Everything You Need to Know About Fall Fruits and Vegetables
Pick, store, and cook the bounty of autumn.
Just like you swap out your flip-flops for leather boots and tank tops for sweaters, fall is the time to trade your favorite summer produce for squash, potatoes, apples, pears, and more. While we'll miss tomatoes and watermelon, there is a bounty of fruits and vegetables that are just coming into their peak season right now.
Whether you have access to a local farmer's market or farm stand, or you shop at your local grocery store, you should be able to find many of the items in our guide to fall produce. Even some supermarkets work with local farmers and growers to stock fall favorites while they're at their peak.
Read on and learn how to shop for, store, and prepare the best fruits and vegetables that autumn has to offer.
With its round, ridged green exterior, bright yellow interior, and sweet flesh, acorn squash makes the perfect bowl-shaped serving vessel for a delicious savory stuffing.
Choose it: Look for squash with a dull, dark-green rind that is smooth, firm, and free of scratches, cracks, and dark spots.
Store it: Squash should not be refrigerated. Instead, store it in a cool, dark place, like a cabinet. In this environment, it can keep for up to 3 months.
Pick your type of apples based on how you plan to use them, whether you're going to eat then out of hand, cook them in a pie, or mash them into applesauce.
Choose it: Whatever the type, apples should be unbruised and firm.
Store it: Apples will keep in your refrigerator's crisper for 1 to 2 months. Check them periodically, as a bruised or rotting apple can cause the others to go bad as well. Also, store them in a separate crisper drawer from your other produce, as the ethylene gas they produce can speed the deterioration of other fruits and veggies.
This spicy, delicate green adds crunch and flavor to salads, but is also great wilted in soups and other cooked dishes.
Choose it: Look for unwilted, pale, or bright green leaves and no slimy spots.
Store it: Wrap leaves loosely in a paper towel, place in a plastic container, and store in the crisper. Use within a few days, before leaves start wilting or yellowing. If it's not pre-washed, wash it just before using.
Part of the pear family, this fruit looks more like an apple and has crisp, juicy, sweet flesh.
Choose it: Asian pears should be more yellow than green, and firm to the touch. Avoid fruits that are already bruised.
Store it: Asian pears should be stored in the refrigerator if they won't be used right away, but can also be kept on the counter for a few days. Be careful not to pile them up or bump them as they bruise easily (that's why they are often found in supermarkets individually wrapped).
Beets can be boiled, roasted, shredded and sautéed, or enjoyed raw. Their greens can be used like any other leafy green vegetable.
Choose it: Pick beets that are firm and not shriveled. If the leaves are attached, they should be unwilted.
Store it: Cut off the greens before storing, leaving about an inch of stem, or they'll leach moisture from the beets. Beets will keep a week or longer when kept loose and unwashed in the refrigerator, but the greens should be used within a day or two, before they wilt.
Most people discard broccoli stems, but you can peel the tough exterior and eat the stalks raw, or slice them and sauté or roast with the florets.
Choose it: Look for heavy stalks and florets that are tight and green, with little browning or yellowing.
Store it: Broccoli will keep in a plastic bag (left open for circulation) in the refrigerator for a week to 10 days.
Love 'em or hate 'em, Brussels sprouts are quite versatile, since they can be enjoyed raw, sautéed, roasted, and more.
Choose it: At farmers' markets, you'll see the sprouts still on their stalk, which is pretty but takes up lots of space in the fridge. If you're choosing individual sprouts, look for ones that are tightly closed and green, without wilted or yellow leaves. Pick sprouts that are roughly the same size so they'll cook evenly, and keep in mind that smaller ones are sweeter and more tender.
Store it: Store them in the refrigerator in an airtight container, and use within a few days.
Use a Y-shaped vegetable peeler to peel the hard rind off the squash, and your largest, most durable chef's knife to cut it up.
Choose it: Look for matte, unblemished squash that feel heavy for their size. They should be hard to the touch.
Store it: Don't refrigerate squash; instead, keep it in a cool, well-ventilated place. It will last two to three months.
Shredded, used as a wrapper, or chopped, cabbage adds inexpensive bulk and flavor to many recipes.
Choose it: Look for green or red cabbage heads with leaves that are tightly closed. The head should feel heavy for its size.
Store it: Store in the refrigerator in a perforated or slightly opened plastic bag. It's best eaten within a week; the flavor and odor will get stronger the longer it's stored.
Related: 10 Easy Sheet Pan Suppers for Fall
We know carrots as being orange, but if you're lucky you might be able to find heirloom varieties that are purple, white, or red.
Choose it: Carrots should be firm and not yield if you try to bend them.
