Fall - or more specifically, the autumnal equinox - marks a unique point in the year when daylight and nighttime become equal again in length after the long, light-filled evenings and early mornings of summer. After the autumnal equinox, day becomes shorter than night, and in anticipation of this change, the plant world starts to move inward during the fall. Grasses turn from green to brown, with their energy moving downward and inward toward their roots. Fruits, leaves, and seeds start to fall from trees and bushes as these plants start to close up and prepare for the drop in temperature. The expansive green leaves of lettuce give way to the final maturing of the root vegetables and their much more densely-packed sugars and starches.
Autumn is also a season marked by increased cooling and drying. The extremely watery fruits of summer give way to the drier carrots, and potatoes, and seeds of all kinds. And the cooler temperatures give an edge to foods that stand little risk of freezing in comparison to the water-rich fruits and vegetables.
All of these natural changes in the world around us give us clues about the best foods to eat during the fall. We too will need more concentrated energy in the cooler autumn weather, and the denser foods of the autumn harvest - the root vegetables (including garlic, onion, carrot, potato, sweet potato, yam, and burdock), as well as the dense above-ground squashes and gourds (including winter squash, acorn squash, and pumpkin); and the dry, energy-rich nuts and seeds (including walnuts and sunflower seeds) are all part of the fall's best food choices.
A final natural trend in the fall would be increased cooking and baking in the kitchen. In contrast to the light and cooling foods of summer that help to counterbalance the season of highest heat, autumn begins to initiate that transition into cold weather that makes us eager for a bowl of hot soup or steeped tea. Autumn is therefore a time for celebrating warm moist odors pouring forth from the kitchen, providing a perfect balance for the cooler and drier fall nights and drier fall harvest. This increased time in the fall kitchen is also a good perfect time for getting well-organized in preparation for the winter meal plan. Canning, drying, freezing, and pickling of foods harvested during late summer and early fall are perfect activities for a time of year when nature itself is getting ready for the upcoming months. In contrast to summer, when there can be an almost chaotic abundance of foods popping up everywhere you look, fall marks the season when you have to start thinking in a more organized way about your kitchen and your upcoming winter meal plan. Of course, most of us have year-round access to the foods of spring and summer during the winter and fall. However, this doesn't mean that we should ignore the natural passage of the seasons and adapt our meal plan accordingly. It can also be fun to transition our meal plan to traditional autumn foods, and it can make us feel much more at home with the seasonal transformation going on around us.