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Rooting for fall -- or is it falling for roots?

Rooting for fall -- or is it falling for roots?

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With this year’s grape harvest behind us and chilly nights signaling autumn’s arrived, it’s time to incorporate fall and winter garden crops into the meal plan.

Dare we anticipate a soaking rain before serving the family a hearty beef stew — with chunks of carrot, potato and onion making it all the more savory — or bringing a seasonal sweet potato casserole to the dinner table?

If you have a home garden, then you should have prepared the soil for this month’s planting of beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots (try some of the heirloom varieties), cauliflower, kale, lettuce, peas, spinach and winter squash. This erstwhile tiller of raised beds is considering a potato crop this year.

In most regions of the state, the advice is to plant one’s winter crops early enough to allow them to reach full maturity before the first killer frost arrives. Choose vegetables that have the greatest chance of surviving until harvest. Fast-growing vegetables like leaf lettuce, chives, spinach and radishes are excellent choices. These plants typically mature in about 30 days.

We usually experience a longer, milder growing season in the valley, so it’s been OK to plant cold-weather vegetables that mature in about 60 days, such as turnips, leeks, cabbage, Swiss chard and kale. You may even want to plant carrots, beets, Brussels sprouts, parsnips, cauliflower and cabbage. These late-maturing crops have a 90-day harvest period, and while you may be pushing the limits of the growing season, the rewards will be worth the risk.

In cold weather months, home cooks often retreat from fresh produce, thinking it’s not as available or as tasty.

Admittedly, a juicy, summer-ripe tomato is hard to beat, but done the right way, fall and winter produce can be just as exciting.

We thumbed through some inspirational cookbooks to see what noted chefs, growers and restaurateurs had in mind from the winter larder.

Renowned New York City chef/restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson serves up Raw Kale Salad with Root Vegetables in his latest cookbook, “Marcus Off Duty — The Recipes I Cook at Home” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $35). It’s an easy recipe to prepare and one that’s a real Samuelsson favorite.

“It’s fair to say you would always be a very lucky person if you were invited over to Marcus’ house for dinner,” TV celebrity foodie Anthony Bourdain said of the new publication. “Now, with this book, everyone can join the party.”

Locals know Steve Sando as founder of Rancho Gordo New World Specialty Food in Napa, and for his amazing variety of beans, mostly from south of the border. Sando has published a terrific cookbook, “Supper at Rancho Gordo” (available at the Napa store for $24.95). One of the standout recipes Steve includes in the book came from fellow chef and foodie Georgeanne Brennan, Caramelized Onion Cassoulet, a vegetarian version of the classic.

Award-winning chef/restaurateur Charlie Palmer — who opened Harvest Table at the Harvest Inn in St. Helena earlier this year — has a crowd-pleasing recipe for Parsnip and Celery Root Puree in his latest cookbook, “Charlie Palmer’s American Fare” (Hachette Book Group, $40).

We love the recipe for a most flavorful Tuscan Roast Pork with Yellow Potatoes, Fennel and Parsnips that we’ve turned to often, published in “Roasting,” part of the “Fine Cooking” book series from The Taunton Press ($14.95).

From a new cookbook hitting the shelves this week — “Fire + Ice: Classic Nordic Cooking” (Ten Speed Press, $40) by Darra Goldstein, the foremost American authority on the culinary traditions of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden — we’re sharing a recipe for something entirely different and delicious, Lanttulaattiko, or Rutabaga Pudding.

Satisfy your cravings

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