Here’s a Quick Guide to The Best Seasonal Foods: Fall Edition
Marchan, Gabrielle. “Seasonal Fall Fruits Infographic.” 2020, jpeg file.
This season brings change all around us; from the mesmerizing colors of the leaves, to digging our sweaters out of storage, and even to the food in our pantries! The beginning of fall ripens an array of fruits and vegetables at their peak! Seasonal eating is going to benefit your health, your wallet, and the planet. The key is knowing what exactly is in season and where to find these delicious new foods.
Benefits to Eating in Season
You might be thinking, what is the point of seasonal eating? Can’t I just get whatever I see in the store? You certainly can! If you are craving strawberries and want to splurge on them out-of-season, go ahead! We don’t want you to stop eating the fruits and vegetables that you enjoy, we just hope you become more conscious about your food choices and find the excitement in seasonal eating!
While it is true that globalization has made it possible to get avocados from Mexico in November or navel oranges from Chile in June, these options can come with negative externalities that consumers may not be aware of. We often forget that the freshest and most nutrient-rich produce can also be found here in the United States – you just have to know when it grows! Buying local in-season produce has a myriad of benefits for both you and the planet.
Produce grown in-season will yield more crop, as opposed to produce that is forced to grow out of their natural cycles. When a product is in abundance, the price usually reduces. This works in your favor when choosing to eat seasonal foods! Embracing what’s in season can save you more than just a few pennies. Studies show that out-of-season food can be double or even triple the price of its in-season counterpart! Eating healthy doesn’t have to break your bank this fall – fill your cart with what’s in season, which may mean trying something new!
Nutrition & Taste
Another benefit to seasonal eating is the nutritional benefit! Eating produce that is freshly picked ensures you are getting the maximum amount of nutrients you can from your food. A study by the University of California found that vegetables can lose between 15-55% of vitamin C within the first week after being harvested. If you factor in the time it takes to ship produce from across the globe along with the time that produce sits in the store before you purchase it, who knows how many nutrients and vitamins have already been lost!
Filling up on fall fruits and vegetables will provide you with the necessary antioxidants and vitamins to fight off cold and flu season! So go ahead and make that hearty vegetable soup filled with fall veggies to keep you warm and to keep your immune system sharp!
Not only will your produce be more nutritious when eaten in season, but will taste better too! Fruits and vegetables grown out of season may use ripening agents to make them ripen faster, which can often sacrifice flavor and texture. Have you ever bitten into a strawberry that was bland? Chances are it was grown out of season. Hopefully you’ve never sliced into a tomato only to find it pale and watery, if so, it likely wasn’t naturally in season at the time.
Besides ripening agents, produce that has to travel long distances may have been treated with postharvest techniques such as heat treatment, edible coatings, and anti-browning agents. These techniques are used to slow down the ripening (and thus, rotting) process of produce, ensuring that it lasts long enough to make it to our tables. While these processes may sound daunting, they are safe to consume and we rely on them globally in order to meet the demands for food. It’s important to know what is in – and on – your food, so if postharvest techniques don’t sound like your cup of tea, opting for local fresh fruits and vegetables may minimize the chances of you consuming food treated by them (check with your farmer though – they may also use these techniques).
Supports Local Community
While buying in season doesn’t mean you have to buy locally grown produce, the two typically go hand-in-hand. Local smallholder farms will typically be growing what makes sense for the season. Why does this matter? Buying local means investing back into your own economy! When we buy from larger corporations we may not see that money reinvested back into our towns or cities. Moreover, most of those big stores are importing produce from out of the country. Data shows that the USA imported 16.4 billion dollars in produce in 2019. Obviously, we cannot grow all the produce we need here in the USA, so it is vital that we maintain these trades, but what if we could invest some of that money into our local farms? Imagine the difference we would make by getting more produce locally! Your local farmer is going to be spending money the same way you do, in your own community, so you can trust that they will continue to invest back into the economy and feel confident about the companies that get your support.
Better for the Environment
Choosing to eat seasonal produce from local farms isn’t just better for you and your community, but it helps the planet too! Now that’s a sweet treat! On average, our produce travels 1500 miles to get from the farm to our plate. Those miles don’t just mean your food is losing flavor and nutrition, but the greenhouse gasses emitted during transportation are detrimental to the environment. Whether your produce is being transported by plane, trucks, or ships, the farther it has to travel the more likely it is to emit more harmful gases into the atmosphere. Choosing to buy from your local farm will cut out that lengthy transportation, reduce your food miles, and minimize your carbon footprint, resulting in a more sustainable diet.
So, What Should I Eat?
