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Fall Harvest Favorites

Fall is an exciting time to get back into the kitchens and spend some time taking advantage of the bounty of produce - making long-simmered stews and sauces, braising, baking, and other forms of cooking are often avoided during the warmer summer months. The cooler temperatures bring a whole slew of seasonal goodies to cook with, from crisp apples and juicy pears to sweet root vegetables, and sturdy winter squash.

On a Paleo diet, you’ll have to pass on those sugar laden and additive-filled pumpkin spice lattes and apple pies with grain-laden crusts. Instead, you get to partake in fall’s natural flavors! To make the most of what you'll find at the markets this fall, we’ve put together a list of our some of our favorites along with a few tip and ideas for buying, storing, and preparing the season's best produce.

Apples

A crisp, sweet-tart apple is a definite representation of fall produce. There over 7,500 kinds grown around the world. Particular varieties work better in certain preparations. Gala, Granny Smith, and Red Delicious are best eaten raw; those in the McIntosh family, (Cortland, Empire, and Macoun), are good for both eating out of hand or making applesauce; and Jonathan, Jonagold, Pink Lady, Mutsu, and Rome do well in baked recipes as they tend to hold their shape well. Mix and match flavors and textures to achieve your ideal combination.

Choosing

Choose apples that are firm and unblemished. Apples emit ethylene gas, which accelerates the ripening process. The riper they are, the more ethylene they produce, which can rot other produce stored nearby.

Storing

Store apples in a cool, dark place away from other ethylene-sensitive produce. Early in the season, they are best eaten as soon as possible. Midseason apples will keep for weeks, and late-season fruit is good for up to a few months.

Tip

Cut apples will oxidize quickly; a squeeze of lemon over sliced apples will prevent browning.

Beets

This earthy, sweet root vegetable comes in red, pink, orange, yellow, and white varieties. Both the root and leaves are edible, making it a versatile ingredient in dishes both raw and cooked. Roasted beets are delicious, simply rinse each bulb, wrap individually in aluminum foil, and roast in a hot oven for an hour. The leaves are delicious sautéed or in salads.

Choosing

Select beets that are firm, smooth, and blemish-free. If you're roasting them whole, choose beets that are all of a similar size. The greens are a good indicator of how long the beets have been in storage—look for bright green, perky leaves with no browning or wilting.

Storing

Cut the bulbous roots from the stalk before storing. Place the leaves and stalks in a perforated plastic bag in the crisper. The beet roots can be stored loose, also in the crisper. Do not wash either until you are ready to use them.

Tip

Leave the skin on; it prevents the juices from bleeding out, and they slip right off after cooking. When working with beets you may want to wear gloves, as the color will stain your hands.  To remove grit from leaves, agitate them in a bowl of cold water, remove leaves, and repeat with fresh water if needed. Spin or pat until thoroughly dried.

Brussel’s Sprouts

These tender, mild-flavored members of the cabbage family are a relatively recent import which were introduced into the U.S. from Europe in the early 1900s. Although Brussel’s sprouts are tender and sweet when roasted, fried, or steamed, they release their infamous sulfur aroma when overcooked. Brussel’s sprouts are delicious halved, par-boiled, and finished in a sauté pan with bacon; or shredded raw along with kale and tossed in a simple lemon vinaigrette.

Choosing

If you can find them, choose Brussel’s sprouts that are still on the stalk, as they stay fresh longer. Look for small sprouts, about an inch in diameter, as these are sweeter and more tender. Avoid those with yellow or damaged outer leaves.

Storing

Keep those on the stalk in the coldest part of the refrigerator. For loose sprouts, remove any damaged or wilted leaves and store refrigerated in a paper bag.

Tip

Wash Brussels sprouts and remove any loose or damaged leaves. Pat dry, then trim the woody end of the stem. If using whole, slice an X into the bottom of each to help them cook more evenly.

