Healthiest Fall Farmer’s Market Finds

Featured Article, Healthy Recipes and Nutrition
on November 24, 2011

Summer's gone, and so are the berries, tomatoes and fresh corn. But you can—and should—eat in season whenever you can. Here's our guide to what’s in season in fall and winter, why you need it, and a delicious suggestion for using it.

Red cabbage. Rich in soluble fiber that helps lower cholesterol, sulfur compounds that fight cancer, bone-building vitamin K, and infection-fighting vitamin C, cabbage of any type is good for you, but red cabbage is tops. Eating cabbage raw maximizes its anti-cancer effects.

Recipe suggestion: Try a low-fat Asian slaw: Toss grated cabbage with rice wine vinegar, toasted sesame oil, sesame seeds and scallions.

Leeks. Related to onions, but with a sweet, subtle flavor, leeks offervitamin C, iron, fiber and many of the same heart-healthy anti-clotting benefits as onions and garlic.  Select small or medium leeks. Once they’re more than an inch in diameter, leeks begin to get tough.

Recipe suggestion: Leeks dress up any soup. Try potato-leek soup, made with chicken stock and non-fat half and half, or an au gratin, layered with thin slices of low-fat Swiss cheese.

Kale. This hearty green has cholesterol-lowering fiber, bone-building vitamin K and, like cabbage, cancer-fighting properties. At its best, kale is deep green and leaves are springy.

Recipe suggestion: Rinse well, cut off stems, remove the tough center vein in the leaf, slice into thin strips, and braise in olive oil; sprinkle with balsamic vinegar and chopped walnuts before serving, or combine sauted kale with pine nuts and crumbled feta cheese, and serve over pasta tossed with olive oil.

Kohlrabi. Shaped like a turnip and with a cabbage-like flavor, kohlrabiis rich in vitamin B6, folic acid, magnesium and potassium. It helps stabilize blood sugar and supports detoxification.

Recipe suggestion: To prepare kohlrabi, remove the stem and peel thoroughly. Remove the fibrous coating under the skin as well. Enjoy it raw, sliced and eaten with a dip, or grated for a slaw.

Turnips. A member of the cabbage family, with all of its cancer-fighting, detoxifying capacity. Look for smaller turnips, which have a crisp texture and peppery taste, similar to radishes; the large ones are woody.

Recipe suggestion: Cut off the greens, wash, and saute separately in olive oil for 1-2 minutes. Dice or slice smaller turnips without peeling, and saute or steam. Small turnips can also be sliced thin or grated and eaten raw in salads and slaws.

Parsnips. A member of the carrot family, parsnips are high in soluble fiber, help reduce cholesterol and control blood sugar, and are good source of folate and potassium. They taste sweet but not starchy. Select smaller parsnips–large ones will be woody. Peel with a vegetable peeler or brush, then cut into whatever size pieces you need for your recipe.

Recipe suggestion: Parsnips are great in a pot roast, along with carrots and onions. Or toss with other root vegetables in olive oil, lemon juice, rosemary, and salt and pepper and roast at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Butternut squash. All winter squash offer fiber, cancer-fighting carotenoids, and blood-pressure lowering potassium and magnesium. Butternut is sweet and moist, not stringy.

Recipe suggestion: Peel, cube and add to soups, stews and curries. Or bake and puree and use for custards or creamy soups.

Apples. Fiber helps regulate blood sugar levels, and antioxidants offer cancer and heart disease protection. Many of apples’ nutrients are in the peel, so don’t peel them. Look for unwaxed, organic apples, or rinse the apple under running water while gently scrubbing the skin with a brush.

Recipe suggestion: Core apples, leaving the bottom intact, and add raisins, honey, cinnamon and walnuts to the center. Place in a baking pan, add 1/4 inch of water to the bottom of the pan, and bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes, or until the apples are soft. 

Red beets. Beets are a unique source of plant compounds called betalains, which are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, and also support your body’s natural detoxification processes. Beets also contain two carotenoids important for eye health: lutein and zeaxanthin.

Recipe suggestion: To retain nutrients, wrap whole unpeeled beets individually in aluminum foil and bake at 350 for about 45-60 minutes, or until they yield slightly to pressure. Unwrap and slip off skins. Dice and toss with balsamic vinegar. Or make Russian borscht with grated red beets, onions, carrots, cabbage, beef broth, dill and sour cream.   

Shiitake mushrooms. Their rich, smoky taste, and meaty texture make shiitakes  a stir-fry favorite. Shiitakes stimulate the immune system, fight cancer, and help lower cholesterol.

Recipe suggestion: Use firm, clean, fresh mushrooms, sliced, in stir-fries or sautéed with onions and soy sauce. Dried shiitake mushrooms are great in soups and rice dishes.

Cranberries. Loaded with antioxidants, cranberries fight bacteria that can cause bladder infections, gum disease and stomach ulcers.

Recipe suggestion: Dried or fresh, they add a burst of tart flavor to muffins, salads, apple pie, rice pilafs, poultry stuffing, and meat dishes. That classic, cranberry sauce, is surprisingly easy to make at home.

Fennel. With its crunchy texture and anise-like taste, fennel is prized in Mediterranean cookery. Fennel has unique biochemicals that reduce inflammation, speed detoxification and protect against cancer.

Recipe suggestion: Use it sliced thin, raw, in a salad with avocadoes and oranges. Grill or sauté fennel as a bed for salmon or scallops. Add fennel bulb, stem or seeds to soups and sauces for a delicate, sweet flavor.

Oranges. Packed with vitamin C, folate and potassium, oranges are available in several different varieties, such as blood oranges, Jaffa, and Cara Cara oranges.

Recipe suggestion: Make a salad with greens, orange segments, avocado and fennel. Use fresh citrus juice to marinate chicken or shrimp. (Add grated fresh ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes, soy sauce, and a little honey.) 

Pomegranate. Pomegranates are rich in heart-protecting, anti-inflammatory antioxidants, blood pressure-lowering potassium, and vitamin C, folic acid, fiber and vitamin E.

Recipe suggestion: To open, slice the crown end of the pomegranate off, score the rind lightly in several places, and break the fruit apart with your hands. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds in fruit salads or green salads. Mix pomegranate juice with seltzer water for a delicious, healthy drink.

Sweet potatoes and yams. In the U.S., the vegetable we call a yam is actually an orange variety of sweet potato. It is sweeter and moister, and contains more beta-carotene, than lighter-skinned sweet potatoes. But both are good sources of beta-carotene, fiber, and potassium.

Recipe suggestion: Sweet potatoes and yams are great simply baked in their skins. Or make sweet potato “fries”: Peel, slice into strips and toss with olive oil, salt and paprika and bake on a parchment-lined cookie sheet at 450 for 20-30 m