Fall is famous as a season of harvest, meaning there are many different crops that are fresh from the fields. Around this time, there’s a bevy of fresh foods that are at their peak. We’re going to pick out three fall favorites you should try during their natural harvest season. You’ll learn the when’s, how’s, and what’s for finding the perfect ingredient.

Apples

Apples are the quintessential fall food and a great starter fruit for any fruit-skeptics out there. While the old adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” is certainly exaggerated, apples remain outrageously healthy. They’re packed with antioxidants like phytochemicals among other health benefits, to make no mention of the delicious taste.

Apples are packed with antioxidants like phytochemicals among other health benefits, to make no mention of the delicious taste.

One of the great aspects of apples is that they’re technically in season all year, but they’re truly at their best in the fall. From August to October, these delectable pomes truly hit their stride during their natural harvest season.

How to Pick the Perfect Apple

When it comes to picking apples, there are a few ways to find a good one. One of the easiest ways to avoid a bad apple is to look for visible bruises or imperfections. Dark spots that look sunken or dull skin are bad signs. You should also check how firm the apple is. A light squeeze should be enough to tell if the apple is firm, but not rock hard.

How to Use Them

Each variety of apple (and there are many) become best for something different at different times throughout the season. You can eat them fresh, baked into a pie, or mashed into a sauce. Around Halloween, autumn’s premier holiday, candy apples are a traditional treat!

Pumpkins

Pumpkins are intertwined with fall, especially Halloween, but mostly as a decoration or flavoring for a spiced latte. Rarely do we think about actually eating them, but you can! One of the easiest ways of doing this is with the pumpkin seeds, which are chock-full of antioxidants and nutrients. Pumpkin flesh itself is healthy, too, rich in the same benefits as the seeds, but also containing potassium, beta-carotene, and other vitamins.

Rarely do we think about actually eating pumpkins, but you can!

Unlike apples, pumpkin harvest season is a little more defined. While they can sometimes be harvested as early as August, the average season runs from late September through October. Pumpkins are extremely susceptible to frost, which, when coupled with a long growing season, means anything before September is likely too early to expect a mature pumpkin plant.

How to Pick the Perfect Pumpkin

The trick to knowing when a pumpkin is ripe is all about the look and feel. Press your fingernail against the skin of the pumpkin. A ripe pumpkin should resist being punctured. Lightly tapping on the exterior of the pumpkin can also tell you a lot. The skin should be hard but should feel hollow. At the same time, a pumpkin is ready to be picked when the stem has hardened. The outside of the pumpkin should also free of blemishes or rot.

How to Use Them

The most traditional way of “using” a pumpkin is as a decoration, but you can also eat them. Roasting pumpkin seeds in the oven is an easy way to enjoy the edible benefits of pumpkins. If you want to cook pumpkin flesh, you’ll need a different pumpkin than the ones usually used for carving. These squashes tend to be meatier, giving you more fruit to work with. From there, we’ve made pies, beers, and sauces, to name only a few!

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are like their cousins, but on nutritional steroids. Not only are they delicious, with their starchiness complemented by a unique sweetness that gives these root veggies their name, but you can use them in a variety of ways. They’re also rich in vitamins and minerals that make them a great source of healthy nutrients.

Not only are sweet potatoes delicious and healthy, you can use them in a variety of ways.

While sweet potatoes are available year-round, the best time to get your hands on some is late October to December. These hearty spuds can withstand the cold and really come into their prime in late fall, just in time for sweet potato pies for Thanksgiving.

How to Pick the Perfect Sweet Potato

When it comes to picking a sweet potato, the obvious signs should stick out. If it looks bad or moldy, avoid it. If you notice growths on the potato, that’s a good signal that it’s going bad or has been on the shelf awhile. Similar to apples and pumpkins, a good sweet potato should feel right. Give it a squeeze. If the spud feels soft, mushy, or wet, discard it. That’s one bad potato.

How to Use Them

Like any potato, the question isn’t how to use them, but how can’t you use them. Sweet potatoes are incredibly flexible. Replace russet potatoes with sweet potatoes as a healthy hack to give your fries an extra dimension of flavor. You can mash them, roast them, bake them, or make a casserole.

Fall is prime harvest time for a variety of fruits and vegetables. This year, take advantage of the harvest season to get your hands on some of the classic fall produce while they’re at their best.