We’re living in a time of great convenience. In the past, you’d have to wait for your favorite seasonal vegetables to come in season, whereas now, many grocery stores provide us with whatever produce we happen to be craving no matter the season. For example, it’s not uncommon these days to pick up a package of watermelon from the refrigerated section, or some winter and spaghetti squash in the heat of summer.
Theoretically, you could whip yourself up some stuffed butternut squash in July, but doing so wouldn’t be the most sustainable way of eating, nor would it result in the best-tasting dish, either. Certain types of produce require specific temperatures in order to grow and when allowed to grow under the right conditions, their flavors are at their best. Of course, there are some foods, such as leafy greens, that you can find all year round (including at farmers markets), but even kale has its peak season. So if you’re interested in picking up some produce while it’s at its peak during the transition from late summer to early fall, we’re here to help.
Look for these five veggies at your local farmer’s market in late summer and early fall:
Although chard is available all year round, it is at its best in late summer or early fall in colder regions (warmer regions can enjoy it in fall through spring). Chard is a highly nutritious leafy green; it is rich in vitamin K, A, and C, and is a good source of magnesium, copper, and a wide variety of antioxidants. In terms of overall nutrient richness in vegetables, it ranks second only to spinach. Bitter on its own, it is recommended that you boil or steam chard prior to eating it.
Try chard in this Mediterranean-Style Rainbow Chard, this No-Noodle Swiss Chard and Butternut Squash Lasagna, and this Swiss Chard and Wild Mushroom Quiche.
Both sweet (bell) and spicy peppers are at their peak in late summer and early fall. Peppers are a source of a variety of nutrients, depending on their color. Yellow peppers, for example, have a higher carotenoid concentration than red peppers while red peppers have a higher concentration of two specific carotenoids, lutein and beta-carotene. Overall, bell peppers are a great source of vitamin C. Flavors also vary between colors. Green peppers are on the bitter side, yellow peppers are sweet, orange peppers are less sweet than yellow, and red peppers are the sweetest. Fun fact: all of these peppers are the same species of plant at different stages of ripeness.
If you’ve never tried fresh beans from the shell, early fall is one of the best time to do so. Known as shelling beans, they include varieties such as butter beans, cannellini, fava, cranberry, gigante, and more. These beans can be cooked immediately or dried and stored for later use. Beans that were shelled at the right moment cook in only minutes and do not need an overnight soak. Typically, you find these beans in dried form at the grocery store, but in late summer and early fall, you can likely find them at your local farmers market. Look for shelling beans with slightly shriveled pods at your local farmers market, which indicates plump beans inside.
Okra needs warm weather in order to grow, so it is best harvested in late summer in early fall, when the crop has had the time to be exposed to the right temperature. You can tell whether or not okra is at its peak ripeness if the pod is plump, yet firm. One of the biggest issues that make people seem to have with okra is its sliminess. To learn how to cook okra the right way, read How to Cook Okra so it’s Not Slimy
In the United States, okra is likely the most famous for gumbo. But, it is surprisingly versatile and can be used in a number of dishes ranging from appetizers to entrées. Try using okra to make this Oven-Fried Okra With Sunflower Cider Dip, this Stuffed Okra, or this Spicy Greek Baked Okra.
If you’re the type who can’t wait for colder temperatures to dig into winter squash, then you’ll be happy to know that a wide variety of winter squash are ready in early fall. This includes spaghetti squash, carnival squash, butternut squash, buttercup squash, delicata squash, and hubbard squash. Winter squash are rich in carbs, making them a great option for comfort foods such as stuffed squash, stews, and curry.
Check out some of the unique ways you can use winter squash in 15 Savory Recipes Made With Winter Squash and 10 Ways to Cook Comforting Fall Foods With Winter Squash.
If you pick up any of these veggies, let us know what you made! Share your photo using #FoodMonsterApp.
If you’re looking for more delicious and seasonal plant-based recipes, especially ones involving potatoes, then we highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 8,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to ten new recipes per day. Check it out!
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