Branch Out This Fall with Seasonal Produce

In a memorable episode of the show Seinfeld, a fictional variety of peach called the “Mackinaw” was all the rage. The show’s star, Jerry Seinfeld, and his pals became obsessed with finding this peach at local grocers because it was only available for two weeks each year and was considered to be absolutely delicious. Again, don’t bother trying to find this peach species in stores … it was a complete fabrication. But this episode did get one thing right: Produce that is in season tastes better!

Have you noticed as the weather begins to cool the quality of the fruits and vegetables we loved so much over the summer really begin to suffer? My experience as a health educator and nutrition counselor has taught me that when people find produce they enjoy, they rarely deviate. Carrots and celery are a common addition to many a lunchbox as are broccoli, tomatoes and cucumbers. But autumn is extra special because a number of delicious and nutritious fruits and vegetables come into season. Consider this list of seasonal fall produce and try “branching out”!

From October through December, the following are in season in California:

  • Apples
  • Artichokes
  • Asian pears
  • Bell peppers
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Persimmons
  • Pomegranates
  • Pumpkins
  • Squash
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tangelos
  • Tangerines

Personally, my goal is to try at least one new seasonal fruit and vegetable each year. Last year, I tried a persimmon. It was so fragrant and sweet, it was love at first bite. I use it as a salad topper now. Plus, many of these items can be found at your local farmers market or Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Here are more benefits to buying seasonal and local produce:

  1. It tastes better. Produce that is picked at the peak of freshness is loaded with flavor!
  2. Less travel time. Consuming fruit and vegetables when they are ripe and have been recently picked preserves much of the food’s nutrient value.
  3. Supports local economy. Buying local means you are supporting local farmers and growers, which means those funds are being put back into neighborhood businesses and the surrounding communities.
  4. It’s better for the environment. By alternating the types of foods grown in the soil, the health of the farmland is maintained.
  5. It may be safer. Food that travels long distances not only loses nutrient value, but also has been handled, stored, prepared for shipping, possibly pre-cut, etc. These procedures may increase the likelihood of food contamination.

If you don’t know where to find local produce, search online for a farmers market near you. Better yet, find a CSA program in your city and consider signing up for a weekly or bi-weekly delivery of fresh fruit and produce. 

By Neal Malik, DrPH, MPH, RDN, CHES, EP-C, associate professor, Master of Science in Nutrition for Wellness program at Bastyr University California.