In Season: Pomegranates begin to ripen in September and are available through January.What to Look For: Choose deeply colored purplish-red pomegranates that feel heavy for their size. Avoid any fruit that is cracked or has soft spots.How to Store: When kept in an airtight bag in the refrigerator, whole pomegranates will keep for a month or more. Pomegranate seeds should be refrigerated and used within a few days.
Long before the appetizer is served, your table will make a good first impression with these fall-fruit place cards. Here, small pears and sweet-gum-tree spurs hold paper name tags punched with holes and tied in place with ribbon or twine. Any small fruit, such as crab apples or jack-be-little pumpkins, can be used.
In Season: The quince has been a popular ingredient since medieval times. The fruit is tart and chalky when raw, but cooking it brings out its sweet flavor and seductive aroma. Quince season begins in late summer and lasts through the fall.What to Look For: The quince is related to apples and pears, and looks similar to a stubby-necked pear. Ripe quinces are bright-yellow with fuzzy skin. The flesh is creamy white and firm, but turns soft and rosy pink when cooked.How to Store: Keep quinces in a bowl at room temperature for up to a week, or refrigerate in an airtight bag for as long as two months.
In Season: There are two main varieties of persimmon commercially available in the U.S. today: the acorn-shaped Hachiya, and the squat, tomato-shaped Fuyu. Persimmons begin appearing in markets in late September and are available through December.What to Look For: Hachiya persimmons remain tart and chalky until they are extremely ripe, while Fuyu persimmons are sweeter and can be eaten while still firm. Look for persimmons with taut, glossy skin, avoiding fruit with soft spots or bruises.How to Store: If persimmons are still firm, store them at room temperature and allow them to ripen. Store soft, ripe persimmons in the refrigerator until ready to eat.
In Season: Celery root, also called celeriac, is harvested in the late fall. This ugly duckling has a distinct, refreshing flavor reminiscent of a cross between celery and parsley. The green stalks that sprout from the root aren't for snacking -- they're more pungent and not as crisp as regular celery -- but are wonderful simmered in soup or stock. Celery root stores well at cool temperatures, so it's available throughout the winter. Some markets carry it year-round. What to Look For: Celery root is roughly globe-shaped, with a knobby, uneven surface. The outside is a mottled brown color and the interior is creamy white. Choose firm celery root that feels heavy for its size, and avoid any that have soft spots. How to Store: Wrap celery root loosely and store in the produce drawer of the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
In Season: Parsnips require cold weather to convert their starches into sugar and develop their appealingly sweet flavor, so they are harvested in the late fall, after the frost sets in. They store well and are available throughout the winter and spring.What to Look For: Parsnips look similar to ivory or pale-yellow carrots, with a bulbous top tapering down to a skinny root. Choose small, firm parsnips that are not limp or shriveled.How to Store: Keep parsnips loosely wrapped in the produce drawer of the refrigerator, and use within two to three weeks.
In the world of hearty greens, Swiss chard often gets overshadowed by its popular neighbor kale, but it’s a superstar in its own right. This relative of the beet is a superb source of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as magnesium, potassium, and iron. It makes a colorful and tasty side dish, or a nutritious addition to pasta, soup, quiches, and more. In Season: The Swiss chard harvest typically begins in the late summer and lasts into the fall. Many markets carry chard year-round. What to Look For: You'll typically find three types of chard in stores and at farmers' markets: Rainbow chard has colorful red, pink, yellow, or white stalks; Fordhook Giant is identifiable by crinkly leaves and thick, white, tender stalks; and Ruby Red (or Rhubarb) chard has thin, red stalks and slightly stronger flavors. Regardless of kind, look for crisp, vibrant green leaves with no yellow or brown marks. Avoid leaves with small holes. How to Store: After a mild rinse, store chard in moistened paper towels in a plastic bag (with a few pinholes to allow air to circulate) in the refrigerator for two or three days.
In Season: Like other hard-shelled winter squash, spaghetti squash is harvested in the early fall. It keeps for months in cool storage, so it's available in markets throughout the winter and spring.What to Look For: Mature spaghetti squash is oblong in shape with a creamy-yellow shell. Choose firm squash that's free of soft spots and feels heavy for its size.How to Store: Uncut spaghetti squash keeps well in a cool, dry place for up to one month.
How come pears -- versatile and delicious in so many recipes, and with more fiber, potassium, and folate than apples -- don't get more attention?In Season: Pears' peak season begins in late summer and lasts through January, though they are available year-round in many markets.What to Look For: Pears vary in color depending on the variety, from green-yellow Comice and pink-blushed Bartletts to pebbly copper-brown Boscs. Choose pears that are firm with no soft spots or blemishes.How to Store: Pears are unique in that they are best when picked unripe and then allowed to ripen off the tree. Choose hard pears and leave on a counter to ripen. A pear ripens from inside out, so check for ripeness at the thinner stem end -- the flesh should yield to gentle pressure. Once completely ripe, transfer pears to the refrigerator and use within two to three days.
In Season: Fresh cranberries are available from October through December. Some markets also carry frozen cranberries year-round. What to Look For: Look for bright-colored firm cranberries in the produce section. Avoid bags that have brown or shriveled berries at the bottom. How to Store: Store in the original packaging for up to two weeks in the refrigerator, or up to one year in the freezer. To prep, rinse and discard any discolored or soft berries; if frozen, there's no need to thaw before use.
In Season: These cabbage cousins are at the peak of their season from September to February.What to Look For: Look for hard, bright-green sprout heads, as mushy sprouts yield less flavor. Avoid those with excessive leaf perforations; they may be housing aphids, common garden pests. Choose sprout heads of roughly the same size so they'll cook evenly.How to Store: Store unwashed Brussels sprouts in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Use within three or four days.