The Crisp, Clean Taste of Fall

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For some prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), the recurring dread of impending winter can be offset, at least for a little while, by finding enjoyment in what nature provides us along with these shortening autumn days. For me, that means apples and pumpkins.

Growing up in the north mid-western United States — Michigan, to be exact — I was used to hearing the not so far-fetched saying that there are really only two seasons there: winter and July. The sarcasm in that saying derives from the fact that weather patterns in this area so far north and bounded by so much water can be extremely unpredictable — and often very cold — except for the generally balmy days of mid-summer. And, as I have written about in a prior post (see “The Joys of Spring”), because I have always been prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), the only really enjoyable time of the Michigan year for me is the summer season, when daylight can last for almost 18 hours. But the truth of the matter is that spring and autumn can also be quite beautiful, and they can make a dramatic statement from time to time, most especially when the leaves of sugar maple trees set the fall landscape absolutely ablaze with color. All that color seems to take away some of sting of those shorter days to come.

Despite the recurring dread of winter I experienced as a child, some of my fondest memories are of the two activities I enjoyed most during excursions to the fall countryside: harvesting apples and picking pumpkins. For me, the best thing about picking apples in the fall has little to do with the weather itself or the grandeur of the colorful countryside (although it could be easily argued that walking through an orchard on a clear fall day can be a near religious experience). And you must first understand, I’m an absolute fanatic when it comes to certain things about apples. As an elementary school pupil, I was taught that apples were regarded as the “king of the fruits.” And because Michigan was (and still is) a major apple-producing state, we were also taught to be quite proud of our famous export. But I’m an apple fan not so much because my home state cultivated a loyalty in me toward them, but because I truly appreciate the many varieties and flavors of apples. Every type — from the popular “Delicious” to the fleshy Northern Spy and the sweet-tart “Honeycrisp” — has its own individual appeal. And some varieties are uniquely suited to various culinary confections. Only a tart and robust variety will make a good pie. And the high sugar varieties are well-suited to juices and cider. Only one thing can turn me against an apple: when it’s mushy. That’s why picking apples right off the tree in an orchard or stopping at a roadside stand featuring recently-picked fruit is such a kick. There’s absolutely nothing like the “carrruunnch” of a fresh, crisp, juicy apple. I might seem a a bit too picky to some, but for me, if an apple doesn’t crunch and crunch cleanly, it’s simply not worthy to eat.

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Another thing I love doing in the fall is picking pumpkins. While some find these giant gourds good only for carving jack-o’-lanterns, they’re actually quite a delectable kind of squash. And while my favorite ways to have them include soups, casseroles, and quick breads, the best part for me is what’s left over after you’ve carved out those ghoulish Halloween creations: the seeds. De-thread them, dry them, soak them, brine them, and then roast them — not lightly roasted and encased in a shell of salt like those horrible packaged treats in the convenience stores, but deep-toasted and lightly salted so that you can just as easily much and crunch on them whole as you can tease out the tasty inner kernel. These things are simply delicious. And they really quench your urge to chomp when the snacking bug strikes. As it turns out, the oils in them are also good for you. Who knew?

In the autumn, all of nature seems to send the same message about the impermanence of life. Plants begin to wither and leaves begin to fall. And it will be a long time before the blooms of spring appear once again. And because the days get shorter, the temperatures cooler, and the landscape more stark, I typically go into a period of mourning as fall progresses to winter. But nature seems to have provided a bit of salve for those of us who dread the loss of light. Because it’s only during that one wonderful time of the year that apples are the texture I crave. So, fortunately, if only for a moment, the clean, crisp, crunch of a fresh apple, can take all those seasonal blues away.

All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by on and was last reviewed or updated by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .

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