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Carrots

As well as regular orange varieties, carrots come in a rainbow of colors, from white to yellow to purple, as well as squat, irregular shapes. Enjoy them grated raw with honey and spices for a punchy salad, roasted with orange zest and olive oil, and simmered in soups and stews. Carrot tops edible and have a flavor similar to curly parsley; use them to garnish carrot dishes, toss into salads, or throw into soup stock to add earthy flavor.

Choosing

Look for carrots that are smooth, firm, and crisp with deep color - an indicator of flavor. Avoid any with soft spots, discoloration, or sprouts from the root itself.

Storing

Remove the leaves before storing and store them separately in a perforated plastic bag in the vegetable crisper. Store the carrots in a perforated plastic bag. Avoid storing next to ethylene gas-releasing fruits like apples, apricots, melons, and figs.

Tip

Peeling is optional and only necessary with older, thick carrots. To prepare the tops, rinse in cold water and spin or pat dry.

Celery Root

Celery root, or celeriac, is a knobby, pitted root vegetable related to common celery. Though not particularly beautiful, it is fantastically versatile. Its herbal flavor and crunchy texture shines when added raw to salads. When cooked, it accentuates other vegetables for complex, hearty soups and purées. Celery root is a fantastic accompaniment to roasted or braised meats.

Choosing

Celery root is freshest when the stalks are still intact. Look for globular roots to minimize waste when peeling, and feel for heaviness, a sign of freshness.

Storing

Store in a cool, dry environment, much like onions and potatoes. It will keep in the fridge, wrapped loosely in plastic, for several weeks.

Tip

Stalks can be used in broths and stocks and the leaves can be sliced thinly and used for garnish, like other fresh herbs.

Mushrooms

The white button mushroom is perhaps most familiar, but there are many other types. Cremini and Portobello mushrooms—the same variety as the white button, but allowed to grow longer—hold up well when cooked, and infuse dishes with a wonderful earthiness. The shiitake, native to East Asia, adds a distinctive umami flavor to stir-fries and soups. Dense, meaty chanterelles have an appealing nutty flavor when sautéed with a little butter. Oyster and enoki mushrooms, are sweeter and more delicate. These can be a welcome substitute for the white button in a spinach and bacon salad. Frilly hen of the wood dresses up any dish. No matter the variety, the earthy, deep flavor they add to dishes of all kinds is uncontested.

Choosing

All varieties should be firm and dry to the touch, with a pleasant earthy odor and caps that are slightly open. Check the gills for signs of moisture, which can affect the taste. Avoid mushrooms that have slimy spots or wrinkles.

Storing

Store mushrooms loosely in a paper bag, preferably in layers between damp paper towels, and refrigerate. If you purchase your mushrooms prepackaged, remove them from the packaging and store the same way.

Tip

Clean mushrooms by gently brushing off dirt with a damp paper towel or a soft brush. For varieties like chanterelles, which can collect dirt in their many ridges, dunk them in water mixed with a little vinegar and pat dry immediately. Salt mushrooms near the end of cooking rather than at the beginning, since salting too early can toughen them.

Pears

Certain varieties of pears are high the list of favorites: Bartlett, an early ripening pear with a sturdy shelf life is delicious in salads or eaten out of hand; Anjous, both red and green, have luscious white flesh that sweetens further a few weeks off the tree; Bosc holds up beautifully when poached in red wine; Seckel, also known as the Sugar Pear, is spicy and aromatic—a wonderful choice for a salty, crispy salad; Comice pears are succulent with a custardy texture, perfect for a simple dessert. Pears are one of the few fruits that improve off the tree; pick them while still hard and allow them to ripen on the counter for a sweet, succulent addition to all sorts of fall dishes.

Choosing

Look for unblemished fruit that is firm to the touch. Bartlett is the only variety that will change color when ripe, so purchase when green.

Storing

Leave your pears on the counter for a few days to ripen at room temperature. Bartlett pears will turn yellow when ripe, while a slight softness on the stem end of other pears indicates readiness. Pears can be refrigerated to slow the ripening process.

