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Get the best out of this season's produce from your local farmers market

The arrival of cooler temperatures means saying goodbye, for a time, to some of our favorite summer offerings. Gone are the days of sweet watermelon, juicy peaches and ripe tomatoes as space is made for apples, pumpkins and collard greens.  While many of these items can be purchased at your local grocery store year round, catching fruits and vegetables at their seasonal peaks means you're getting the absolute best traits and nutritional value they have to offer. 

One of the best ways to ensure you're getting the highest in-season quality produce is to shop locally. For most of us that means heading over to the nearest farmers market. 

Farmers markets are a great place to not only get to know your community but also to speak with the farmers actually growing the food available for purchase. They are an amazing resource for both recipes as well as tips on what ingredients should be filling your fridge. 

If you're planning on heading to a farmers market within the next few weeks, this guide will help you zero in on what's in season. 
Pears are in season several times a year; however, during the fall, look for varieties such as Anjou, Bosc and Asian pears. 

Get a recipe for overnight pear preserves

Persimmons are a bright, fleshy fruit that can easily be found in the South, especially Georgia, beginning in October and lasting through the frost of February. Persimmons are also popular in many Southeast Asian cultures and can be enjoyed fresh, dried, made into jam, or even in some savory dishes. 

Apples are finally in season, and with over 2,500 different varieties in the U.S. alone, now is the perfect time to try out as many as possible. From Golden Delicious to the lesser known Braeburn, apples are plentiful, delicious and just in time for this seasons pie's, cakes and tarts.

Learn the best apple varieties for baking and savory cooking

You may have already seen these oversized grapes out in the produce section of some specialty stores. Muscadines are less sweet than your average grape, making them ideal for the base of one of the South's favorite homegrown table wines. In your own kitchen, they are great additions to gamey meats such as lamb and duck. 

Who doesn't love figs? Whether as part of an elaborate meat and cheese board, as a jam or in a hearty harvest salad, figs are a welcome addition to fall offerings. They're only available until just before Thanksgiving so if you see any at the market, make sure you snag a few baskets. 

Use fresh figs in a free-form pie
Simmer figs into jam
Get the recipe for fontina and fig chutney grilled cheese
See more fig recipes

Root Vegetables
Thanks to some fairly innovative chefs, radishes are no longer just cold salad garnishes. Have you ever had them sauteed in butter? They maintain a bit of their brunch but are absolutely delicious seasoned simply with salt and pepper. 

Pumpkins are perhaps the most popular squash available during fall. From jack-o-lanterns to from-scratch pie, this versatile squash really can do it all. 

Get a recipe for turkey and pumpkin chili
Stir pumpkin into banana bread muffins
Bake a pumpkin cheesecake
See more pumpkin recipes

Butternut Squash
This hearty squash has made its way into many hearts (and stomachs) all across the country. Put it in soups, stews, or roast it along side root vegetables or even pork chops.  

Use butternut squash in pie
Make a savory squash and kale casserole
Pair roast squash with Pecorino and sage
Get more butternut squash recipes

With their sweet earthy flavors, beets are a versatile, nutrient-packed vegetable to eat all season long. They come in burgundy red, golden yellow and candy stripe colors, but don't worry, you can use any color in all of your favorite recipes.

Make ginger pickled beets
Roast beets in salt
Use roasted beets in a salad with oranges and citrus vinaigrette

Sweet Potatoes 
Can Thanksgiving even happen without sweet potatoes? Probably not. Whether you like yours roasted with marshmallows or braised in a pot roast, these naturally sweet root vegetables are a must-have all season long. 

Try a curried sweet potato salad
Mash sweet potatoes with garlic
Stir together a sweet potato salad with coconut and grapes
See more sweet potato recipes

Leafy Greens
For the longest time, the only salad greens stocked in American grocery stores were leaf lettuce and spinach, until arugula burst on to the scene and changed everything. Of course it always existed, but its relatively new popularity is a welcome change. Arugula can be eaten raw in salads but is hearty enough for some heat and adds a peppery element to almost any dish it's used in. 

Try it with roast chicken and potatoes
Serve arugula in a salad with grilled squash and maple vinaigrette
Toss arugula with rigatoni, peas and bacon
See more arugula recipes

Hearty greens
Brassica oleracea is the plant family of some of our favorite hearty greens such as broccoli, cabbage, collard greens and kale. In the South at least, we love our hearty greens served hot in a rich broth flavored with either bacon, smoked neck bones (usually pork) or smoked turkey legs. 

Try your collard greens with bourbon
Get the recipe for Taqueria del Sol's turnip greens
Add your favorite greens to West African chicken stew
See all of our kale recipes

Photo (pears): Shumilov Ludmila/Unsplash
Photo (radishes): Caroline Attwood/Unsplash
Photo (collards): Fancycrave/Unsplash

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Ryan Shepard is the editor-in-chief at Southern Kitchen. Though originally from Los Angeles, she has lived in Atlanta since early 2017 and cannot imagine calling any other city home (except maybe New Orleans). Before joining Southern Kitchen's staff, Ryan worked on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on public policy issues. When she's not at work, she enjoys hunting down the best Mexican food in the city and drinking whiskey, obviously.