The motto of “what grows together goes together,” has been practiced by Italians since the beginning of time. Or at least as long as Italian grannies have been sharing the secrets of their fresh, simple, ingredient-centric cooking. We can all learn a thing or two from this wisdom, especially when it comes to planning delicious, fresh, vegetable-focused meals, every season of the year.
While spring and summer are celebrated seasons in our gardens and farms, fall is the most celebrated of all. This is the time when the most-anticipated bounty is ripe for picking, and just in time for the first inklings of frost. The most delicate lettuce and tender-skinned vegetables and fruits have come and gone, and now is the time to enjoy hearty root vegetables, rotund pumpkins, sturdy greens and hefty apples. These are the vegetables and fruits that take endurance to grow all season, but that also stand stoutly in soups, stews and warming dishes in this moment when we all need a little recovery and comfort.
Most of the produce available to us at this time is best for our health and our palate when cooked for a bit, and almost all of it lasts for months in our kitchens if we prepare and store it properly.
FALL VEGETABLES TO PICK
Roasted, puréed or even eaten raw, beets are a marvelous way to boost your nutrition all season long. Similar to sweet potatoes, we can start pulling the sweetest, smallest beets from the ground in the spring. They’re sweetest because they’re small and new, and their sugar is concentrated. As these root vegetables grow, absorbing more nutrients and minerals, their sweetness subsides, while their heartiness increases.
Beets can be stored through the winter by trimming them of their greens, then storing them in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 3 months. If you don’t have space in the fridge, you can also freeze them. To do so, trim the beets of their greens but leave the roots intact. Preheat your oven to 400°F (200ºC) and fill a baking pan with 1-inch (2.54-cm) of water. Place the beets in the pan, cover with foil and bake for 30–45 minutes, until the beets are very tender. Remove from the oven and allow the beets to cool slightly, then peel the skin from the beets, running them under cold water as you pull the skin away from the flesh with your hands. Slice the beets into rounds and place them on a baking sheet with space between them. When the beets are flash-frozen (roughly 2–3 hours,) transfer them to a freezer bag. They’ll keep for up to 12 months.
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With tender greens wilting in the fall weather, kale becomes our go-to green through the cooler months along with collards and other deep, dark, leafy greens packing a nutrient punch. Kale is marvelous as a salad, wilted into soups and stews, blended into dips and pestos, and sauteéd on its own. While eating raw kale salad is among the easiest ways to mainline its myriad health benefits, be warned this can take a toll on our digestive system. For best results, mix up your kale recipes to include some cooked/wilted/sautéed greens in addition to crafting massive crunchy salads.
PUMPKINS AND WINTER SQUASH
I wait all year for these vegetables — happily slicing them, roasting and pureéing them into salads, stews, grain bowls and buddha bowls, or baking them into sweet treats all winter long. When they start to appear at the market, I begin to collect them — stacking them in a special corner of my kitchen, then pulling from the pile until the spring freeze comes. Pumpkins and winter squash such as butternut, delicata, acorn, kuri and spaghetti squash all keep beautifully when stored at room temperature in a cool, dry place outside of direct sun.
These beloved and nutrient-rich cool-weather staples are favorites for soups, stews and as a substitute for grains in cooler months when our bodies crave their minerals and soothing sweet flavors most. We can start pulling the sweetest sweet potatoes from the ground in mid-summer, but the heartiest sweet potatoes — and those we can keep in our pantries through the winter — are ready for harvest right now; they’re also inexpensive.
To store them in a pantry, brush off any dirt, then wrap the potatoes in newspaper or parchment. Then store in a cool, dry and dark place until ready to use. Alternatively, you can freeze sweet potatoes. To do so, clean and scrub the potatoes, then boil for 5–15 minutes, until tender. Allow the potatoes to cool, then mash or slice them into rounds, and then place in a freezer bag, removing as much air as possible. Freeze for up to 12 months.
More tender than their hearty root cousins, turnips are delicious sauteéd, shaved or sliced raw into salads. Look for the hakurei varieties found plentifully at farmers markets during the harvest. Turnips are also a good substitute for potatoes in soups and stews. To store them for the long haul, brush excess dirt from the skin then wrap in a moist towel. Keep them in the crisper drawer of your fridge with beets and carrots for up to three months, checking on them periodically and re-moistening their towel as often as needed.
