Autumn’s bounty of fruit and vegetables

Autumn’s bounty of fruit and vegetables

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The days are getting longer and cold winds are coming in from the north. So it’s time to get out your saucepans and pie tins to make the most of warming recipes using local autumn fruit and vegetables.

Beautiful butternut squash

From the same family as courgettes and cucumbers, this smooth yellowish-orange skinned squash has a lovely nutty and sweet taste, making it a truly delicious vegetable, whether simply roasted, steamed or in more intricate dishes. Full of fibre, vitamins A and C, beta-carotene and magnesium, butternut squash makes a healthy mash for kids, and one of the easier vegetables to get them to eat. When buying your butternut squash, make sure the rind is hard and smooth, with no green colouring on it. In your hand, it should have a heavy feel, indicating that there’s plenty of water, thus flavour inside.

Try our great pasta recipe: Butternut squash penne

Bright bountiful beetroot

Forget your childhood nightmare of beetroot slices swimming in vinegar, and try some subtly delicious fresh beetroot. A good source of folate and fibre as well as antioxidants, beetroot is thought to help keep the blood vessels clear, thereby helping to prevent cardiac disease. Don’t hesitate to give fresh beetroot juice a whirl (good with orange juice) as this has been proven to help reduce blood sugar. Buy your beetroot small if possible, to ensure tenderness. A hardy root vegetable, the beetroot will keep in the fridge for up to a couple of weeks.

Try our traditional beetroot soup recipe: Borscht

Crunchy cleansing celery

Celery has Mediterranean origins, has been cultivated and eaten in the UK since the 1600s, and it belongs to the same family as fennel, coriander and chervil. Celery is a popular vegetable in weight loss diet plans as it provides low calorie dietary fibre and is also known to have detoxifying properties. Not often eaten as a stand-alone cooked vegetable, celery works well as a mash, in stews and is a “must have” ingredient for many soups and most stocks. Hold on to those celery leaves as well – they can be used in soups or even in salads.

Use celery to make soup stock: Vegetable stock

Perfectly poachable pears

Different varieties of pear trees, thought to have originated in China, are now native to temperate regions across most of the world. A source of vitamins B6 and C, potassium and copper, pears are wonderful both raw and cooked. There’s nothing like a warm cooked pear dessert to warm up a chilly autumn evening. Buy your pears when slightly under-ripe, and don’t worry about brown speckles (russetting) on the skin, which is perfectly natural. There are a number of home-grown pear varieties available in the UK:

  • Williams pears are yellow or red-tinged, sweet, juicy and firm, so ideal for cooking
  • Conference pears are green, long and thin with a very sweet and juicy flesh
  • Concorde pears are a recently developed hybrid of the Conference and Comice varieties

Try our sweet and spicy dessert recipe: Pear and anise tart with ginger crust

Quirky quinces

Originating in the Caucasus region, the quince requires a cold period to flower properly, so is happily growing well in the UK. As most of us know, the quince is very hard, astringent and sour, so pretty well impossible to eat raw. Due to its high levels of pectin, the quince makes excellent jams and puddings, while in the Middle East, quinces are also included in stewed meat dishes. The quince is rich in vitamin C and its high astringency gives it additional detoxifying properties.

Try our delicious warming tart recipe: Almond and quince tart

Wonderfully wild mushrooms

Now’s the time to make the most of wild mushrooms, and even if you don’t go hunting for them in the woods yourself, you can find plenty at your local farmer’s market. Wild mushrooms are a good source of protein, and essential minerals such as selenium, copper, potassium and niacin. It’s important to buy wild mushrooms as fresh as possible as they are rather delicate and don’t store well; if you must keep them in the fridge, make sure you wrap them in some kitchen paper so they don’t get “wet”. Most mushrooms don’t take to washing either, so it’s worth investing in a mushroom brush if you're serious mushroom-eater! Wild mushrooms are great in all kinds of dishes, from soups to risottos, with nothing better than a simple mushroom fry-up on buttered toast!

Use a mix of wild mushrooms in this recipe: Mushrooms in cream sauce

Click through to our Recipes section to access all the above recipes:

Jane Banham

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