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What’s in Season in September in Tennessee

September is a sweet spot for produce in Tennessee. Both summer and fall flavors are in play, which means a chance to take advantage of some things for the last time (cantaloupe, raspberries, snap peas) and to sneak a first taste of others (arugula, carrots, collard greens).

For Laura Lea Goldberg, certified holistic chef and cookbook author in Nashville, September is the ideal time to get creative with local flavors. And she knows just where to start.

“For me, the first step for shopping and cooking local is to find your closest local farmers market,” Goldberg says. “Get to know your neighborhood one, whether that’s by looking on Instagram or just driving around your neighborhood. If you don’t have a market close by, a lot of grocery stores like Kroger and Publix will have a local food section. It may be small, but it’s there; You just have to ask.”

Once you’re there, see what looks good, and cross-reference that with what’s in season. A good place to do that: the Tennessee seasonality calendar on the Nashville Farmers’ Market website.

Here’s what’s in season in September:

  • Apples
  • Artichokes
  • Basil
  • Blackberries
  • Cabbage
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cucumbers
  • English and field peas
  • Figs
  • Herbs
  • Honey
  • Lima and wax beans
  • Mushrooms
  • Okra
  • Pears
  • Peppers (bell and hot)
  • Pimento peppers
  • Potatoes and sweet potatoes
  • Raspberries
  • Snapbeans
  • Squash
  • Tomatoes (cherry and full-size)
  • Turnip greens
  • Turnips
  • Watermelons
  • Zucchini

In season only in September
In season year-round

“No matter the ingredient, for me it’s all about baby steps,” says Goldberg. “I want to get people thinking about where their food comes from and how they can cook with fresh ingredients at home, even if it’s just one go-to recipe you throw in the rotation. Start small and you’ll be surprised how far you can go.”

Here’s how Goldberg prepares some of her favorites:

Pears and Apples

  • Salsa: You can use almost any fruit to make a salsa. The basic formula is veggies plus something sweet plus salt, lime and aromatics (garlic, onion). Some of the best I’ve made recently are tomato/apple and pineapple/pear with hot peppers.
  • Salad: Top a leafy green salad with sliced fruit, some roasted chopped nuts, cheese and your favorite dressing. That combination always strikes a good balance, and gets you fiber and good fats in the process.
  • Snack: Slice pears or apples and pair them with a sharp cheese (cheddar, blue) or nut butter (almond, peanut) for a sweet/salty combo that gives you some calcium-rich fat, which will curb your hunger.

Figs

  • Stuffed: For me, figs are perfect sliced and drizzled with honey, but to cook them, I fill them with cheese and nuts and roast them for a sweet and savory starter or dessert

Watermelon

  • Juice: Blend peeled cucumbers and watermelons together in blender — it makes the most delicious, refreshing juice, and you don’t even need to strain it.

Cantaloupe

  • Grilled: Toss fruit in maple syrup, cinnamon and bourbon and throw it on the grill. The sugar and alcohol will cook out but leave their warm, earthy flavors.

Berries

  • Dessert: My favorite healthy nighttime snack is fresh berries with yogurt or a splash of coconut milk. A lot of my clients struggle with hunger at night, and that mix satisfies blood sugar cravings in an antioxidant-rich way.
  • Parfait: Sauté berries or fruit on the stovetop for a few minutes so it has more of a jam-like consistency. Once it’s cooled, layer it with yogurt and nuts or oats for a breakfast parfait.
  • Toast: Toast a good piece of local bread, smear lightly with ricotta, cream cheese or almond butter and top it with fresh berries and a drizzle of local honey. It works with almost any fruit and gives breakfast a fancy feel without the fuss.

Husband’s Favorite Salad, Laura Lea Goldberg

Herbs

  • Pesto: It’s traditionally made with basil, but you can make pesto with most herbs — parsley, mint, cilantro. In Tennessee, we’ll be losing our herbs soon, so now’s the time to make pesto and freeze it.
  • Salad dressing: My husband’s favorite salad is simple: tomatoes, cucumber, avocados, romaine and my cucumber mint vinaigrette. It tastes so fresh and is full of Vitamins C and B, fiber, folic acid and potassium.

Cabbage

  • Roasted: Caesar roasted cabbage wedges are my secret weapon to get kids (or picky adults!) to eat vegetables.
  • Smoothies: People think I’m crazy, but cabbage is really neutral in flavor, so it’s great in smoothies. I use three leaves of purple cabbage in the Strawberry Shortcake Smoothie Bowl from my cookbook, which gives it a great color and adds fiber.

Cucumbers, Squash and Zucchini

  • Shaved: Shaving vegetables is an easy way to use them in a salad or on a sandwich when you don’t want to cook. I use a Japanese mandolin, which you can buy for around $20.
  • Noodles: Zucchini noodles are really easy to make — just cut the zucchini in half, place it on its flat side and use a vegetable peeler to peel layers until you get to the seeds. (I also love this “zoodle” maker from Paderno if you’re looking to purchase one.) If you blanch the noodles in water, they freeze well for winter, too.
  • Pickles: I love a quick refrigerator pickle. Put a thinly sliced vegetable in a container and fill it with 2 parts vinegar, 1 part sweetener and 1 part water. Add peppercorns or dill or just shake it up and put it in the fridge — you’ll get that lightly pickled flavor in a few hours.
  • Smoothies: Again, it sounds strange, but zucchini is amazing in smoothies. You can’t taste it at all but it gives you a secret serving of Vitamin C.

Mushrooms

  • Bacon: I love making “mushroom bacon,” especially with local portobellos. Slice them thin and dress them in soy or Worcestershire (or tamari if you need to go wheat-free), a touch of honey or maple syrup, cayenne pepper and chili powder and marinate them overnight. Pat them dry and bake them on parchment at 200 degrees for approximately 1.5 hours, or until they turn into crispy little pieces of “bacon.” Their smoky, hearty flavor makes them a great meat substitute.

Peppers

  • Soup: For soup, I always finely dice one or two peppers (jalapenos, habaneros, bell) and it makes a huge flavor difference. Plus peppers have soo many health benefits, including anti-inflammatory properties. People are surprised by that, but the capsaicin in peppers actually shrinks the blood vessels that cause congestion, so there’s nothing better for a cold.

Turnips

  • Roasted: Turnips are surprisingly mild. I like to roast bite-sized pieces in the oven at 400 until they’re tender, and serve them with a splash of melted butter and salt and pepper. They’re sweet and earthy in a great way.
Ashley Brantley

Ashley Brantley

Ashley Brantley has been writing about food, culture and health for more than a decade, and has lived in three of Tennessee’s four major cities (Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville). As Senior Editor at Parthenon Publishing, she is a writer, editor and social media strategist on projects ranging from Better Tennessee magazine to Unsung Nashville.

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