As you bid farewell to many of your favorite fruits and vegetables during the final days of summer, take note that those cooling autumn breezes usher in a new menu of choices to savor. Fall’s bounty presents a colorful palette of hearty textures and earthy flavors. Delight your palate, enhance your well-being and color your plate with these 10 healthy fall harvest foods.
Beets are a root vegetable, just like carrots, parsnips and turnips. Beets lend your immune system an assist by arming your body with antioxidants that are known as beta-carotene and betalains.
The ruby red pigment of a beet’s flesh is called betacyanin, which offers anti-inflammatory benefits. Beets are also excellent sources of potassium, fiber, and folate. In ancient Rome, beets were even thought to provide aphrodisiac properties.
Why should you try beets? Fresh beets are tastier and lack the rubbery texture of those that your grandmother may have served from a can. They come in a variety of hues, from dark red to golden yellow to red and white candy stripes. Beets are versatile when it comes to cooking and enjoying, but the best way to try beets is to roast them in your oven. Simply cut the beets into chunks or small wedges, toss them with salt, pepper and olive oil, and roast them at 450-degrees for 30 minutes.
The roasting process caramelizes the beet’s natural sugars and brings out the sweet flavor. Other ways to serve up beets include:
• Add leftover roasted beets to a salad.
• Make borscht, the Russian beet soup that was served as an offering of welcome to the Apollo 18 astronauts to sip at zero gravity during the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz collaboration between the USSR and the United States.
• When roasting the beets, add a combination of other fall vegetables, potatoes and chopped fresh herbs to the pan. You may choose to incorporate the next vegetable listed here into this colorful fall vegetable medley.
2. Brussels sprouts
These miniature cabbages pack a substantial punch of health benefits. They are loaded with vitamin C, which is an excellent immune system booster, as well as vitamin K, which can be helpful in staving off the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Brussels sprouts are also good sources of fiber, folate, vitamin A, iron and B-complex vitamins. Brussels sprouts were named after the capital city of Belgium, the country in which they were cultivated during the 13th century. Why should you try Brussels sprouts?
These green orbs earned a bad rap when, until the end of the last century, home cooks would relegate them into pots of boiling water for copious amounts of time. The result was a stink that wafted throughout the home and drab, olive green presentations to reluctant diners. Give Brussels sprouts another chance by cooking them the right way, and there are numerous ways to accomplish just that.
Like beets, they benefit from roasting once you halve them lengthwise and place the halves, cut side down, on a sheet pan and seasoned them with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Brussels sprouts may be purchased loose or attached to the large harvested stalks on which they grew. Enjoy Brussels sprouts in a variety of ways, including:
• Serve roasted Brussels sprouts on a salad of romaine leaves, walnuts and a walnut oil and apple cider vinaigrette.
• For a special side dish, toss roasted or steamed Brussels sprouts with bacon or pancetta, toasted hazelnuts, apple cider vinegar, hazelnut oil, salt, and pepper.
• Lightly steam the Brussels sprouts, and then toss them with a little salt, pepper, olive oil and grated pecorino Romano cheese. If this addition of cheese fails to tempt your child’s appetite, consider offering the next vegetable listed here instead.
3. Spaghetti squash
Spaghetti squash belongs to the group of tough-skinned winter squashes that includes butternut squash, acorn squash, Hubbard squash and turban squash.
Spaghetti squash is low in calories, which enables those with hearty appetites to indulge in larger serving sizes without guilt. Spaghetti squash has a respectable fiber content, which means that those hearty appetites will be satiated.
Why should you try spaghetti squash? The trait that makes spaghetti squash unique is that once it is cooked, the flesh resembles translucent yellow, spaghetti-like strands when pulled from the skin. To the delight of parents, this quality makes for a hassle-free way to get the children to eat a healthy fall vegetable. Its buttery and mildly nutty flavor notes make spaghetti squash palatable to even the pickiest eater.
To prepare a spaghetti squash, cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Lightly brush the cut sides with olive oil, and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Place the two halves cut-side down in a roasting pan, and roast the squash in a 450-degree oven for 30 minutes. To remove the flesh, invert the two halves and pull the flesh out from the skins with a fork. Once you have removed the strands and deposited them into a bowl, consider these serving ideas:
• For a side dish, toss the strands with pesto sauce.
