No matter what part of the country you call home, the time when the hot, sticky nights of summer shift to the more mild, cool days of autumn is always a welcomed transition. And like how the colors of the leaves and cozy sweaters become rich and warm in September, so too do the gorgeous aesthetics of the food we eat this time of year. Instead of allowing a peach to travel thousands of miles to your plate when its not available locally for another nine months, take pleasure in the fruits and vegetables that are ripe in the late-summer, early fall season. There are infinite opportunities for fresh salads, warm soups, and everything in between with the September harvest.
Farmers everywhere are finishing up the rich summer yield and turning to the fall harvest. From eggplant to green beans to okra to squashes, so much is available this time of year. Ed Armas, who runs harvesting and packaging at Capay Organics Farm in northern California, says the farm is currently enjoying a long list of produce progressing from the summer vegetables into a more autumnal bounty. This includes bok choy, arugula, fennel, kale, radishes, beets, melons, and more. Soon, Armas expects to see black beans, cabbages, and squashes added to the list.
Jenny and Heather Goldberg of Spork Foods, a gourmet vegan food service in Los Angeles, take advantage of the cornucopia of fresh foods at their disposal this time of year. They say that late summer makes the move from “light and refreshing recipes that beat the heat to stronger, satisfying dishes, like roasted vegetables or slow-cooked stews.” Lemon cucumbers, “more fun to use than a standard cuke,” the Goldbergs say, are in season and can be used in typical cucumber fashion, such as in sandwiches, salads, or by themselves. And this time of year, soak up the lingering flavors of summer one last time, indulging in foods such as figs, which are only available a little longer. The Goldbergs use figs to “sweeten savory dishes like seitan, in salads…or stuffing them with cashew cheese or home-made tofu ricotta.” With all the leafy greens that are available, it’s the ideal time to enjoy hearty salads, matched with brown rice or quinoa.
So much of what’s fresh in the markets right now is stand-alone delicious, especially when freshly picked, that not many additional spices or flavorings are needed. If you are in search of an additional punch to your in-season recipes, go after fresh herbs. The Goldbergs recommend any “interesting types of basil or mint, like opal basil or chocolate mint, which taste fantastic.” The ladies also say that once the weather gets cooler, Ceylon cinnamon on roasted sweet potatoes or baked cobblers and pies adds for something “a little spicier and sweeter than cassia cinnamon, and will give your dishes some amazing oomph!” And to pair with your bountiful salads, the Goldbergs recommend blending roasted peppers, olive oil, sea salt, pepper, mustard, and maple syrup to make an amazing autumnal dressing.
To find fresh, in-season, local produce, look no further than your community farmers’ market. Don’t have the time, or would rather spend your weekend mornings sleeping in? The Goldbergs recommend joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) alliance and having produce ready for pick-up or delivered right to your door. No matter how you get your greens (and purples, and oranges, and reds), just be sure to savor the season before the snow and frost set in!