Can you believe it’s already September? With the changing weather in Illinois we have about six months to enjoy seasonal produce. By the end of the month a lot of our summer favorites will be gone for the year. Here is my updated guide to seasonal produce in Illinois as we head into September and the start of fall.
What’s in Season in Illinois in September?
Here’s the full list. Click on any item to learn a bit more about it. You’ll find tips on how to select the best and tastiest fruit or vegetable, how to store it and how long it will remain in season.
Fruits Currently in Season in Illinois
- Plums, Nectarines, and Apricots
- Honeydew Melons
- Raspberries (new this month)
- Apples (new this month)
- Pears (new this month)
Vegetables Currently in Season in Illinois
- Sweet Corn
- Bell Peppers
- Green Beans
- Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage, and Kale
- Zucchini and Squash
- Brussel Sprouts
- Butternut Squash (new this month)
- Pumpkins (new this month)
What’s Leftover From Last Month
September starts with labor day weekend, the unofficial end to summer. Almost everything from last month will still be available as the month begins. By the end of September the variety of seasonal produce will start to narrow, especially fruit.
Raspberries will make their triumphant comeback in September. If the weather cooperates they will be available well into next month. Blueberries, stone fruits and melons will be available until mid-September.
Apple season, along with apple picking season, kicks into high gear in September. Pears will also make their first appearance of the year.
Vegetables are more durable than fruit and have longer seasons. Almost everything from last month will remain available in September. Butternut squash and pumpkins are the expected new arrivals.
Some vegetables like broccoli and kale taste better when the mornings get a bit cooler later in September.
Reminder Why You Should Choose Local
If you have read my past articles you know I repeat this same basic point every month. Foods that are locally grown and in season taste so much better. They are more nutritious and better for your body.
Focusing on the individual nutrients in food has not worked. We have been trying this for 50 years. Health authorities have told us to limit saturated fat, cholesterol, and added sugar and that we need more vitamin C, Omega 3’s, and calcium.
We do not eat nutrients, we eat food. Ideally those foods should be nourishing, nutritious and most importantly, delicious!
Locally grown foods are better because farmers harvest them perfectly ripe. They are freshly picked, full of nutrients, grown in healthier soils, free of chemicals, not grown using synthetic fertilizers and best of all; taste amazing.
Let’s get into the details for September.
Seasonal Produce in Illinois: September Fruit
Here are the new arrivals for September, starting with the return of an old favorite.
Raspberries are unique when it comes to seasonal produce in Illinois. They have two seasons. One that starts in June and ends in mid-July, a second that starts in September and ends mid-October.
Remember that fresh raspberries only last a couple of days. Much like with blueberries, you can spread fresh raspberries out on a cookie sheet, put them in the freezer for 12 hours, store them in a Ziploc bag then enjoy them all winter.
Apples (Sweet Ones)
An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but only if you eat the skins. Also be sure to leave the skin intact when you cut up a fresh apple for your kids. Most of the fiber and the nutrients in an apple are in or right under the skin.
Tart apples are in season earlier than sweet varieties and arrive in mid-August. The sweeter apples like Fuji, Gala and Honeycrisp arrive in September.
At the farmers market look for apples with a consistent red color. Lighter color apples with green spots likely grew in the shade and will not be as sweet.
When you buy apples at the farmers market or come home with several bags from apple picking it can be tempting to keep apples out on the counter.
However fresh apples will keep much longer if you store them in the fridge.
Place fresh apples in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator with the humidity on high. You can even add a wet paper towel in the drawer to add more humidity.
Apples stored this way will last for at least a month or more especially if you can keep them in a second fridge you do not use as often and let the humidity in the drawer stay high.
I’ll admit, I was never much of a fan of pears until I tried them from the farmers market. When you buy pears from the farmers market they will be hard, meaning they are not yet ripe.
To allow them to ripen, keep hard pears in a bowl on the counter for a couple of days. Sometimes it takes even longer. I currently have pears on my counter from last weekend that are still hard.
Pears are the rare fruit that ripen from the inside out. Once the top stem end of the pear yields slightly to pressure it is ripe and ready to eat.
Store ripe pears in the crisper drawer of the fridge with the humidity on low for up to a week. Do not keep unripe pears in the fridge or they will remain hard and tasteless.
The skin of a Bartlett pear turns yellow as it becomes ripe. Most other varieties of pears show little change in color as they ripen, so you have to rely on the squeeze test.
Be sure to eat the skin when you eat pears. Much like other fruits the fiber and many of the nutrients are in or just under the skin.
Seasonal Produce in Illinois: September Vegetables
There are so many vegetables in season as we start September. You can easily have a different vegetable with dinner every night of the week.
Quick seasonal produce tip for you as we start September.
Keep an eye out for a sale on red peppers.
When you grow peppers at home you know there comes a point in September where they all seem to ripen at once. This happens to farmers too.
For one or two weekends in September you can get red peppers for a great price: they will be $1 each or less. When I see this I will load up my grocery bag and spend an afternoon roasting and chopping them so I have fresh red peppers well into winter.
Butternut squash is staple of fall. It is a totally different vegetable from yellow summer squash. The skin is much harder and not edible and the inside is also more firm than summer squash.
Butternut squash is known for it’s long shelf life. Because of it’s hard skin it can last for months if stored properly in the basement or a cool dark area away from bright light and too much heat.
Here is a great post showing you how to properly peel and cook your butternut squash.
When buying butternut squash select one that feels heavy for it’s size and is evenly colored with no bruises or blemishes.
Fun September fact for those who love useless information about seasonal produce. Illinois produces more pumpkins than any other state in the United States.
I’ll be honest. I only buy pumpkins so my children can carve silly faces into them. I never realized how easy it is to make pumpkin puree. Or how many great recipes you can make with that freshly made puree.
One important thing to know about pumpkins. While they are all edible, the larger pumpkins that we carve generally have no taste. If you are planning to cook your pumpkin make sure you specifically ask for a sugar pumpkin.
Sugar pumpkins are smaller, less fibrous and taste sweeter.
When purchasing a pumpkin to cook with look for one that is firm, has a dull appearance, is heavy for it’s size and has an intact stem. A whole pumpkin will easily store for a up to a month in your house (although most parents know it will only last minutes outside before squirrels start to eat it).
Once you have made pumpkin puree you can store that in the fridge for five to seven days, or freeze it for up to a year.
Get out there and enjoy the locally grown Illinois seasonal produce in September. This will be your last chance to pick up a a lot of the summer favorites, especially the fruit, until next year.
We’ll be back next month with one more article before seasonal produce wraps up for the year in Illinois.
Please let me know if you have any questions or other creative ideas in the comments below!
Honeycrisp apples are in season from September to November in Illinois. Because apples can be stored so easily they are generally available at the store year round.
Apples love humidity. Store fresh apples in the crisper drawer of your fridge with the humidity set to high. Add a moist paper towel for even more humidity. Do not store apples with other fruits like berries or pears.
Ripe pears will last for 5-7 days in the fridge. Keep them in the crisper drawer with the humidity setting on low.
If stored properly, butternut squash will last for 1-3 months. Keep it in a cool, dark place like the basement for the best results.