When you look outside, you might notice the leaves changing, the weather becoming cooler, and the daylight getting shorter. There are signs of fall around us and this should be reflected in our diet. Modern agriculture and food processing techniques allow most foods to be available year round. However, seasonal food is produce that is purchased and consumed around the time that it is harvested. Crops picked at their peak of ripeness and eaten soon after are full of flavor and nutrients. Eating seasonally also saves your wallet since seasonal foods are often cheaper to produce and purchase when they are in season. The following are five seasonal foods available in Illinois in early October. Check them out, try a new recipe, and enjoy the abundant flavors of fall.
With more than 7,500 varieties grown around the world, there is an apple out there for everyone. Apples are ideal snacks; they are easy to carry, flavorful, high in soluble fiber to keep you full and packed with phytochemicals. Check out nearby apple orchards including Jonamac, Edward’s, Honey Hill, and Kuipers to pick your own apples.
DID YOU KNOW? Apples have long been called nature’s toothbrush because they enhance dental hygiene. Biting and chewing an apple stimulates the gums, and the sweetness of the apple prompts an increased flow of saliva, which reduces tooth decay by lowering the levels of bacteria in the mouth.
- Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal
- Microwave Apple Crisp in a Mug
- Crockpot Applesauce
- Apple Cranberry Walnut Salad
- Apple Cookies
Due to its versatility, cauliflower has been growing in popularity lately. Cauliflower is rich in vitamin C, folate, and fiber. To retain flavor and minimize nutrient loss, cook cauliflower rapidly by boiling in a minimum amount of water or steaming. Too much cooking turns cauliflower mushy and releases sulfurous compounds, resulting in an unpleasant odor and bitter taste.
DID YOU KNOW? In addition to standard white, cauliflower also naturally grows in purple, orange, and green varieties.
- Garlic Mashed Cauliflower
- Cauliflower Pizza Crust
- Baked Buffalo Cauliflower
- General Tso’s Cauliflower
- Parmesan Cauliflower Bites
Eggplant’s unique texture and ability to absorb different flavors makes it a great meat substitute in a variety of dishes. Eggplant is a multi-talented fruit, with the most famous dishes being pureed, fried, stewed, and stuffed. Although not as nutrient dense as other fruits, eggplants contain moderate sources of manganese, thiamin, Vitamin B6, Vitamin K, and folate.
DID YOU KNOW? In the 1700s, early European varieties of eggplant were smaller and yellowish-white in color. They looked like chicken or goose eggs, which led to the name “eggplant.”
- Pulled Eggplant BBQ
- Baked Eggplant Parmesan
- Baba Ganoush
- Baked Eggplant Fries w/ Tzatziki Sauce
- Sweet Potatoes
Many people only see sweet potatoes on their dinner table at Thanksgiving. However, sweet potatoes can be enjoyed year round, on its own or incorporated into sweet and savory dishes. Sweet potatoes contain enormous amounts of vitamin A which is necessary for eye, immune system, and skin health.
DID YOU KNOW? Sweet potatoes are not the same thing as yams. Yams are starchier, more potato-like, and usually not very sweet.
Sweet Potato Recipes
- Roasted Sweet Potato and Black Bean Quesadilla
- Sweet Potato Chickpea Spinach Curry
- Ground Turkey Sweet Potato Skillet
- Sweet Potato Fries
- Sweet Potato Ground Turkey Chili
- Winter Squash
Do not be fooled by the term “winter” squash. These gourds are harvested in the fall before frost and stored for later. The different shapes, colors, textures, and flavors of winter squash brings a lot of variety to the table. The orange and yellow flesh is extremely rich in beta carotene and a good source of potassium and fiber.
DID YOU KNOW? The seeds of winter squash can be baked or roasted for a snack. They are an excellent source of iron, potassium, and the B vitamins.
Winter Squash Recipes
- Chicken and Broccoli Stuffed Spaghetti Squash
- Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells
- Stuffed Acorn Squash with Wild Rice and Mushrooms
- Delicata Squash Fries with Chipotle Garlic Sauce
- Roasted Kabocha Squash Soup
The changing of seasons in the Midwest is a source of natural diversity for our diet that should be embraced. Check out the Seasonal Food Guide to learn what is in season in your area!