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It is officially Fall now and one of my favorite seasons: football, cooler weather, the changing color of leaves, and fruit! While I love all of the fruits of summer, the fruits of fall also are wonderful. Below are 5 of my favorites that are ripe this time of year and make a great addition to your table, the holiday buffet, or just for snacking anytime (okay, maybe not the cranberries by themselves unless you like things on the tart side).
Apples – there is nothing better than a fresh, juicy, crisp apple. One of my favorite family activities is to pick our own. It was an incredible treat to eat an apple fresh off a tree. While I love slicing and eating apples plain, they are incredibly versatile from baking to sautéing and even roasting. When eating a raw apple, it is best to eat the apples unpeeled so as to reap the full nutritional benefits of the apple which includes fiber, vitamin C and potassium. Did you know there are over 7500 varieties of apples? For baking, choose a sweet apple that won’t disintegrate too easily (i.e., McIntosh or Rome) but for pies choose one that is drier and is slightly acidic (i.e., Granny Smith). Last year we purchased this Apple Peeler and Corer, which has made peeling and coring apples not only easier, but much more fun. My kids had great fun (with adult supervision) using it.
Cranberries – fresh cranberries are plentiful this time of year and are great additions in baking, not to mention make a wonderful fresh relish. They also make for pretty table decorations in glass bowls with other fruit and greenery. Fresh cranberries should be kept in the refrigerator or they will spoil quickly. They also freeze very well. Cranberries are rich in vitamin C, potassium and antioxidants. While most people associate cranberries with urinary tract health, they have also been known to be good for blood circulation, the complexion and the digestive system.
Pears – pears are just as versatile as apples in many respects, though they do spoil more quickly once ripe. Pears ripen better once they are picked from the trees. Once they ripen, they should be eaten within a few days and stored in the refrigerator otherwise the flesh breaks down quickly into mush. I love pears plain, in salads, sautéed and baked. Try adding a pear to fresh cranberry relish for an extra punch of natural sweetness. Pears are also rich in fiber and potassium and a good source of vitamin C. There are hundreds of different varieties of pears with the largest pear-producing countries being China, Italy, the United States and Russia.
Persimmons – truth be told, I had never had one until a few years ago. But I love the delicate sweet flavor of this fruit. There are two varieties widely available here in the United States: hachiya and fuyu. Hachiya persimmons are heart-shaped and turn soft when ripe. If eaten before full ripened, hachiya persimmons are very bitter. Fuyu persimmons, on the other hand, look more like a flattened tomato and are sweeter and edible while still firm. Persimmons are a good source of vitamin A as well as rich in fiber, potassium and vitamin C. Slice and enjoy on their own or mix into a salad. The skin is edible on fuyu persimmons but not on hachiyas. Persimmons can also be used in baked goods or pureed and added to sauces.
Pomegranates – there is a little bit of work involved in getting the seeds out of this delicious fruit, but it is really worth it. My children absolutely love them. I have tried several methods for seed removal and have found that prying the seeds out in a bowl of water is best as I’m less likely to splatter myself and stain whatever I’m wearing. Or, you could try, The Pomegranate Tool, one of Lesley’s favorite kitchen gadgets that will get the seeds out with no mess. Pomegranates are high in vitamin C, antioxidants and potassium and are a rich source of fiber. The seeds, or arils, as they are called are a great snack on their own or add to sauces, salads or baked goods.