Seasonal Produce Guide: What to Buy in October
From hardy greens to all kinds of squash, here's what we're relying on in the kitchen this month.
Swiss chard (or just chard) never received the hype that kale did, but the sturdy green is just as much of a kitchen workhorse. With its earthy, slightly salty flavor, chard pleases the palate in two ways: first with its nutrient-dense leaves and then with its crunchy stalk. Don't let its name fool you, though. This green originally hails from Sicily, not Switzerland, and is a staple of Mediterranean cuisine. Chard has large green leaves that are either crinkly or smooth, depending on the variety, and thick stalks that can be white, pink, red, or yellow. Packed with vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber, it's also one of the most healthful vegetables. Chard is wonderful raw in salads and slaws, makes an excellent simple side dish when boiled or sauteed, and enhances pastas, risottos, and egg dishes like quiche and frittata.
Although grapes are available at the supermarket year-round, they're at their peak in autumn. The fruit comes in green (also called white), red, and blue-black, and in thousands of varieties. Among the most common: green seedless Thompson and Red Flame (both firm and mild), Muscat (sweet and fragrant, greenish gold), and sweet-tart, inky blue Concord grapes. For maximum health benefits, choose purple and red grapes—the plant pigments that give them their color also contain resveratrol and quercetin, two powerful antioxidants. While grapes always make a great on-the-go snack, they can also be added raw or cooked to all kinds of sweet and savory dishes, from salads and salsas to cakes and tarts.
Here's why you should give the quince, one of the most underrated fruits, a chance: When cooked this hard, strikingly sour fruit releases its honeyed sweetness, the firm flesh softens but the fruit retains its shape nicely, turning a tawny pink and taking on a flavor mildly reminiscent of spiced apple and guava. It is also uncommonly fragrant; leave a bowl of quinces out to ripen and they'll perfume a room. The fruit makes a short-lived appearance at markets—it's only available through December—so now is the time to enjoy quinces roasted or poached, bake them into a pie, whip up a batch of jelly or butter, or braise them in a tagine. You can even glaze your Thanksgiving turkey with homemade quince syrup.
It's an embarrassment of riches in the squash department come autumn. Pumpkins are of course ripe for carving, but it's the sugar pumpkins (also known as pie pumpkins) and their sweet, tender flesh that are especially good for cooking. There's also a bounty of other squash to experiment with beyond pumpkin, from butternut and acorn to spaghetti and our test kitchen's current darling, kabocha. Whichever kind you fancy, be sure to check out Our Expert Tips for Buying, Storing, and Cooking Winter Squash.
Chanterelle and Oyster Mushrooms
While you can find fabulous fungi year-round, both these varieties peak in the fall. Golden-hued chanterelles are usually foraged in the wild. Nutty and delicate, they should be added to dishes at the last second. We love using the luxe ingredient to elevate everyday foods like omelets, toasts, and even tacos. Oyster mushrooms are farmed or foraged and have a wonderful peppery flavor that mellows with cooking—try them seared or roasted. They also provide both protein and fiber and may lower cholesterol by inhibiting an enzyme that's key to cholesterol synthesis.
Bundles of this popular green are in market stalls this month, so snap up a bunch of any variety you please—the two most common are curly kale and Tuscan kale (also called lacinato, cavolo nero, or dinosaur kale), which has darker, flatter leaves. Kale lends itself to a variety of preparations. It's sweet and earthy when raw, gets crunchy or caramelized when sautéed, and takes on the broth's flavor in soup. And while kale chips may no longer be having their moment, they're just as delicious as ever and super easy to make