Fall can be a tricky time of year when it comes to fresh local produce in Central Florida. Whether you tend to your own garden or head to the farmers markets each weekend, it feels like the offerings are always changing during this transitional season. In today’s post, we cover some basic gardening tips and explore two fall superfoods: Italian chicories and Seminole pumpkins.
Tips for Central Florida Gardeners
Seasoned gardeners plant their tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants in August to ensure growth as we enter into autumn. So what’s next? Now that the weather is starting to cool off, it’s time to prepare those cold-weather crops for a winter harvest. Some fall superfood staples include collard greens, kale, beets, cabbage, carrots, and cauliflower. For these crops, the best flavor is achieved when they are grown during the coolest part of the season.
Gardeners are also smart to practice succession sowing. When you plant multiple times throughout the season, you extend your harvest window. Seeds for plants such as arugula, spinach, lettuce, and callaloo can be spread every few weeks for a dependable bounty of delicious greens.
Local Fall Superfoods
Italian chicories are difficult to find at the farmers market but worth the extra effort to grow at home. There are various nutritional benefits for bitter vegetables, such as vitamin K, potassium, sulforaphane, and vitamin A. This group of leafy or head-forming vegetables includes frisbee, radicchio, and endive, all of which must be grown during the coldest time of year.
For Central Florida gardens, puntarelle is one member of the chicory family that grows beautifully. The alien-like plants form a rosette of foliage before sprouting twisted and gnarled finger-like spears. To prepare, thinly shave the heads and blanch in cool water. Add to a healthy salad to experience a totally new flavor profile.
Of course, an article about fall superfoods must include everyone’s favorite fall produce: the pumpkin! Growing winter squash in Central Florida can be challenging, but thankfully, you have the option of the Seminole pumpkin. Traditionally grown by the Miccosukee, Creek, and Calusa peoples, it can resist heat and disease better than other squashes. Although the fruits vary in shape and size, they are the most vibrant orange and boost a delicious flavor.
Luckily, the Seminole pumpkin is not hard to grow or find. Seeds are widely available, and nearly every local farmers market sells this treat. To serve, roast it in the oven and then create a rich base for soups, curries, and even smoothies.
How will you incorporate fall superfoods into your weekly meal plan? Tell us on Instagram @edibleorlando!
For the full version of this article, check out the Fall 2021 issue of Edible Orlando!