I'll be the first to recognize that fall is the most exciting food season of the entire year. Sure, it's always exciting to transition into the next season's signature flavors, but the new produce that emerges during the harvest season--produce that straight up isn't available or totally sucks to eat during every other season of the year (pumpkins, I'm looking at you)--makes autumn especially exciting to eat through. Along with pumpkins, there's a myriad of other pieces of fall produce you need to toss into your soups, salads, and ovens over the next few months--and here are the recipes you need to get started with the best of them.
Let's go ahead and start with the quintessential fall vegetable. Pumpkins only emerge during autumn because they require a long growing season with frost-free days. Now, first thing to understand is that pumpkins are awesome for a lot more than carving jack-o-lanterns (and actually, the first of which were made from root veggies like turnips and potatoes). There are numerous varieties that are exceptional for anything from pureeing into rich, savory-sweet soup to enjoying simply roasted.
Of course, apples are available to us all year long, and because there are over 7,000 varieties of apples grown throughout the world, there's an apple for everybody. Whether you love honey crisp, golden delicious, or Granny Smith varieties, you can find the one that fits your tastes/needs. The harvest time ranges from the summer months all the way into the winter months, leaving autumn, right in the middle, which is ultimately the best time for apple picking.
One of my favorite ways to enjoy apples (apart from just biting into one) is to slice them up and bake them with a technique known as "hassleback." Loaded with cinnamon, oats, and brown sugar, this dessert is just like an apple pie, but without the crust. The thin slices into the apple allow each layer to cook evenly and the sweet spice mixture to really get down into the apple.
When I say squash, I'm talking acorn squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, etc. (all of which, along with pumpkin, are technically fruits). Though pumpkin resides in the same family as these varieties, its star status this time of year usually keeps it from being lumped in with its squash cousins.
Like pumpkins, the harvest season for these varieties stretches throughout the fall. They are among some of the most deliciously versatile vegetables around--ideal for roasting, stuffing, and incorporating into baked goods. Also, saving and roasting squash seeds is great way to use up the entire vegetable and have a great make-ahead snack to enjoy throughout the week.
4. Sweet Potatoes
While sweet potatoes are also available in the warmer months, they rise to their peak in the fall--a time when they can be enjoyed with seasonal warm spices and made into marshmallow-covered casseroles that people serve as a dinner side dish.
The harvest season for pears typically starts in the late summer and peaks in the fall. The makeup of a pear is similar to an apple, although a big difference is that pears don't ripen on the tree like apples do. Pears require an ample amount of time after being picked to be allowed to fully ripen before using them in your recipes, like in these amazing poached pears below.
If it feels like you're seeing double, you are. Figs actually enjoy two peak seasons out of the year, one in early summer, and one that's much longer and stretches out from late summer into the fall. Figs, unlike pears, must be allowed to ripen on the tree. Fun fact: Figs aren't actually fruits at all. Technically, the interior is comprised of hundreds of little inverted flowers. But for most people, this is simply a technicality (that they are probably unaware of) and we'll just call it a fruit--albeit, an awesome one for sure.
What seasonal ingredients are you most looking forward to cooking with in the coming months?