We may have to wait another year before summer’s sweetest treats are back on the table, but before you resign yourself to canned goods and sub-par produce, know that fall is full of power-packed, seasonal goodies bursting with flavor and nutrients. We’ve put together a list of some of fall’s best bounty to inspire you to enjoy what this season has to offer.
If you’re not sure what to shop for lately, we’re to help. SheKnows got some insight from food and nutrition authority and registered dietitian Jasia Steinmetz, author of Eat Local: Simple Steps to Enjoy Real, Healthy & Affordable Food. She shares her top picks for what to add to your table this fall. “The beauty of seasons is reflected in our change to a fall diet as we get ready for winter,” she explains. “The abundance of autumn whole foods from your local farmers is flavorful and nutritious.”
Don’t discount this odd-shaped vegetable, Steinmetz says. “Rutabagas are back on fall plates owing to their great versatility in the kitchen.” High in fiber, this versatile veggie provides vitamin C — essential for healthy cells and immune function, and potassium, which helps regulate the cardiovascular system. The crisp texture and mild turnip-cabbage type flavor lend themselves well to a variety of dishes both raw and cooked.
- Once peeled, chop, dice or shred for use raw in salads.
- Mix with other seasonal favorites such as sweet potatoes and squash and roast for a hearty pairing for chicken or fish.
- Boil and mash as you would potatoes.
- Add to soups and stews to thicken and add texture.
Kale is the darling of the dark green, fall vegetable crop – with good reason. It’s a rich source of calcium, fiber and vitamins B6 and C, and the phytochemicals in kale have been associated with lowering the risk of cancer, as well as anti-inflammatory and cholesterol lowering activity. “Kale is part of nature’s pharmacopeia for the cold and flu season,” Steinmetz says. Kale is also a sturdy vegetable that stands up to longer cooking times without withering and it adds interest and a slight spiciness, with a hint of bitterness that can easily be offset with seasoning.
- Sauté with olive oil and garlic and serve as a side dish.
- Wilt into pasta before adding sauce to boost the nutritional value of your dish.
- Chop finely and add to salads.
- Use kale leaves as wraps in place of pitas or tortillas. Fill with your favorite sandwich fillings, wrap and enjoy.
Wild rice, indigenous to North America, gives an earthy, nutty flavor to any meal and adds protein, phosphorus, iron, potassium and magnesium to your diet. It takes slightly longer to cook than brown rice (from 45 to 60 minutes) but the result is worth the effort. Steinmetz recommends cooking wild rice in chicken or vegetable broth for added flavor.
- Combine with brown rice for a fiber-rich treat eaten hot or cold.
- Use as you would in stir fry or other rice-based dishes.
- Add to soups and stuffing.
- Put leftover wild rice to good use in a tasty breakfast cereal for chilly mornings. Warm with milk and add nuts, cinnamon or cardamom for a quick, nutritious start of the day.
Squashes are available in a wide variety of textures, colors and flavors, from mild to bold. The high carotenoid and vitamin C content help boost your immune system while providing manganese and potassium. From soups to desserts, you can use squash in every course of the meal.
- Roast a butternut squash and use to make a sweet and creamy soup. Add apples for added depth and flavor.
- Boil and mash in combination with white or sweet potatoes.
- Once baked, spaghetti squash mimics noodles. Pull them out with a fork and sauté with your favorite sauce.
- Blend cooked squash with white beans, garlic and seasonings for a hearty dip.
The much-loved spud has a lot more nutrients than we give it credit for. Potatoes are packed with vitamins C and B6, copper, potassium and manganese, and new research has highlighted the purple potato for its association with lowering blood pressure. Other phytochemicals in potatoes help boost your immune system and scavenge free radicals.
- Microwaving potatoes is a healthy fast food.
- Bake potatoes and top with a variety of healthy add-ons such as low-fat yogurt or salsa.
- Roast cubed potatoes with rosemary and olive oil for a tasty, robust side dish.
- The creamy comfort of mashed potatoes is hard to resist. Make them even more inviting by adding a handful of sharp, grated cheddar or tangy goat cheese and chives.
Beets have the dual culinary advantage – beet leaves make a tasty and nutrient-dense stir-fry addition, while the phytochemicals in beets provide many health benefits. Lutein and zeaxanthin are important for healthy eyes, betalain has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxification functions, not to mention beets also provide more than one-third of your daily value in folate. To retain the nutrient and phytochemical content of this powerhouse vegetable, cook lightly.
- Grate raw beets into a green salad for a burst of color.
- Create a salad of cooked, sliced beets, goat cheese, arugula and a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette.
- Roasting beets brings out their sweetness.
- Pickled beets make a flavorful addition to any meal.
Watch: How to pickle vegetables
Learn how easy it is to pickle your own vegetables at home!