This is always a busy month, with preparations for the festive break starting to demand more of our time and attention. To lend a helping hand, there are some great things in season right now, such as leafy greens that can be wilted in a flash or more robust root veg that, once cooked, can be used as a base for quick meals when time is tight.
Beetroot is particularly useful as it has a long season and is packed with vitamins and minerals. Plus, the leaves can be cooked in the same way as spinach or chard.
We've chosen a variety of recipes to help you make the most of this season's produce, including a rich gratin for entertaining, warming soup and hearty pasties that are ideal for a Bonfire Night supper.
Also known as Swiss chard, it’s available in a range of traffic-light colours and produces a constant supply of fresh leaves that can be cut off as needed. Leave the central crown in place so the plant continues to produce foliage until it goes to seed in late spring. Select young, shiny leaves to eat and compost older ones.
In warmer parts of the country, chard can be picked through the winter. However, growth slows in cold weather and chard won’t survive if the temperature dips to around -15C.
Cabbage is wonderful in soups, stocks or gently braised, and works particularly well when served with pork. Try it in the below chorizo soup, or shredded and lightly cooked in stock and caraway seeds to serve with pork chops and potatoes.
Use secateurs, loppers or a serrated knife to cut the cabbage head away from the stem, then peel away any old or damaged outer leaves to compost. Reduce pest and disease by clearing all plant debris from your
cabbage patch at the end of the season, ready to grow a different veg next year.
Swede is often overlooked, but it’s actually a key ingredient in one of our all-time favourite foods, the Cornish pasty. Only those made in Cornwall to an official recipe can be called Cornish, but ours are a delight wherever you are.
Swedes are ready for harvesting when the roots are around 10-15cm in diameter. Lever them out of the ground with a fork as required, or store them in slightly damp sand in a cool but frost-free and dry shed.
You can buy beetroot ready-cooked, but check the pack before you buy – some are dressed in vinegar, which can ruin your recipe, especially if you’re baking a cake. To have more control or to use ones you’ve grown yourself, bake them in foil in a low oven for around 2-3 hrs or simmer in a pan of water for about 1 hr until tender.
Wash the beetroots before cooking, but don’t peel them. Keep the root and a few centimetres of stalk attached when cooking – this stops too much of the colour leaching out. Harvest beetroots when small (around 5cm in diameter) for the best flavour, but if you have too many to eat straightaway, you can leave them in the ground until later by covering with a straw blanket.
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It’s a staple on Christmas Day, but as its season is coming to an end, why not make more of it in late autumn? It lends itself well to slow cooking, but it’s also good when shredded raw into winter salads. Look for firm, shiny cabbages that feel heavy for their size. Red cabbage keeps well when wrapped and chilled.
Try the quick red cabbage relish from this curried tofu wraps recipe. It’s really simple and ideal for bulking out an impromptu buffet. Pickled red cabbage is such an underrated ingredient – it's cheap and you can enjoy it all year round.
Try it as an accompaniment to a katsu curry, in burgers, or as part of a sushi salad bowl. Or, see more red cabbage ideas.
Using parsnips instead of potatoes makes mash a little less stodgy and adds a more complex flavour. Plus, you can eat this dish one-handed with a fork, making it perfect for a night full of Christmas card writing and present wrapping. Parsnip mash is the perfect accompaniment to this comforting sweet red pepper & pork meatballs recipe.
Parsnips – due to their natural sweetness – work well in cakes too, particularly ones with added coconut like this honey, parsnip & coconut cake.
Find more parsnip recipes.
We’re just at the end of the girolle season, but they’re too good not to mention. If you can get your hands on the last of this year’s wild Scottish girolles (also known as chanterelles), make the most of them before they’re gone. Don’t be tempted to pick them yourself unless you’re guided by a mushroom foraging expert.
Adding a touch of yeast extract helps that umami flavour shine through, as we've done in this wild mushrooms on toast recipe. Clean them gently with a pastry brush to remove any dirt, but try to avoid washing them as this can make them soggy.
Check out our mushroom recipe collection.
In a year where the summer is unsually hot, you may worry that pear crops might be adversely affected, but according to Kent fruit farmers Perry Court Farm, it's quite the opposite. ‘No frost damage in the spring means a good crop, a wet spring helps the initial growth, and a heatwave is good to bring them up to ripeness.’ That means it’s a good year for British pears.
Like apples, different varieties will be at their best at different times in the season. In November, Perry Court Farm recommends looking for Doyenne du Comice, Concorde and Conference pears. This sweet, sharp and herby pickled pear salad will complement a cheeseboard as it cuts through the richness.
Get more inspiration with our pear recipe collection.
Garden tasks for November
- Plant rhubarb crowns in soil enriched with well-rotted compost or manure
- Plant new fruit trees, bushes and raspberry canes – it’s the ideal time of year to give them a good start
- Sow broad beans and plant garlic, as they grow best in spring if started off in autumn or winter
- Bring pots of herbs into a porch or cool greenhouse where you can keep picking them
- Collect fallen leaves to make leaf mould, which can be used as a potting ingredient or to condition soil
For more seasonal gardening tips, see Gardeners’ World.
Check out more seasonal recipes
What are your favourite ingredients to cook with in November? Leave a comment below...