AT THE MARKET WITH MACY'S CULINARY COUNCIL

Fall's Bounty

Indulge in autumn with the produce that's at its peak right now. Here's your guide to maximizing flavor, nutrients AND your cash—it's all about eating in season.

  • POMEGRANATES

  • APPLES

  • SWEET POTATOES

  • WINTER SQUASH

  • PEARS

  • BRUSSELS SPROUTS

  • FIGS

How to Buy

Peak Freshness

  • AUG
  • SEP
  • OCT
  • NOV
  • DEC
  • JAN
  • FEB

Weight is the best gauge because a heavy pomegranate means more juice. Also look for a fresh stem and firm, taut skin that's free of any soft spots. Color, on the other hand, doesn't matter—it merely indicates the variety.

Pro Tip: Ignore abrasions on the skin—they're common and don't affect the quality.

How to Store

Shelf Life

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
WEEKS

Pomegranates are hardy and can be stored loose in the fridge's crisper drawer for long periods. The seeds (arils) can be kept in a container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Pro Tip: To maintain freshness for several months, freeze the arils. After patting them dry, spread them out on a baking sheet lined with wax paper and place them in the freezer. Once they're frozen (around 2 hours), transfer the seeds to a resealable plastic bag.

POMEGRANATES

Seasonal Pairings

Complementary Herbs

allspice, chile, cumin, mint, sumac

How to Prep

Difficulty

Slice off the bottom and stand the pomegranate on that end. Then cut at an angle around the crown on top to remove it, carving out a shallow cone in its place. Look for the natural longitudinal ridges on the peel (typically around 6) and score lines along each, taking care to not cut into the seeds. With your thumbs in the cone, pull the sections apart over a large bowl and use your fingers to loosen the arils.

Pro Tip: Pomegranate juice stains, so dress accordingly! To remove juice stains from a wooden cutting board, treat it with lemon juice or white vinegar, or avoid this altogether by using a plastic cutting board.

How to Eat

Versatility

Cooking Methods: juice, raw
Simple Recipe Idea: Eggplant-walnut-pomegranate dip: Roast eggplants and scoop out the meat, then mash or blend it with lemon juice, garlic, cumin, parsley and crushed walnuts (use a mortar & pestle). Sprinkle pomegranate seeds on top.

How to Buy

Peak Freshness

  • AUG
  • SEP
  • OCT
  • NOV
  • DEC
  • JAN
  • FEB

Skin should be firm and smooth, without bruises, wrinkles, tears or holes. Squeeze gently and make sure that there isn't too much give, which indicates that the apple is overripe.

Pro Tip: For farmers' market apples, rub the skin. A waxy feeling means that it's past its prime.

How to Store

Shelf Life

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
WEEKS

The ideal conditions for apples are 32-33°F with high humidity. Store them loose in the crisper drawer with a damp paper towel on top of them. Because they produce ethylene, which accelerates ripening, store other produce separately. Similarly, if there's a bruised apple in the bunch, keep it away from the others to prevent them all from spoiling.

Pro Tip: Harvest time makes a difference. Early-season apples should be eaten right away. Mid-season varieties will stay fresh for weeks. Late-season ones should last for a few months.

APPLES

Seasonal Pairings

Complementary Herbs

cinnamon, fennel, ginger, mustard seeds, nutmeg

How to Prep

Difficulty

The easiest and quickest way to core an apple is to cut it along a grid. Stand the apple on its head and make 4 cuts close to the core: 2 horizontal and 2 vertical, forming a hashtag pattern. You'll end up with 9 pieces, including the core.

Pro Tip: Apple slices will turn brown when exposed to air. Soak them in salt water for 10 minutes to slow the process. Rinse them afterwards to eliminate the salt flavor completely, then pat dry and enjoy.

How to Eat

Versatility

Cooking Methods: bake, caramelize, dry, fry, grill, juice, poach, puree, raw, sauté, stew
Simple Recipe Idea: Toss chunks of Granny Smith apples, sweet potatoes and parsnips in a mix of olive oil, curry powder, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Then roast them, adding dried cranberries towards the end.

How to Buy

Peak Freshness

  • AUG
  • SEP
  • OCT
  • NOV
  • DEC
  • JAN
  • FEB

Look for plump sweet potatoes of small-medium size (larger ones can be too starchy) that have firm, smooth skin without any bruises, cracks, black spots or sprouting. They should also feel heavy for their size.

Pro Tip: To maximize antioxidants, choose ones with the deepest color.

