If it’s in season, it’s in flavor

FallFaves_0816 I greatly enjoyed shopping for fresh berries, peaches, cherries, and nectarines during the summer months, filling my basket with the most vibrant flavors and colors.  As seasons change, so do the fruits and vegetables that are at their peak, or “in season.”

Now that fall is here, I can still find berries in the store, but they don’t always taste as fresh, juicy or sweet because they are not at their peak time in terms of harvest. Technically, all food can be grown somewhere throughout the world at any time of the year, but fruits and vegetables consumed within a few days of being picked, rather than trucked across the country, taste better and may even boast more nutrients.

In addition to corn mazes, Jack-O-Lanterns, and Halloween candy, the signs of fall include the delicious, robust flavors of fresh apples and pears — fruits that offer essential vitamins and antioxidants.  Brussels sprouts, seasonal squash, beets and other vegetables are also in season, so don’t be afraid to add a different one to your shopping cart next time you’re at the store!

Apples:  We are all aware of the “apple a day” adage.  These sweet fall favorites are loaded with antioxidants which fight off free radicals.  Some varieties, like Fuji, are highest in flavonoids (a group of plant metabolites thought to provide health benefits).  Apples are also packed with vitamin C and pectin, a type of soluble fiber that helps with digestion.  Some apples are better for cooking, while others can be enjoyed raw, so pick the right apple for your needs. Make sure you enjoy the peel, as the skin contains up to six times the antioxidant content as the flesh.

Brussels Sprouts and Cabbage: Cruciferous vegetables are packed with phytonutrients, which may help protect the body against health concerns.  They are also a good source of Vitamins A and C, potassium, folate, iron and fiber.  Cruciferous vegetables are unique in that they are rich in glucosinolates, a sulfur-containing compound that imparts a pungent aroma and unique taste.  Scientists are currently researching glucosinolates and their health-promoting properties.  What are phytonutrients? Read the blog post titled What’s for dinner tonight? PHYTONUTRIENTS.

Pears: Another fall favorite, pears are higher in pectin than apples. Pectin is a soluble fiber that helps lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol and helps promote regularity and fullness. Pears are also a good source of vitamins B2, C and E, copper and potassium.  Pears are mild and sweet, and full of antioxidants, so enjoy these fat-free, cholesterol-free, 100-calorie fall gift.

Sweet Potatoes: Sweet potatoes peak during the fall. They pack a nutritional punch and are often a popular side dish on Thanksgiving tables. .  Similar to squash, sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, giving it (and other orange fruit and vegetables) their vibrant color. Beta-carotene is converted to Vitamin A and promotes healthy eyesight.  Squash and sweet potatoes are also a good source of vitamin C, fiber, potassium and quercetin when eaten with the skin on.  Don’t ruin these nutritional powerhouses with marshmallows or syrups. Instead, add spices, such as cinnamon, to give them unique flavors.

Squash: Squash is another versatile and delicious vegetable that often takes center stage on tables for decoration during the fall months. But did you know that squash is actually a broad term used to describe various vegetables such as pumpkins and zucchinis?

Summer squash is available through October when winter squash crops into season.  This gourd comes in many varieties, including acorn squash, butternut squash, delicata squash and spaghetti squash (a personal favorite).  Each variety packs a nutritious punch with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Be sure to try all different kinds!

Stock up now on the season’s best

Don’t forget about pomegranates, rutabagas, cauliflower and a whole host of other seasonal produce.  If your local grocery store doesn’t have the particular fruits and vegetables you are looking for, then check out your local farmers market or CSA (http://www.localharvest.org/), or visit a pick-your-own farm near you (www.pickyourown.org)

Stay tuned for a blog post that will contain delicious recipes using some of these fruits and vegetables.

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