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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) environment. Sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and winter squash prefer a dry, warm (not hot), area--about 50 to 60 degrees. (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

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.

Beets

Use both the deep red root and the green tops of this delicious vegetable. Because they have thick skins, beets store well, but they're best harvested when small, because they tend to become coarse and woody when they get large. Refrigerate beets in a vegetable crisper for up to two weeks. Don't forget to use the greens, too -- they have great vitamin content. Can, pickle, or freeze beets for longer-term serving.

A good source of calcium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, vitamins A and C, beets can be grated raw on salads or in slaws, boiled, baked, steamed, fried, grilled, or microwaved. When cooking beets, leave the root and stem end attached, to prevent "bleeding" of the red juices into the water. (Don't poke at the beet during cooking for the same reason.) Six medium or 12 small beets will serve 3 to 4 people. Good spice partners include caraway, celery seed, chervil, chives, cloves, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger, horseradish, orange peel, parsley, savory, sea salt, tarragon, and thyme.

Broccoli

A good source of vitamins A and C as well as potassium, iron, and calcium, both the stalks and the florets of this member of the cabbage family are edible. Choose from green (not yellowish) broccoli, with compact florets. To store, place unwashed in an airtight container, and refrigerate. It should keep about five days.

Broccoli can be served raw or boiled, steamed, blanched, stir-fried, deep-fried, roasted, sautéed, or microwaved. If the stalks are large, you may want to remove the tough outer skins with a paring knife. Don't overcook, though, or it will become mushy. To quicken cooking time, slit stems. (If necessary, soak in cold salted water about 15 minutes to remove any bugs or cabbage worms in florets before cooking.) Plan on preparing about two pounds to serve 4. Season with lemon, basil, dill, garlic, marjoram, mustard, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, rosemary, sage, and/or savory.

Brussels Sprouts

Don't be in too much of a hurry to harvest your Brussels sprouts; they like cold temps. In fact, many people believe that they taste best after a light frost or two. Choose firm, compact sprouts, no bigger than an inch in diameter (bigger ones taste more cabbagey.) No matter when you pick them or bring them home from market, try to cook and serve Brussels sprouts just as soon as you can after their arrival in your kitchen (though they will keep for a few days in refrigerator in an airtight container). Simply wash gently in water then steam or sauté.

These quirky looking veggies are great with lemon, chives, garlic, mustard, nutmeg, paprika, pepper, sea salt and sesame seeds. They're a good source of vitamins C and A, and iron. One pound will make 4 servings.

Cabbage

Cabbage is a versatile vegetable and a good source of vitamin C. Because a head of cabbage will lose moisture quickly, it's best to store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator (for up to two weeks or so). Don't wash it before storing, and don't shred or cut it ahead of time, or the increased surface area will cause it to deteriorate more quickly. Serve red and green cabbages raw -- shredded or chopped -- with dressing, for slaws or salads. Or cook it by steaming, stir-frying, braising, or microwaving. (Keep in mind that overcooking will make the taste stronger.) A one-pound cabbage will serve about four people.

Pair cabbages with apples, raisins, pineapples, squash, and potatoes to make colcannon, a traditional Irish dish. Savoy cabbage is especially good for stuffing. Good spices for cabbages include basil, caraway, cardamom, cayenne, celery seed, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger, lemon peel, marjoram, mustard, onion, oregano, parsley, poppy seed, sage, savory, sea salt, tarragon and thyme.

Carrots

Look for bright orange carrots when purchasing -- these have the highest carotene content (which helps the body manufacture vitamin A). Remove tops and stems (or carrots will get limp), then store in a cool, moist environment or refrigerate in a container or plastic bag for a week or two. Only peel carrots if they're old and tough, or you'll lose the nutrients (B vitamins and minerals) just below the skin.

Serve carrots raw, steamed, boiled, baked, grilled, stir fried, or microwaved. One pound is enough for about 4 servings. Use in sweet and savory dishes alike, seasoning with allspice, basil, caraway, chervil, chives, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, curry powder, dill, garlic, ginger, horseradish, lemon, marjoram, mint, nutmeg, parsley, pepper, rosemary, sage, savory, sea salt and/or thyme.

