Written by: Irene Castillo, MPH, RD
The leaves are changing colors, Sugarbugs – and that means fall is upon us! In Ventura County, local farmers provide a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables for us to enjoy. When you shop seasonal produce, you get the best flavor and value. Next time you’re at the farmer’s markets, or your favorite grocery store, check out the produce and look for these tasty finds! And when you gather those beautiful, autumn leaves, don’t forget to jump into the pile – fall is fun! Now let’s talk fruits and vegetables.
So, what should you look for? Pumpkins! They’re available October through December and fill the season with creativity and nutrition and provide nutrients like potassium, iron, fiber, beta carotene, and vitamins, A, C and E to your family meals and snacks. Fun fact – did you know the pumpkin flower is edible? One more addition to your fall diet. You can use pumpkin puree in any recipe that uses cooked pumpkin. Keep reading to find out how.
Other top, local crops during this time of the year include carrots, celery, and snap peas for your snacks. For your salads, consider cabbage, kale, lettuce, and spinach. Avocados make a great addition on top of toast. And tomatoes, bell peppers, and onions are excellent in scrambles. If you’re looking at root vegetables, pick up some beets and radishes for added color!
If you’re thinking about fruits, consider a persimmon! They are available from late September through December. Wow, fall really does love the color orange! The Fuyu persimmon is most common. They are sweet, mild, and rich! If you’ve never tasted a persimmon, this is the time to try one. There are also many ways to enjoy them – incorporate them into a green salad, freeze and add them to a smoothie, or eat them like an apple.
As always, you can look for strawberries and navel and Valencia oranges at your local market.
How to Make Pumpkin Puree
First thing’s first: pick the best pumpkin for your puree. Pie pumpkins, also known as “sugar pumpkins” or “sweet pumpkins,” are smaller and sweeter than your typical carving pumpkin. To cut the pumpkin, make a slice from the base of the stem all the way around to the other side. This will allow you to pull the pumpkin apart into two halves and the stem will naturally break off. Always be sure to watch your fingers!
Next, you must cook the pumpkin. Oven roasting your pumpkin will give your puree a rich flavor without excess water to strain. Take your pumpkin halves, scoop out and remove the seeds (you can roast these separately to make pepitas), place the pumpkin, cut-side down on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment, and bake until soft (about 50-60 min depending on the size of your pumpkin).
Finally, take your roasted pumpkin and scoop out the cooked, soft pumpkin flesh for use. Add the cooled flesh into a blender or large food processor and pulse until smooth. If your puree is too thick, add some water until you reach your desired consistency (easy does it, Sugarbugs – go with one tablespoon at a time!).
Pumpkin Pear Smoothie
- 1 pear (cored and chopped)
- 1 cup frozen banana
- ½ cup pumpkin puree
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ cup low-fat milk or non-dairy milk (such as almond, oat or soy)
Place all ingredients into a high-speed blender and purée until smooth.
Tips: If you purchase canned puree, look for canned pumpkin with no added sugars or sodium. For a protein boost, add some vanilla Greek yogurt.
Arugula Persimmon Salad
- 4 cups arugula
- 1 persimmon (peeled and sliced)
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped walnuts
- 1/4 cup pepitas (aka – pumpkin seeds!)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
Prepare the dressing. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. In a large bowl, combine the arugula, persimmons, walnuts, and pepitas. Drizzle with dressing, toss and serve.
- Ventura Coastal. (2021). Growing Districts. Retrieved from: https://venturacoastal.com/growing-districts
- Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California. (2020). Central Coast Agriculture. Retrieved from: https://vric.ucdavis.edu/virtual_tour/centralcoast.htm
- Local Harvest. (2020). Persimmons. Retrieved from: https://www.localharvest.org/santa-paula-ca/persimmons
- California Department of Public Health. (2012). Pumpkins Family Newsletter. Retrieved from: https://harvestofthemonth.cdph.ca.gov/documents/Fall/Pumpkin/Pumpkins%20-%20Family%20News_Eng.pdf
- California Department of Public Health. (2010). Persimmons Family Newsletter. Retrieved from: https://harvestofthemonth.cdph.ca.gov/documents/Fall/Persimmons/Persimmons_Fam.pdf