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27 Foods That Taste So Much Better in the Fall

Just because summer is over, doesn't mean you can't buy fresh produce. Here are fruits, vegetables, and other tasty eats that are at their peaks in fall.

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veggiesYulia Grigoryeva/shutterstock

Cold comfort

Some people welcome fall with road trips in the countryside to see brilliant fall foilage. Others usher in the season with pumpkin spice lattes, muffins, and ice cream. But there is an abundance of non-pumpkin foods that just taste better in the fall. Why? “Most fall vegetables are frost tolerant and taste better when faced with colder weather,” says Emmy nominated Chef Nathan Lyon. “When subjected to a frost, many vegetables convert their stored starches into soluble sugars to prevent freezing and, in turn, these sugars make the vegetables exponentially sweeter.”

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Visit your local farmer’s market or take the family on an apple picking trip for the freshest apples. They’re perfect for snacking, baking, and even stopping headaches.

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Oranges are commonly associated with summer, but from Florida to California, autumn is the best time to enjoy this citrus favorite. Use them to make healthy breakfast smoothies or eat them as a quick vitamin C-packed snack.

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Fall’s harvest brings in a bounty of fresh grapes in all varieties. Either as a snack or made into your favorite jam, now is the perfect time to bag a bunch. This is the real reason you can never find grape ice cream.

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They’re simply sweet and addicting with a bonus benefit of anti-aging and antioxidant properties. Harvested August through December, you’ll find them easily at your local grocery store. You can buy the seeds ready to eat, but it is more economical to buy a whole pomegranate and take a few minutes to loosen the seeds.”Toss them in salads, sprinkle in oatmeal, top yogurt and granola, or add them to popcorn,” suggests Judy Barbe, RD, blogger at LiveBest and author of Your Six-Week Guide to LiveBest. Check out these other 20 superfoods that could help you lose weight.

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Whether you enjoy it in salads, casseroles, or as a side dish, broccoli is definitely more nutritious than you realize, so be sure to stock up. Fall is the time to fill your cart with the year’s best tasting broccoli.

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Brussels sprouts

If you think all there is to Brussels sprouts is a reputation for tasting disgusting, prepare to have your mind blown: Brussels sprouts have more vitamin C than oranges. So don’t believe the cartoons that perpetuate this stereotype; enjoy these tasty green treats at their freshest. If you’re having trouble getting your family to eat them, try roasting them. Use this chart to figure out what’s in season during every month.

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Fall is the perfect time to enjoy your favorite mushrooms, whether they’re white, cremini, or Portobello. Your local market will have the best variety of mushrooms at this time. Take the opportunity to try something new. This is the real difference between the types of mushrooms in the grocery store.

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Enjoy this delicious vegetable either raw or cooked. You can even mash it for an alternative to mashed potatoes or turn it into a delicious pizza crust. Try purple varieties for an added treat, and check out these other 16 healthy pizza crust recipes.

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Take the opportunity to taste spinach at its very best. Since this leafy green is filled with iron, fiber, and nitrates that keep your arteries from getting clogged, you’ll be fueling your body with the perfect nutrients for the cold weather ahead.

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From preventing cancer to keeping your brain sharp, there are plenty of reasons to eat more cranberries. Enjoy this tart, sweet berry from autumn to winter. Try making your own cranberry juice or impress your Thanksgiving guests with homemade cranberry sauce. Don’t miss these other reasons you should start eating more cranberries.

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The humble spud is at its peak in fall—but that doesn’t mean your potato chip indulgences should increase too. Talk to your grocer about new varieties, like purple potatoes, which are high in antioxidants.

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Sweet potatoes and yams

Filled with vitamin A and fiber, sweet potatoes are as delicious as they are nutritious. The same goes for yams, which are actually different from sweet potatoes. Stock up and use them in your favorite recipes, as sides, even on salads. Learn the difference between other food pairs you always confuse.

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Perfect for soups and salads, leeks are an excellent way to add mild onion flavor to your best autumn recipes. The best part about eating leeks? You can fight off cancer and season your food at the same time! Load up on these other 30 foods proven to help prevent cancer.

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If your workouts have been sluggish lately, make yourself a raspberry-beet smoothie. “The nitrate in beets is helpful in the training room,” says BarbeOften, the leaves are still attached when you buy them from your grocer or farmer’s market. That’s because the leaves are just as nutritious as the roots Barbe says. “The plant compounds in beets make them one of the most antioxidant rich vegetables on our plates. Also, a good source of fiber, folate, potassium and boron and the red color comes from betalain, a powerful cancer fighter,” says Barbe.

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Pumpkins are almost synonymous with fall, and they’re good for more than just fun decorations for the season. They’re great sources of alpha- and beta-carotene, which promotes eye health.

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Another festive fall food, summer squash are still available until October in some states. Then comes the winter squash, so seasonal transitions won’t squash your squash cravings.

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Some garden plants need extra protection from extreme weather conditions, but rutabagas aren’t one of them. “Rutabaga ripens best in cool weather and the flavor becomes richer after the first frost,” says Emily Holdorf, MS, RDN,LDN and founder of EmPowered Nutrition. They’re a member of the cabbage family and similar to turnips, but sweeter. Serve them mashed or in fall favorites like casseroles, soups and stews. And this root veggie is good for you, too, with a medium rutabaga delivering plenty of fiber and beta carotene.

