Pumpkin and apples are the 300-pound gorillas of the fall fruit scene. They’re so big and powerful that no one can even see around them, let alone cook around them. But autumn menus can offer something more creative than a sprinkling of pumpkin spice latte over every item on the menu. In fact, there are some often-overlooked gems that are coming into season right now, and they deserve a first—and maybe a second—look, as a good way to add fresh new twists to your autumn line-up.
First, there’s the gorgeous, utterly autumnal color. Then, there’s the delicious taste. Persimmons are a fruit you really must try this fall in pastries, breads or on a charcuterie board. “They’re one of the few fruits that are as orange on the inside as they are on the outside,” says Robert Schueller, Director of Public Relations at Melissa’s Produce and “Produce Guru” for Cooking Light magazine. There are two common varieties of persimmon: the Fuyu, which is small, flat and firm, even when ripe and the Hachiya, which is round and grows very soft when ripe. New to try: Cinnamon Persimmons. “They taste like a combination of Fuyu and Hachiya, with a sprinkling of sugary cinnamon,” Schueller says.
While it’s been grown and eaten for a long, long time (some Biblical scholars say the “apple” described in the Garden of Eden was really a quince), this fruit might require a reintroduction for many culinary professionals. “People just aren’t talking about it,” Schueller says. “That’s too bad, because it’s really an interesting fruit. Membrillo, which is quince paste, is delicious—it’s reminiscent of tamarind paste.”
Food blogger Molly Wizenberg has said, “Quince is an esoteric fruit, hard to find and, once you’ve found it, difficult to subdue.” Still, she loves the perfume of the ripening fruit, and suggests a poached quince recipe, adapted from The New Sugar And Spice by Samantha Seneviratne. The recipe includes maple syrup, salt and crushed green cardamom pods in the poaching water. (See below for recipe.)
They look like grapes, but when you bite into them, their interior is the same as a kiwi fruit—without the fuzz. “They really are fun to eat, and they’re delicious,” Schueller says. “They’ve been around for a long time—Melissa’s has been growing them domestically for nine years–but it seems people are just finding out about them.” A challenge to menuing kiwi berries is that they need to be enjoyed as soon as you find them in September and October, because they’re in season only about 40 to 50 days. With a complex, sweet and acidic flavor, the berries are great in fruit salads, as pancake or French toast topping or in garnishes.