Grab your reusable grocery bags, small wheely cart, and a wad of cash with plenty of small bills. It’s time to go to the farmers’ market! There’s nothing quite like fresh, local produce. Every season has its own flavor. Going to your local farmers’ market is a great way to make the most of seasonal ingredients, buy organic, and help out the little guy in the process.
Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your marketing.
- Get there early and have a plan, but be open to new ideas.
- Make a loop to get a lay of the land.
- Talk to the farmers. They know their stuff and are usually more than happy to give you tips on how best to prepare the food.
- Availability of some items will vary from region to region. Be aware about what’s available; there are plenty of resources online that can help.
As another summer fades into memory, autumn’s brisk mornings take center stage. The air is as crisp as a ripe Cameo apple. Baseball gives way to football and everything, including food, starts to bundle up for the cooler months ahead. The fall harvest has a little something for everyone.
Apples - Fall means apples. Lots of them. From Red Delicious to Granny Smith, there’s a seemingly endless variety available. Like other produce, there are some wonderful heirloom varieties that vary by region. Try one you’ve never had before. Make turnovers, pies and fritters. Bake them with some cinnamon and brown sugar. Or, just slice and add some zest to your salad.
Broccoli - Although it’s available year round, fall broccoli is typically sweeter and less tart. You can eat it as a side or use it to add color and flavor to your favorite pasta dish.
Brussels sprouts - Poor things have a bad rap. But Brussels (don’t forget the “s”) sprouts are a great source of vitamins and nutrients and, if you cook them well, even the biggest skeptic will become a fan. Try roasting them with a little salt, pepper and olive oil until they’re crispy on the outside. That’s no mushy cabbage cousin.
Butternut squash - It’s sweet. It’s savory. It can sing and dance. Butternut squash is just one of the many fall squash you’ll find at the farmers’ market. Look for a heavy butternut with no cracks or blemishes. Try maple-glazed butternut squash with a dash of dark rum. And, remember, one for the squash and one for the cook! Cheers!
Cranberries - There’s more to cranberries than a can-shaped gelatinous glob at Thanksgiving. If you haven’t had fresh cranberries before, you’re missing something. Try baking some cranberry and pecan muffins or go crazy and make a cranberry and fig (also in season) chutney.
Green beans - Green beans are at their best from mid-summer into fall. They’re sweeter than those you find in the off-season. Sauté them with some mushrooms and onions or add a little Asian flavor with some sesame seeds and sesame oil.
Pears - Pears are another mid-summer into fall food. To find a ripe pear gently press the flesh near the stem. If it yields to light pressure, it’s ready to eat. Slice and serve with brie and baked ham or try grilled pears with currants.
Pumpkins - You can carve ’em, you can eat ’em, you can wear them as a helmet. This gourdy-squash is great in soups, breads and pies. But they can make great entrées and sides too. Try some pumpkin ravioli or pumpkin risotto.
Sweet potatoes - Although some people use sweet potato and yam interchangeably, they’re not the same thing. Sweet potatoes look like potatoes, while a true yam looks like a potato that’s lived a really, really hard life. Sweet potatoes are incredibly versatile. They can be sweet or savory and are rich in vitamins A and C.
Swiss chard - This great leafy green is at its best when it’s super fresh. Like corn that’s just been picked, it’s sweeter and tastier the fresher it is. Wilt some in a pan with a bit of olive oil, garlic and seasoning.
Meal Suggestion: A cup of warm butternut squash makes a great starter. For the main dish, try a roast pork tenderloin. Add sides of baked broccoli with garlic, lemon zest and Parmesan cheese and mashed sweet potatoes. Finish it off with a Bosc pear and roasted hazelnut tart.