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, and anti-cancer properties. 

1. Apples

An apple a day keeps the doctor away – isn’t that what they say?  Sweet and juicy, apples are perfect for all types of cooking.  They are just as good eaten fresh.  With over 7,500 varieties worldwide, it would take more than twenty-one years to try them all if eating just one per day!  The health benefits to apples are as numerous as their varieties.  They may help lower cholesterol and blood pressure; the antioxidants may help certain types of cancer; the fiber can help digestion; they support a healthy immune system; the natural sugars found in apples are diabetes-friendly. That is just the start of their benefits!  With so many natural nutrients and versatility, apples are our #1 fall food choice.

If the foods are not enough to get you excited about fall, let’s not forget all the other celebrations coming our way.  Thanksgiving is just around the corner, as is Halloween.  Both of these holidays give you a chance to enjoy something sweet and something savory.  Maybe your top ten list will be a little different.  In any case, look for some tasty recipes on this website that include our fall favorites!

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