Back to school, back to working full-day Fridays – September is the ultimate transition month. Likewise, we’re transitioning between summer produce and autumn fruits and vegetables.
Depending on which hardiness zone you live in, what’s in season for you may be a little different. Nevertheless, you can anticipate these fruits and vegetables fresh and cheap at your local farmer’s market.
This September produce guide is based on my own research – I compared several online sources for each produce harvesting time and hardiness zone to make this chart. Most of my data comes from the Farmer’s Almanac and other gardening-focused sources.
Peak Season – September
If you’re new to eating seasonably, start with apples.
The apples in your local grocery store can be as old as 1 year. That means, they were picked last year, held in storage or covered in a protective wax layer to preserve their ripeness and flavor for up to 12 months.
These apples are still safe to eat, but at a nutritional cost. By the time you’ve packed your apple in your lunchbox, the fruit may have lost close to all its antioxidant properties.
Apple season starts in September and ends in early or mid-autumn, sometimes extending into November. Freshly picked apples can last a few weeks before they start to turn.
Artichokes have two harvesting seasons, and September marks the first month of its second season. While more commonly known as a spring vegetable, this second harvesting season in California, where nearly 100% of artichokes are grown and sourced from in the U.S., gives artichoke lovers a reason to celebrate.
A newer variety of artichokes, dubbed the Green Globe artichoke, can grow in colder weather an in hardiness zones 6-10 instead of just 8-9. This could give the vegetable a longer shelf life in the future.
September marks the last month for bell peppers’ peak season. While they are still in season for warmer hardiness zones until December, you’re more likely to find affordable and fresh peppers this month.
Broccoli rabbe (rapini)
Unlike broccoli, this vegetable is not in-season year-round. Broccoli rabbe or raab (pronounced broccoli rob) resembles bitter greens more than it does the floral head of broccoli or cauliflower.
These are nutritional powerhouses – providing vitamins K, A, C, E, and folate as well as some iron, zinc, fiber, and phytochemicals.
September marks the last month for corn’s peak season! Being from Ohio, I see this crop everywhere, and I promise, it tastes like a new plant when eating in season.
I agree with Abra Beren, chef and author of Ruffage, and her opinion on corn – wait until late August and September for the sweet corn. If you can find it in bulk during this time of the year, buy it cheap and freeze it to enjoy throughout the winter.
While you can find dried dates year-round at the farmer’s market, the best time to buy them fresh is September – November. Fresh dates should not resemble dried dates – avoid those with cracks, shriveled skin, a sour smell or crystalized surface. For dried dates, avoid those that are rock-hard.
Fun fact: female date trees have to be hand-pollinated because no birds or bees are attracted to its flowers.
August is the start of edamame’s season, which can extend to early December. Originally from Asia, these soy beans are still new to North American gardens, so they are still a rare find at the local farmer’s market.
If you’re vegetarian or vegan, edamame is a powerful ally. It is the only vegetable that contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein source for those who don’t eat meat.
The beloved purple plant. Eggplant’s peak season is July – October, but you can find it available year-round.
There is a wide variety of eggplants grown in North America today, so branch out and try something new! You might find you like, “Black Magic”, “Purple Rain” or “Ichiban” varieties more than the common “Black Beauty” variety.
September is peak fig season, so use this month wisely.
Figs have two growing seasons thanks to the two different varieties grown in North America. The domestic “breba” fig is ready for harvest in the first weeks of June, while the “new wood” fig starts its season in late August – October.
Valencia oranges are the summer orange, while navel oranges are harvested in winter. Their peak season runs from July – October, and then the navel orange starts its season in December.
While not as sweet as the navel orange, Valencia oranges are juicier, perfect for making your own O.J. or syrups.
What’s autumn without pumpkins? Most commonly associated with the harvest season, pumpkins are among the first autumn vegetables to be ready for picking.
These squashes are also native to North America and grown by humans here for over 5,000 years.
Also known as Jerusalem artichokes, these are one of the few native tubers of North America. These were hugely popular before Europeans invaded the New World, but superstitions around the ginger-shaped roots prevented Europeans from cultivating them.
Today, these tubers are making a comeback. Best in fall and winter, you will start to see more sunchokes hit the market in September and peter out in April.
