How is it possible that pumpkin spice season is already upon us? We’ve almost made it through the summer and with that comes a whole new treasure trove, a cornucopia if you will, of produce fresh from the farm.
While we normally associate pumpkins with this time of year, there are so many other fall harvest fruits and vegetables to pay homage to. Of course, where you are in the world will dictate the exact timing and availability, but let’s take a look at the nutrient dense rainbow of fruits and veggies we’ll soon see popping up at farmer’s markets.
Apples just might rival pumpkin for “most popular” fall food. Apple picking, apple cider...the options are seemingly endless! It just so happens that apples are an excellent source of fiber. One medium apple has about 4 grams which is almost 20% of what we need in a day. Getting enough fiber daily can help with satiety (feeling full), weight maintenance, blood sugar control, cardiovascular health, and cancer risk. Just keep in mind, much of the fiber is concentrated in the peel, so don’t toss that away!
Beets, found in-season in temperate climates from fall through spring, are a beautiful and potent vegetable. They have something called nitrates in them which are great for heart health, though you have to eat them raw to reap those benefits.
Did you know that cranberries grow on vines in freshwater bogs? Found mainly in New England and the Upper Midwest in the fall, these ruby red berries are a great source of fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidants.
Now on to the most popular harvest vegetable – pumpkin. A member of the winter squash family, the pumpkin is loaded with a variety of nutrients including the vitamin beta-carotene which gives this squash its orange color. The body converts beta-carotene to vitamin A, which is important for eye health (among other things).
Originally from China, the persimmon is another fall fruit that resembles a tomato and has a sweet, almost honey-like, flavor. You can tell they, like pumpkins, are high in beta-carotene because of their beautiful yellow orange hue.
Brussels sprouts are a member of the cruciferous family along with broccoli and cauliflower. Fun fact: the name “cruciferous” comes from the Latin word cruciferae meaning “cross bearing,” because their four-petaled flowers resemble a cross. Check it out next time you buy one! Brussels sprouts are especially rich in vitamin C (81% of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI)) and vitamin K (137% RDI) which is important for blood clotting and bone health.
A lesser-known variety of corn native to Mexico and parts of New Mexico, blue corn gets its color from anthocyanins, a plant chemical that can help prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer and supports cognitive function. Blue corn also boasts up to 20% more protein than its yellow counterpart.
Both eggplants and grapes, harvested in the fall, have a beautiful purple shade that, as mentioned above, come from anthocyanins and therefore have similar health benefits.
That's Quite a Rainbow!
So, who is excited for the fall harvest? And while this is not an exhaustive list of fall produce, it does highlight the rainbow of delicious whole foods available this time of year—each one packed with its own unique set of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other micronutrients.
Just keep in mind that while we discussed the nutritional benefits of these foods, you can’t just eat a whole bunch of apples, for example, and expect miracles. It is instead the combination and interaction of the rainbow of nutrients, along with an overall healthy lifestyle, that sets us up for long-term health and wellness.