Season's best

The end of the summer signals a move to warming, comforting meals which make the most of the bumper September harvest. From crisp greens and earthy swede, to juicy blackberries and versatile onions, pack your meals with this months star ingredients. Kick off with nutty cauliflower, a beautiful brassica that's moved straight into the spotlight.

The firm texture and mild flavour of this traditional brassica make it a versatile ingredient. Like broccoli, cauliflower is made up of multiple small, packed flower heads called curds or florets, which grow around a central stem. Raw cauliflower florets can be used in salads or as crudités for dips. Try roasting florets with paprika and chipotle chilli paste, then piling them into tacos with sliced avocado, black beans and coriander.

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Also in season...

Onion

Onions

A household staple, these versatile alliums are the first ingredient in a whole host of dishes. Choose onions that feel firm, with papery skins. Store in a cool, dry place. To avoid watery eyes when chopping onions, freeze for 10 mins beforehand, and avoid cutting through the root. For an easy dinner, cook sliced onions with butter and thyme over a low heat until caramelised. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar, then divide between squaeres of puff pastry. Top with crumbled fet and bake until golden. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and pomegranate seeds.

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Blackberries

Blackberries

These sharp yet sweet fruits are at their best in late summer. They’re best stored unwashed, on a layer of kitchen paper in the fridge to prevent them crushing each other. In British folklore, it was believed to be unlucky to pick wild blackberries after Michaelmas, on 29 September. For a fresh and fruity drink, blitz blackberries and quartered lemons (peel and pips removed) in a food processor with a little sugar and a few mint leaves. Strain, then top up with soda water.

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carrot

Carrots

This colourful root vegetable is brilliantly versatile – it can be eaten raw or cooked, and is great in both sweet and savoury dishes. Carrots were generally purple until the late 16th century, when the familiar orange variety we eat today was cultivated by Dutch farmers. Try gently roasting them with thyme, then whizzing with chickpeas and tahini for an earthy twist on houmous.

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Kale

Kale

A member of the cabbage family, kale has a peppery flavour and is rich in nutrients. You can get hold of it all year round, but it's at its tastiest between September and February. Kale will wilt in warm temperatures, so store it in the fridge to keep it fresh. It freezes well, too. There are several varieties of kale, including smooth, curly and black – also known as cavolo nero. Try whizzing in a food processor with pine nuts, Parmesan, garlic and olive oil for a twist on traditional pesto.

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Swede

Swede

This root veg is a turnip-cabbage hybrid and has a sweet, earthy flavour. Neeps, as they're known in Scotland, and tatties (potatoes) are traditionally served with haggis on Burns Night. For a savoury crumble, fry diced onion, garlic and thyme. Mix with cubes of roasted swede and squash in a baking dish. Rub butter and flour into crumbs, then stir in grated cheese and chopped walnuts. Sprinkle over the veg and bake.

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Fresh greens

Fresh greens

Like kale, these greens have loose leaves without the hard centre of more mature cabbages. Fresh greens have large, dark leaves and a mild, slightly bitter taste. They are picked before they reach full maturity, to stop the leaves turning thick and tough. The smaller the leaves, the more tender they taste. For a quick dinner, stir shredded wilted greens into pasta with red onion, fried bacon, soft cheese and lemon juice.

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Grapes

Red grapes

These sweet, antioxidant-rich fruits are grown in beautiful, fertile regions in Spain, Italy and Greece. Grape skin and pips contain tannin, a calming ingredient also found in tea. Thread onto skewers and dip in melted dark chocolate for an easy dessert.

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Parsnips

Parsnips

Parsnips have an earthy flavour and were used in Europe as a sweetner before cane sugar arrived in the 1800s. Choose smaller parsnips, as larger ones are likely to be less sweet. They can be stored in the fridge for up to a week. They're lovely grated and eaten raw, roasted with maple syrup and rosemary or baked with miso and honey.

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Leeks

A member of the allium family alongside onions and garlic, leeks have a more subtle flavour and slight sweetness when cooked. To prepare, trim away the green top and root, and remove the outer layer. Cut in half lengthways, and rinse thoroughly to remove any soil. Leeks pair well with delicate ingredients: try using them in place of onion as the base for a risotto.

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