Now that we know why we should eat in season, let’s get to the good stuff – what should we eat that’s in season this fall! Make sure to add a few of these seasonal products to your cart next time you go to the store.
Looking for a fall adventure? Visit your local apple orchard for a fun day trip the whole family can take part in! You can teach your kids about where their food comes from. Or make it a cute romantic date, then go home and cozy up with a freshly baked apple pie! Buying apples in season will guarantee the crispest sweetest bite!
You may think of artichokes in the late spring, but they actually bloom twice a year – including in the fall!
Bonus tip: look for ones with tight compact leaves.
Similar to artichokes, arugula also has two growing seasons! This peppery green is less bitter when eaten in season, and packs a nutrient-rich punch of vitamin K, C, A, calcium, and folate.
Beetroots are a great source of fiber, folate, iron, and potassium. They can help lower blood pressure and improve blood flow!
This common household veggie is often taken for granted. It’s a helpful immune booster; just one cup of broccoli has roughly 45% of your daily recommended amount of vitamin C, and more than 64% of your daily vitamin K!
6: Brussel Sprouts
If you’re like me, then brussel sprouts may seem unappealing at first. The right recipe was all I needed to turn these into one of my favorite veggies! I recommend roasting them in the oven or in a high heat pan to get an irresistible crisp. If you are able to get them still on the stalk, they are going to be fresher, the extra work is worth it!
7: Butternut Squash
One of the many orange veggies (secret: it’s actually a fruit!) we get to enjoy in the fall is the sweet buttery flavor of butternut squash – all while getting a dose of vitamins A, C, E, and B6.
(Tip: look for squash that feels heavy!)
While cabbage can be grown for several months out of the year, it is sweetest in cool weather!
Another orange veggie associated with fall (even though it has two seasons, one in the spring). Don’t be afraid to try carrots of different colors – they come in reds, purples, and yellow!
Cauliflower has been gaining popularity lately as a vegan alternative to “wings”. Have some fun messing around in the kitchen to reinvent this typically bland veggie!
Just in time for Thanksgiving – cranberries! Instead of reaching for the canned cranberry sauce, grab some fresh berries and try your hand at a homemade sauce this holiday!
If you think of figs and immediately think of fig newtons, then you’ll be shocked when you try a fresh fig for the first time! These fruits are soft and have a subtle sweetness.
These are a great fall snack that will boost your immune system with powerful antioxidants!
14: Green Beans
Using green beans to meet your daily folate needs can help curb depression, which may help fight off the winter blues we may experience.
Mushrooms are most plentiful in the fall – just make sure you know your types, and remember, never eat wild mushrooms you are unfamiliar with!
Get 20% of your daily fiber this winter through pears!
The sweet yet tart edible flesh of pomegranates can be difficult to get to at times, but have no fear, here is a video of how to get those yummy seeds out, without getting your hands covered in juice.
It’s the season for mashed potatoes and hearty potato soups! Don’t feel bad about slipping potatoes into a few of your meals this fall – they’re at their peak, you might as well enjoy them!
Ah, the ultimate symbol of fall. Whether you like to carve them or cook them, pumpkins are a great source of nutrients. Check out “Health Benefits of Pumpkin: The Spooky-Season Superfood”.
20: Sweet Potatoes
Another great addition to soups! Don’t be afraid to cook and eat them with the skin on, it will provide more nutrients!
21: Swiss Chard
Stay healthy this fall by loading up on this leafy green full of minerals and vitamins!
Where Can I Find These?
While the most obvious choice is to go to your local supercenter grocery store, try one of these alternatives: growing to spare! If you have your own garden you can start a produce exchange program, which will not just enrich your diet, but also community!
Instead of going to the store with specific fruits and veggies in mind, take a moment to look around at what is in season.
- Farmers Markets: Your local farmer’s market won’t just have the freshest in season produce, but it will also help your local economy! Local farmers invest back into the local economy, unlike large corporations who may be based elsewhere. Getting to know your farmer also means getting to know where your food comes from, meaning you can feel more comfortable about your food choices.
- Community Supported Agriculture (CSA): These are programs that allow you to buy a share of produce directly from a farmer. It’s a fresh produce subscription, without all the complicated sign-ups! Learn more about CSAs here.
- Your Neighborhood: It may sound obvious, but check in with your neighbors to see if they have anything growing! Let nature help you decide what’s for dinner tonight! I challenge you to have one meal this week made up of seasonal produce! If you want to find region specific foods in your area, try out this easy to use tool.
Marchan, Gabrielle. “Seasonal Fall Vegetables Infographic.” 2020, jpeg file.
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