Have the tomatoes and zucchini suddenly vanished from your farmers market? It's always sad to see ripe summer vegetables fade out, but there is excitement that comes in with the even more interesting and complex vegetables of fall. Anyone can slice a tomato and put it on a plate, but do you know how to enjoy turnips? Or how to make cabbage even more delicious? (Spoiler: Roast with bacon.)
It's time to get serious about fall vegetables. Here are 12 that I anticipate this time of year, and quick advice for cooking each one.
Before we get too deep into this, though, let's talk roasting, since that's the method that's my default for all of these vegetables. Roasting is quick; you don't need a recipe; it adds toasty, roasty flavor that befits fall meals. Make sure you have the basics down!
Pumpkin isn't actually a vegetable. It's a very large berry! But like tomatoes and other fruity vegetables, it gets the savory treatment enough to be a vegetable by association. If you're cooking pumpkin, especially for pie, make sure to buy a pie pumpkin — little guys like the one pictured above. (The big carving pumpkins tend to be too watery and not very flavorful.)
→ What to do with it: Once you have a pie pumpkin you can make pumpkin puree to use in homemade pumpkin pie. (Tip: pumpkins are hard to split open, so bake them to soften them a little before slicing.) If you want to stay savory, roast the pumpkin and eat it like butternut squash, or make Pumpkin Chili or this Roasted Red Kuri Pumpkin & Coconut Soup.
Cabbage is one of those vegetables that seems to be in season all year round, but if you're spying it out at the farmers market, it's probably now. Cruciferous vegetables ripen at the end of the summer and also get a little sweeter as the weather gets colder. Here are a few tips on picking out a good cabbage.
→ What to do with it: Cabbage is a staple in my kitchen; I shred it for big slaws like this Apple Cabbage Salad with Cider Vinaigrette. Slaws last well in the fridge so they're a great way to make a salad and eat it all week. You can also roast cabbage — in big wedges with bacon, or for a warm slaw with hazelnuts. And don't forget about pickling it!
Carrots may seem like a spring vegetable, but they tolerate light frost, and many farmers plant them near the end of the summer to extend the harvest. Look for small, sweet fall carrots this time of year. (Maybe even some rainbow colors!)
→ What to do with them: Roast, roast, roast! Oh, and make soup too. Check out our tips on cutting carrots neatly, too: How To Cut, Slice & Dice Carrots.
4. Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts have been the sexy little thing the last few years. Their small shape and mild cabbage flavor have made them a hit in my kitchen too. The compact size means they roast beautifully, with crispy charred edges.
→ What to do with them: My favorite way to cook Brussels sprouts is to blitz them in the oven (don't forget to eat the crispy little leaves that fall off, too). But try them Thai-style, or hashed into a salad with brown butter dressing.
5. Butternut Squash
This funny-shaped vegetable is so creamy and rich inside; it can practically stand in for cheese or cream once it's roasted. Make sure you know how to peel and cut up a butternut squash (stay safe!).
→ What to do with it: Roast or steam and eat plain or with Parmesan cheese, or pan-fry with pasta and sage. It's also wonderful in grain salads and in curries.
6. Acorn Squash
Acorn squash is like the single-serving wonder of the squash world. Cut in half, roast until creamy (add garlic cloves into the middle!).
→ What to do with it: Stuff with other vegetables or meat and bake for a complete supper, or slice into rings and bake.
Yes, potatoes are available year-round, and yes, they tend to be more associated with starches than proper veggies. But potatoes, especially when eaten plain and simply, are good sources of nutrients and vitamin C, and they are great fall meal basics.
→ What to do with them: Bake them one of these three ways; top with other nutritious toppings, or have some fun and make Hasselback potatoes!
8. Sweet Potatoes & Yams
First, know the difference between sweet potatoes and yams? It's a little confusing, but good to know! These sweet orange delights can be a meal all by themselves in the fall!
→ What to do with it: Roast in the oven and eat plain, or with yogurt for breakfast, any of these other ways for dinner.
Cauliflower is at its best and freshest in the fall, since cauliflower doesn't really produce heads in hot weather, and it's frost tolerant once mature. Like all these other vegetables, it's wonderful roasted, but it can do so much more.
→ What to do with it: Make soup, grate into cauliflower couscous or rice, or make "steaks" out of it.
This Sputnik-esque vegetable shows up in CSA boxes and at farmers markets and we love its fresh flavor. Here's a guide to peeling and cutting it.
→ What to do with it: Slice and stir-fry, or shred into slaw.
Turnips have an intense flavor, so look for the smallest baby turnips you can find in the fall; they are sweeter and more mild. They're wonderful roasted (of course!) and their mild bitterness means that they take well to sweet glazes.
→ What to do with them: Make soup or roast them with a simple butter and maple syrup glaze. They're also gorgeous on a savory tart or galette like this one.
Yes, yes, kale has gotten so overexposed. But it doesn't change the fact that it's still a fall staple, and it's at its best this time of year. After the first frost or even snow kale gets so mild and sweet — it's the perfect time to put it in slaws and salads.
→ What to do with it: Toss with pasta; cook slowly and braise; make a big salad and eat for lunch all week. Since kale is so hearty it's also very good in longer-cooked dishes like this kale and potato gratin.
What's your favorite fall vegetable? Is anything really inspiring you this fall?
(Image credits: Faith Durand)