Cauliflower

A good source of potassium, calcium, and vitamins A and C, cauliflower should be used as soon as possible (before it becomes too strongly aromatic and flavored). Choose cauliflower that's free of tiny black spots (mold). Placed in an airtight container or plastic bag (washed), it will keep in the refrigerator for about five days. Cauliflower freezes well and makes terrific pickles. Before using, soak, if necessary, in cold salted water 15 minutes (no longer) to remove any bugs or cabbage worms. (This will also crisp the florets nicely.)

Serve raw, or blanch. Or cook whole or in florets by steaming, baking, grilling, roasting, stir frying, or microwaving. One medium head of cauliflower will serve about four people. Season with basil, cardamom, chives, cumin, curry powder, dill, garlic, marjoram, mustard, nutmeg, parsley, rosemary, savory, sea salt, tarragon, thyme, and/or turmeric.

Celeriac

What this vegetable lacks in looks it makes up for in taste, so don't be scared away! Yes, it does taste like celery, only milder, with a juicy texture. Instead of stalks, this plant forms a bulbous knob at the base, underground. Serve celeriac raw in salads, or steamed, boiled, baked, mashed, or sautéed. It's a great addition to almost any soup. Use about one pound of celeriac for 4 servings of a side dish. Season with cayenne, fennel, garlic, mustard, onions, parsley, pepper, sea salt, and/or thyme.

Corn

Choose from corn that's white, various shades of yellow, or a combination of white and yellow. All contain potassium and vitamins A and B. Sweet corn loses half its natural sugar in 24 hours, so plan to harvest or purchase your ears and serve them as soon as possible (refrigerate in the meantime; for longer storage, freeze, can or dry).

Steam, boil, or grill, and use cooked kernels in salads, muffins, breads, soups, stews, casseroles, puddings, fritters, and to make succotash. Season with basil, bay, cayenne, celery seed, cilantro, coriander, chives, garlic, marjoram, mustard, nutmeg, oregano, parsley, pepper, sage, savory, sea salt, thyme, and/or turmeric.

Grapes

A good source of vitamins C and K, grapes can be enjoyed as a snack or in fruit salad, or even roasted with vegetables and meats. Because they're often sprayed with insecticides, purchase organic grapes whenever you can. Otherwise, be sure to wash them well. Choose plump, unblemished, even-colored grapes, and store them in a mesh bag in the refrigerator, where they'll keep for up to a week.

Season dishes that contain grapes (such as fruit salads) with cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and/or nutmeg.

Greens

Many fresh greens -- like collards, kale, mustard, watercress, endive, and Bok choy -- enjoy growing in the cooler fall temperatures. Storage and cooking will vary with the type of green, but most can be served raw, in salads, as well as braised, steamed, chopped and sautéed. Season with chervil, garlic, ginger, marjoram, nutmeg, rosemary, and/or tarragon.

Jerusalem artichokes

Not an artichoke at all, but a member of the sunflower family, this tuberous vegetable tastes sweet and nutty and looks a lot like a large fresh ginger root. The name comes from the Italian "girasol," meaning turning to the sun. Jerusalem artichokes are low in calories and high in vitamin B1 and potassium.

Store Jerusalem artichokes in a cool, dry, place, away from light, and rinse well before cooking. Then peel and grate to use raw, or cook as you would potatoes: boil and mash or bake, steam, or microwave, then remove the skin before serving. Be careful not to overcook, or they'll become mushy. Season with cayenne, celery seed, chervil, chives, cumin, dill, garlic, ginger, lemon, marjoram, mustard, nutmeg, oregano, pepper, rosemary, paprika, parsley, savory, sea salt, and/or thyme.

Kohlrabi

A type of cabbage with a mild, sweet, turnip flavor, kohlrabi will keep for two or three months in a cool, frost-free basement or root cellar. Choose small kohlrabi, with smooth, uncracked skin. Aim for about two inches in diameter; if allowed to get too large it will be bitter and tough.

