By Kathryn McLean

As we enter September, our minds turn to back-to-school and apple picking. We decorate with fall mums and ready ourselves for the sporadic autumn weather, not unlike the unpredictable days and weeks of spring. The days are noticeably shorter. Sweaters and light jackets replace the sunhats and flip-flops by the door.

Some of us are looking ahead to Thanksgiving and the traditional fall bounty: roasted squash, mashed turnip and apple crumble. Pumpkin pie! Decorating with gourds and hay bales and pumpkins.

But many Ontario-grown fruits and vegetables that we think of as summer foods are not only still available, but are really at their best.

We have a short summer for growing outdoors: there are not too many hot, sunny days for farms, fields and backyard gardens. That means most vegetables aren’t planted outdoors until the ground is warm enough in late May, and many plants need a minimum of two months soaking up the sun and rain before they start producing. This includes juicy, ripened tomatoes, large, dark eggplants, and peppers of all shapes and colours, hot or sweet.

Have you heard the expression, “what grows together, goes together”?

September is a great time to take advantage of what grows together. Try making a salad of tomatoes, peaches and corn cut from the cob. Add peppers and cucumbers if you have them. Then serve it outside on one of the beautiful warm September days ahead, enjoying the last of the sun and the last of the “summer” produce.

Herbs and lettuces continue to grow into the fall, as well as many sturdier vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, bok choy and cabbage. Why not mix and match those, too? Cabbage or bok choy, carrots and broccoli go well together in a stir-fry or a fresh slaw.

And apples are coming into season. Add a crisp Ontario-grown apple to the slaw. Iif you’re going apple picking you’re bound to pick more than you know what to do with, and any variety will work, especially ones that are a little tart like Mutsu or Macoun.

Apples and pears are a delicious part of autumn. Squash soup and pumpkin pie have their place, too. But where root vegetables and imported produce can withstand storage, summer items such as tomatoes, melons, peaches and beans won’t taste any better than they will right now.

I’ll be serving (and eating!) as much of the late summer tomatoes and beans as I can get. You should, too.