• For a one-dish meal, combine the strands with cooked Italian sausage, spaghetti sauce and sautéed bell peppers, onion, garlic, and mushrooms. Place this mixture into the emptied squash shell halves, top each one with grated Pecorino Romano cheese, and bake for 30 minutes at 350-degrees. Spaghetti squash is not the only winter squash that plays well with other ingredients, as you will read next.
4. Butternut squash
The Australians call this vegetable a butternut pumpkin. Butternut squash is an excellent source of vitamin A, which is essential for eye health.
The gourd also provides fiber, potassium, beta-carotene and B-complex vitamins. Like spaghetti squash, butternut squash is low in calories and cholesterol. Why should you try butternut squash?
The vibrant orange flesh of a butternut squash makes it a popular choice for adding fall color to a wide variety of epicurean presentations. The mildly sweet and buttery flavors come through when the squash is prepared in a number of cooking methods, including roasting, baking and steaming. Try these delicious and satisfying dishes, many of which incorporate additional fall foods to enjoy:
• Use pureed butternut squash as a flavorful thickener for corn chowder.
• Puree the cooked squash with a little butter and maple syrup for a special side dish.
• Cooked and diced butternut squash can be stirred into a risotto along with mushrooms and finely chopped fresh sage.
• Add cubed and roasted butternut squash to a salad of mixed greens, dried cranberries, and pecans. For yet another punch of vegetable goodness, roast a batch of the next vegetable to add to this salad as well.
Broccoli, like Brussels sprouts, is another vegetable that many, including former United States President George H.W. Bush, have shunned. This is likely due to the fact that the broccoli was also boiled until it was reduced to a smelly, olive-green mush.
Broccoli is low in calories and cholesterol, and it is rich in vitamins C, K, and A. Broccoli is also a good source of fiber and folate. Broccoli has been consumed in Europe for roughly 2,000 years. Its name is of Italian origin, and the vegetable was introduced in the United States by Italian immigrants. Why should you try broccoli?
This member of the cabbage family is an economical purchase in that every part of the vegetable is edible. New cultivars have introduced some additional color choices at the local farm stands, including purple. Broccoli can be enjoyed raw by dipping the florets into hummus for a healthy snack or by shredding the thick stem for the start of an Asian slaw recipe. Keeping in mind that broccoli cooks quickly and should remain bright green and crisp, try sampling these cooked presentations:
• Roast broccoli florets with cloves of garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, olive oil, and salt.
• Stir broccoli florets into a simmering soup of tortellini, carrots, cauliflower and pesto.
• Toss broccoli florets into the wok as part of a stir-fry ingredient combination, such as with chicken and the fall food that is mentioned next.
The earthy aroma of mushrooms makes them an ideal choice when seeking out fall ingredients. The fungi, like many of the aforementioned foods, are low in calories and cholesterol.
They provide selenium, potassium, vitamin D, and such B vitamins as niacin and riboflavin. Approximately half of the mushrooms are grown in China, which is no surprise when you consider that traditional Chinese medicine has embraced the healing properties of mushrooms for several centuries.
Why should you try mushrooms? While the ever-popular white button mushroom can be bland in flavor and appearance, some other varieties infuse varying textures, shapes, flavor notes and woodland hues of browns and tans to side dishes, soups, and entrees. Some specimens to sample include porcini, chanterelle, shiitake, maitake, cremini and Portobello. Try some of these savory preparations:
• Sauté sliced Portobello mushrooms, and then reduce balsamic vinegar in the pan with the mushrooms for a steak topping.
• Sauté three or four different varieties of mushrooms with minced garlic and finely chopped fresh sage, and then reduce a splash of cream sherry in the pan with this mixture for a savory side dish.
• Horizontally halve a loaf of Italian bread lengthwise and top with sautéed mushrooms, caramelized red onion slices, fresh rosemary and goat cheese for an earthy pizza.
• Stir mushrooms into wild rice soup. As you seek the warming comfort of soups, consider making one with the next quintessential fall food.
With the approach of Halloween, pumpkins arrive on the scene at farm stands and supermarkets. Pumpkins are powerhouses of antioxidants and beta-carotenes. Pumpkins are grown throughout the world with the exception of Antarctica.