Kohlrabi is an excellent relish vegetable when served raw, peeled and sliced. It's also delicious when sautéed, baked, and/or mashed. (Cook then remove the skins and cube or slice) Chinese cooks use kohlrabi in soups and stir fries, and steamed as a side dish. It's a good source calcium and vitamin C.

Prepare with a liberal sprinkling of spices like basil, dill, lemon peel, mustard, oregano, sea salt, parsley, and/or pepper.

Leeks

Though they are giant members of the onion family, the flavor of leeks is mild. They contain calcium, potassium, vitamin C and fiber. Choose leeks with a clean white base and firm leaves. Choose straight, firm leeks with white bottoms and bright green leaves. Smaller leeks are more tender than larger ones. Refrigerate without trimming, in an airtight container; they should keep for about five days.

To prepare, thoroughly rinse (they're often sandy). Cut in half lengthwise and rinse again, then drain and slice. You can cook whole leeks until just tender by braising, blanching, sautéing, roasting, steaming, grilling, or boiling. Use the green leaves in stock or broth. Season with cayenne, garlic, nutmeg, pepper, sea salt, tarragon, and/or thyme.

Parsnips

A good source of vitamin C and potassium, parsnips have a sweet flavor that's delicious alone or with other vegetables. Wash, wrap in plastic or place in an airtight container, and refrigerate for one to two weeks, but use as soon as you can or they'll begin to loose sweetness. For longer-term storage, parsnips can be frozen, canned, or stored in a root cellar. The small to medium roots taste best.

Cook parsnips as you would carrots (or serve as you would raw carrots). Scrub, slice and add raw to salads, or steam, boil, mash, sauté, stir fry, bake, or microwave. Use about one pound for 4 servings. It's easiest to peel parsnips after they've been cooked.

Parsnips are great with apples and carrots as well as a variety of spices, like basil, cayenne, cinnamon, curry powder, dill, garlic, ginger, lemon peel, marjoram, nutmeg, onions, parsley, pepper, sage, sea salt, and thyme.

Pears

Pears are a nutrient-dense food, especially high in minerals and fiber. They're ready to eat when the skin near the stem or on the bottom of the fruit gives just a bit when you press on it. Choose pears with a matte (rather than shiny) skin and no bruises. Pears are good keepers in the refrigerator or a root cellar, though you can speed up the ripening process when necessary by putting them in a bag, along with a ripe apple. Winter pears like Anjou, Comice and Winter Nellis will keep for months.

Different varieties serve different functions. The Anjou pear, for example, is inexpensive and good for eating -- but not as tasty as the Comice pear, which is considered the best for eating out of hand. The Winter Nellis pear is ideal for baking. Pears are wonderful in salads and sauces (make pear sauce as you would applesauce), poached, roasted, sautéed, and baked. Season with lemon or red wine and spices like anise, caraway, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, fennel, ginger, mace, mint, nutmeg and rosemary.

Pomegranate

The sweet/tart pomegranate is popular in beverages, syrups, jams and jellies. Choose large, firm fruit with smooth, shiny skin. The fruit should feel heavy for its size. Store pomegranate at room temperature until ripe, then store it in the refrigerator, where it will keep for two months.

Use the berries and/or fruit in salads, beverages, chutney, cakes, muffins, puddings, soups, jellies, meat sauces and grain casseroles. Good spices for pomegranate (depending upon whether you're preparing a sweet or savory dish) include allspice, cinnamon, coriander, garlic, ginger, rosemary and thyme.

Potatoes

Potatoes are the world's fourth most frequently grown food crop (after rice, wheat, and maize). They contain complex carbohydrates, vitamins C and B6, iron, potassium, and trace minerals. Low in sodium and fat free, they also provide fiber (when the skin is eaten). Choose firm potatoes with few eyes and no green spots. Select starchy potatoes for mashing, baking, and deep frying, and choose waxy potatoes for salads and casseroles.

