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Fall's Bounty

Summer gardens (and farmers' markets!) deliver delicious fresh produce suitable for the day's grill or canning stint -- but fall's harvest is where we look for vegetables that are "good keepers." Root vegetables like beets, parsnips, turnips, and Jerusalem artichokes; hardy cabbages; and winter squash and pumpkins all, under the right conditions, will store well. Fall's fruits--apples, pears, pomegranates, and cranberries, for example -- are also often well suited for storage. Even the produce that doesn't boast long storage capacity--like broccoli and cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and fresh greens (kale, collards, mustard and Bok choy, for example) seem hardier than summer produce, as if they're ready to nourish us heartily as the cool winds start stirring the leaves.

When gathering fall produce from the garden or market, set aside your best, unblemished specimens for storage and serve up (or freeze, pickle or can) the rest as soon as possible. In general, turnips, beets, and other root crops and cabbages will keep best in a moist, cold, but not freezing (35 to 40 degrees F) environment. Sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and winter squash prefer a dry, warm (not hot), area--about 50 to 60 degrees F. (An unheated basement might be perfect.) For maximum storage time and minimum vitamin depletion, most produce is best stored in a dark place.

To compliment your fall harvest, you'll want to stock up on your favorite spices -- and perhaps a few new finds. Warming spices are especially appropriate for the change in temperature (allspice, cayenne, cinnamon, cloves, mace, nutmeg), but any spice can find a good harvest partner. Do the unexpected: leek and potato soup is a wonderful fall staple -- but also add some parsnips and turnips, along with some flavorful spices like basil, parsley, savory, and chervil. Make slaw out of green and red cabbages, but also try shredded turnips and beets, with a handful of caraway seeds. Mash rutabagas and turnips as well as potatoes, and include nutmeg or garlic, onion, parsley, and chives. Serve kohlrabi sticks alongside carrot sticks for delicious interest. Or steam them together, then squirt with lemon juice and sprinkle with pepper and thyme. Substitute the root celeriac for celery in just about any dish. Or sauté it, along with a little fennel and oregano.

Following are some very basic guidelines for storing and cooking just some of fall's bounty:

Apples | Beets | Broccoli | Brussel Sprouts
Cabbage | Carrots | Cauliflower | Celeriac | Corn | Grapes | Greens | Jerusalem Artichokes | Kohlrabi | Leeks | Parsnips | Pears | Pomegranate | Potatoes | Pumpkin
Raspberries | Rutabaga | Sweet Potatoes | Turnips | Winter Squash

apples

Apples

Some apple varieties are better keepers than others. (Granny Smith, Winesap, Rome, Fuji, and Melrose will all keep four to five months, for example, while Lodi and Pristine will only keep for a week or two.) No matter which you're in the market for, choose firm, bruise-free apples. A cool cellar or a storage building that doesn't freeze is great for large quantities; smaller numbers can go in the refrigerator (but don't leave apples out at room temperature or they'll quickly deteriorate). If you can, leave some space around them for circulation. And because the humidity in refrigerators is low, it's best to put them in a container or plastic bag.

When choosing a variety, also consider what you'll do with the apples. Gala and McIntosh apples are good for piemaking, for example, while Pristine and Lodi make great applesauce. Apples are delicious when sautéed or roasted, too. Spices to keep on hand for your apples include allspice, anise, caraway, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, fennel, ginger, mace, mint, nutmeg, and rosemary. And don't forget to try Frontier Apple Pie Spice blend in your pies, and also puddings, crisps, cobblers, muffins, and cakes.

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