A Guide To Fall Produce

Find my original article here

photo by Sage Warner

If you like to buy produce in the seasons in which they grow, you may notice that your bag of groceries has become heavier. Seasonally, tomatoes, eggplants and zucchini have left us; now we are blessed with root vegetables, squash galore and an abundance of apples. These foods may take a little more effort to prepare than just slicing a tomato and eating it with bread, but I guarantee that once you get the hang of it, they’re worth the wait.

Below is a guide to how to choose these lovely fruits and vegetables, as well as suggestions on how to prepare them. For more specific recipes on how to cook fall produce, watch for upcoming issues of the Vanguard, since I will likely be experimenting myself. On a side note, I am no farmer or produce expert, and the very best person to ask is those who are working at the farmer’s market or your favorite produce clerk at the grocery store. Now go out and explore—that way you’ll have some side dishes to bring home during the holidays.

Brussels sprouts

Best pick:

Sometimes you can buy these on their stalks (which is usually the freshest option), and they look a little like a weapon. The smaller the sprouts, the better condition they will likely be in. Also, avoid any yellow leaves.

How to cook:

Roasted sprouts are always nice, but when you shred them and sauté in olive oil, you get a crispy flavor you never thought could come from the little unpopular globes.

Parsnips

Best pick:

Thinner stalks are usually better; when they’re bigger, they have a tough exterior that make them stay tough even when you’re through roasting. Never had a parsnip? Just think of them as the carrot’s silky cousin.

How to cook:

When pureed with potatoes, they are creamy and delightful.

Carrots

Best pick:

Pick carrot stalks that are firm, not rubbery or bendable. I like the ones with tops still on and that are a vibrant and clean orange, but the dirtier ones at farmer’s markets are just as good—the just take a little extra preparation.

How to cook:

Shredded in a salad with a cumin/orange vinaigrette is always nice, or of course, added to your favorite mix of roasted veggies.

Squash (all varieties)

Best pick:

There are so many kinds of squash, you could try a new one each week for the whole season and never run out of options. Luckily, they last for weeks on end. One way you can be sure it’ll stick around for a while is by making sure there aren’t any soft spots on the shell. Most need to be peeled, but Delicata squash’s skin is actually edible.

How to cook:

Roasting and pureeing are always good options, and sage adds a warm, autumn taste.

Chard, kale and other greens

Best pick:

These are simple to choose—just pick firm, unwilted leaves, usually a dark green.

How to cook:

Sautéed with chopped garlic towards the end of cooking and then doused in sherry vinegar is a fabulous side.

Chestnuts

Best pick:

Choose big, heavy, full ones that don’t rattle when you shake.

How to cook:

Simply roasted in an extremely hot oven, these are good on their own. Just remember to score the flat sides with Xs before cooking.

Sweet Potatoes

Best pick:

Choose clean, undamaged tubers without soft spots or holes.

How to cook:

My all-time favorite way to eat a sweet potato is to bake it, and then dress in olive oil, chili powder and cilantro if you have it. You’ll never think to use marshmallows again.

Apples

Best pick:

Only buy a soft apple if you are cooking it. I like to choose ones without indents or holes, but I’m sure I’m just finicky. My favorite varieties are honeycrisp and pink lady, which both find a happy medium between tart and sweet.

How to cook:

I wouldn’t know; I like to eat these raw as a snack or an element of breakfast.

Pears

Best pick:

There are dozens of varieties of pears. A way to tell when a pear is ripe is to softly push near the stem. If it is soft, that pear is ready for eating. Barletts are juicy and sweet.

How to cook:

Slice and put on a plate with your favorite cheeses and nuts for a simple appetizer or lunch. ■

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