It’s the best time of year for produce: in September, you can get a great selection of both later summer and early fall vegetables. The brisk mornings have gotten me in the mood to start working with autumn produce. Those earthy flavors are coming back in season, and I for one cannot wait. Roasted squash, crispy potatoes, earthy herbs, and SO MUCH MORE. To get myself ready, I decided to share a bit about using these delectable group of veggies. Check out the tips below to clean, prep, and store your farmer’s market haul appropriately.
Sweet potatoes are coming into their prime-time, but good ol’ russet potatoes are a year-round staple in most households. As we enter into comfort food season, treat your potatoes right.
Clean: First, use a vegetable brush to scour any dirt off the skin. Use warm water to rinse away any residue and germs. If you’re washing multiple potatoes at once, place them in a large container or sink full of warm water. The dirt will sink to the bottom of the container, which can minimize the need for scrubbing. When possible, avoid washing the potatoes too early before cooking as moisture can get trapped in the eyes and develop mold or a musty smell. Either way, it’s not an appetizing addition to your tasty taters, so wait until you’re ready to cook to start cleaning.
Prep: If you’re mashing the potatoes, you’ll want to peel them and remove the eyes. This will keep your potatoes light and fluffy—and prevent discoloration. If you’re roasting, baking, or steaming your potatoes, you may want to leave the skin on for an earthy flavor and added texture. It’s up to you, chef.
To cut potatoes, use a sharp chef or Santoku knife for a smooth, even cut. Whether you choose to slice, dice, or halve the potatoes, protect your fingers with good knife technique.
Store: Before washing and cutting, keep potatoes in a dry, dark, well-ventilated location to encourage airflow and reduce the chance of rotting. Keep your supply out of the fridge as it’s generally too cold for the veggies. A paper bag or basket on the counter or in the pantry will work well.
If the potatoes are already cut, keep them in a bowl of water and stash them in the fridge to prevent browning. A tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar can also keep your potatoes bright for about 24 hours. After that, they will likely brown and possibly turn black.
Pumpkins & Squash:
If you’re a pumpkin pie pro or a sucker for low-carb spaghetti squash, you’ll need to know how to handle the gourds.
Clean: Wash the skin with warm, soapy water. Watch for dirt that could be wedged into deep ridges or bumps. If storing, dry thoroughly to prevent mold growth.
Prep: How you prep your squash will depend on the type.
If you’re working with a thick-skinned gourd like a pie pumpkin or acorn squash, start by cutting off the stem. Scoop out the seeds, and if desired, slice it in half. You can roast the squash in the rind, making it easy to scoop out the cooked flesh or use as an all-natural serving bowl. To use as an aromatic while roasting a whole chicken or turkey, simply slice into discs or half-discs, depending on your preferences and knife skills. Always prioritize safety over vegetable shapes and sizes.
For butternut squash, slice in half at the base of the neck with a sharp chef to create a stable base. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin, then slice lengthwise to quarter it. Scoop out the seeds, then slice or dice to your liking. If you’re roasting the squash for a soup or sauce, leave it in the skin and scoop out the flesh after it’s cooked.
Store: The thick rind protects the fruit inside while storing in a cool, dry place. Keep the squash away from ripening fruits, which give off ethylene gas and could cause the squash to rot prematurely. Since squash can keep for multiple months, you’ll need to check on them weekly and turn to prevent bruising.
If you’re only using half a squash for your recipe, you can store the remainder in a zipper-close bag or reusable container for up to four days. You can also freeze cubes on a baking sheet, then transfer them to a freezer-safe container or bag and keep in the freezer for up to six months.
Sage, rosemary, thyme, parsley—these are the flavors of fall. Nothing takes you to Thanksgiving dinner quite like the slightly piney smell of rosemary or the warm scent of thyme. Help these flavor-boosters live their best life with a little extra care.
Clean: Herbs are easy to clean: a quick rinse will remove most residue.
Prep: If you’re just cooking with the leaves, use an herb stripper to remove them from the stems easily. Use a sharp utility or prep knife to evenly mince the herbs to use in dressings, stews, soups, roasted vegetables, and more. If you’re using the herbs as aromatics when cooking poultry or sauces, tie the stems into a small bundle to remove after cooking.
Store: For soft-stemmed herbs, keep them on the counter in a glass of water. The water will feed the stems like a bouquet of flowers, keeping them fresh until you’re ready to use them. Change the water after a couple of days, and discard stems when the leaves turn dark or wilt.
Herbs with woody stems last a little longer. You can wrap the ends in a damp paper towel to keep the ends moist, then keep them in the fridge for multiple months. Use the crisper drawer and an airtight container to keep oxygen out.
Fall vegetables are a wholesome addition or base for a comforting meal. Roast some of these veggies and herbs, then toss them in a bowl with a base of rice or quinoa for a quick, easy, healthy dinner! If that’s not your style, put them in the slow cooker with your favorite broth and some spices for some soul-warming soup. As the weather cools, I’ll be venturing down the soup route.
Let us know how your fall vegetable excursion goes in the comments below!