Sure, summer’s known for its bounty of sweet berries and juicy watermelon, but fall’s no slouch either when it comes to produce.
From the moment those first leaves change color to their inevitable plunge from the trees, your local farmer’s market teems with good-for-you and delicious fruits and veggies like squash, sweet potatoes, apples, and pears.
While almost all produce can be grown somewhere year-round, trucking it cross-country (or internationally) isn’t easy. Buying seasonal produce locally potentially reduces your carbon footprint and boosts your local economy to boot.
Getting your fruits and veggies close to home could also max out their nutritional value. Produce starts to lose moisture — and nutrients — as soon as it’s separated from its home vine or plant.
You have more than a few reasons to eat seasonal produce. Apples and other fall fruits offer essential vitamins and antioxidants that may help fight diseases like cancer.
On the veggie side, the entire cruciferous family — that’s the cabbage, rutabaga, and cauliflower gang — is in season and offers a compound known as glucosinolates that may also have cancer-fighting potential.
And who could forget about squash? These big, bright gourds offer healthy alpha- and beta-carotene, which promote good eyesight.
To take advantage of fall before it slips into winter, check out our top fall produce picks, and keep track of what’s in season near you. While you’re at it, take the plunge and try something new. (Who knew leeks and figs could taste so good?)
There’s some merit to the old adage: A few of these sweet, crunchy handheld snacks might really keep the doctor away. Packed with antioxidants, apples could help fend off chronic disease and slow aging.
Quince, a strange-named but floral-flavored cousin of the apple, is also at its best in autumn. You can add it to jams, jellies, and desserts — but don’t try it raw. Uncooked, it’s inedible.
Don’t let their bright-red hue turn you off. These slightly sweet veggies are light on calories and high in nutrients like folate, fiber, calcium, and vitamin C.
Beets may be available year-round, but they’re at their best in the fall. Besides the familiar reddish-purple color, you can also find golden, white, and even multicolored varieties.
When shopping, look for firm, smooth bulbs and (if attached) bright, crisp greens.
So they got a bad rap when you were a kid. These aren’t your mama’s cruciferous veggies. In fact, brussels are not only in season these days, they’re also on trend.
They’re also packed with antioxidants like vitamins C and E, and carotenoids.
Between the size of a blueberry and a grape but much more tart, cranberries peak from October through November. You’re more likely to find these tiny red berries in a can or bottle of juice than in the fresh produce section. And they’re a worthy addition to your table — even when it’s not turkey day.
In whatever form you prefer them, cranberries can be your best friend if you get lots of UTIs, because they can stop pesky bacteria from growing in your urinary tract. Their antibacterial properties can also help you keep a cleaner and less infection-prone mouth.
Just make sure to avoid the kind with added sugar.
We think of these sweet and slightly gritty fruits as food, but in China, pears have been medicine for some 2,000 years. These bulbous fruits are highly regarded for their anti-inflammatory and blood sugar-lowering properties.
Pears are high in soluble fiber, which helps lower “bad” (LDL) cholesterol. To get that daily dose of fiber and satisfy a sweet tooth, snack on this fruit whole or incorporate it into recipes from filling breakfasts to healthy cocktails.
With their appearance resembling a bright orange peach wearing a leafy cap, persimmons may look pretty alien to American eaters. We westerners may be equally unaware of their health benefits, which include protection against high cholesterol, diabetes, cancer, and high blood pressure.
Just be warned: Under-ripe persimmons are tart enough to make you pucker. Give them time to ripen at room temperature before eating.
Many ancient religions praised the bright red pomegranate for its health benefits, but it’s taken the modern world a little longer to catch on (POM juice, anyone?).
Both the fruit and its juice may be useful against diabetes, high blood pressure, infections, and cancer. The jury’s still out as to why, and how well, this fruit works. But hey, it tastes good, so why not give it a try?
These labor-intensive fruits can be a hassle, but we’ve found an easy pomegranate deseeding shortcut for you. Ah, victory is sweet.
Though technically a member of the squash family, with their rich history and health benefits (plus their fun carved faces at Halloween-time), pumpkins earn their own spot on our list.
Pumpkin is one of the best sources of the antioxidant beta-carotene. It not only gives these fruits their bright orange hue, but it converts into retinol to promote healthy vision and cell growth.
These root veggies aren’t winning any beauty pageants with their bulbous shape and hairy roots, but what they lack in looks they more than make up for in nutrition.
From festive photos to Thanksgiving table centerpieces, squash is the poster food for autumn. Summer squash are still available locally until October in some parts of the country, and winter squash begin to crop up (pun intended) as summer squash heads out.
The gourd family offers varieties including acorn, butternut, and delicata squash. Spaghetti squash makes a good fill-in for pasta, with a lot fewer carbs.
A squash a day will help you meet your daily allowance of beta carotene, along with vitamins C and B6. It’s also high in fiber to keep your blood sugar from spiking post-meals.
Orange is the new healthy when you put these edible roots front and center on your plate. Sweet potatoes come in a rainbow of hues, from yellow to deep purple (not the band).
The orange ones are the best sources of beta-carotene, while the purple ones are high in healthy pigments called anthocyanins.
Sweet potatoes are also a good source of vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.
Don’t stop browsing your local farmer’s market just because summer has passed. Even in the cooler fall months, you’ll find a bounty of fresh fruits and veggies to add a burst of color to your plate.
For the biggest nutritional boost, buy local produce at the peak of season. Eat it raw, steamed, or sautéed rather than fried or baked into pies to avoid adding extra fat and sugar.