Top Five of the Healthiest Fall Vegetables for the Garden and the Table!

This time of year, most people are cleaning up their gardens, getting ready for fall weather, and the winter.  School has started, and many are not thinking “gardening” anymore.  But did you know this is a great time to think ahead and plan for a few fall crops that will keep you in fresh vegetables just a little while longer.

This is the perfect time to clear the garden of summer garden waste.  Pull those dying and discarded vegetable plants, and fallen fruit, and fill your compost bin.  Your garden will love you next year!  And if you take time to find a small space for a few fall vegetables, you will be healthier, happier, and will have saved money!  Win!

It may be too late in the season for many of the northern states to consider planting a fall garden now, but here in North Carolina, it is the perfect season for planting some of the cool season vegetables, many of which will winter over and have a head start in the Spring.  We have had a beautiful fall with temperatures in the 70’s and 80’s, low in the 60’s.

We recently made a move across country to NC in August, and I had not plans to plant a garden now with everything else I had to do.  But I began to get the itch for my fall and winter greens, and after clearing a space in a flower bed behind the house.  And two weeks ago, I spent a Saturday morning planting a few kale, collard, broccoli, cabbage, and few lettuces.  Hopefully, I will be able to enjoy fresh greens by Christmas!    It is mid-October and still have several months of warm weather. I can get a lot of vegetables in during that time!

Depending on where you live can make all the difference in what you plant.   Most seed companies and garden nurseries recommend  planting the first of August, which I recommend if you are in a northern state.  So consider when your first frost is, and decide what to plant accordingly.  Even if you only have until the end of September, you can still plant lettuces, spinach, and cool crop vegetables.   Cool crop vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, beets, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, radishes, rutabaga, Brussels sprouts and Swiss chard love growing in warm weather, but turn sweeter after the first frost.  They will continue to grow, even though slowly, until the first hard frost.   If you are planting the vegetables that take longer to grow, you must consider if they will be ready to harvest before the first crop.   Use the plants to plant now, instead of seeds, as this cuts the wait for harvesting, considerably. and if you don’t want to take time to plant a whole garden, consider just throwing in a few lettuce and spinach seeds.  Most usually mature within 23-30 days.  Add some radish seeds and you can have some nice salads this fall!

And if you don’t have space for a garden, then pots come to the rescue.  I grow vegetables in pots, and bring them in for the winter sometimes if I am still harvesting from them.  I have a pot on my deck in which I plant tomato, pepper, kale, onions, garlic and some spinach every summer, then bring it in to watch it grow over the winter.  In fact, you can see a picture of a tomato plant that gave me tomatoes all winter long here:

And if you absolutely can not (or will not) plant a fall garden, then here are my  top five vegetables everyone should consider keeping in their kitchen this fall:

  1. Broccoli –  Sweet and crunchy, broccoli is an excellent source of vitamins C, K, A, folate and fiber; fights cancer, especially broccoli sprouts.  Broccoli is delicious raw, as a crudette, in broccoli salad, lightly steamed with butter, or cooked into a casserole, or soup.  One of my favorite vegetables!
  2. Cabbage – Packed with vitamin’s A and C, and fiber, cabbage has high concentrations of cancer-fighting glucosinolates (which also give these vegetables their distinct flavor and smell when cooking).  Studies suggest that cabbage may help fight breast, lung, colon and other types of cancers.  Crunchy and versatile, cabbage makes a great coleslaw, and adds texture to a tossed salad, is delicious when sautéed with apples and bacon, makes a great topping for your taco, and is the perfect accompaniment to roast pork.  See my new favorite  Pot Recipe here:
  3. Swiss Chard -Earthy and sweet, chard is a sister to spinach, but is known for its substance when comparing the two.  The beauty of Swiss chard makes it a gem in the kitchen and on the table.  It can be used as a green in salads, sauteed lightly, or in casseroles.  High in vitamins K and A, magnesium and potassium, chard also contains many phytochemicals known to prevent various types of cancers, as well as maintain healthy eyes, and protect the heart.
  4. Squash and Pumpkin – Nothing says fall like acorn, butternut or other winter squash, including pumpkin.  It’s creamy texture and sweet flavor summons up many memories of soups, stews, roasted with vegetables, and other hearty dishes.  One cup of cooked winter squash is high in vitamins A and C and contains vitamins B6, K, potassium and folate.   Get my Pumpkin Soup Recipe here: ‎  and my Pumpkin Chili Recipe here: ‎
  5. Kale – There are many varieties of kale, from curly to red leaf, as well dark leaf (Lacinato or Dinosaur Kale).  There is even a type of kale used for landscaping that is just as edible as your grocery-store kale.   High in vitamins A, C , calcium, and anti-oxidants, kale also contains the important Omega 3 Fatty acids, which help  to combat inflammation.  Kale is delicious sauteed with bacon and onions, goes well in casseroles, soups, or makes a great snack, such as kale chips (For my Kale Chip recipe, go here: ) , or works as a stand alone meal in a salad.  For my Kale Salad recipe, go here:

These are just some of the delicious reasons why planting a fall garden helps with the budget as well as provides many necessary health-giving nutrients for you and your family.   Eating garden-fresh provides many more nutrition than most store-bought veggies, and therefore gives you more disease and bone loss preventative measures.   And, if you can’t plant a garden, be sure to add these delicious fall vegetables to your kitchen table.