We may mourn the loss of summer, but autumn brings its own pleasures – particularly a welcome change in seasonal produce.
Firstly, it’s the start of one of the most English of harvests: apples, beginning with the early Discovery, Windsor and Scrumptious varieties, before the peak season Cox and Gala arrive. Pears and plums are also at their best in UK orchards at this time. Growers have faced a phenomenally tough year, with water shortages over summer as well as losses due to sun scorch. Fruit is said to be full of flavour but slightly smaller, due to stress during growing.
Further afield, the European fruit season is coming to a close – look out for the last figs at their best, while Spanish nectarines and peaches are also ending. Autumn isn’t the best time of year for citrus, as southern hemisphere seasons end ahead of the Spanish winter crop starting in November.
King of autumn produce has to be squash, and there are many varieties that grow well in the UK, including Crown Prince, Kabocha and Red Onion. Butternuts do grow in the UK, but are more often from overseas.
Elsewhere in UK fields, the start of the favoured black kale (Cavolo Nero) adds texture to autumnal meals, alongside its fellow brassicas including the regal Savoy cabbage, curly kale and Brussel sprouts. Root veg also starts to come into its own – look out for purple carrots and parsnips, which come into their peak flavour around the first frost, when the stored starches are broken down and converted to sugar.
Season’s Eatings is a new regular column by Wicked Leeks’ editor Nina Pullman to track what’s in season, at its best or coming soon.
This column was originally published in the autumn 2022 print edition of Wicked Leeks. You can read the full magazine for free here.