Signs of fall: your tomatoes finally ripened and there’s a zucchini the size of a VW Beetle hiding in your yard. But Oregon squeezes in another grand season of fresh fruits, vegetables and fungi in the fall. We talked with John Helleberg, chef at Brian’s Pourhouse in Hood River, to find out what autumn treasures he’s on the lookout for and to get some ideas for the home kitchen.
Helleberg says September is special because the warm weather keeps the last of the summer vegetables coming in with the first of the fall. “September is a fun month to cook because there is so much crossover and so many different things that will work together,” he says. Corn and chanterelles are one of his favorite combinations this time of year. “Fall porcinis and matsutakes are awesome too.”
Helleberg also loves fall for delicatta squash. “It’s like a tiny football, about the size of a hand. It has a sweet, nutty flavor. My favorite way to prepare it is to slice it and toss it with olive oil, salt and pepper and grill it. You can serve it cold or warm.”
When pears and apples start in September, Helleberg uses them for salads, sauces, spreads and fruit butters. “One of my favorite pears is the Asian pear. They are juicy and sweet, and I love to mandolin them over a salad.”
To get the freshest of seasonal bounty, Helleberg recommends hitting farmers markets. “You’re going to get the freshest produce and the highest quality,” he says. He says large local farms are another good bet.
Look for a farmers market near you, and check out more fall bounty at harvest festivals like the Sublimity Harvest Festival, Hood River Valley Harvest Fest, Champoeg Apple Harvest Day and the Annual Harvest Festival in Central Point.