In season: autumn

Apples. Ingredient detail pic. Generic still-life of different apple varieties. Brigitte Hafner AUTUMN recipes for Epicure. Photographed by Marina Oliphant. Styling by Caroline Velik.
At their best in autumn: apples.

What's in this autumn? Robin Powell scopes the freshest fruit and vegetables.

Autumn is an exciting time for fresh produce. The treats that need a long ripening time over the warmer months are at their best early in the season. Watermelons and rockmelons are sweet and juicy. Tomatoes are everywhere, in colours from black to yellow, and sizes from mini to massive. Pumpkins are ready and eggplants are a bargain.

As the season builds, rains trigger wild mushrooms to sprout. Unlike button and Swiss brown mushrooms which grow naturally on dead trees, pine mushrooms and other wild 'rooms, such as porcini and slippery Jacks, grow on living trees. This means they can't be cultivated in the same way as commercial mushrooms, but must be collected from forests. That makes a dish of wild mushrooms a tasty reminder of seasonality.

Nut trees that blossomed in spring drop ripe nuts to the orchard floor in autumn, offering the cook fresh walnuts, almonds, pistachio, pecans, macadamias and chestnuts. Chestnuts have a soft, crumbly texture and an earthy sweetness that is more sweet potato than nut. They can be eaten in main dishes, sides or desserts, or simply as a snack. Use a sharp knife to make a small incision in the flat side of the nut to prevent them bursting in the oven, then roast. Peel while they are still warm.

Autumn's fruit basket is varied and delicious. Apples are at their fresh best. The harvest starts in mid to late summer with royal galas, and continues until the last sundowners are picked in May. Pears are also at their peak, with a variety of flavour options, from the early-season, soft, golden-hued Williams, to the firmer, elegant cinnamon-dusted beurre bosc, and the ugly, bumpy, flavourful packhams. In the same family as apples and pears is the quince, which also makes its brief appearance in autumn.

Figs are cheap enough to turn into jam, and grapes are still good. The local harvest of pomegranates knocks the imports off the shelves, and persimmon are picked from Queensland through NSW and into Victoria. Most persimmon grown in Australia are the sweet fuyu type, which is a squat round shape. This fruit can be eaten firm like an apple, or allowed to sweeten and soften. The other variety available is the original persimmon, which is more likely to be heart-shaped. Quite astringent when firm, it ripens into a soft, sweet jelly.

As autumn cools, lovers of citrus can get sticky fingers over new mandarins, grapefruit and the early varieties of navel oranges. Lemons are plentiful again.

Beyond the orchards, cooler weather brings on the vegetables that bolt in the heat. Celeriac, horseradish, fennel and brussels sprouts are all good. Once the chill sets in, radicchio and the kales, such cavolo nero, come into their own. Autumn is also the season for olives. Cooks keen for a project can find hard green olives at some markets and greengrocers. There are easy-to-follow instructions for preserving olives online. Get busy and as autumn turns to winter home-cured olives could be ready to serve. That would be celebrating the season!

TOP FIVE PICKS BY MONTH

MARCH

Pears
Apples
Figs
Persimmon
Pumpkin

APRIL

Chestnuts
Wild mushrooms
Pomegranate
Olives
Walnuts

MAY

Quince
Navel oranges
Horseradish
Pawpaw
Brussels sprouts

Autumn - the full list

Autumn recipes

Apple and orange crumble tart.

Apple and orange crumble tart

  • 1-2 hrs
  • Medium

Dan Lepard

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Reader ratings (40)
Fennel and blood orange salad.

Fennel and blood orange salad

  • < 30 mins
  • Easy

Neil Perry

Rating: 0.5 out of 5 stars
Reader rating (1)
Gingerbread pudding with red wine pears.

Gingerbread pudding with red wine pears

  • 1-2 hrs
  • Medium

Dan Lepard

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Reader ratings (6)
Pear and ginger chutney.

Pear and ginger chutney

  • 30 mins - 1 hr
  • Easy

Frank Camorra

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Reader rating (1)
Autumn mushroom risotto with poached egg.

