Four vegetables in season now — broccoli, chard, mushrooms and potatoes — are delicious in fall dishes. See what these four vegetables have to offer nutritionally, and how to pick the best at the market.
Studies at Johns Hopkins University have shown that compounds in broccoli, rich in antioxidants, may be beneficial in fighting stomach cancer and ulcers. Though raw broccoli offers the most health benefits, quick cooking preserves its sweet crunch and many of its nutrients.
What you get: Broccoli is an excellent source of vitamins C, K and A, folate and fiber.
Shopping tip: Look for sturdy, dark green spears with tight buds and no yellowing.
Storage tip: Broccoli will stay fresh in the refrigerator for at least a week. If the florets start to look dry, wrap the head in damp paper towels.
Earthy and sweet, chard has more substance than spinach. It’s easy to find and its colorful incarnations can be used interchangeably (though green chard tends to be mildest).
What you get: Chard abounds in phytochemicals that have been shown to help prevent various types of cancers, maintain healthy eyes and may even protect the heart. A 1/2-cup serving of cooked chard provides over 300 percent of the daily value of vitamin K and 100 percent DV of vitamin A. It is also a good source of vitamin C, magnesium and potassium.
Shopping tip: Look for fresh, crisp, brightly colored greens; avoid those that are wilted or blemished.
Storage tip: Wrap the stem ends in damp paper towels and refrigerate in a plastic bag for up to a week.
These days, the produce aisle routinely offers white button mushrooms, portobellos, their younger sibling cremini (also sold as “baby bellas”), oyster and shiitake mushrooms.
What you get: All mushrooms contain nutrients like potassium, copper, niacin and selenium.
Shopping tip: Fresh mushrooms should be firm, with a fresh, smooth appearance.
Storage tips: Keep mushrooms in their original container for up to a week in the refrigerator. Once opened, mushrooms should be stored in a porous paper bag to prolong their shelf life. Do not store fresh mushrooms in airtight containers, which will cause condensation and speed up spoilage.
Endlessly versatile, potatoes come in all sizes and textures, which can be baked, mashed, boiled or steamed.
What you get: Rich in carbohydrates, vitamin C and potassium, the potato often gets a bad rap. However, potatoes offer some fiber, especially when eaten with the skin on, and have a place in a healthful eating plan.
Shopping tips: Potatoes are classified by the texture of their flesh: Waxy potatoes, such as red skins and fingerlings, have moist, dense flesh and keep their shape when cooked, so choose them for salads and soups. Floury potatoes (also called baking potatoes), such as russets, have drier, starchier flesh, perfect for baking and mashing. All-purpose potatoes, such as white and Yukon Gold potatoes, are in-between waxy and floury potatoes. Avoid potatoes that have begun to sprout — they have been stored too long.
Storage tips: Store potatoes in a cool, dark place with good air circulation. Potatoes turn green when exposed to light — peel and discard the green skin before eating. Properly stored, potatoes will keep 10 to 12 weeks. Small, thin-skinned potatoes and new potatoes should be used within a few days.
(EatingWell is a magazine and website devoted to healthy eating as a way of life. Online at www.eatingwell.com.)