It’s easy to eat seasonally in the spring and summer, but it can be a bit of a challenge to stick with local, whole foods as fall and winter approach. There are a wide variety of berries, root vegetables and squashes to choose from this time of year, so long as you know how to select, store and prepare them.
Start the season off on the right foot with tips and recipes for five fall vegetables. We’ve collected some of our favorite advice and meal ideas from sites that have helped spearhead the Meatless Monday movement. You can try one of 15 fantastic dishes for this week’s Meatless Monday dinner, then wow friends and family by serving it again on Thanksgiving!
Cranberries: If you’ve never strayed from pre-made cranberry sauce, its time to think outside the can! The tart taste of fresh cranberries works well with both savory and sweet dishes, which is why it is often used in spreads, relishes and chutneys.
Cranberries are usually sold in 12-ounce bags, or about 3 cups of whole berries. When selecting your berries, check to make sure that they are brightly colored. Leave them unwashed and wrapped in the refrigerator and they should keep for up to 2 months.
- Cranberry Avocado Salsa (Martha Stewart)
- Sweet Potatoes with Pineapple Cranberry Chutney (Whole Living)
- Cranberry Pear Brown Betty (AARP)
Parsnips: Often ignored in favor of their brighter cousin, parsnips actually tend to be sweeter than carrots, especially when cooked. This root vegetable is also extremely easy to prepare; it can be shredded raw over a salad, roasted with herbs, added to stews, steamed, broiled, braised or sauteed.
Use the same criteria for selecting parsnips that you would for carrots. Choose only firm parsnips and avoid overly large specimens, as they sometimes have a woody core.
- Smoky Paprika Parsnip Chips (Babble)
- Parsnip Salad (Cooking Channel)
- Roasted Vegetable Ragout (Whole Living)
Leeks: Leeks are mostly used to flavor stock but their light, onion-like flavor makes them a popular main dish in some European countries. The white base and light green stalk of the plant can be boiled, fried or even enjoyed raw in salads.
When preparing leeks, discard the dark green portion of the plant during preparation. Fresh leeks should be stored unwashed and untrimmed in the refrigerator, where they will keep for 1 to 2 weeks.
Pumpkin: Pumpkin is usually cast as a decorative centerpiece or pie-filling, but this versatile gourd deserves a more substantial spot in your recipe rotation! It can be roasted or mashed for an easy side dish, or take on a starring role in soups and pasta dishes.
When selecting a pumpkin, check that it is firm all the way around: it should keep for a month a room temperature, or four months refrigerated. Smaller pumpkins (about 5 to 8 pounds) are usually sweeter, as they are bread specifically for cooking. For an extra treat, save the pumpkin’s seeds and roast them with a touch of salt.
- Pumpkin with Almond Couscous (BET)
- Roasted Pumpkin Pine Nut Feta Salad (Christian Science Monitor)
- Great Pumpkin Pizza (Babble)
Beets: Don’t let their stems, leaves, thick peel and staining hue stop you from enjoying the texture, flavor and visual appeal of beets! This unique root vegetable holds up well when baked, boiled, roasted, or julienned raw, and its sweetness pairs well with a multitude of flavor profiles.
When selecting fresh beets look for medium globes with firm, smooth skin and stems and leaves attached. When preparing, don a pair of latex gloves (to avoid staining) and wash your beets whole; the skin will rub off once it’s cooked.