Usually, people think of spring and summer as prime growing seasons and may lament the temperature drops that come with fall and the loss of fresh produce. But all is not lost! Autumn is actually an amazing time to grow vegetables! If you’re thinking of starting now, your best is to buy already established plants (but check local planting dates to see which veggies are out of reach this year) and get them in quick; it’s just too late to start your own plants from seed. Here’s a list of some our favorite fall vegetables–for the garden and the table.:)
1. Broccoli: It’s a dark-green veggie (which is always a plus!), so it’s full of vitamins and minerals. Another bonus: Pests aren’t fans of broccoli, so growing it is usually pretty painless. Boil it, broil it, sauté, bake or grill it–broccoli is extremely versatile!
2. Cabbage: In general, the cabbage family is found of cool temps, so spring and fall are the perfect seasons for them to flourish. Cabbage plants are very hardy and store well (as long as a few months), and it’s chock full of vitamins K and C and fiber. We’re thinking sauerkraut and New York Reubens. How about you?
3. Beets: Beets make food pretty–that’s just the truth–but beyond their aesthetics, they’re super healthy and easy to grow. Beets are root vegetables, but you can actually eat both the root and the leaves. They’re also loaded with vitamins A and C. You can top your salad with them or use them in soups (Borscht, anyone?); a quick internet search will yield a stack of great recipes.
4. Collards: These tasty greens are one of a very few veggies that get tastier with the cold (even frost). There are varieties that can be harvested in 60 days (score!), and they’re a very laid-back crop–they can even weather drought (though it may change the taste). Generally, they prefer cool weather, moist soil and lots of sunshine, but they can roll with what they get.
5. Lettuce: You might have thought your garden salad days were over, but they’re not! Most lettuces love cool temperatures, so they are best planted in early spring and harvested before summer’s heat really kicks in (once the heat takes hold, the plants bolt and leaves become bitter tasting), but fall brings a second wind for lettuce! Plant in late summer and you’ll be enjoying fresh salads well into the fall months.
6. Onions: Onions love the cool weather almost as much as they love to grow with friends (plant onions with other veggies like peas and turnips and watch them thrive!). They need plenty of time to mature though, so don’t wait too late to get them started. There are plenty of varieties to choose from, but even if you get a late start, you can enjoy scallions on salads and in your favorite fall soups.
7. Radishes: Radishes are a very gratifying veggie to grow. Another root vegetable, they are almost a garden fail-safe. Think your thumb is black instead of green? Plant some radish seeds and build some confidence. In the summer, they can help protect your cucumbers and squash from pests, if planted close, but be sure to plant some late summer for a fall harvest!
8. Spinach: No one should be without spinach–really. It’s packed with iron and vitamins A and C, it’s easy to grow and you can use it fresh in salads and smoothies, or grill/sauté/broil etc. it. It’s great in soups, too! It’s one of our fall favorites, so plant plenty of it! It doesn’t always keep so well in the fridge, but when it’s ready to be harvested, throw it in the freezer and take it out as you’re ready to use it. Eazy peezy!
9. Chard: This little gem is both heat and frost tolerant, so if you’re looking for fresh greens to take into winter, then this is the plant for you. They’re easy to grow from seed, and they’re a great source of phytonutrients and antoxidants. And honestly, they’re really pretty. They have dark green leaves but different varieties have different brightly-colored stalks.
10. Kale: All hail the kale! Kale is another green that’s high on the list of super foods we love. It loves cool weather, keeps growing after frost, and it maintains its distinctive flavor extremely well with freezing, so holding on to the goodness of kale through the winter months is an easy feat!
Even if you’re not a gardener, it’s easy to keep your fridge full of fresh vegetables well into fall (or even winter!) at your local farmer’s market. Farmers close to you will be growing these and other cold-hardy veggies, and hauling them to your local market all the time, so there’s no need to hit the supermarket for veggies shipped in from Peru. Look at cooking with the food that’s in-season locally as a new adventure! If you’re dying for a fresh tomato (albeit the hot-house variety), you can always hit Safeway and get a fix. At Brown Bag, we’re gearing up for fall and winter soups! Soups are a winter favorite of ours here, so keep an eye out in the coming months for our new soup menu!