Autumn mushroom risotto with poached egg

  • 30 mins - 1 hr
  • Medium

Frank Camorra

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Reader ratings (14)
Pear and hazelnut cake.

Pear and hazelnut cake

  • 1-2 hrs
  • Medium

Frank Camorra

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Reader ratings (11)
Frank Camorra's pumpkin and washed-rind cheese tart.

Pumpkin and taleggio cheese tart

  • 1-2 hrs
  • Medium

Frank Camorra

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Reader ratings (2)
Chorizo cooked in cider.

Chorizo cooked in cider

  • < 30 mins
  • Easy

Frank Camorra

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Reader ratings (4)
Mushrooms a la Greque.

Mushrooms a la Greque

  • 30 mins - 1 hr
  • Easy

Frank Camorra

Braised lamb chump chops with jalapenos, potato and paprika.

Braised lamb chump chops with potato, jalapenos and oregano

  • 30 mins - 1 hr
  • Easy

Karen Martini

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Reader ratings (13)
Chicken kofta on baby corn with whipped avocado.

Chicken kofta on baby corn with whipped avocado

  • 30 mins - 1 hr
  • Medium

Karen Martini

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Reader ratings (7)
Leek and potato soup.

Leek and potato soup

  • 30 mins - 1 hr
  • Easy

Neil Perry

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Reader ratings (32)
Lentils, beetroot, apple, grilled salmon.

Lentil salad with beetroot, apple and grilled salmon

  • 1-2 hrs
  • Medium

Frank Camorra

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Reader ratings (16)
Braised cavolo nero and silverbeet.

Braised cavolo nero and silverbeet

  • 30 mins - 1 hr
  • Medium

Neil Perry

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Reader ratings (12)
Pumpkin and feta pie with olive-oil pastry.

Pumpkin and feta pie with olive-oil pastry

  • 1-2 hrs
  • Medium

Karen Martini

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Reader ratings (15)
Matt Wilkinson hails the change of seasons with original recipe ideas.

Green tomato and black pepper cake

  • 1-2 hrs
  • Medium

Matt Wilkinson

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Reader rating (1)
Spiced blood plum sauce. Karen Martini PLUM recipes for Epicure and Good Food. Photographed by Marina Oliphant. Styling by Andrea Geisler. Photographed March 5th, 2013. The Age Newspaper and The Sydney Morning Herald.

Spiced blood-plum sauce

  • 1-2 hrs
  • Medium

Karen Martini

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Reader ratings (4)
Chicken with olives and sage.

Chicken with olives and sage

  • 30 mins - 1 hr
  • Medium

Neil Perry

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Reader ratings (32)
Frank Camorra's lemon cordial.

Lemon cordial

  • 30 mins - 1 hr
  • Medium

Frank Camorra

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Reader ratings (26)
Pumpkin, taleggio and lasagnette.

Baked lasagnette with pumpkin, anchovies and taleggio

  • 1-2 hrs
  • Medium

Karen Martini

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Reader ratings (15)
Roasted root vegetable soup with cinnamon and ginger. Karen Martini PUMPKIN recipes for Epicure and Good Food. Photographed by Marina Oliphant. Styling by Andrea Geisler. Photographed March 5th, 2013. The Age Newspaper and The Sydney Morning Herald.

Roasted pumpkin and root-vegetable soup with cinnamon and ginger

  • 1-2 hrs
  • Medium

Karen Martini

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Reader ratings (16)
Plum, blackberry & hazelnut shortcake. Karen Martini PLUM recipes for Epicure and Good Food. Photographed by Marina Oliphant. Styling by CAROLINE VELIK. Photographed March 5th, 2013. The Age Newspaper and The Sydney Morning Herald.

Plum, blackberry and hazelnut shortcake

  • 30 mins - 1 hr
  • Medium

Karen Martini

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Reader ratings (8)
Danish apple cake. Frank Camorra APPLES recipes for Spectrum and Good Food. Photographed by Marina Oliphant. The Sydney Morning Herald. March 8, 2013.

Danish apple cake

  • 30 mins - 1 hr
  • Medium

Frank Camorra

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Reader ratings (42)