Fall's vibrantly colored produce offers many health benefits and is delicious in seasonal dishes from soups and stews to casseroles, side dishes and more. See what these vegetables and fruits have to offer nutritionally, how to pick the best at the market and how to keep them fresh once you bring them home.
Nothing says "fall" quite like winter squash, with its creamy texture and sweet flavor. Hubbard, butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash all fall into this grouping of hard-skinned fruits that store well. Add cubes to soups or roast it along with root vegetables for a hearty side. One cup of cooked winter squash delivers more than 200 percent of the recommended daily value for vitamin A, plus it's a source of vitamins B6 and K, potassium and folate.
Shopping Tip: Choose squash that is very hard--a soft rind is a sign of immaturity or improper storage--and has part of the stem still attached. If you buy pre-cubed squash, make sure the pieces are dry, firm and vivid in color.
Storage Tip: Store whole squash in a cool spot with good air circulation (not the refrigerator, but a cool pantry or cellar) for up to a month.
An apple is nature's perfect snack--and so versatile in the kitchen in main dishes, salads, desserts and more. A good source of soluble fiber and vitamin C, apples also have phytochemicals that help prevent heart disease.
Shopping Tip: Choose apples that have smooth skin and feel firm and heavy.
Storage Tip: Store apples in the refrigerator. Firmer, juicier apples like Gala and Fuji will last longer than softer varieties like Golden Delicious.
Rich in antioxidants, broccoli may be beneficial in fighting stomach cancer and ulcers. Fiber-and antioxidant-rich broccoli is an excellent source of vitamins C, K, A and the B vitamin folate. Raw broccoli offers the most health benefits, but quick-cooking methods (e.g., steaming) preserve its sweet crunch and most of its nutrients.
Shopping Tip: Look for sturdy, dark green spears with tight buds and no yellowing.
Storage Tip: Broccoli will stay fresh in the refrigerator for about a week. If the florets start to look dry, wrap the head in damp paper towels.
Pears move easily between the realms of sweet and savory. Try oven-roasted pears for a decadent dessert. Or roast wedges and puree them in a silky squash soup. A medium pear has 100 calories and 6 grams of fiber, much of it the soluble kind that may help to lower blood cholesterol.
Shopping Tip: Most pears don't significantly change in color when ripe, so go by touch: ripe pears are soft when gently pressed near the stem.
Storage Tip: Let pears sit at room temperature, near other ripening fruit or in a brown bag with a ripe banana (which stimulates ripening). Store ripe pears in the coldest part of the refrigerator.
Tender, sweet and just a little nutty, Brussels sprouts add a delightful crunch to many healthy meals. The vegetable is packed with vitamins A, C and K, as well as dietary fiber and potassium, and works well roasted, sautéed or baked.
Shopping Tip: Look for tight, firm, small deep-green heads without yellowed leaves or insect holes. Preferably the sprouts should still be on the stalk.
Storage Tip: Remove damaged outer leaves and store fresh, unwashed sprouts in an airtight plastic bag in the vegetable bin of the refrigerator. The fresher, the better, so don't refrigerate them for more than a few days.
More than just a base for coleslaw, cabbage adds texture to salads and makes a great topping for tacos. Sautéed with apples and bacon, cabbage is also the perfect accompaniment to roast pork. Cabbage is rich in vitamin C and fiber, and supplies isothiocyanates--chemicals that amp up the body's natural detoxification systems.
Shopping Tip: Choose the right cabbage for the recipe. White (a.k.a. green) cabbage and red cabbage are delicious raw in coleslaw or cooked in soups and sautés. Delicate napa, with its ruffled leaves, is fantastic in stir-fries. Savoy cabbage, the loosely packed, wrinkled cousin of common green cabbage, is best in cabbage rolls and sturdy enough for roasting.
Storage Tip: Refrigerate for up to 1 week.
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