It is that time of year again. Apples and pumpkins riddle our kitchens and spices fill the air. It is a beautiful thing, but it can also get repetitive after all the fall attention has gone down and we settle into the new season.
In a time where the food industry is booming and creativity is necessary, maybe those of us who cling to our familiar foods should consider some other unsung heroes of the fall.
The predictable lineup for fall consists of apples, squashes (especially pumpkin), maple, cranberries, and various warming spices (like cinnamon, clove, and ginger).
With apples having the most variety of all produce, ringing in at about 2,500 different options in the U.S. alone, they are an understandable classic.
Not only are these popular items delicious, but according to Reader’s Digest, the sensation of fall helps our economy too. The northern region of the East Coast boasts states like New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York where tourism soars in autumn.
The harvest of maple, apples, and pumpkins become a great pass time for those who visit, and help generate income for their local economies.
While there are clear benefits for these foods, and a clear place for them in all American’s hearts, sometimes it is rewarding and exciting to add something new to spice your plates up.
With fall being America’s favorite season, let us celebrate everything it has to offer.
Persimmons are a commonly overlooked fruit, especially in America. The two varieties of persimmons are eaten a bit differently. The Hachiya persimmon’s shape is similar to an acorn, and must be fully ripened and soft (almost like a peach) to eat them for their best taste and sweetness. Squat Fuyus can be eaten at any time, and are more similar to a tomato in shape.
The Los Angeles Times recommends persimmons to be eaten as is or added to a salad, baked goods, puddings, and cocktails. They work nicely with the warm spices commonly used in the fall as well.
These nuts are commonly associated with the winter, but they are typically grown and harvested in the fall months.
Bon Appetit describes them as buttery and meaty, and that when buying you should look for heavy, shiny chestnuts with no mold on their skin and no rattling when you move them around.
They are good roasted, in salads, for stuffing, as a side, as well as served with pancakes.
Leeks are the lighter cousin of the onion, much like green (or spring) onion and chives. They often get overlooked and are actually grown in the fall and winter months.
According to Bon Appetit, they are an equal replacement to onion in any recipe, and of course shine on their own as well. They are delicious caramelized, in stews and soups, and in savory pies or quiches.
Leaks will most likely be dirty when you go to buy them, so wash them well when you get home. When picking them out, the whites should be stiff and the darker green parts should look healthy. Think of it as buying lettuce or green onions.
4. Wild Mushrooms
Move aside commercial mushrooms, because wild mushrooms thrive in the fall season. Examples of these mushrooms are chanterelles, morels, lion’s mane, maitake, and oyster.
They are typically referred to as gourmet mushrooms in grocery stores. If buying in stores, look for them to be white and fresh. They should not be flimsy, smell fishy, have brown spots, or look and/or feel slimy. The best way to buy mushrooms are whole to prevent browning and allow them to keep longer.
Mushrooms are found in forests, tucked at the base of a tree or on displaced and rotting wood. If picking yourself, be sure to do extensive research, as there are many poisonous mushroom varieties among the edible ones.
Mushrooms can typically be added to anything savory, but are specifically great in soups and stews, gravy, pasta, as a main course for vegetarians or vegans, and added to meat dishes for an extra savory note.
While pomegranates are somewhat popular, they are typically outshined compared to it’s fellow fall produce. In fact, many people do not even know that pomegranates are in season in the fall time.
The challenge with pomegranates are the harvesting of the actual seeds once you have the fruit. There are various tips and tricks people claim work best (like halving it and submerging it in water to pull the seeds out), but what most people can agree on is that once they get to the seeds it is all worth the trouble.
Pomegranate seeds are tart, sweet, and crisp. The Los Angeles Times recommends serving them as a garnish to add color and a pop to salads, oatmeal, granola, stuffing, dips (particularly delicious in guacamole), and soups. They are also great as a dessert layered in a trifle, boiled into a syrup or sauce, or infused into ice cream, drinks, and tea.
*For more information on seasonal produce grown specifically in New Jersey, check out this article from The Spruce Eats*