Native Americans utilized every part of the pumpkin, including the seeds for medicinal purposes and the skins for mats. While the autumn tradition of pumpkin pie originated in colonial America, the custom of carving pumpkins into Jack-o-lanterns began in Ireland.
Why should you try pumpkin? There is more to the gourd than a pumpkin pie ingredient. There are numerous varieties of pumpkins that vary in size, shape, color and surface texture, but the sugar pumpkin is the most sought after culinary specimen. Once you have selected your pumpkin, consider these delicious ways to consume it:
• Use the flesh to make a creamy pureed soup that you season with autumn spices.
• Roast the seeds for a snack that will keep your heart happy with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
These deep crimson little berries have long been used as part of a proactive measure to prevent urinary tract infections.
Cranberries, which grow in bogs, also contain antioxidants and phytonutrients, which are plant-based nutrients that aid in maintaining optimal health and well-being.
Cranberries are one of only three fruits that originated in North America. Native Americans incorporated cranberries into their diets for the fruit’s anti-inflammatory properties. Why should you try cranberries?
They require no chopping, peeling or pitting to enjoy them in a variety of different ways. While you should take advantage of the fresh cranberry season, fresh cranberries are too acidic for most palates to enjoy. Dried cranberries offer a snacking option that is less tart, and they are more versatile for tossing into dishes that require no cooking or baking. Consider these options:
• Make a homemade cranberry sauce from fresh cranberries to pass around with the turkey, and allocate the leftover sauce to use as a topping for ice cream, yogurt and hot cereal.
• Stir dried cranberries into whole grain pilafs.
• Treat your family once this fall to a recipe for blondies, and stir some fresh cranberries, white chocolate chips and walnuts into the batter.
• Toss dried cranberries into fall salads. You may also consider changing up your salads with the next fruity fall food.
Originating in ancient Egypt, figs were mentioned throughout Biblical texts. Figs are loaded with potassium, which is beneficial to those with hypertension. Figs are also a good source of dietary fiber and vitamin A.
Most of the world’s figs are grown in the Mediterranean region and in the state of California. Why should you try figs? Aside from the fact that your only experience with figs may be in the form of a popular bar cookie, figs are an elegant presentation on platters.
Their teardrop shape, dark purple skin and deep pink flesh that are characteristic of mission figs make them appealing to look at and sweet to savor. There are several other varieties of figs, including brown Turkish figs, green Kadota figs, Adriatic and Calimyrna. Try these delectable ways to indulge in fresh figs:
• Top crostini with Gorgonzola cheese and coarsely chopped figs.
• Poach figs in Port wine to serve as a topping for ice cream or yogurt.
• Add figs to a salad of arugula, pancetta, goat cheese, and walnuts. Once the short-lived season of fresh figs ends, you can swap them out for the next fall favorite on this list.
The most popular fruit of fall is filled with fiber to make for a satiating snack for those on a quest to lose a few pounds.
Apples also contain nutrients to accomplish a host of healthy benefits, including lowering cholesterol, reducing blood sugar spikes, preserving eye health, improving gastrointestinal health and fighting cancer.
Why should you try apples? You may think that you have already tried apples, but you have only scratched the surface. Although you have undoubtedly experienced the flavors and textures of red delicious, granny smith and McIntosh apples, did you know that more than 7,000 different varieties of apples are grown in orchards worldwide?
When the start of the apple-picking season rolls around, seize the opportunity to sample some varieties that you have never tasted before, such as the crisp and golden Mutsu or the burgundy-hued, wine flavored Arkansas black. Apples are durable, easy snacks to tote along in a backpack on those fall hiking and biking expeditions. In addition to enjoying the simplicity of biting down on a crisp, juicy and unadorned apple, add apples into these dishes for rewarding sweet flavor indulgences:
• Add slices of apples to Belgian endive spears, walnuts, chives and an apple balsamic vinaigrette for a beautiful fall salad.
• Stir chopped apples into your morning oatmeal.
• Since everyone needs an occasional indulgence, especially during the baking season, combine apple slices, pear slices and fresh, whole cranberries, and top the mixture with a cinnamon-laced streusel topping for the ultimate fall fruit crisp.