While it may not feel like fall just yet in Phoenix, it is just around the corner. As the temperatures and the days grow shorter, the markets are filled with delicious and healthy fall foods. Why is buying seasonal produce so important? That’s easy—the fresher your food the more vitamins and minerals it has. In short, seasonal foods are simply healthier for you and your family.
Whether you shop at a farmer’s market or supermarket (or even plan to grow your own), there’s a lot of great veggies and fruits that pack a nutritional punch. Here are our top five choices with some notes on what to look for when you buy, how to prepare them and why you should have them on your table.
Fall is also a good time to detox your body to get ready for the impending cold and flu season and stress of the winter holidays. All fruits are a natural way to detox and we’ve added notes about the individual fruits below.
Though they start to come in season in August, Apples don’t truly reach their peak until September and they will be available through the winter. According to Health Magazine, “Sweet or tart, apples are satisfying eaten raw or baked into a delicious dish. Just be sure to eat the skin—it contains hearty-healthy flavonoids.”
Apples are chock full of vitamins and antioxidants and provide four grams of dietary fiberper serving. High fiber foods are more satisfying and help keep you full longer. The apple’s nutritional profile makes it a great choice for a natural cleanse. And as they say, an apple a day will keep the doctor away!
When choosing apples, they should feel firm and crisp, not soft or spongy. Avoid those with cuts or bruises though surface blemishes don’t harm fruit quality. Depending on the freshness of your apples they will keep for two days up to a week on the counter and longer if refrigerated.
Though you probably can’t find them locally grown, don’t overlook kiwis. They bring a refreshing, tropical taste to the fall lineup. Kiwi season runs from September through March. Kiwis are delicious (though a little messy) if eaten raw and make an excellent addition to smoothies or fruit salads.
They don’t just bring great taste either; kiwis provide more vitamin C than an orange and are a good source of potassium and copper. The vitamin C in kiwis will strengthen your immune system, which is crucial as we head into cold and flu season. That’s a good thing since oranges aren’t in ready locally until December.
There are just a few things to remember when choosing a kiwi: look for ones that smell good and feel plump, avoid kiwis with bruised skin, and press it gently to make sure it yields under your finger like a ripe pear. If your kiwi is a little too firm, put it in a paper bag on your kitchen counter and it will ripen within a few days.
Pear season is short lived in Arizona—from mid-August through September. So if you have not sampled a pear this fall, there is no time to waste. With its juicy-sweet flavor, pears are a hit with the kids and make a great afternoon snack for adults too. One pear is a good source of vitamin C and copper and has 4 grams of fiber. This is another fruit that provides a natural detox.
Cooking pears only brings out their sweetness, so try them baked or poached. Check out this simple recipe for Roasted Pears from the Splendid Table website. When selecting pears, choose firm pears without bruises or soft spots. Pears will continue to ripen at room temperature so don’t be afraid to buy them a little firm. They are ripe when the area around the stem yields slightly to pressure. Ripe pears can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Pumpkins can be used for much more than jack-o’-lanterns.When roasted, pumpkin has a sweet taste and moist texture that makes it ideal for pies, cakes, and even pudding! It is rich in potassium, a good source of B vitamins, and provides more than 20% of your DRI of fiber. That’s sure to clean out your insides!
The pumpkins that you use for cooking are different than the ones used for carving. Smaller pumpkins are generally better for cooking and they may be labeled as pie pumpkins in the store. They should be bright colored, firm and have the stem attached. Pumpkins are available from August through November so you have a good long time to enjoy them.
Don’t wrinkle your nose at dates (though admittedly we did when we researched this article and found them on the list). Dates are a versatile fruit and can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. They are low in fat, high in fiber and a good source of potassium.
Dates work well braised in stews (and what better time for a hearty stew than fall), chopped up into cookies (they are sweeter than a raisin) and served whole stuffed with cream cheese. Try these delicious Oatmeal-Date-Chocolate Cookies and see for yourself.Dates are in season from September through December and can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to a year. When choosing dates, select those that are shiny, uniformly colored and not broken.
As you can see, fall offers a fruitful harvest. Next month we will feature our favorite fall veggies. In the meantime, for more tips and recipes on all fruits check out the Fruits & Veggies More Matters website.
- Apple Upside Down Cake
- Fruit Salad with Honey-Yogurt Sauce
- Roasted Pears
- Classic Pumpkin Pie
- Oatmeal-Date-Chocolate Cookies
- Apple Types: A fun article describing the types of apples and listing recipes for each.
- In Season: Pumpkin: A detailed article about pumpkins including a great selection of recipes.
- Fruits & Veggies More Matters website
- Arizona Community Farmer’s Markets: Use this site to find a farmer’s market near you.