6 November 2015

What's in season in November

What I like cooking and eating changes with the seasons. By November, my thoughts turn to stews, game and fruity puddings. By this point in the autumn, root vegetables, winter squashes and brassicas dominate. The game season is in full swing, and a wide range of English apples are (or should be) available. For those craving something raw, various hardy, or semi-hardy salads, such as chicories and mustards, are in season.

Winter squashes

From the veg plot

November is a great time of year for root vegetables. As well as hardy winter stalwarts such as swedes, leeks and parsnips, plenty of semi-hardy roots, like beetroots, turnips, carrots and celeriac, are still available in late autumn. More unusual varieties such as salsify and scorzonera are worth trying. The hardy root vegetables can safely be left in the ground all winter, but if freezing weather threatens, semi-hardy varieties should be lifted and stored in sand in a dry shed or garage.

One of my favourite types of vegetables at this time of year are winter squashes. Winter squashes are closely related to courgettes and summer squashes. Despite their name, winter squashes are grown in summer, but instead of being picked young, they are left on the plant until mid autumn, by which time their skins have hardened, or 'cured'. The hard skins preserve the dense tasty flesh inside the squash, and many varieties can be stored for several months in a cool, dry place. The butternut squash is the most ubiquitous winter squash, but if you grow your own, or have a decent greengrocer, there are many other more exciting varieties available. Potimarron and crown prince are two of my favourites. We have just passed halloween, with its association with pumpkins. Pumkins are, of course, another variety of winter squash. As they are commonly grown for carving, they are perhaps not the tastiest, but they do make a nice pumpkin tart.

Cavolo nero

Brassicas are another staple winter vegetable. There are varieties of cabbage available at any time of the year, and autumn is no exception. Kale is another tasty winter brassica, and seems to be hugely fashionable at the moment. There are several varieties available, including some with amazing maroon leaves. This year I have grown the classic Tuscan variety, cavolo nero. Kale is a useful vegetable to grow, as you can pick just a few leaves from each plant as and when you need them, meaning that they will last all winter. In terms of other brassicas, there are varieties of cauliflower and purple-sprouting broccoli available in November. The cauliflower is a sadly under-rated vegetable - and is so much tastier roasted than boiled. Kohlrabi is still in season, though they can be a little woody by this point in the year, and are often better cooked rather than eaten raw. Although Brussels sprouts mostly appear in the shops for Christmas, the earliest varieties are ready for harvesting in November. Winter radishes are also good at this time of year.

There are several leaf vegetables and salad leaves in season in November. Chard is relatively hardy, and will usually survive light frosts up to Christmas. It can stand all through a mild winter or if protected under a cloche. Several lettuces can be grown into November and beyond, particularly if protected under a cloche or grown in a greenhouse. Mustard leaves are also relatively hardy, and will grow into early winter. The variety 'green in snow' is, as the name suggests, particularly suited to winter weather. Several other salad leaves in season at this time of year include corn salad (or lamb's lettuce), claytonia and land cress.


For me the king of autumn salads is chicory. Chicory has a delicious bitterness, and a chicory salad provides a great foil to a rich, meaty stew. There are many varieties of chicory out there other than the forced witloof variety most commonly found in the shops. This year, I have grown puntarelle, a Roman variety that has done very well. Radicchio also grows well in the UK. The latter benefits from a light frost, which turns the leaves their distinctive purple colour. Home-grown chicories can be quite bitter. Steeping them for an hour or so in iced water will remove excess bitterness.


Many varieties of English apple and pear are in season in November. In the UK we have literally hundreds of domestic apple varieties, and it is a shame that the supermarkets stock so few of them. Local greengrocers seem to be a much better bet for interesting varieties. Russets, with their rough skin, are a tasty variety usually at their best in November. Native quinces are in season in November, and make a wonderful crumble. November sees the first appearance of citrus fruit from Southern Europe, with satsumas being one of the first to arrive.


November is a prime month for game. All the game birds, including grouse, partridge, mallard and pheasant are in season. Venison is also in season, and is an ideal meat for a stew or ragu.

From the woods and fields

Trumpet chanterelles
By November, many mushroom varieties are on the wane, particularly if the weather has turned cold. There are a few varieties worth looking out for, in particular trumpet chanterelles (known by some as winter chanterelles) and wood blewits. Most autumn berries and fruit are past their prime, but rosehips should still be plentiful, and (if you fancy getting adventurous) haw berries.

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