Store potatoes, without washing, in a cool, dry, dark area, preferably in a paper bag rather than the plastic bag you may have purchased them in. They should keep for at least a couple of weeks. To maximize nutrient content, serve them without peeling. Once cut, place potatoes in cold water to keep them from turning brown.

You can season potatoes with an array of spices, like caraway, celery seed, chervil, chives, coriander, dill, garlic, marjoram, mustard, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, parsley, rosemary, saffron, savory, tarragon, and thyme. Frontier's Dash O Dill is especially suited for potato salads, soups, and casseroles.

Pumpkin

Excellent keepers, pumpkins provide a good dose of vitamin A and potassium. Choose unblemished pumpkins with the stems intact. The pumpkin should sound hollow when you tap on it, and feel firm, not soft.

The easiest way to cook a pumpkin is whole, in the oven. Prick holes to allow steam to escape, then bake for about an hour. Or cut off top, remove seeds and fibers, remove the flesh to bake, steam, or microwave. Purée the cooked pumpkin for use as a pie filling or in other baked products or soufflés. One pound of fresh pumpkin (in the shell) yields about 1 cup of cooked pumpkin. Cook about three pounds to serve four people.

Don't forget to roast the seeds (20 minutes at 350 degrees should do it) for a treat high in vitamins, folic acid and iron.

Season pumpkin with allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, ginger, nutmeg, thyme. Also be sure to try Frontier Pumpkin Pie Spice blend in any recipe calling for pumpkin.

Raspberries

Raspberries are nutritional powerhouses. Valued for their antioxidant properties, they're an excellent source of manganese, vitamin C and fiber, and a good source of riboflavin, folate, niacin, magnesium, potassium, copper and B vitamins. While they won't keep for long in the refrigerator (a day or two), raspberries freeze well. Simply wash them gently, then spread them in a single layer on a plate or tray and freeze. Once frozen, you can place them all in one container or plastic bag in the freezer.

Enhance the flavor of raspberries with allspice, cinnamon, cardamom, mint, nutmeg, orange peel and/or vanilla.

Rutabaga

A hybrid of turnips and cabbage, the rutabaga is a colorful vegetable, yellow/orange with a top of purple/brown. Sweet and mild, they're also known as winter, yellow, or Swedish turnips. You can store them in the refrigerator or in a cool, dark area with good ventilation. Keep in mind, though, that the longer you keep rutabaga after harvest the stronger the taste, so you might want to try to use them within a week or so.

Cut raw rutabaga into sticks, or grate it into a salad. For easy cooking, cut it into wedges, then peel, or cook and then peel. Rutabaga can be glazed, baked, steamed, boiled, sautéed, deep fried, or microwaved. Serve it as a side dish or in casseroles, soups, stews, and fritters. They're specially delicious with apples and raisins and seasoned with bay leaf, cinnamon, cloves, curry powder, garlic, ginger, mint, nutmeg, onions, pepper, sea salt, poppy seed, and/or rosemary.

Sweet Potatoes

A member of the morning glory family, sweet potatoes are high in natural sugar and a good source of vitamin A and potassium. Their skins range from pale yellow to deep copper, and they can be baked, boiled, roasted, steamed, fried, and served as is or in casseroles, soups, desserts, breads, and soufflés.

Choose sweet potatoes that are small to medium; these are more tender than their larger siblings. Because they contain more sugar than other potatoes, sweet potatoes have a shorter shelf life. Still, they'll keep for a few weeks in a dry, cool, well-ventilated area away from light (but don't refrigerate them or they'll soften).

By the way, sweet potatoes are unrelated to both yams and potatoes. Season them liberally with allspice, cardamom, cayenne, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and/or tarragon.

Turnips

A good source of vitamin C and calcium, turnips have a mild radish taste. While they store well, turnips taste best when eaten soon after harvesting in early fall. Choose small turnips, as they tend to get woody and bitter if overgrown. Store them in a bag in the refrigerator. (Leave the tops on during storage and don't wash them before storing.)

