Here we are, fully immersed in Autumn. The leaves are glowing red and gold, and the wind holds a chill on its edges. Darkness comes quickly at night, and the mornings are gray and crisp. All around us, the trees and the birds are preparing for the winter, and so, too, are we.
Fall is traditionally the end of the harvest, a time of gathering and preparation, a time of roots and starches. I love adding local fall produce to my meals. It's no secret that produce tastes better in season, and eating local is good for both environmental and health reasons. Eating locally-produced, seasonally available foods means your diet varies throughout the year, so you get a better variety of nutrients over all. And when food doesn't have to travel as far, it looses fewer nutrients during the journey and gets to you at a younger, fresher stage.
When you buy seasonal fruits and vegetables, you support a diversity of crop varieties, a diversity of small local farmers, and an alternative to the globalized, industrial agriculture system. Buy local and seasonal whenever possible, and save the "imported goods" for things that could never grow near you, like oranges, or chocolate, or mangoes. Rely more on the local stuff and reserve the "imports" for special treats.
Here are some of my favorite fall foods, in season right now in the Pacific Northwest:
Not just for Thanksgiving! Cook them up and add a tangy sweetness to a savory dish.
These are available pre-cooked all year long, but nothing beats seasonal chestnuts still in their shells! These make a great snack or side dish. They're very different from other nuts -- starchy, sweet, and somewhat like a sweet potato.
You can't get more local than this! These wild mushrooms are foraged right here in Oregon's dark, rainy forests. They're golden, and trumpet-shaped, and taste both earthy and mild. Great sauteed with garlic!
Sure, apples are available all year long, but they don't taste that great when they're shipped in from New Zealand or Chile, and you can usually only get a few kinds. Local apples, on the other hand, come in an abundance of varieties, like Sweet Orin, Pink Lady, Honeycrisp, and more. It's fun to try heirloom varieties and new flavors! In-season apples are crisper, sweeter, and fresher, so get them while you can!
I wrote a whole post about squash, because there are so many kinds! Some of my favorites are kuri, kabocha, hubbard, and delicata. And they're easy to cook. Simply cut the squash in half, remove the seeds, and roast face down on a sheet pan at 400 degrees for anywhere from half an hour to an hour, depending on the size of the squash. Squash makes a great side dish, especially when paired with cranberries.