WAYS TO COOK FALL’S BOUNTY
There are myriad ways these beautiful, flavorful, healthful ingredients can be prepared. Here are a few favorite recipes and combinations:
Brothy Pumpkin + Kale Farro Grain Bowls
- 1 cup farro, cooked
- 2 cups (475ml) chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 bunch lacinato kale, destemmed and chopped roughly
- 1 cup (198g) cooked brown lentils, white beans or chickpeas
- 1 small pumpkin, such as kabocha or sugar pie
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- Aleppo pepper or crushed red pepper, Bragg’s Liquid Aminos or tamari sauce for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180ºC). Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil and set aside.
Slice the top and stem off the pumpkin, then place the pumpkin on the sliced edge to create a sturdy cutting surface. Split the pumpkin in half with a chef’s knife, and scoop out the seeds, discarding them. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over the pumpkin with your hands, making sure to cover all sides for even cooking. Sprinkle the inside cavities with 1 teaspoon of salt and then place the pumpkin on the sheet pan, cut-side down. Transfer the sheet pan to the oven and bake until the pumpkin is tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. When the pumpkin is easily pierced with the tip of a knife, remove and allow to cool.
While the pumpkin is cooling, sauté the chopped kale in the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat, seasoning with the salt until very wilted, roughly 5 minutes. Then, warm the lentils and stock.
Scoop all of the flesh from the inside of the cooked pumpkin. Reserve 1 cup for your grain bowls and store the remaining pumpkin for another purpose. Divide the farro, lentils and broth between the bowls, season with salt, pepper and Bragg’s.
Serves: 2 | Serving Size: 2 cups
Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 473; Total Fat: 16g; Saturated Fat: 2g; Monounsaturated Fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 378mg; Carbohydrate: 57g; Dietary Fiber: 14g; Sugar: 8g; Protein: 20g
Healthy Beet + Sweet Potato Brownies
For the brownies
- 1 medium sweet potato, baked with skin on
- 1 medium red beet, peeled and chopped roughly
- 1 cup (240g) almond butter or your favorite seed/nut butter
- 1 cup (112g) coconut flour
- 1 cup (237ml) maple syrup
- 1 cup (112g) unsweetened cocoa powder
- Pinch of salt
For the icing
- 1 cup (112g) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 3 tablespoons (45ml) maple syrup
- 1/2 cup (120ml) coconut oil, melted
- Pinch of salt, to taste
- Optional: cacao nibs to finish
Spray an 8-by-8-inch square pan lightly with coconut oil and line with parchment paper. Set aside.
Peel the baked potato and add into the bowl of a food processor or blender along with the chopped beets, nut butter, coconut flour, maple syrup, cocoa powder and a pinch of salt.
Blend until combined and mixed well.
Transfer to the prepared baking pan, spread and press evenly and set aside.
To make the icing: Combine the cocoa powder, maple syrup and coconut oil in a small bowl, mixing with a small spatula until it comes together in a cohesive, glossy mixture. Pour over the brownie base in the pan and spread evenly over the mixture with a spatula.
Transfer the brownies to the fridge and allow to set for 1–2 hours. Serve and enjoy!
Leftover brownies can be kept in the fridge for up to a week in their pan, covered tightly with plastic wrap.
Serves: 16 | Serving Size: 1 brownie
Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 278; Total Fat: 18g; Saturated Fat: 9g; Monounsaturated Fat: 1g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 33mg; Carbohydrate: 30g; Dietary Fiber: 8g; Sugar: 16g; Protein: 7g
Miso-Glazed Turnip + Kale Hash
- 1 pound (454g) small turnips, trimmed, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch (2.54cm) wedges
- 2 tablespoons white miso
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 bunch lacinato kale, destemmed and roughly chopped
Combine turnips, miso, butter and sugar in a medium skillet, then add water just to cover vegetables. Season with salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook turnips, turning occasionally, until they are tender and liquid has evaporated, 15–20 minutes. Add the chopped kale.
Once all the liquid has cooked off, keep cooking turnips and kale, tossing occasionally, until they are golden brown and caramelized and the sauce thickens and glazes the vegetables, about 5 minutes longer.
Add lemon juice and a splash of water to pan and swirl to coat turnips. Season with salt and pepper.
Divide the turnips among 4 plates (or, as many servings as you wish.) Top with a fried egg and enjoy. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to three days.
Serves: 4 | Serving Size: 1/2 cup
Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 169; Total Fat: 11g; Saturated Fat: 5g; Monounsaturated Fat: 3g; Cholesterol: 201mg; Sodium: 614mg; Carbohydrate: 10g; Dietary Fiber: 2g; Sugar: 7g; Protein: 8g
Discover hundreds of healthy recipes — from high protein to low carb — via “Recipe Discovery” in the MyFitnessPal app.