Ahh, sweet potatoes… a once forgotten tuber now hitting it big for its nutritional benefits and versatility for vegetarians and vegans. The Farmer’s Almanac declared sweet potatoes to be the #1 most nutritional vegetable, notably for its high-levels of beta-carotene (which helps reduce the risk of certain cancers), low-levels of fat, and wide variety of vitamins and minerals.
September welcomes sweet potatoes’ peak season. After December, you can still find local sweet potatoes into March.
Also in Season in September
September welcomes Brussel sprout season! With a long growing season, these winter vegetables just begin their slow harvesting season in September and wind down in the spring.
While know best for Thanksgiving and holiday dinners, you can enjoy these veggies now through May. Look for firm sprouts with bright, strong leaves that aren’t wilting.
Don’t skip over this unique plant – burdock root is a mineral-rich herb with a plethora of health benefits.
It’s a biennial plant, meaning it takes two years to mature. It’s best to harvest the roots and leaves during the fall of the first year or spring of the second year, which gives this plant a long window for “in-season” produce.
Cactus (prickly pear)
As one of the Future 50 Foods, cactus is a unique produce that could meet the demands of a hotter, more populated world. Growing in hardiness zones 2-10, the prickly pear is adaptable, easy to grow, and nutritious.
The nopales cactus is commonly used in Mexican cuisine, notably the fruit, flower and shoots (aka cladodes) rising from the stem. These, as well as the oil, are rich in nutrients and water, making it healthy meat alternative.
Aka, the celery root, turnip-root celery, or the “ugly duckling of the vegetable family”. Don’t let its gremlin, hairball-like appearance scare you. There are several different ways you can enjoy celery root and incorporate it into your meals.
Celeriac and celery come from the same plant, but the celeriac you see in the produce section is a different variety cultivated to form a large, globular root. Its peak season is late-fall and early winter, but you can find it fresh at the market between April and September, too.
Local, fresh celery has far more flavor and crunch than what you’re find at your local Kroger. Once you try it ripe from the farm, you’ll never want to go back to flimsy, out-of-season celery!
Grown as a winter crop in the South and a summer crop in the North, fresh celery can be readily available for most of the year.
Cultivated 10,000 years ago by the Aztecs, Mayans, Incas, and early American civilizations, peppers are a staple of many gardens around the world.
Different than bell peppers, chili peppers are typically smaller, hotter, and more diverse. Jalapenos, ancho poblano, serrano, cayenne, habanero, and Aleppo peppers all fall into this category.
To extend the shelf life for these small, potent peppers, dry or dehydrate fresh peppers to use in recipes all winter, including stews, sauces, and rubs.
Domestic fresh grapes are in season from May – November. Anything you get outside of those moths is imported.
To extend their freshness when you store them, keep the grapes connected to the stem rather than pulling them off. This will prevent them from drying out. You can also freeze the grapes or make raisins.
With its long seasonal availability February – November, horseradish is an underutilized food in the vegetable family.
Not to be confused with moringa (which comes from the horseradish tree but is a different variety than what’s common in North America), this root vegetable is commonly used as a spice or condiment.
Thanks to the many varieties of pears available in the U.S. (all with slightly different harvesting times), we can enjoy pears from August – December.
Most pears will be ripe when they are picked from the tree, so eat them fast or store in the crisp drawer of your refrigerator. If they are not yet ripe when you buy them, keep them at room temperature and transfer to the fridge when ripe.
Late spring and early summer are the peak months to enjoy fresh peas. Lucky for us, peas grow fast. That means in some hardiness zones, you can get two batches of peas in one summer, which extends their season in September and autumn.
This is the case for the three most popular types of peas: snow, garden, and sugar snap peas, which can grow in hardiness zones 2-9.
Plums are in season between May – October. Since most plums are grown in California, which has the optimal climate for plum trees, we get this longer fruit season.
Look for plump fruits with smooth skin, avoiding mushy spots and bruises. Like raspberries, eat these quickly, within 2-3 days for purchase, or slice and freeze.
Rosemary is an evergreen herb, so it sometimes feels wrong to give it marked season. Its seasonality comes from its hardiness zone, as it likes to grow in sunny, well-drained climates.