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You may not think of dainty lettuce as a hearty fall plant that could withstand cooler temps. But Holdorf says some varieties like green leaf and butterhead do well in cooler weather and shady conditions. Your local farmer’s market usually has an offering of tasty varieties in the fall. Be sure to grab a bunch to toss a fiber and vitamin-rich salad. When the weather gets colder, eat these 10 winter foods that prevent colds and flu.

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Salisfy probably hasn’t been on your radar, but it deserves to be on your list of healthy veggies. It’s a root vegetable also known as the “oyster plant” because it tastes a bit like an oyster. “Salsify is a root vegetable that thrives during the cooler months and then harvested after the first frost, when it’s flavor truly shines,” says Holdorf. These little wonders pack a lot of magnesium, vitamin C and B-6. These are 18 other new healthy foods that are worth the hype.

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Make your next crudité platter a conversation starter by adding kohlrabi to the mix. While it resembles—and taste a bit like—a broccoli stem, it’s most closely related to cabbage. Both the leaves and bulb can be eaten. “Kohlrabi is a cruciferous vegetable and high in vitamin C and potassium,” says Holdorf. These are the 10 healthiest vegetables you can eat.

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Bitter Melon

Bitter melon shows enough promise that it could be added to the best superfoods for diabetes. “In Chinese medicine, it’s believed that bitter melon can reduce blood sugar levels, but this has not been completely proven yet,” notes Holdorf. It contains polypeptide-P, a phytonutrient that lowers blood glucose levels. It’s cute and ugly all at once, resembling a cucumber but with jagged and bumpy skin. “It originated in India and is now a popular vegetable in many Chinese households,” says Holdorf. It’s very low in cholesterol and high in vitamin C. It also has significant amounts of vitamin A, B-6 and magnesium.

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Harvested between September to December, dates are a natural way to satisfy your sweet tooth. “Fresh dates contain about 55 percent sugar and as the dates dry, the sugar increases as it concentrates,” says Barbe. Though each date is about 20 calories, they also contain 12 grams of fiber per cup. “Stuffed with an almond or almond butter or blue cheese, they make a delicious snack. Add them to granola, smoothies, muffin batter and cookie dough or dice a couple into a green or whole-grain salad,” recommends Barbe. Don’t miss these 12 healthy desserts that can help you lose weight.
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Maybe your grandma used parsnips in her trusted family recipes, but these days they pale—literally—in comparison to the popularity of carrots. This pale yellow cousin of the carrot actually requires cooler temps to convert its starches into sugar. Just one parsnip has three grams of fiber and delivers a chunk of the recommend daily amount of vitamin C. “Toss them with a little olive oil and roast in 400 degree oven or boil and mash like mashed potatoes,” suggests Barbe.

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Georgia pecans

Pecan pie is a favorite at Thanksgiving. But eating a handful of fresh Georgia pecans is an experience you won’t soon forget. Bonus: Pecans can balance out your gut flora and fight inflammation. According to Lawton Pearson of Pearson Farm, Fort Valley, GA, the superb taste is from a combination of genetics and the red dirt in which they are grown. But what really makes them taste better is the higher concentration of oil versus other pecan producing regions. “The best pecans are always fresh, right after fall harvest,” says Pearson. “Bright yellow and browns are the colors of fresh pecans. Dark brown to almost black or red are the colors of old or poorly stored pecans,” says Pearson.

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Persimmons are another in-season food you’ll want to try. They resemble a tomato, but have a much sweeter taste. Bake them or eat scarf them raw, but don’t pass up persimmons, says Chef Nathan. There will likely be two varieties—the fuyu and hachiya.”Yellow, orange and red in color, the fuyu is wonderful to enjoy when it’s firm, with the texture like an apple or soft, sporting a unique custard-like texture,” says Chef Lyon. They boast flavors of cinnamon, brown sugar and dates. “A ripe hachiya is is ultra sweet and can be eaten by cutting the fruit in half and spooning out the jelly-like flesh,” notes Lyon. Nutritionally speaking, they pack about a fifth of your fiber and vitamin C needs, and provide more than half of your daily vitamin A. Use these tricks for spotting farmers market food that isn’t fresh or local.

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If you want to satisfy your umami taste buds, oysters, muscles, scallops and clams are especially savory in the fall. According to Pangea Shellfish Company, these shellfish are seasonal creatures that hibernate in the winter, so they’re eating like crazy to fatten up before the cool waters arrive. The extra food builds up their glycogen stores and makes them sweet and plump during the fall months.

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Not only does heart-healthy, wild Alaskan salmon taste better in the fall, it’s also easier on your grocery budget. Even better, the salmon is at it’s peak flavor before spawning season because they’ve been fattening up on ocean crustaceans, giving them a richer flavor. Chef Lyon says the salmon season usually ends in October. All year round, load up on the 50 healthiest foods you can find in the supermarket.

Lisa Marie Conklin
Lisa Marie Conklin is a Baltimore-based writer who writes regularly about pets and home improvement for Reader's Digest. Her work has also been published in The Healthy, Family Handyman and Taste of Home, among other outlets. She's also a certified personal trainer and walking coach for a local senior center.