Most fruits and vegetables are available at the grocery store year-round, but they’re not necessarily in season and at their best just because they’re on the shelf. If you want to eat the most nutritious fruits and vegetables this autumn, you have to know what to look for.
Picking the best fruit and veggies that are grown in the U.S. means knowing the optimal growing seasons for each (choosing locally grown food is also better for the economy and the environment). Here are eight fruits and vegetables that are at their most nutritious and delicious in the fall…
This is a fruit that’s a mainstay in any produce department, so you may not be thinking about what time of year it’s at its finest. However, fall is apple-picking season and it’s also when the best local apples are in stores (picked for you).
Greatist.com explains apples are loaded with antioxidants, which have been linked to lowering risk of certain diseases. Although the source points out there are actually more than 7,500-varieties of these sweet and crunchy orbs, it says Fuji apples are the highest in phenolics and flavonoids (both antioxidants).
2. Brussels Sprouts
So they may be named after their origins in Belgium, but they grow beautifully in the U.S. during the fall season. U.S. News notes although some people shy away from these because they can be mushy, “when cooked right, can be a delicious and nutritious addition to any meal.”
The source explains Brussels sprouts are high in fiber (to aid in digestion and regulate blood sugar), and also contain generous amounts of Vitamin C and K (the latter for proper blood clotting and transporting calcium) as well as folate. The source also suggests slicing them thin, drizzling them with olive oil and roasting them.
This is another vegetable that some people turn their noses up (all year round, because it doesn’t need a particular season to thrive in temperate climates). However, TheSpruce.com points out that this cruciferous vegetable actually is best consumed in fall. “It is more sweet, less bitter and sharp when harvested in the cooler temperatures of fall in most climates,” it notes.
The source also says broccoli rabe (rapini), a “cousin” of broccoli, is a more bitter and leafier vegetable, but also is at its best in cooler growing conditions (such as what’s found in fall).
These soft, apple-like fruits are pretty easy on the teeth and pretty easy on your digestive system too. They are a great healthy snack, as they are filled with water and “fill you up quick,” notes Men’s Fitness.
Aside from vitamins and nutrients, pears also have the added bonus of containing a complex carbohydrate called pectin, “which acts as a detoxifier, a gastrointestinal tract regulator, and an immune system stimulant,” according to the source. Fall season yields a wide variety of pears including Anjous, Bartlett, Sugar Pear, Forelle, and Seckels, it adds.
Grapes can be enjoyed most in the fall – and we’re talking about the type you find in a wine-shaped bottle, although no one can blame you for having a glass or two. However, Epicurious.com said fall is an exciting time for grapes because fresh varieties are rolling into farmer’s markets.
The source says come September, about 60-varieties of table grapes are harvested and sold at the retail level. Types to look for at farmer’s markets during the autumn season include Canadice, Jupiter, Niagara, Thomcord, and Concord, the latter that is actually native to the U.S. (namely Concord, Massachusetts) and not Europe like many others.
It’s no secret that cranberries are associated with Thanksgiving, because it’s during the height of harvesting season. These berries have a relatively short growing season (from around mid-September to mid-November), and many towns take advantage of the harvest of cranberries by hosting cranberry festivals.
National Geographic delves into a bit of American history about cranberries, noting the “superfood” helped nourish Native Americans and Pilgrims. It’s also a key ingredient in pemmican – “sort of like a modern-day energy bar,” notes the source. Natives would add cranberries to dried deer meat and fat tallow, and that was a reliable source of nutrition on long journeys, it adds.
Nothing beats a good beet (sorry), and you guessed it – they’re at their best during the fall season. Greatist.com explains these root vegetables are another item you’ll see year-round in the supermarket, but you’ll find more than just the purplish variety in fall – there are also golden, white, and multicolored versions during autumn.
The source suggests roasting the beets to best enjoy their betaine content, which it explains may help lower risk of heart and liver disease. Beets are also a good source of nitrate, which apparently can help stave off dementia because it increases blood flow to the brain.
These are synonymous with fall because they get carved into Jack-o-Lanterns for Halloween, but as a member of the squash family, these gourds are actually very nutritious and can benefit everything from blood pressure to prostate glands.
There are of course many ways to consume pumpkin, whether it’s in bread, pie, or risotto – or as a puree – and they all have a health benefit. Of course don’t forget the pumpkin seeds, which often just get tossed out – DailyBurn.com explains the seeds contain about 1.7-grams of dietary fiber per ounce. Meanwhile, a cup of cubed pumpkin contains almost 2-times the daily requirement of Vitamin A, adds the source.