Healthy Fall ProduceAutumn's bumper crop of fruits and vegetables offers a range of intense flavors and substantial textures. Grocery stores and farmers' markets are full of apples, figs, pears, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and winter squash. Here we'll give you tips and recipes for each of these favorite fall fruits and veggies.
ApplesThere are thousands of varieties of apples, ranging from tender to crisp and sweet to tart. Apples are available year-round, but they're best from September to November.
To select, look for firm, vibrantly colored apples with no bruises. They should smell fresh, not musty. Skins should be tight and smooth.
See More: Our Best Apples Recipes
QuinceA quince is a hard, round or pear-shaped fruit that looks and tastes like a cross between an apple and pear. But, unlike the apples and pears they resemble, quinces are inedible raw. With cooking, quinces develop a slightly grainy texture similar to a firm pear and a lovely rosy amber color.
Because their season is fleeting—from October to December—you should get quinces while you can. Look for them in large supermarkets, farmers' markets, and specialty or ethnic stores. They'll fill an entire room with their enticing scent.
See More: In Season: Quince
MushroomsWhile most mushrooms are available year-round, many are at their peak in fall and winter.
To select, look for firm, evenly colored mushrooms. Avoid mushrooms that are broken, damaged, or have soft spots, as well as those that seem damp or smell of mildew. It's a good idea to hand-select mushrooms; choose those of equal size if they are to be cooked whole, so they'll cook evenly.
See More: In Season: Mushrooms
Winter SquashWinter squash are picked in the autumn and stored until spring. Some popular varieties are acorn, butternut, and spaghetti.
To select, the tastiest winter squashes will be solid and heavy with stems that are full, firm, and have a corky feel. The skin of the squash should be deeply colored with a matte finish. Avoid squash with cracks, soft spots, and moldy areas.
See More: Winter Squash Recipes
ShallotsThese petite onions look like large cloves of garlic covered with papery bronze skin. Shallots differ from onions in that many varieties produce a cluster of several bulbs to a plant; they also have finer layers and less water. Because of this low water content, their flavor is more concentrated than that of onions.
Available year-round, shallots should be firm and heavy for their size. Store them in a cool, dry place up to one month.
• Three-Bean Salad
• Balsamic and Shallot Chicken Breasts
• Roasted Butternut Squash and Shallot Soup
• Mixed Peppercorn Beef Tenderloin with Shallot-Port Reduction
• Braised Turkey Roulade with Pancetta, Shallots, and Porcini Gravy
See More: How to Mince Shallots
SageSage's long, narrow leaves have a distinctly fuzzy texture and a musty flavor redolent of eucalyptus, cedar, lemon, and mint. There are some other varieties of sage that boast a slightly different flavor: purple, pineapple, peach, and honeydew melon.
Sage is available either fresh or in three dried forms: ground, coarsely crumbled, or rubbed (finely chopped). To store fresh sage leaves, simply wrap them in a damp paper towel, and place them in a plastic bag. Store them in the refrigerator, where they should keep fresh for several days.
Sweet PotatoesThe two most common types of sweet potatoes are pale-skinned and dark-skinned. The pale sweet potato has a thin, light yellow skin and a pale yellow flesh. After it's cooked, it has a dry, crumbly texture, much like that of a white baked potato, and its flavor is not sweet. The darker variety has a thicker skin and a bright orange flesh that's very sweet and moist when cooked.
To select, look for small to medium-sized tubers with few bruises and smooth skin.
• Sweet Potato Chile Mac
• Butter-Pecan Mashed Sweet Potatoes
• Twice-Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Chipotle
• Lasagna with Fall Vegetables, Gruyère and Sage Béchamel
• Traditional Sweet Potato Casserole
See More: Our Best Sweet Potato Recipes
PearsPears are sweet and spicy, with a subtle, intoxicating perfume. And although a pear is usually thought of as a fruit to be eaten in its natural state, it's actually as versatile as the apple, especially during its peak season.
To select, test for ripeness by applying light thumb pressure near the pear's stem. If it is ripe, there will be a slight give.
See More: What to Eat Right Now: Pears
PumpkinsA staple for autumn festivities, the pumpkin makes its way into a multitude of dishes this time of year. Enjoy this versatile squash while it's fresh—the flavor is vastly superior to canned.
To select, look for pumpkins that are small, about 5 to 8 pounds, with tough skin. They are prized for their concentrated flavor and sweetness.
See More: 10 Things to Know About Pumpkins
Brussels SproutsMembers of the cabbage family, Brussels sprouts range from 1 to 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Look for small, firm sprouts with compact, bright-green heads—the smaller the head, the sweeter the taste. Avoid soft, wilted, puffy, or dull-colored heads, as well as those with loose or yellowish leaves. Choose sprouts of similar size so they'll cook evenly.
• Brussels Sprouts Gratin
• Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Garlic, and Shallots
• Brussels Sprouts with Currants and Pine Nuts
• Brussels Sprouts with Honey-Glazed Pearl Onions and Capocollo
• Chicken with Brussels Sprouts and Mustard Sauce
See More: In Season: Brussels Sprouts
CauliflowerThis member of the cabbage family has a fairly round head of tightly packed white florets that are partially covered at the stem end with large, waxy, pale green leaves. Besides the white variety, you'll occassionally find a purple or greenish variety.
Choose a sturdy cauliflower that is compact; you want leaves that are crisp and green without signs of yellowing. The size of the head does not affect the quality.
• Baked Italian-Style Cauliflower
• Gratin of Cauliflower with Gruyère
• Roasted Cauliflower Fettuccine
• Cauliflower "Caviar" with Frizzled Prosciutto
• Crispy Topped Brussels Sprouts and Cauliflower Gratin
FigsYou might have noticed that figs made an appearance on our Summer Produce Guide. That's because figs have two seasons: a quick, early summer season and then a main crop starting near the end of summer that continues through the fall.
To select, don't judge by looks alone. A shrunken and wrinkled fig may actually be a better choice than one that looks pristine. Small cracks won't affect the flavor. Also, ripe figs should be heavy for their size.
• Pork with Figs and Farro
• Caramelized Fresh Figs with Sweet Cream
• Granola with Honey-Scented Yogurt and Baked Figs
• Warm Salad of Grilled Figs, Grapes, and Bitter Greens
• Fresh Fig Focaccia
See More: Fantastic Fig Recipes
Fall Produce Guide
When the air turns cool and the trees blaze with color, it's time to fill up your basket and taste the autumn harvest.