We’re all wrapped up in the glory of fall here in Northern California. Everyone’s excited about pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and squash, and relishing in hot beverages and slow-cooked stews. I must admit, the harvest season has a lot of wonderful offerings, a few of which are listed below.
Bok Choy: A member of the cabbage family, bok choy is rich in vitamins A, C, and K. Its unique, sulfur-containing compounds may reduce the risk of breast, lung, and digestive tract cancers. Look for stalks that are pure white and firm, with dark green leaves and add them to stir-frys, soups, and sautés.
Kiwi: With more vitamin C than an orange, kiwis become available mid fall in California. Look for kiwis that give slightly under pressure, but aren’t too soft or bruised. Ripe kiwis contain the highest amount of antioxidants, so place them in a paper bag on your counter if they aren’t quite ripe yet.
Kohlrabi: Kohlrabi is a tuberous vegetable with a similar taste and texture to a broccoli stem, but a bit milder and sweeter. Rich in fiber, vitamin C, and cancer-fighting phytochemicals, kohlrabi bulbs can be eaten raw or stewed, and the leaves cooked much like turnip greens. Look for bulbs that are smooth and feel heavy for their size. Avoid kohlrabi with cracks, cuts, or a woody consistency.
Mustard Greens: One of the most nutritious leafy-green vegetables, mustard greens are available during colder months and have a pungent, peppery flavor. Look for stems that are fresh and crisp, and store them quickly in the fridge as they will wilt quickly. Young, tender leaves can be eaten raw, and tougher leaves can be braised, steamed, or sautéed.
Parsnips: Parsnips look like large, white carrots, but taste a bit sweeter (the colder the season, the sweeter the crop). Parsnips are a great source of both soluble and insoluble fiber and have anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer function. Select medium-sized parsnips that feel firm and fleshy. Parsnips should be peeled and, while they can be eaten raw, they’re delicious cooked like carrots or pureed and added to mashed potatoes for a deeper flavor profile.
Pistachios: One of the lower-calorie nuts, pistachios are a great snack food and are high in nutrition. Look for pistachios that have split shells and green meat. Pistachios have a limited shelf life, so store them with their shells on in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 months.
Shallots: Shallots are a great substitute for onions, providing a milder, subtler flavor and actually have a better nutritional profile. Look for shallots that are free of blemishes and feel heavy for their size. Store them in a cool, dark place for up to 2 months. If they begin to sprout, simply remove the bitter sprouts and use the rest of the shallot in sautés, dressings, and sauces.
Winter Squash: High in carotenoids and antioxidants, both the flesh and seeds of winter squash contain good nutrition. Relatives of melons and cucumbers, winter squash come in many different varieties, but all have thick shells that enable them to be stored for long periods of time. Select squash that feel heavy for their size and have a dull skin (rather than shiny). They are prone to mold, so be sure to inspect the squash carefully before buying.