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Your seasonal eating guide to autumn vegetables

Guy Singh-Watson, founder of Riverford, shares his top tips for making the most of autumn's seasonal heroes

Your seasonal eating guide to autumn vegetables

Each season brings with it a plethora of excitement in the garden and the kitchen. After the hot, dry summer, September heralds the start of autumn, and with it comes an abundance and variety of colourful veggies that are packed with nutrients and flavour. Here, Riverford founder and farmer Guy Singh-Watson reveals three of his favourite seasonal stars, and shares tips from the team of Riverford chefs to help you make the most of them in the kitchen.

Pumpkin and Squash


Pumpkins and, in particular squash, are heat, sun and muck lovers, and can struggle in a dull and damp UK summer. In a halfway decent year though, planted in a favourable position, they are a very rewarding crop. Given sunshine, plenty of manure and careful early weeding, by mid-summer they go rampant. The big challenge is to get them ripe before the first frosts so they develop their full flavour and the hard skins that allow some varieties to keep for six months or more.

Pumpkins have a higher water content than winter squash, and more limited potential, in my opinion. The smaller ones can be okay for soup, stuffing or pumpkin pie, for those with a taste for it, but in my view they are best used for Jack-o’-lanterns. Denser-fleshed squash are another matter; they vary hugely in shape, size, colour, the percentage given over to seeds and cavity rather than to edible flesh, and ease of peeling. They are also a rich source of beta-carotene, a welcome addition to the immunity arsenal during the colder months.

How to roast squash

Roasting squash produces a dish of glorious colours and deep, sweet flavours. Alternatively, squash can be stuffed and baked, or simmered for stews, curries or soups.

To make roasted squash, heat the oven to 200C/Gas 6. Rub your squash pieces with a generous amount of olive oil, season well and spread them across a baking tray so they’re not crowded. Add a sprinkling of chilli or ground spice if you like, but if you are using herbs such as thyme or rosemary, add them 5-10 minutes before the end of the cooking time as they burn easily. Squash will take 20-40 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces, type of squash, time of year, water content and how caramelised you want it. A light squeeze will tell you if it’s cooked; if it yields to pressure, it’s done.

Ways to use roasted squash

* Serve as a starter or side, warm or at room temperature, with a drizzle of chilli oil, dollops of yoghurt or hummus and a scattering of toasted pumpkin seeds.

* Serve in place of mashed potato. Mash with a fork and serve with a little grated nutmeg, salt and pepper and a dash of cream or butter.

* Stir into a risotto a few minutes before the rice is cooked, and add fresh sage for a lovely flavour combination.

* Fold into a salad with cooked lentil or couscous, other roasted veg and some crumbled feta.

Zero-waste tip

Both the seeds and inside trimmings that you have scooped out from your squash can be used in homemade vegetable stock, giving a vibrant colour when used in risotto or soup. Add them to your other veg offcuts and stock ingredients, simmer in enough water to cover for about an hour and strain through a sieve.

Alternatively, roasted pumpkin seeds make an excellent healthy snack, salad ingredient or garnish. Separate the seeds from the pulp and toss them with a little oil and salt or soy sauce. You can add flavours to the oil, such as spices, honey or dried herbs. Spread over a baking sheet and roast at 160C/Gas 3 for 10-15 minutes, until crisp and lightly golden. Once cool, the roasted seeds will keep in an airtight container for a week or so.



Like cabbages, kales are members of the brassica family. Their unifying trait is an open growth habit, allowing us to pick older leaves over a long season while leaving the central meristem to keep generating new leaves. As with most vegetables, the dark green leaves are richest in nutrition, and, as kale does not have a centre that has been deprived of light, it’s among the best sources of vitamins and minerals.

How to cook kale

For a simple way to cook kale quickly, first strip out the stalks and rinse the leaves. Melt some butter in a frying pan and fry a couple of cloves of finely chopped garlic on a low heat for 1-2 minutes, until starting to colour. Add the kale and cook over a high heat until starting to wilt, about 1-5 minutes, depending on variety. Use tongs to toss the kale around and ensure an even cooking. When wilted, season with salt, pepper, maybe some chilli flakes and lemon juice.

When you’re preparing kale, don’t let the stalks go to waste; you can save them to make a great kale stalk pesto.

Kale pairs wonderfully with eggs; lemon juice and vinegar given their acidity; dairy products such as strong, hard cheese and cream; herbs and spices such as chilli, garlic, mustard and nutmeg, as well as nuts and dried fruits, including chestnuts, hazelnuts, currants, raisins and dried apricots.



With its craggy, irregular shape and deep folds and crevices, celeriac must be a contender for ugliest veg. Appearance isn’t everything though, and celeriac certainly has its share of inner beauty – under the skin lies a smoky, earthy flavour with some of the sweet freshness of its summer-loving cousin, fennel. This brings a host of culinary possibilities and a most welcome variation to the winter diet. That strong and deep flavour is generated through slow and steady growth; seeded in February and planted in May, the roots do not reach a decent size until October, and really need to be left in the ground into November. They can take a light frost but the prudent grower will have them harvested and in store well before Christmas; with care, good fortune and cold storage they keep well to April or May.

How to cook celeriac

For easier prep, sometimes a veg peeler works fine, but if the skin is too tough and uneven, use a sharp knife to trim back the most awkward bits. Don’t be shy: the washed trimmings are very good for the stockpot, as are the stalks and leaves.

Rinse the celeriac well after peeling, then, if you’re not cooking straight away, drop chopped pieces into a bowl of cold water mixed with a dash of lemon juice or white wine vinegar, otherwise the exposed flesh will quickly discolour.

Celeriac has remarkable versatility, both in texture and flavour. It can be made into velvety mash, a rich soup, tender gratins and pies, or simply roasted. Raw celeriac adds interest and flavour to vibrant autumn and winter salads or slaws. Grate it coarsely or cut into slices (a mandolin is good for this), then into slender matchsticks. For a softer finish, blanch the matchsticks for a minute in boiling water.

To make celeriac mash, boil chunks of celeriac in salted water until completely tender; 15-20 minutes depending on their size. Drain and combine with an equal quantity of cooked floury potatoes and some butter, cream and mustard. For further variation, cube a couple of apples and add to the cooking celeriac; or boil your celeriac in milk with a few peeled garlic cloves, then drain and blitz with a little of the cooking milk. Eat as a purée or mash with potatoes.

For roasted celeriac, peel the veg and cut into evenly sized cubes or batons. Toss with olive oil and salt, then spread in a single layer over a roasting dish (use two if you don’t have room – it needs a little space so that it roasts rather than steams). Roast at 190C/Gas 5 for about 40 minutes, until tender and starting to caramelise round the edges. To reduce the cooking time to 20 minutes, you could also blanch the celeriac for five minutes in boiling salted water beforehand.

To serve, simply squeeze over lemon juice and some chopped dill or parsley; or mix with robust cooked grains like lentils or spelt, and add chopped apple, crumbled blue cheese, pepper leaves and a mustard vinaigrette. You could also stir into rice for a celeriac risotto.

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