Adulting 101: Fall produce and how to eat it

Find out which fruits and vegetables are in season to save money and eat yummy.

Illustration credit, Tiffany Chan

By: Gabrielle McLaren, Features Editor 

The fall solstice was officially September 21, but the season’s coming doesn’t really feel real until Thanksgiving, Halloween, and midterms start to loom on the horizon. Luckily, you can turn autumn into your best food season yet.



How to pick: Check for firm apples which aren’t bruised — though scuffs and specks may be normal. While this may be weird to do in the middle of Nesters Market, or wherever you buy your produce if you don’t live at SFU, make sure your apple has a good smell to it too.

What to make: Wash, peel, and slice your apples, and toss them in cinnamon and brown sugar. Wrap your apple slices in Pillsbury Crescent dough triangles and bake following the instructions on the package. Serve hot. Bonus: drizzle with caramel for additional yumminess.



How to pick: Look for smooth, hard, rounded beets. Dwight Schrute does not approve of beets that have cuts, bruises, moist spots, or shrivelled skin. If you’re going to be cooking or roasting them, try to size them evenly for even cooking.

What to make: My mom loves, loves, loves pickled beets, so you could try your hand at pickling and canning them, since canning makes for a handy gift. You can also peel and slice your beets and dry them out in the oven at 350°F to make beet chips. Bake your chips until the sides of the beets begin to dry out (this should take about 20 minutes), and rotate your sheet in the oven. Keep doing that until they’re completely crispy.



How to pick: You want your broccoli to be bright green, for the florets on top to be clustered together, and for the stalk to be solid.

What to make: Broccoli makes for a great pasta salad. Chop up about two crowns of broccoli and mix that with six ounces of pasta, a chopped-up bell pepper, cheese cubes if you wish, apple slices, and anything else lying around your kitchen, like cranberries, sunflower seeds, carrots . . . You can use a store-bought dressing if you have some, or mix up mayonnaise, olive oil, and dijon mustard. This soup is also delicious and filling for all you meal-preppers.


Brussel sprouts

How to pick: Bright green, no yellow leaves (that means they’re aged), or black spots (don’t panic, but that might be a fungus). Also, make sure the leaves are packed together. If your brussel sprouts are giving you tulip vibes, they’re passing their prime.

What to make: Brussel sprouts are a stupid easy side once you roast them in the oven. Trim and half your brussel sprouts, toss them in olive oil, layer on your baking pan, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. You can dress them up with parmesan cheese, bacon bits, maple syrup . . . It’ll be 16–20 minutes in an oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Feel free to load them up on rice with other veggies and proteins.



How to pick: Your cabbage should be compact, with no leaves flopping off. Colour depends on the kind of cabbage that you’re picking.

What to make: My first job included mixing industrial quantities of coleslaw by hand, so I stay clear of that stuff now. Instead, may I suggest making cabbage rolls.  Cabbage rolls can be deconstructed into no-nonsense one-pot meals, and yes, there are vegan versions out there too.



How to pick: The bigger the carrot, the sweeter it’ll be, because it spent more time in the ground and developed more sugar. They should be smooth and firm, and the carrot and leaves should both be deeply coloured.

What to make: These carrot muffins are my favourite (without the raisins, of course). You can also try shredding carrots and tossing them in overnight oats with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and a bit of brown sugar to have carrot cake for breakfast.



How to pick: No black spots, and the cauliflower should be firmly packed.

What to make: You might have heard about the Pinterest craze that is cauliflower rice. I recommend this roasted veggie pasta for the weeks when your budget needs to be stretched to Elastigirl levels.



How to pick: Like an apple, but smaller. Look for firm, crisp crabapples. The colouring depends on the species of crabapples, so be careful.

What to make: Jelly! It sounds scary but it’s pretty straightforward, delicious on crackers with cream cheese, and makes for a cool gift.



How to pick: You can get cranberries canned or dried in bulk, which is easy. While it’s rarer to get fresh cranberries, fresh cranberries should be bouncy, firm, and deeply coloured.

