As the Produce for Better Health Foundation Culinary & Foodservice Strategist I’m always on the hunt for food and flavor trends focused on fruits and vegetables. As we step into the fall season, eager to shed lighter summer gear for cooler temperatures and cozier clothing, many of us also start to shift our shopping and eating habits. Yes, pumpkin spice everything is now appearing on menus and store shelves, but when the temperatures seriously start to drop, we begin thinking more about comforting casseroles, simmering soups, and the perfect pie for holiday meals.
While I’m wildly obsessed with shopping for and cooking with fruits and vegetables throughout the year, there are some fantastic fall flavors I crave every year.
Roasted Root Vegetables
Roasting vegetables brings out their natural sweetness through caramelization. Carrots, parsnips, squash, and sweet potatoes all benefit from oven roasting. Carrots, for example, can be roasted with their cousins coriander and caraway to create complexity in flavor. (Yes, they all come from the same plant family!) Grinding the spices right before roasting ensures you get maximum flavor bang for your food buck. Extra virgin olive oil is always a great choice for tossing vegetables in before roasting. It not only provides flavor and potential health benefits but also encourages the spices to stick to the veggies.
Very Veggie Soups
There are endless ways to enjoy soups made with vegetables. If you love creamy soups, consider using pureed vegetables like potatoes or squash to create creamy textures. Adding other vegetables like onions, leeks, and celery contributes more layers of flavors. Finishing a soup with a splash of herb oil can create eye appeal and add a burst of flavor with every spoonful. Rosemary oil is great on potato leek soup. Cilantro oil pairs beautifully with roasted carrot soup. And sage oil is awesome on squash soups. I also love the heat that roasted jalapeno oil adds to bean soups.
You can quickly make herb oil by combining great quality extra virgin olive oil with fresh herbs in a food processor or blender. Be sure the herbs are very clean and dry. Store any blended oil you don’t use it all right away in the refrigerator.
Fruit-Forward Fall Desserts
Fall is also a great time to put more fruit into your desserts. Crisps are one of my favorite ways to enjoy a bumper crop of apples or pears from a local orchard or cranberries from a distant bog. My crisp toppings often include steel-cut oats, brown sugar or maple syrup, butter, flour, and nuts with pecans and walnuts topping my go-to list. Those who know me well will attest to my love of a small scoop of salted caramel ice cream on top of my serving of crisp.
No matter what fall flavors you most crave I hope fruits and vegetables are part of your fall meals and snacks!