Falling for the Veggies

When the summer comes to an end, and our gardens seem to be slowing in production, there are vegetables that grow in cooler weather.  If you have taken time to plan for the change in temperature, you will harvest a variety of healthy and flavorful veggies, creating a colorful addition to any meal.

Some of the usual autumn vegetables such as kohlrabi, sweet potatoes, yams, rutabagas, beets, broccoli, artichokes, eggplant, and endive – all give us a variety of choices to make.  Broccoli actually becomes sweeter tasting without the bitterness of the broccoli produced earlier in the year.  It is easily steamed or cooked in the microwave which makes it ideal for busy cooks who don’t have time to fuss with veggies.  It adds color and texture to a dinner plate.  It is also used in breakfast and brunch meals in omelets and quiches.

Sweet Potatoes and Yams are Sometimes Confusing  Even grocery stores often have trouble distinguishing between the two.  Yams are lighter brown in color with a creamy, off-white meat inside the skin.  Sweet potatoes often have deeper copper-colored skins with sweet orange flesh.  Both are significant sources of beta-carotene or vitamin A, along with B6 and C.  They give us the unbelievable benefits of more efficient wound-healing, help us cope with stress, and aid in digestion.  They also add significant amounts of iron, magnesium, and potassium to our diets.  They can be cooked in a variety of ways – steamed, baked, boiled, grilled, and added to soups and casseroles.

Usually when we think of fall, we think of pumpkins as seasonal veggies for decoration around Halloween (think jack-o’-lanterns), for use in pies around Thanksgiving, and for roasted seeds for snacks.  Although many people confuse pumpkins as being in the squash family, they are actually large berries.  Berries provide a fleshy fruit produced from the ovary of a single flower.  Even avocados and bananas fall into this group!

Winter Squash Adds Color and Nutrients  Some of my favorite fall veggies include a variety of winter squashes.  The most common squashes in the fall include butternut and acorn.  They are sweet and flavorful and regarded as staples in many U.S. households.  I have discovered two other types of winter squash that provide a nice alternative.  Buttercup squash is sweeter than the other types and has a creamy texture.  Buttercup squash will last up to three months when it is stored in a dry spot that is relatively cool.

A second type of winter squash that is a newer variety is called kabocha squash.  This has a deep green, hard skin, and is pumpkin-shaped.  This squash contains both vitamin C and A, and besides being flavorful and nutritious, it may also be stored uncut up to one month.

Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable that is sweeter and more flavorful in the fall. Very low in fat and calories, cabbage contains antioxidants that ward off prostate, breast, and colon cancer.  The leafy green or deep red veggie also helps to reduce LDL cholesterol and is a good source of vitamin K which helps to fight neuronal damage in the brain to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

In the same family as cabbage are the notorious Brussel sprouts.  They look like miniature cabbages and do have a tendency to taste awful and have a sordid odor if overcooked.  They are very nutritious though, so if you think you don’t like the flavor, try cooking them with pecans or with bacon to give them a new twist.  Toss them with cauliflower flowerets in a light vinegar dressing or chop and add to thin pizza with salami slices.

Giving up summer veggies you love like tomatoes, green beans, and zucchini shouldn’t have you bewildered.  There are good alternatives.  Don’t limit yourself to white potatoes during the winter when there are so many more flavorful and nutritious vegetables to choose.