Fall is officially here in Arizona, and we are lucky enough to snag some not-too-hot weather, soak up the rain, and of course, start seeing all those gorgeous foods growing in our Fall veggie gardens. October is the perfect month to enjoy a veritable cornucopia of fruits and vegetables, and every year we all look forward to the seasonal recipes that take advantage of that bounty.
Though most people in the United States are pretty spoiled in our ability to find seasonal foods year-round, fruits and vegetables that are harvested in season have a flavor that cannot be beaten. These foods are best indulged in during their peak season, and October is peak for some of your favorite fruits and veggies.
October foods are often rich, dense, and full of healthy fiber that keeps us feeling warm as the chill begins to set in. It’s the perfect time for soups and stews, for purees and warm breakfasts, for salads with seasonal additions, and for delicious, grill-worthy vegetables.
October fruits are particularly delightful because even the sweetest varieties that we find in the summer months cannot compare to those that reach peak flavor in the fall. For many, October means exactly two things: pumpkin and apple picking, and that’s for a good reason.
Though you can usually find pumpkin (in one form or another) any time of year, pumpkins that ripen in October are sweeter and all-around tastier than any other time of year. There are about 1000 ways to use pumpkin, and right now is the best time to grab a whole lot of pumpkins and preserve their orange meat and yummy seeds for meals and snacks.
It’s apple picking season, and that means that apples are as sweet as can be and ready to be devoured. Grab a basket and load up on apples for delicious quick snacking, apple pies, apple preserves, and apple smoothies.
Pomegranates, those beautiful purple treats that come in season but once a year, are ready to be eaten right now. Those juice-filled little seeds are bursting with fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, and antioxidants that will keep your body happy and healthy. Remove the seeds in a bowl of water to reduce the staining, and then sprinkle them over oatmeal, yogurt, or a yummy salad.
Other fruits that are perfect right now include figs, pears, grapes, cranberries, dates, oranges, quinces, star fruit and blackberries.
October vegetables are also prime for the picking, and broccoli and cauliflower are one of the best foods to grab a ton of this month. Those green and white beauties can be used to create purees, pizza crusts, bagels, stir fries, raw snacks, veggie lasagnas, tossed into a salad, or made into a soup. Did you know that raw broccoli stems will blend up wonderfully into fruit smoothies, making them creamy while adding protein, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and selenium, and vitamins A, C, K, and B6 to your morning shake?
While winter squashes get all the attention this time of year (and rightfully so!), there are lots of other vegetables that reach harvest right now, like purple and gold beets. Beets are naturally sweet, and raw beets can add a tremendous amount of flavor to salads. Prefer them cooked? Cooked beets, whether roasted, pureed, or added to a soup create a tasty dish accompaniment to any meal. Beet root also has the added health benefit of being rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.
Bell peppers are ready to be plucked, roasted, and added to everything on your menu, from sandwiches to pastas. Red, yellow, and orange bell peppers are notoriously high-priced when they are out of season, but right now they are available at low prices, so stock up on them and roast, freeze and pickle them for year-round dishes.
Other vegetables to snag in October include zucchini, cabbage, eggplant, okra, carrots, sweet potatoes, turnips, parsnips, and onions.