Celebrate Fall at the Farmer’s Market
When we think of farmer’s market finds, we almost always think of summer produce: perfect tomatoes, sweet corn, crunchy cucumbers, juicy peaches. But there’s another time of year that the farmer’s market comes alive: fall. Grab your favorite sweater and head out to your local farmer’s market with these tips in mind. You might be surprised at what you find!
Try something new.
When you get to the market, you’re going to find a few classic items you expect in the fall: apples, pumpkins, and squash. But there’s so much more to discover when you consider the sheer variety of vegetables that are at their peak. From Asian pears, Brussels sprouts, and gooseberries to cauliflower, sunchokes, and pomegranates, there are many fruits and vegetables to add to your diet in the fall. Make a point to try one or two new items each time you visit, and you may find a new favorite food.
Get your greens.
Not all greens come in the spring and summer. In fact, some of the most nutrient-dense foods are at their best between September and November. Kale and spinach are particularly hardy vegetables that can often survive the first frost (and even the first snow!), and they’re on just about every “superfood” list you can find. Get them, along with other leafy greens like Swiss chard, butter lettuce, and radicchio fresh from the farm, and you’ll have yourself a power-packed start to salads, soups, and smoothies!
Tops can be tops.
You can get the most from your farmer’s market haul when you consider eating “root to stem.” While many people throw away the leaves to common root vegetables, there are actually dozens of ways to use roots in your cooking. Carrot or radish leaves add a spicy bite to a salad, and if you’re making soup, add the leaves from a sweet potato, fennel, or kohlrabi. You’ll reduce waste and introduce a new and interesting flavor to your dishes.
Cook with color.
There are so many colors that can be found at the fall farmer’s market: red pomegranates, orange pumpkins, and yellow squash; green broccoli, purple kohlrabi, and pink radishes. Try to get as many colors as you can in one basket. Or you can do the opposite and throw your own white party: endives, cauliflower, and turnips!
The fall harvest will only last a few months, but there are several ways to preserve your bounty. You’ll have farm-fresh ingredients all winter if you try these techniques:
Cook it. Turn all those apples into applesauce. Take that butternut squash and make it into soup. Roast your pumpkin seeds with salt. Drop those carrot tops, radish leaves, and other “scraps” into a pot and boil them into a flavorful stock.
Freeze it. A remarkable number of fall vegetables hold up well when frozen. The first step is to blanch them to stop the action of the enzymes in the vegetables. After cooling and draining them, you can freeze them in a single layer. Get in-depth instructions on the best way to freeze fall vegetables.
Can it. Canning is an age-old practice to preserve fall flavors. Many families even have a special day set aside to gather and can their fall harvest haul. But whether you keep your cans for yourself or gift them to others, the fall harvest yields some of the best ingredients of the year for canning. Canned pears or cranberries can be beautiful with a colorful fabric, ribbon, or tag attached. And what are you going to do with all that applesauce you made? When it doubt, can it!
Pickle it. There’s a lot of cool science behind pickling, but there’s one thing we know for sure: pickled vegetables taste great! Adding vinegar and other pickling ingredients to fall vegetables can turn them into delicious ingredients that add unique flavor to dishes all winter long.
Store it. Do you have a root cellar? If you live in a house built in the last 50 years, the answer is probably “No.” Before modern day food distribution systems rendered them unnecessary, homes were often built with root cellar designed to store root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and turnips. This kept families fed through the winter months by preserving the vegetables’ freshness. The Farmer’s Almanac has some tips for choosing and using a root cellar.
The fall farmer’s market can be just as enticing as spring and summer. Bring a cup of coffee and stroll around. Take in the different sights and smells as you enjoy the crisp fall air. Taste something new and bring home a few favorites. Try a new preservation technique or two, and extend the pleasure of fall’s cornucopia into the new year.
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