What to make: Throw them in literally any salad, or just snack on them while you study. Alternatively, make your favourite chocolate chip cookie recipe but substitute your chocolate chips for white chocolate chips and add a cup of cranberries.



How to pick: Your eggplant should be smooth and shiny. If you push your thumb into your eggplant (it’s weird but bear with me), the flesh should give a little but return to the original shape once you stop applying pressure.

What to make: Eggplant and black bean sauce stir fry. You can cheat on this recipe with store-bought black bean sauce — nobody will judge you — and you can also add tofu or chicken to this dish. Serve on rice.  



How to pick: Smell really helps here: your ginger should be spicy and spicy. The skin should be thin and there should be no soft spots.

What to make: Now that it’s Fall you’re going to get sick; boiling ginger to make a tea will help. Other than that, this carrot apple ginger soup is foolproof and delicious.


Green Beans

How to pick: Should be bright green and smooth.

What to make: These green beans bundles are a great side or addition to a potluck because, plot twist, people like bacon.



How to pick: Kale should be moist and unwilted. The smaller the kale leaves, the more tender and mild the kale.

What to make: In a large skillet, caramelize some onions. Chop up one apple, and throw that in. When the apple is softening, drain a can of chickpeas and add it to the skillet. Drizzle the whole thing with maple syrup or agave or honey or whatever you’ve got and mix, before throwing in a bunch of kale, chopped in large chunks. Cover the pan with a lid and give the kale about five minutes to wilt. Delicious hot, but will make for a good leftover.  



How to pick: Look for leeks that are light green and white, with as little dark green as possible. Smaller leeks have the best taste, but anything firm with crisp and undamaged leaves will be good to go.

What to make: My roommate and I got really obsessed with this leek and sweet potato and rosemary soup recipe. It freezes amazingly too, so you can make a big batch and treat yourself during exams.



How to pick: This depends on the type of mushroom you’re looking at getting, but make sure that you check the stem and the cap to avoid surprises.

What to make: This wildly depends on what kind of mushrooms you pick up at the grocery store or market, but creamy pastas like this one are killer, and mushrooms combine really well with spinach.



How to pick: Unlike for jack-o’-lantern purposes, cooking pumpkins should be on the smaller side. It should be brightly coloured with a dried out stem, and when you tap against the pumpkin the sound should be hollow.

What to make: I see your pumpkin spice latte and raise you chocolate pumpkin swirl brownies. Or carrot pumpkin muffins, to which you may add grated apples or chocolate chips or both. I have no shortage of pumpkin recipes. Boom, pumpkin soup. Go find this piece online for links.



How to pick: Your squash should be heavier than it looks. It sounds dumb, but the idea is that if the squash’s flesh is moist and healthy, it’ll be heavy. If the stem looks damaged or wet, the rest of the vegetable probably isn’t that great either… Also, make sure that your pumpkin’s flesh is dull — shininess usually means that the vegetable was picked too early.

What to make: Butternut squash mac and cheese. Hands down. Here’s a vegan version that can easily be made gluten-free if you have dietary restrictions.


Sweet potatoes

How to pick: You’ll want medium-to-small sweet potatoes (big ones are starchier) boasting evenly and deeply coloured skin.

What to make: Sweet potato fritters. Grate three cups of sweet potatoes and squeeze out all the liquid. This step is super important, because without it, the consistency won’t work. Mix with four whisked eggs, salt, pepper, and paprika. Heat some butter in a saucepan over medium heat, and create little balls with your sweet potato mixture (thicken up with flour as needed). Drop them in, and make sure to flip every five minutes until your fritters look crispy and brown. They’re delicious with spicy mayo, or when topped with avocado. This won’t help you cook or anything, but you should know that this is Michelle Obama’s favourite fall vegetable. So bonus.



How to pick: Once again, the smaller, the better. Big zucchinis are watery and have larger seeds. Look for vibrant colouring, whether your zucchini be green or yellow.

What to make: Disney made you believe that ratatouille was difficult to make, but this is a lie. French ratatouille is usually a kind of stew, but you can also elegantly slice and bake veggies like in the movie, by following this recipe. Don’t be shy about making chocolate zucchini bread for dessert either.