Store it: They will keep for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator, in a plastic bag left open for ventilation. If your carrots came with their greens, trim the greens off before storing. The greens are bitter but can be used for a pesto.
Also known as celeriac, this hairy, homely root vegetable has the flavor of celery and the starchy consistency of a potato.
Choose it: Seek out roots that feel heavy and are fairly smooth in shape so they'll be easier to peel. At a farmers' market, look for celery roots with the stalks still attached; they'll be fresher.
Store it: If there are stalks, cut before storing, and wrap the unwashed celery root loosely in plastic and store in the refrigerator. It will keep for several weeks.
This cruciferous vegetable is getting a lot of attention since it can stand in for healthier versions of pizza crust, rice, or even steak.
Choose it: The freshest cauliflower will have creamy white, firm florets with little to no browning. If there are a few leaves at the base, they should be crisp-looking and unwilted.
Store it: Refrigerate in a breathable bag or loosely wrapped plastic, up to a week.
These firm red (or white!) berries deserve way more attention than just on Thanksgiving.
Choose it: Look for glossy berries that are hard to the touch. The darker the color, the more beneficial vitamins and nutrients they contain.
Store it: Wrapped tightly in plastic, cranberries can keep for as long as two months in the refrigerator. But check periodically for wilted or rotten fruit as the decay will spread to the other berries.
Resembling a fat white carrot, daikon have a crisp texture and mild flavor. Daikon is common in Asian recipes.
Choose it: Look for daikons that are very firm and a little shiny, with little to no browning or other blemishes. Smaller, thinner daikon will have a more tender texture.
Store it: Refrigerated, daikon should be used within a week. Store them in a perforated or slightly opened plastic bag.
These slender squash have a rind that is tender enough to eat without peeling. As their name suggests, they have a delicate flavor, just slightly sweet.
Choose it: Look for squash that feel heavy and firm, and have bright green and yellow stripes in the rind.
Store it: Like most squash, they'll keep for two to three months. Don't refrigerate them, but keep them in a cool, dry place.
The licorice-like flavor of this bulbous plant is irresistible. It's most pronounced when eaten raw; cooking it mellows the taste.
Choose it: Look for bulbs that are creamy white and unblemished, and fronds that are bright green, feathery, and unwilted.
Store it: Plan to eat fennel within a few days of buying; until then, store it in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic.
Some new eating grape varieties have hit the market recently, including a variety called Cotton Candy that's just as sweet as its name suggests.
Choose it: Seek out fruit that is firm and plump-looking; if in the bag, make sure most of the grapes are still attached to their stem, and the stems are still sturdy-looking and unwilted.
Store it: Keep unwashed grapes in a paper bag or in an open plastic bag in the refrigerator. Store them on a shelf rather than in the crisper for better air circulation.
With the texture of potatoes and the flavor of artichokes, these knobby little tubers are delicious roasted, mashed, pureed into a soup, or even eaten raw. Despite their exotic name, they're actually native to North America and are also called sunchokes.
Choose it: Look for tubers that are relatively smooth (the knobbier they are, the harder to peel) and firm, not soft or wrinkled.
Store it: Wrap loosely in a paper towel, seal in a plastic bag or container, and store in the refrigerator. They'll last this way for two to three weeks.
These flavorful vegetables look like a giant scallion but are in the amaryllis family. Dirt collects between the layers of leeks, so be sure to cut them in half lengthwise and wash between each layer.
Choose it: Leeks should be firm with crisp, dark green tops and white, unblemished bottoms. Look for leeks that have a fairly long white part as that's the only part you will use.
Store it: Wrap the leeks in a damp paper towel and store in an open plastic bag in the refrigerator, where they'll keep for about a week.
Typically only found in the South, this type of grape is larger than the common red and green grapes, and has a thicker skin and a mild, sweet flavor.
Choose it: Muscadines are usually picked from the vines and sold like berries, rather than in clusters still on their stems. Look for firm, plump fruit.
Store it: Keep muscadines in a shallow bowl or plastic container in the refrigerator; plan to eat them within a few days of buying.
Unusual varieties like maitake, oyster, and trumpets are tasty but often pricier. Mix them with white or cremini mushrooms to stretch your dollar.
Choose it: Look for mushrooms that are unbroken and have firm flesh with no soft or wet-looking spots.
Store it: Store mushrooms in the refrigerator crisper, preferably in a single layer on a plate or tray and draped with damp paper towels. Don't wash them until just before cooking or serving, and eat them within 3 to 4 days.
Resembling large white carrots, parsnips have a sweet, nutty flavor and can be used much in the same way as their orange cousins. They're tougher than carrots, though, so they're better when cooked.