To prepare, rinse in cool water, cut away tops, and peel them (the skin is bitter). Then boil, steam, sauté, bake, or braise whole. If the turnip is large, you may want to slice or cube it before cooking. You can also grate raw turnips in salads and slaws or slice it to serve alongside carrot sticks. Be sure to use the nutrient-rich tops, too, in salads or steamed. Two pounds serve about 4 people.  

Turnips are delicious when served with tart apples, pears or radishes. Season them with allspice, basil, bay leaf, cayenne, cinnamon, garlic, lemon juice, marjoram, mint, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, and/or poppy seed.

Winter Squash

Hard-shelled winter squash -- like spaghetti squash, acorn, butternut, and Hubbard -- are edible gourds that keep extraordinarily well and are wonderful to look at. A great source of vitamin A and potassium, stuffed winter squash is a holiday favorite, but it's also delicious when simply seasoned and served as a side dish. The flesh is also perfect for use in pie fillings, cakes, and muffins.

Choose squash with a matte skin (not shiny) and an intact stem. Don't refrigerate winter squash after harvest or purchase. Instead, store in a cool, dry, well-ventilated spot, where it should keep for about a month. If you find it difficult to cut a raw squash, you can partially bake or microwave it until it's just a bit soft, then cut it and continue cooking. Winter squash can be baked, grilled, sautéed, microwaved, steamed, boiled, stir-fried, or deep-fried. An easy method is to cut in half, scoop out the seeds and fibers, then bake in the oven until tender, about an hour.

Good squash spices include allspice, basil, bay leaf, celery seed, chives, cilantro, cinnamon, cloves, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger, mace, marjoram, nutmeg, oregano, parsley, pepper, rosemary, sage, savory, sea salt, sesame seeds, and thyme.

Fall Seasonings

Allspice: apples, carrots, pumpkin, squash, sweet potatoes
Anise: apples, cabbage, pears
Basil: broccoli, cauliflower, corn, kohlrabi, parsnips, turnips
Bay: corn, rutabaga, squash, turnips
Caraway: apples, beets, cabbage, carrots, pears, potatoes
Cardamom: apples, pears, pomegranates, pumpkin, raspberries
Cayenne: celeriac, corn, Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips, turnips
Celery seed: beets, cabbage, potatoes, squash
Chervil: beets, carrots, kohlrabi, leafy greens, potatoes
Chives: beets, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, squash
Cinnamon: apples, cabbage, carrots, grapes, parsnips, pears, pomegranates, pumpkin, raspberries, rutabaga, squash, sweet potatoes, turnips
Cloves: apples, beets, carrots, pear, rutabaga, sweet potatoes
Coriander: carrots, corn, pomegranates, potatoes, pumpkin
Cumin: cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, Jerusalem artichokes
Curry powder: carrots, cauliflower, parsnips, rutabaga
Dill: beets, cabbage, carrots, kohlrabi, parsnips, potatoes
Fennel: apples, beets, cabbage, celeriac, pears, squash
Ginger: apples, beets, parsnips, pears, pumpkin, raspberries
Marjoram: carrots, corn, leafy greens, leeks, parsnips, potatoes
Mace: apples, pears, squash
Mustard: Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, celeriac, kohlrabi, potatoes
Nutmeg: apples, carrots, parsnips, pears, pumpkin, sweet potatoes
Oregano: broccoli, cabbage, celeriac, leeks, potatoes, turnips, squash
Paprika: Brussels sprouts, Jerusalem artichokes, potatoes, turnips
Parsley: broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, celeriac, parsnips, potatoes
Poppy seed: beets, cabbage, rutabaga, turnips
Rosemary: broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, rutabagas, spinach
Sage: broccoli, cabbage, carrots, corn, parsnips, squash
Savory: beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, corn, leeks, turnips
Tarragon: beets, leafy greens, potatoes, sweet potatoes
Thyme: cabbage, carrots, celeriac, corn, potatoes, pumpkin
Turmeric: cauliflower, corn, potatoes, parsnips, rutabaga

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