How to Store

Shelf Life

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
DAYS

Store them loose in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place like a basement or root cellar, ideally with a temperature between 50-60°F. Avoid the fridge as the cold will result in a hard center and unpleasant flavor.

Pro Tip: Sweet potatoes are prone to bruising, so handle them with care.

SWEET POTATOES

Seasonal Pairings

Complementary Herbs

chile, cilantro, nutmeg, parsley, rosemary

How to Prep

Difficulty

Using a stiff brush, scrub under cool, running water. The skin can be removed with a vegetable peeler or, even easier, by cooking the sweet potatoes first. If you find gray spots on the flesh, they're just handling bruises and are safe. Green spots and eyes, however, should be cut away.

Pro Tip: If you need to cut or peel sweet potatoes, place them in a bowl of water immediately afterwards to prevent them from turning gray.

How to Eat

Versatility

Cooking Methods: bake, boil, broil, candy, deep-fry, fry, grill, mash, pressure-cook, puree, roast, sauté, simmer, steam
Simple Recipe Idea: Stew sweet potatoes with coconut milk, ginger, cardamom, garlic and chili. Top with crushed peanuts.

How to Buy

Peak Freshness

  • AUG
  • SEP
  • OCT
  • NOV
  • DEV
  • JAN
  • FEB

The best squash is rock hard and heavy for its size (light in weight means that it's dried out). Also, check that there are no soft spots or bruises, and that the stem is full and firm. The color should be deep with a matte finish.

Pro Tip: For long-term storage, choose one with the stem still attached. This helps to prevent bacteria from getting inside. It's also vital that there are no cuts or bruises, which will accelerate spoilage.

How to Store

Shelf Life

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
WEEKS

Store whole squash in a cool (50-60°F), dark place with good air circulation. Keep cut squash fresh in a sealed plastic bag in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Pro Tip: Thinner-skinned delicata squash can be stored in the same way as the rest, but only for 1-2 weeks.

WINTER SQUASH

Seasonal Pairings

Complementary Herbs

cinnamon, curry, ginger, nutmeg, sage

How to Prep

Difficulty

The easiest way to cut a winter squash is to bake it whole, halving it and removing the flesh once it has softened; it's also the easiest way to peel it. Another option is to drive a knife blade into the shell, then tap the knife with a mallet to create a crack, at which point you can pry it open. If the squash won't fit in the oven or is too hard to be cut, place it in a plastic bag and drop it on the floor.

Pro Tip: Don't try to cut the stem—this will ruin your knife. Remove the whole top instead, cutting 3/4" below the stem.

How to Eat

Versatility

Cooking Methods: bake, boil, braise, grill, mash, pressure-cook, puree, roast, sauté, simmer, steam, stew, stuff
Simple Recipe Idea: Roast butternut squash cubes after tossing them with rosemary, parsley, sage, thyme, garlic and olive oil. Mash it up and top with Parmesan.

How to Buy

Peak Freshness

  • AUG
  • SEP
  • OCT
  • NOV
  • DEC
  • JAN
  • FEB

Pears are one of the few fruits that continue to ripen after they're harvested, so avoid any that are soft, because they'll be mushy and mealy inside. Choose pears that are firm—but not too hard—and have a fragrant aroma.

Pro Tip: Color isn't a good guide for pears—except for the Bartlett variety. It's the only one that changes significantly when ripe. Buy these when they're green.

How to Store

Shelf Life

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
DAYS

Ripen pears in a closed paper bag on the counter for a few days, if necessary. You'll know they're ready when you press gently near the stem and there's a little bit of give. At this point, move them to the fridge to slow the ripening and eat within 5 days; beyond that, some varieties will turn mealy.

Pro Tip: To speed up ripening, place the pear in a paper bag with a banana or a ripe apple.

PEARS

Seasonal Pairings

Complementary Herbs

cinnamon, fennel, ginger, star anise, tarragon

How to Prep

Difficulty

Even if you plan to peel them, wash pears thoroughly under cold water before eating. Take care that the indentations on both ends are clean.

Pro Tip: To prevent browning, dip pear slices in a solution of equal parts water and lemon juice.

How to Eat

Versatility

Cooking Methods: bake, braise, grill, pickle, poach, puree, raw, roast, sauté, stew
Simple Recipe Idea: Puree a soup of pears, fennel, shallots, olive oil, thyme and homemade vegetable stock. Top with Gorgonzola and crispy shallots.

How to Buy

Peak Freshness

  • AUG
  • SEP
  • OCT
  • NOV
  • DEC
  • JAN
  • FEB

Look for compact heads with tight, bright-green leaves without any speckles or wilting. Sprouts on the stalk are freshest—check for pale, moist stem ends. While size isn't that important, smaller sprouts do tend to be sweeter and more tender, although large heads that are dark green and firm should also be flavorful.

