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Fall Vegetables and Why Fresh is Best

MEN-AS09-fall-garden-vegetablesI love Fall. Every year when the weather cools and the gardens are bursting with the new harvest I am in heaven. When you can get fresh harvested Fall vegetables, they taste so much better than the stuff we find in the grocery store. I stalk my local farmers markets for winter squash, brussel sprouts, and other wonders that need a bit of cold weather for the flavors to develop. Nothing makes me more happy than to run home from the market and prepare those vegetables before preserving with my food vacuum sealer that I recommend to everyone and then going to my refrigerator. I am going to give you a list of Fall vegetables and when they are at their peak of flavor. I am also listing out some of my favorite recipes to prepare them.

Beets – Beets can be harvested late spring through Autumn. Beets are most flavorful when they are between 2 and 3 inches in diameter.

Broccoli  – Broccoli can be grown year-round in temperate climates so we’ve forgotten it even has a season. It is more sweet, less bitter and sharp when harvested in the cooler temperatures of fall in most climates.

Broccoli raabe, rapini –  A more bitter and leafier vegetable than its cousin, broccoli, but likes similar cool growing conditions.

Brussels sprouts – Brussels sprouts grow on a stalk, and if you see them for sale that way snap them up – they’ll last quite a bit longer than once they’re cut. Look for them after your first frost or cold front for the most flavorful sprouts.

Cabbage – Cabbage is bright and crisp when raw and mellows and sweetens the longer it’s cooked. The cooler the weather when it’s harvested, the sweeter it tends to taste (this effect is called “frost kissed”).

Carrots – Carrots are harvested year-round in temperate areas. Unusual varieties are harvested during the carrot’s natural season, which is late summer and fall. True baby carrots – not the milled down versions of regular carrots sold as “baby carrots” in bags at grocery stores – are available in the spring and early summer. Locally grown carrots are often available from storage through early winter even in colder climates.

Cauliflower – Cauliflower may be grown, harvested, and sold year-round, but it is by nature a cool weather crop and at its best in fall and winter and into early spring.

Celery Root – Celeriac/celery root is at its best in the cooler months of fall, winter, and early spring (except in cold climates, where you’ll find it during the summer and early fall).

Celery – Celery is at its best in the fall, with its harvest continuing through winter in warm and temperate climates.

Chard – Chard like all cooking greens, chard turns bitter when it gets too hot. Chard grows year-round in temperate areas, is best harvested in late summer or early fall in colder areas, and fall through spring in warmer regions.

Fennel – Fennel’s natural season is from fall through early spring. Like most cool weather crops, the plant bolts and turns bitter in warmer weather.

Kale – Kale is like all hearty cooking greens – cooler weather keeps it sweet.

Kohlrabi – Kohlrabi (late fall) comes into season by the end of fall, but stays at its sweet best into winter.

Leeks – Leeks more than about 1 1/2 inches wide tend to have tough inner cores. The top green leaves should look fresh – avoid leeks with wilted tops.

Parsnips – Parsnips look like white carrots and have a great nutty flavor. Look for thinner parsnips, since fatter ones tend to have a thick, woody core you need to cut out.

Rutabagas – Rutabagas also known as “yellow turnips” and “Swedes” are a sweet, nutty root vegetables perfect in stews, roasted, or mashed with plenty of butter.

Shallots – Shallots are harvested in late summer and into fall, and are at their sweetest when fresh.

Sweet Potatoes – Sweet potatoes are often sold as “yams.” They store well and are available from local sources year-round in warmer areas; from late summer through winter other places.

Turnips – Turnips have a sharp but bright and sweet flavor. Look for turnips that feel heavy for their size.

Winter Squash – Winter squash of all sorts comes into season in early fall and usually last well into winter. The squash you find in your local grocer could be up to a year old and the flavor will a shadow of what it once was. Find these fresh at your local farmers market to really experience winter squash.