The month of November is when apples and spinach are both in season. There are a number of ways to utilize these ingredients in Japanese cuisine. And cooking fresh Japanese meals with these ingredients yields a lot of health benefits and flavor.

As temperatures cool and winter approaches, cold-hardy crops come into season, allowing for many new and fresh dishes to be enjoyed. And while apple and spinach are both available year-round, in Japan, cooking with these two foods at the peak of their season results in flavorful, vibrant and healthy culinary delights.

Okay, apples are obviously not vegetables. However, to overlook these crispy, sweet fruits that come into season in November would be unfortunate. Almost two dozen varieties of apples grow in Japan, the most popular being Fuji apples. People use them in a wide variety of dishes, including Japanese curry, salads and sandwiches, as well as sweets and desserts.

Everybody knows that spinach is a very healthy vegetable, but it is also a very versatile one. Called “horenso” in Japan, spinach is a component of many dishes. People also cook it on its own, adding just a bit of soy sauce and sesame dressing.

Tips for Choosing the Best Apples in Season

When picking fresh Fuji apples (and similar varieties), look for fruits that exhibit a vibrant red color and are heavy and firm to the touch. They should also be rather fragrant, and the stems should not appear to be too dry. The apples that deliver the best flavor will be about midsize—some apples can grow very large, but the midsize apples tend to be sweeter and last longer.

Apples, of course, are also especially healthy, making them a great addition to your diet. Ranked as one of the top-10 healthy foods, apples are high in dietary fiber and antioxidants, as well as an assortment of other important vitamins and minerals. Consuming apples regularly can help to improve neurological health and reduce the risks of diabetes, cancer, heart disease and hypertension.

Apple Daifuku Mochi

This unique take on the delicious Japanese mochi treat is sure to become a favorite dessert not just during fall and winter, but all year round.

Get a recipe of apple daifuku mochi.

Tips for Choosing the Best Spinach in Season

Fresh spinach typically comes in large bunches—locally grown spinach will be the freshest due to a shorter transport time. Look for leaves that appear perky and a vibrant green. Avoid any clumps that have brown or yellowing leaves, or leaves that are starting to wilt. The stems should also appear fresh, not dried. If you are buying a bag of spinach, look for one that is rather clear of moisture. Keep the spinach cold and dry to maintain its freshness.

Spinach is highly nutritious; it’s full of vitamins and minerals, and a host of plant compounds that can improve overall health and reduce the risks of many maladies.

Butter Sautéed Spinach and Egg

This is a simple recipe with lots of flavor. The combination of iron and protein will give you lasting energy throughout the day.

Japanese flavor makes this spinach dish delicious.