Pro Tip: Brussels sprouts are sweetest after fall's first frost, so this is the absolute best time to buy them.

How to Store

Shelf Life

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
DAYS

For loose sprouts, remove any yellow or wilted leaves first and store them in a sealed plastic bag in the fridge's crisper drawer. It's also fine to keep them in their original cardboard container, but remove any damaged sprouts first. Store a whole stalk in the fridge by wrapping a moist paper towel around the stem.

Pro Tip: While Brussels sprouts are still edible after a week or two in the fridge, time intensifies the flavor and diminishes the sweetness, so it's best to cook them as soon as possible.

BRUSSELS SPROUTS

Seasonal Pairings

Complementary Herbs

coriander, dill, mustard seeds, rosemary, thyme

How to Prep

Difficulty

Rinse the sprouts under cold, running water and pat them dry. Remove any brown or yellow leaves and trim away the stem ends. Cut the sprouts so that they're roughly the same size—this will help them to cook more evenly.

Pro Tip: Small sprouts (3/4" or less) can be left whole, but cut an "x" into the bottoms so that they'll cook more evenly. Sprouts that are 1" in diameter should be halved, while anything larger is best quartered.

How to Eat

Versatility

Cooking Methods: blanch, boil, braise, fry, grill, mandoline, pressure-cook, puree, roast, sauté, shred, simmer, steam, stir-fry, tempura-fry
Simple Recipe Idea: Sauté Brussels sprouts and shiitake mushrooms with olive oil and red pepper flakes. Once the veggies are tender, push them aside to open up two wells and crack open an egg into each. Once the eggs have set, serve with chopped basil and crumbled goat cheese on top.

How to Buy

Peak Freshness

  • AUG
  • SEP
  • OCT
  • NOV
  • DEC
  • JAN
  • FEB

Figs are picked ripe, so look for plump ones that are soft—but not mushy—with skin that's free of bruises and cracks. The color should be rich and the scent mildly aromatic. Sap oozing out from the bottom means that it has high sugar content and that it's ripe.

Pro Tip: The best figs aren't always the prettiest ones. If they're shriveled and look dry, you can expect them to be even sweeter.

How to Store

Shelf Life

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
DAYS

Remove figs from their original container and place them in a single layer (to prevent mold) in a shallow dish lined with paper towels. Cover this loosely with plastic wrap and store in the fridge.

Pro Tip: If you're going to eat the figs within a day or two, keep them on the counter.

FIGS

Seasonal Pairings

Complementary Herbs

anise, cinnamon, ginger, mint, thyme

How to Prep

Difficulty

Rinse under cool water and pat dry. Trim off the hard part of the stem and peel off the skin, if desired; Calimyrna figs are often peeled because of their thicker skin. Then eat whole or slice in halves or quarters.

Pro Tip: To create "fig flowers," remove the stem, then cut an "x" at the top that extends 2/3 of the way down the sides. Pinch the bottom to open up the "petals."

How to Eat

Versatility

Cooking Methods: bake, broil, caramelize, deep-fry, grill, raw, roast, sauté, simmer
Simple Recipe Idea: For a salty-but-sweet tapenade, pulse figs in a food processor or blender with mixed olives, olive oil, basil, garlic and lemon juice. Serve on crostini with arugula and feta cheese.

FAVORITE fall RECIPES

SEE ALL fall RECIPES

CELEBRATE THE SEASON

September Is Mushroom Month

Cap off the first month of fall in the most satisfying way—with dishes featuring these forest favorites. We've already foraged for the info to get you started.

Varieties

chanterelle, crimini, oyster, enoki, portobello, shiitake, porcini

International Dishes

duxelles, veal Orloff, selsko meso, diri ak djon djon, oysters en brochette, ciulama

Handy Tip

Cook mushrooms on high or medium-high heat to keep them dry in the pan.

Fun Fact

There are around 80 mushroom species that glow in the dark, emitting a steady green light.

LOOK FORWARD TO October

October 1: World Vegetarian Day

Plant yourself in the kitchen and whip up a feast of meat-free goodness. Today is all about clean living.

October 22: National Nut Day

You have every right to go crazy on this day. From incorporating the extra-fancy macadamia to the ubiquitous peanut, there are many ways to mix it up and celebrate.

October 25: National Greasy Foods Day

Slow down your fast food today to really savor it. Take control of the flavor—and grease level—by doing it your way. Get started with these timeless choices.