Are vegetables the way of the future? Some think so, pointing to ongoing trends in plant-based eating as proof. University campuses now have sole plant-based dining halls; even Whole Foods is starting to put pea protein–based hamburger patties in their meat section—and quickly selling out of it.
The reasons behind the growth of our “veggie nation” are plenty—whether it be for moral beliefs, environmental safeguards, or just eating healthier, there’s no denying how good it can be for both the earth and its humans. New studies even show that replacing some of those meat-based meals with plant-based protein can save your life since vegetables are packed with nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can help ward off some disease and other health issues.
But, there’s no need to stick to boring salads each and every day. A little recipe research will provide limitless ways to get creative with vegetables in the kitchen and allow you to adapt a number of your favorite dishes with a few swaps. Use this handy guide (and our pinnable chart below) to figure out which produce is in season, and then plan all your new favorite meals accordingly.
The first frost may be a signal to put your flower beds to rest, but not all plants go into hibernation. This season still provides a bounty of healthy, hearty vegetables that can be used for warming soups, stews, and tasty finger foods for all the upcoming holiday parties.
Regular russets are no match for sweet potatoes, which taste great fried, mashed, hashed, and even as chips. While regular potatoes mature quickly, it can take sweet potatoes several months to finally reach peak freshness, making this Paleo-friendly root crop readily available during the early winter months. Each serving offers:
TRY: Sweet Potato Latkes
Turnips are considered an all-season vegetable, but they thrive in colder weather (as opposed to the summertime heat, which can cause the plant to wilt). They taste great roasted, mashed, and in soups, making them ideal for a winter feast. For maximum nutrition, eat the traditional bulb as well as the green stem to get all of the potent vitamins and minerals, including:
This European staple thrives in the cold climates of Poland, Russia, and Germany, where it’s used in salads, slaws, and often pickled to become sauerkraut. It’s offered in both green and red colors (each with different textures and tastes), and both offering a number of health benefits:
Spring is a season reflected by nature’s growth, which extends to the vegetable world, too. As winter begins to break away and warmer weather peaks out, new and colorful crops will start to be harvested and give a taste of what’s to come in summer.
Long considered a decorative garnish, radishes have become more respected as a hearty addition to many dishes in recent years with the rise of foodie culture. Add to soft corn tacos for crunchy texture, cut up into rounds for a hummus plate, or add on top of a crab or chicken salad sandwich. Radishes mature quickly, so they make a great garden staple, too, as you begin to consider your seeds for the year. Here’s more of what these tasty root veggies provide:
The Italians have given us a number of kitchen staples like pasta, good wine, and—broccoli. This cruciferous vegetable has long been grown in the Calabria region of the country and was made popular in America by immigrants that had settled here. There are a few unique varieties including broccolini (thin stalks) and broccoflower (a hybrid with cauliflower). It’s quite versatile—used in everything from stir-fry to pasta salads—and can offer a good amount of nutrients any way you cook it, including:
Home-style Southern cooking relies on this staple to round out a full meal. But unlike the fried chicken, mac and cheese, and hush puppies, collard greens have a ton of nutritional value. So when you go for seconds, fill up on these greens to get these important dietary aids:
TRY: Steamed with a dollop of butter
Summer is considered one of the best times of the year for fresh produce when sunlight is ample and the weather is temperate, allowing for a good growing season. It’s when farmers markets come to town, allowing you to find the freshest stock, and fairs and carnivals serve up trademarks like elote (street corn), kebabs, and fried okra.
There’s no shortage of variety when it comes to green beans—from string beans to snap beans, French green beans to wax beans, this versatile vegetable goes well with most meals. More importantly, each serving offers:
Added to refreshing spa waters or brined for crunchy pickles, perhaps nothing screams summer more than cucumbers. In the same family as seasonal fruits like cantaloupe and watermelon, this veggie is made of a large concentration of water, which makes it instantly cooling and hydrating (so save a few slices to put over your eyes when it gets really hot). Here are some other benefits:
Also known as maize, corn may be one of the oldest vegetables on record, first cultivated by the indigenous people of Mexico around 10,000 years ago. It grows in “ears,” which are protected by thick husks that can also be used for a multiple purposes like textiles and decor. Whether grilled, mashed for polenta, or ground for cornmeal, this slightly sweet vegetable provides a number of beneficial properties:
While butternut squash is a hallmark of the fall season, summer offers yellow squash and zucchini that taste great grilled and in light salads, in baked goods, or even try spaghetti squash for a carb-free alternative in pasta dishes. All are packed with nutrition, including:
TRY: Zucchini Pizza Boats
Just like pumpkin and apples scream fall, veggies also have their hallmark moments during this season. Heartier options like gourds not only taste great but also add a sense of pomp to the seasonal dinner table.
As children, these mini-cabbages were one of the least popular veggie options; but by adulthood, when we learn how to make them properly (with bacon and cranberries), there seems to never be enough to go around the table. Here are some key reasons to stock up:
This type of squash is so flavorful, it can be pureed all by its lonesome and make a quality one-ingredient soup. Roasted butternut squash also tastes great in ravioli and risotto dishes, and with just a touch of cinnamon can be transformed into something sweet. Any way you choose to enjoy it, here’s what you will get in each serving:
Also a member of the cabbage family, this cruciferous veggie grows well with cooler climates, which is good because it’s an incredible swap for carb-rich foods when you want to load up in the fall and winter. Try cauliflower rice, “noodles” for mac and cheese, and even a dough-less pizza crust. Here are some more reasons you’ll want to make the switch:
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