For hardiness zones 7 and below, move your rosemary inside at the end of October to keep it growing through the winter and spring. Otherwise, its season will end that month.
When harvested correctly, you can get fresh sage from June – October. Like rosemary, this is an evergreen shrub, so you can move it inside and try to keep it alive through the winter and spring.
If this isn’t an option for you, store it fresh in a bag in the fridge or freeze entire branches on baking sheets, then strip the leaves from the stem before storing in the freezer.
The variety of tomato that’s in season depends on where you live. For the most part, you can find fresh tomatoes starting in May through October.
If you’re invested in lowering your carbon footprint, try orange tomatoes. Names one of the Future 50 Foods, orange tomatoes are sweeter, less acidic, and contain up to 2x as much vitamin A and folate as red varieties. Additionally, orange tomatoes are commonly heirloom tomatoes, making them more resistant to disease and pests.
Going out of season after September
Basil flowers in September, marking the ends of its season. You can move basil inside in the autumn and winter, but you’re not likely to find much fresh basil at the market during the colder months.
Blackberries’ season stretches from May – September. Another summer berry, this fruit extends a bit longer than other berries in part because of the wide variety of blackberries and their different harvesting times.
For many regions of North America, blueberries end their season in August. However, you can still get late-season blueberries in the beginning of September that taste just as good as July and August berries.
The peak season for cucumbers is known to be June – August, the start of their main harvesting season. However, because we can grow these veggies in hardiness zones 4-11, we can enjoy a longer season for cucumbers.
This, of course, depends on where you live. Use your judgement at the farmer’s market or grocery store. If the cucumbers are not firm or have brown or yellow spots on them, they’re not at their peak ripeness.
This summer vegetable is still fresh in September, which year after year feels more like a summer month than the dawning of fall. You can find this vegetable in stores year-round, but it won’t be as fresh or as flavorful as what you’ll find June –September.
Like other summer herbs, September is the last month you’ll find an abundance of marjoram at the market. This herb compliments meats and dishes that are not sweet by giving them a slightly sweet and aromatic flavor.
Okra thrives in hot, steamy climates where humidity is high. No wonder this Southern-cooking staple is so popular in the South and some Indian dishes.
For most of the U.S. its season runs from July – September.
A popular summer herb used to season meats, eggs, fish, and hearty dishes, oregano is strong and zesty perennial.
This herb loves the sun, so as temperatures drop and daylight shortens, oregano reaches its last leg of it season. September is the often the last month you’ll see large bunches of oregano sold at the market.
While available in most grocery stores year-round, the summer is the best time to find fresh parsley. If you’re growing your own parsley, it’s key to remember this is a biennial plant. You’ll see it grow back every other year, and the best time to eat the leaves in in year one.
Don’t toss the stems! Parsley’s stems have more flavor and nutrients than the leaves, so incorporate those into your dishes, too.
Considered a weed in many places, this plant is another underdog of the vegetable world. Crunchy and slightly sour, this succulant contains more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy green vegetable.
Purslane’s peak season ends in early September, but you can still find these fresh from April through November.
Raspberries’ peak harvesting season greatly depends on your local climate. In North America, this can be anytime between May – October. These fragile berries should be consumed or frozen within 1-2 days of bringing them home. To keep their freshness, don’t wash the berries until just before you eat them.
Zucchini, yellow squash, and the lesser-known pattypan… September is the last month for many to find fresh at the farmer’s market.
You can find these in autumn, but they’ve passed their peak freshness and will likely be more expensive. Take advantage of its seasonality now, and enjoy the winter squashes in the late autumn and winter.
The ultimate summer fruit, watermelon reaches the end of its season in September. If you haven’t taken advantage of this fruit yet, do so.
Here’s what I recommend: buy a large watermelon while its in season. Cube it, freeze it, and make watermelon mojitos when you need a little memory of summer.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this September produce guide!
As I’ve mentioned in other articles, I use the Farmer’s Almanac to see what’s in season and where, based on hardiness zones. If I can’t find the information there, I go to other sites and peer-reviewed studies that I believe are trustworthy and gardening-focused.
For more information on what fruits and vegetables are fresh based on the season, check out this guide from the USDA SNAP-Ed Connection.