Choose it: Look for parsnips that don't bend easily, are firm, and don't have cracks or other blemishes. Choose ones that are roughly the same thickness, so they'll all cook at a similar rate.
Store it: Store them in the refrigerator, loosely wrapped in a plastic bag, for two to three weeks.
There are about 10 varieties of pears grown in the U.S. Bartlett, Bosc, and Anjou are the most common.
Choose it: A ripe pear will give a little when the flesh is pressed just near the stem. Avoid pears that are too soft, as they'll be mushy.
Store it: Pears should be stored at room temperature until they ripen, and then they will keep in the refrigerator for two to three weeks. Be careful with them, as they bruise easily.
Although not common, persimmons can grow in the eastern half of the United States. Native to Japan and China, Fuyu and Hachiya are the most common varieties.
Choose it: Look for fruit that is smooth and plump, and relatively firm if you don't plan to eat it right away — it'll soften as it ripens.
Store it: Ripe persimmons will keep a day or two in the refrigerator. Unripe persimmons can keep, refrigerated, up to one month. You can ripen them in a paper bag.
Once you master the art of peeling and prepping this beautiful ruby-red fruit, you'll be able to enjoy its tart flavor in both sweet and savory dishes.
Choose it: Ripe pomegranates have flattened sides, smooth skin, and are heavy for their size, which indicates that they'll be juicy.
Store it: Whole pomegranates will keep in the refrigerator crisper drawer for up to two months, but keep in mind that they'll dry out over time. Seeds will last in a sealed container for about a week, refrigerated.
More than just a decoration for your front steps, pumpkins, like their squash relations, can — and should! — be cooked and eaten… and don't forget the seeds!
Choose it: Unlike those you plan to carve, pumpkins to eat will be labeled "sugar pumpkins" or "pie pumpkins" at the pumpkin patch. A smaller pumpkin, 4 to 8 pounds, is a manageable size for cooking.
Store it: Pumpkins will last for several months in a dry spot at cool room temperature.
Quince resembles an apple or a pear but with a big difference: without a long cooking time, they'll be sour and hard.
Choose it: Choose very hard fruit (if they're soft, they're likely rotten), that is yellow rather than green, and has no soft spots or bruises.
Store it: Wrap individual fruits in paper towels to prevent bruising, and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.
These pretty little red-and-white leafy vegetables are in the chicory family and are related to artichokes and endives. They have a slightly bitter flavor.
Choose it: Radicchio comes in several varieties: one is round, like a head of lettuce, and one is small and long like its sister endive. Whichever you choose, look for crisp, unwilted, tightly packed leaves.
Store it: Wrap the heads in a paper towel, place in a paper bag, and store in the refrigerator, where it'll keep for two to three days.
These fat tubers have a peppery flavor that can be showcased in raw preparations like a salad, or mellowed with roasting or boiling.
Choose it: Look for rutabaga that are heavy for their size and free of soft spots or sprouts.
Store it: They can be stored in a cool place, like a basement, or in the crisper drawer, in an opened plastic bag or other container for ventilation.
Milder and more elegant than their onion siblings, shallots are also smaller in size. They can be subbed for other aromatic vegetable, like leeks, onions, or garlic.
Choose it: Look for shallots that are firm, plump, and unshriveled, with their yellow, papery peel intact.
Store it: Shallots can be stored in a cool, dark place, for up to a month. If they've sprouted, you can still use them but the taste might be a little more bitter.
Orange or reddish sweet potatoes will be sweet and moist when cooked, while pale sweet potatoes will be a little drier and starchier.
Choose it: Look for potatoes that are firm and unshriveled, with few blemishes.
Store it: Sweet potatoes can be stored in a dry area at room temperature. They'll last several weeks; use before they start getting soft or shriveled.
With big green leaves and a stalk that can be white, pink, or red, Swiss chard is a delicious and versatile leafy green. Don't discard the stalks; unlike tough kale or collard stalks, these are tender enough to be sliced and eaten.
Choose it: Look for dark green, unwilted leaves and crisp-looking stalks.
Store it: Chard can be stored, loosely wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to a week. Wash just before using.
If you find turnips with their greens attached, snap them up; the peppery greens can be cooked like mustard greens, kale, or other leafy greens.
Choose it: Look for smaller turnips that have smooth, unblemished skin that shows they're younger and fresher — they'll be sweeter and more tender. If they have their greens attached, they should be unwilted and fresh looking.
Store it: If greens are attached, remove the greens and store separately; turnips should be wrapped in plastic or kept in an airtight container for up to two weeks in the refrigerator. Greens should be used within a few days, before they wilt.