The Seasonal Eating Guide to Autumn Produce

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While autumn may bring cooler temperatures, it also heralds the availability of some amazing fresh produce. Making an effort to use in-season produce means that you support local orchards, get fresh and nutritious food and often pay less because the food is in abundance and delivered locally instead of traveling from overseas.

Make the most of this season's produce with our guide to food and wine perfect for autumn.

Autumn fruits

There is an abundance of brilliant autumn fruits, as those with longer ripening times have grown over the warmer months and are now at their best. Pick up some juicy watermelons, rockmelons, tomatoes, figs, grapes and pomegranates throughout the season.

Yet the autumn fruit that is probably best known is the humble apple. The harvest starts in mid summer with royal galas and continues until the last of the sundowners in May. 'Pick your own' apples is a highly recommended experience where you can frolic through the orchard and come away with as many apples as you desire, all hand picked by you and your family. Apples are easy to pick and can be eaten cooked, canned, frozen or fresh from the orchard. Firm, bruise-free apples are best, and those on the outside of the tree are usually the ripest. Once you've brought them home, try making a classic apple pie, apple spice muffins, cakes or something savoury like a pumpkin, sweet potato and apple soup!

Pears are also a big autumn hit and you can choose between the soft Williams early in the season, and the firm Beurre Bosc or the flavourful Packham later on. Biting into a perfectly juicy pear is a great autumn joy, so look for pears that are firm and swollen, and know that pears generally need to be stored for a few weeks after being picked until they are ready for eating. Pears are certainly tasty fresh, but they are even better when cooked. Perfect for pies, strudels and generally just wrapped in pastry, dessert dishes suit the pear's gentle flavours well. For an interesting twist, try a pear streusel with a filling of pears and cranberries topped with a sweet and crunchy oatmeal layer.

Autumn vegetables

Nothing says autumn like wild mushroom picking! And just imagine these little gems in hot pies and stews on a chilly night. The porcini and slippery Jacks are unique in that they only grow on living trees and must be collected from forests instead of cultivated like commercial mushrooms. These two are often found in Japanese, French and Italian cuisine. You could try the beautiful saffron milk cap and grill, saute, poach or fry them, or perhaps try the tiny, ghost-like grey knight that often features in fine dining. Finally, consider one of the most flavoursome mushrooms around, the birch bolete. These can be found in Japanese tempura dishes or in Italian risottos and pastas. Try it in Antonio Carluccio's well known mushroom risotto.

Pumpkins are another fantastic autumn vegetable. From the cute butternut pumpkin to the big Queensland Blue, you can pick them up at grocery stores, local growers or simply grow them yourself. It can be hard to know when they are ripe as most don't change colour, so wait until the vine begins to die off and turn brown. However, the butternut pumpkin will change to a sandy yellow hue when it's good to eat. Not only are pumpkins in abundance during autumn, but pumpkin recipes seem to suit autumn the best! Think about rich pumpkin soups, pumpkin pie and oven-baked pumpkin with a roast. For something a little different, try this pork and pumpkin noodle bowl that comes with delicious chunks of pumpkin between linguini and tender pork, along with sage, red onion, and hints of blue cheese.

Autumn wine

We couldn't talk about all this delicious food without picking some wines to go with it! While summer suits light whites and winter works best with warm and heavy reds, autumn calls for something in between – complex whites and light reds. Some suggestions are:

  • 2011 Paul Mas Domaines Astruc Chardonnay – perfect with an autumn dish of roast chicken and buttery potatoes, this rich chardonnay has flavours of cashew and stone fruit. And at around $15 a bottle, it's also great value for money.
  • Mac Forbes Strathbogie Ranges RS14 Riesling – a more expensive wine at around $30, this is a complex and sweet wine with scents of blossom, lemon and ginger. Made in Australia from Brighton Bay Cellars, the experts tend to describe this quite simply as delicious.
  • 2012 Freeman Rondo Rondinella Rosé – made in the hills of NSW with Rondinella grapes, this Rose is dry and savoury with cherry, berry and quince flavours.
  • 2012 Rob Dolan True Colours Pinot Noir – this Yarra Valley wine is a medium-bodied red that has darker berry fruit flavours along with a little bit of spice and gentle tannins. Enjoy it on a cool autumn night with one of our hearty pumpkin recipes.

Autumn dining

Finally, when it comes to eating out, you can still opt for restaurants that make use of seasonal produce. Just take a look at the menu and use your new-found harvest knowledge to determine if they do, or ask the waiter or chef. Seasonal ingredients generally mean that the food is fresher and just tastes better! Our pick would have to be Courgette in Canberra. Owned by chef James Mussillon, this is one of the ACT's top restaurants and was awarded one hat status by the Sydney Morning Herald in both 2012 and 2013. Mussillon discovers fresh produce each season and creatively mixes them to make delicious combinations that adhere to his philosophy of simple and fresh base elements coupled with complex and adventurous sauces.

This autumn make the most of what the season has to offer. Embrace cooking with and eating all the wonderful fresh produce available, and really get in touch with the changing of the seasons.

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Mireille Kilgour

Mireille Kilgour

Mireille Kilgour has been an entrepreneur for 35 years in the hospitality sector. French born, she has been an accomplished business owner and operator for a number of Sydney venues. Leading the industry with high profile institutions such as Lamrock Café Bondi, she has endless passion for the industry, and now has the pleasure of supporting restaurants to fill their tables with the new Good Food Gift Card program.