My Favorite Autumnal Spanish Foods

Eating fruits and vegetables in season is the best way to eat. What’s better than a summer tomato, vermillion red, seeds spilling out as you bite into it, salty and tasting of the earth? What’s more delicious than asparagus in March, seasoned with grainy sea salt and fruited olive oil, roasted to the perfect point between crunchy and soft? Nothing. Nothing.

To eat is to experience. To experience is to understand. To understand is to know. To know another culture, to understand the land and its cultivation, eat. Stop by a fruit stand and buy the pomegranate, eat it its crimson seeds, bite into them lightly, let their juice burst out, filling your mouth with its sweet fragrance.

It’s autumn. There are so many good foods in season this time of year, rich and hearty and filling. These foods are on full display on the frutería stands I pass by daily. Sometimes I stop to watch as the people flood in and out, asking for giant purple grapes, seeds still intact, or kilo after kilo of grubby golden apples. It’s time to eat … but which foods are in season where I am?

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  • Pomegranates—The pomegranate, a native of Persia, has been cultivated in the Mediterranean region for several millennia. The city of Granada in southern Spain was named after this luscious fruit. It is a true fall and winter fruit, in season from September to February. I like to eat it plain or in salads, although these recipes sounds delicious.

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  • Persimmons—The first time I had a persimmon was in a classic Indiana dish, persimmon pudding. But I had my first plain persimmon here in Spain, thanks to my husband. He introduced the fruit to me, calling it a “caqui.” To me, the persimmon tastes of dates and plums. (Be sure to know which type of persimmon you purchase, because there are astringent and non-astringent varieties!)

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  • Autumn Squash—Squash and pumpkins alike are referred to as “calabazas” here, so when you ask for a “calabaza,” there are several things you could possibly be given. I like to eat all kinds of squash, but most especially acorn and butternut, the two varieties most easily found here. If you roast them in the oven, they have a sweet taste, but not overly so, and go well into dishes like pureed soups, pizzas, or paired with meat.

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  • Greens—Greens get a bad rap. Done right, they can be nutty and flavor rich. Done poorly, they can be limp and tasteless. It’s next to impossible to find kale in Spain, but you can find spinach and chard. As for chard, the leaves are green, but sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can find the colored steams, which brighten up my day anyway! Besides being delicious, these babies are packed with health: vitamins A, K, and C, along with minerals, fiber, and even protein. Bet you didn’t think you could get protein from greens! This spinach-salad recipe looks divine.

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  • Chestnuts—In Salamanca, you knew the cold was here to stay when the chestnut vendors set up their stands on the streets. There is nothing like winding your way through the crowds at 7 p.m., the sun set long ago, teeth-chatteringly cold … and then buying a paper cone of chestnuts, warm and comforting as you walk the rest of the way home. Chestnuts can also be eaten in other ways, of course: stuffings, risottos with butternut squash, decadent pasta, and, of course, dessert. In Spain, a popular way to eat it is a purée.

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  • Quince—Ah, membrillo. For me, it is impossible to refer to this fruit as a quince, a word I learned after I’d learned the Spanish word for it, a word that doesn’t roll off my tongue quite like membrillo, especially when preceded by “dulce de.” The quince is an odd-looking fruit, misshapen almost, but please know that looks, in this case at least, are utterly deceiving. The quince is not one that can be eaten right away due to it being hard and having a rather astringent flavor. However, my mother-in-law makes a delicious treat known as “dulce de membrillo,” a quince paste, that is divine when paired with manchego cheese. In my old high school in Zamora, the teachers placed quinces in certain offices, hoping their sweet smell would penetrate the building.

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  • Apples—Apples. They’re not anything new or overly enthralling, but apples are one of my favorite foods. Unlike many in Spain, I don’t like peeling it. I prefer washing it and eating as is. Apples are probably one of the most (if not the most) cultivated fruits and have their place in history. (Just think of the Garden of Eden—and that’s just the beginning!) I love apples in crisps especially, with the browned butter, slightly crunchy oatmeal and brown sugar, and cooling vanilla ice cream set on top. But don’t forget! Apples aren’t just for sweet recipes. They are delicious in soups, turnovers, salads, stuffings, and sandwiches.