Tip

The exposed flesh of pears, like that of apples, will quickly oxidize and turn brown; lemon juice can help prevent browning.

Parsnips

While similar in taste to the carrot, the parsnip is far sweeter, especially when roasted. parsnips were often used as a sweetener before the arrival of sugar cane in Europe. They were also considered an aphrodisiac.

Choosing

Look for parsnips that are light beige to bright and creamy white, with no blemishes. Like carrots, they should be firm, with minimal give when you try to bend them. The most flavorful parsnips are usually small to medium in size.

Storing

Ideally, parsnips are best stored in a root cellar, but if one is unavailable, wrap parsnips, unwashed, in a plastic bag and leave them in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Tip

Parsnips are ideal for flavoring winter stews, but can also be served mashed, glazed, puréed, or roasted in herbs, such as rosemary or sage. Wash before peeling, remove the ends, and slice according to whichever recipe you’re using.

Sweet Potato

The sweet potato is a starchy root vegetable which is not related to the potato nor the yam (although often confused for this root). These tubers can vary widely in texture, color, and sugar content, from creamy to fluffy, deep orange to nearly white, with flavor profiles that bring to mind pumpkin, vanilla, and sometimes toasted nuts. Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet, making them an obvious choice for desserts, but they are equally good in savory preparations. Try them simply roasted with some great olive oil and salt, puréed, added to a soup, or baked into a gratin.

Choosing

Buy sweet potatoes shortly before you plan to use them and choose small to medium ones that feel heavy for their size. Avoid sprouted tubers and those that have been cold stored.

Storing

Store whole sweet potatoes in a cool, dark place for up to a week. Cold temperatures will negatively affect their flavor and cause them to toughen so avoid refrigeration.

Tip

You can peel sweet potatoes or leave the skin on, depending on your preference and cooking method. Keeping raw, cut pieces in water will help prevent discoloration.

Winter Squash

Winter squash encompasses a wide variety of hard-skinned squashes that are best from early fall through winter. Their flesh is usually yellow to deep-orange, with a starchy consistency that turns creamy and sweet when cooked. Each variety has a unique flavor and can be used in different preparations: Acorn squash has a tender golden interior that makes a sweet, creamy purée; Butternut squash's sweet, easy-to-peel flesh works well roasted, pureed and in soups; Delicata squash has a thin, edible skin and is wonderful sliced and sautéed in a little bacon fat or tallow; Spaghetti squash has a light flavor and texture that works perfectly as a Paleo pasta alternative.

Choosing

Look for very hard squash that does not give when pressed. Skin should be deeply colored, relatively dull in appearance, and should not be easily nicked or scraped off.

Storing

Whole winter squash can be stored in a cool, dark place for several weeks. Cut, raw squash will keep, refrigerated, for a few days.

Tip

To remove the skin, cut the bottom of the squash so it is level, then remove the outer layer from top to bottom with a sharp knife. Slice in half, scoop out the seeds, and cut into slices or cubes for cooking.

Chef Pete’s creations use and are inspired by local and seasonal ingredients too which is always illustrated in his ever-changing, creative and temptingly delicious weekly menus.

You often hear both health experts and chefs say you should eat seasonally and include foods in your diet that are grown at the same time of the year that you eat them. Chef Pete even wrote an entire cookbook about eating Paleo by Season! Find delicious and easy recipes to take full advantage of all that’s available this fall – and all the seasons to follow.

Enjoy your fall bounty


Michal Ofer is a wellness and digestion expert and nutrition coach. She is focused on assisting clients to take control of their health and happiness through the sustainable food and lifestyle choices that best support them. Through strengthening the body from the inside out, her clients are able to reach new heights of health, happiness and wellness. Michal obtained her Professional Training and Certificate from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York. She has a further studied through the University of Colorado (Boulder) and Stanford University and is a Certified 21 Day Sugar Detox Coach. Michal has also received a Bachelor’s Degree in Life Sciences and a Master Life Coach Certification. For further information and to connect with Michal visit her website at www.michalofer.com

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