So, readers, what about you? What is good to eat where you live in autumn?

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18 comments

  1. Definitely anything made with pumpkin! Of the non-canned variety. Unfortunately, roasting pumpkins in small Spanish ovens and then pureeing them sans food processor is a bit of a challenge.

    I might be spending Halloween weekend in Madrid. If you’re around, we should meet up!

  2. Oh how I wish I could get some roasted chestnuts off the street right about now! That was definitely one of my favorite things about Spanish winters. The honeycrisp apples are insane ’round these parts. Can’t….stop….eating them!

  3. Omg I’m planning a weekender to Granada this month (auxiliar with waaay too much free time here lol) and now I can’t wait to be ~~~sOoOo~~~ clever and eat a pomegranate (una granada) *in* Granada!

    and thanks for the recommendation for butternut squash–I tried to cook a halloween pumpkin & it was…icky. would the saturday morning market be the best place to find squash?

  4. I love caquis and had never tried them before coming to Spain. I’m so curious to try the persimmon pudding recipe from Indiana–I’ve never heard of that!

    Potatoes are welcome all year ’round but I prefer in fall/winter, especially in soups. Potato soup, mmmm.

  5. I noticed the first signs of chestnut vendors setting up shop on the streets in my new city, Vitoria yesterday. Makes me think of the holidays and winter, a sign of what is coming.
    This post reminded me of when I was a garden teacher- always knowing tidbits of info to share with my students about new veggies and fruits they were trying.

    I’m grateful this year, I’ll be eating seasonally thanks to the bi-weekly farmers markets : )

  6. I’ve definitely eaten a caqui, but I didn’t realize it was a persimmon! I bought one in a Catalan fruit shop and couldn’t find the English word online (and can’t remember the Catalan). Those things are so delicious.

  7. Interesting trivia: the word “grenade” is borrowed from the french word “grenade” (same spelling, different pronunciation) which means “pomegranate”, which is what the first grenades were called because they resembled a pomegranate because they were round and contained a bunch of little steel balls that served as shrapnel.

    Thanks, Mythbusters, haha :D

    Cheers,
    Andrew

  8. We call them “caqui” because it is originally a fruit from Japan, and “kaki” is its name in Japanese :)
    After this short language lesson, I prefer apples. :) And spinachs!!! I miss vegetables and fruit so much here in Hong Kong! They’re super expensive because they have to import them :( I pay the price of a kilo for just two or three pieces :((

  9. Definitely apples and squash! I buy honey crisp at a local orchard and squash from a local farmer – I may turn orange from all the squash I’m eating this month, but have to enjoy it while it’s in season!

  10. I’m an American girl teaching in Seoul, Korea and found your blog through expat-blog. I loved reading this article. I was surprised to see that many of the fall foods in Spain are the same as those in Korea: persimmons, apples, squash, and, of course, chestnuts. There’s nothing better than the smell of them roasting on the street!

  11. I think that there’s nothing better than hot chestnuts to get warm in autumn. And, in autumn, the sweet potatoes (boniatos) are very typical as well.

    1. Hello Oscar, are you from Spain? I love sweet potatoes! My husband’s family (from Zamora), however, had never eaten them so I didn’t think they were very typical.

      1. Hi Kaley, yes I live in Catalunya and here sweet potatoes are typical in autumn, above all during the feast of chestnut (1st November) with panellets (a catalan desert eaten in autumn). And, sometimes one of the ingredients of the panellets are sweet potatoes.

  12. Really enjoyed this post, Kaley. It’s la castanyada here on Thursday and looking forward to trying roast chestnuts for the first time:)

  13. Ok so I have definitely eaten the vast majority of these foods in Spain in just over a month here :) The pomegranate I ate in the city of Granada (to be clever~~~); the squash I cooked—twice!—using this amazingly tasty and simple recipe; the greens I eat all day everyday (I’m a sucker for fresh spinach, too!); the chestnuts I had in Granada for the first time and was surprised at how meat-y they were; and the quince: I am currently baking two quince that were handed two me by one of the teachers at my colegio, but I have no idea where they came from haha.

    This is a really great list! I enjoyed hunting out these traditionally-Spanish foods. I’m looking forward to a similar list in the spring! :D

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