Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fall at the Farmer's Market

Orange is everywhere this time of year. My haul from the weekend farmer's market included a large orange pumpkin (purely for seasonal decoration), a small orange kuri squash just the perfect size for a curry dinner, and some delectable orange and yellow melons for breakfast treats. The best part is that the cost for everything was $8.00. I think that's pretty good! The most expensive purchase was the pumpkin at $5.00, while the kuri squash was $1.00 and enough fruit for several breakfasts was $2.00. Who says you can't find bargains at the farmer's market?

While the number one reason I hear people saying they don't shop at the farmer's market is they incorrectly assume high cost, it's not the actual food bargains that pull me back to the market. It's the quality of the produce, and the seasonality I find expressed in my meals. I like orange any time of the year, but especially in the fall. It matches the leaves turning color. And so, I also enjoy adding the color orange to the foods on my fall plate. My meals this time of year include more squashes and root vegetables (think carrots, beets, and parsnips) than in the summer. Persimmons and apples grace the markets in large quantities now, too, so making persimmon tarts and applesauce are on my to do list. I'll be sure to toss in a few cranberries, meaning I'll have some orange sauce on the shelf as well as some orange color sprinkled throughout the meals of fall.

I could go on about the color orange, but seasonality is about much more than any one color. Sure, color plays into it, as the harvest crops change throughout the year, with many of the warm, darker fruits and vegetables ripening in fall while we see cooler, lighter vegetable colors in spring. The bounty of summer welcomes a full cornucopia of colors. Winter is when we find those special hardy crops that ripen in the cold, like Brussels sprouts, as well as those that keep well, like sweet potatoes.

Seasonality at meals is about eating the foods that are currently ripe and available. While what ripens in each season may change from one locale to another, the principle remains the same. When we eat foods that are in season, ones found at our local farmer's markets, we're eating foods that are picked fresh, usually locally, ones that don't need to be shipped thousands of miles. That means we're eating foods at their peak of production. They taste better, have more nutrients, and are more cost effective.

Seasonal eating also provides a natural rhythm to mealtimes. We relish cold soups and salads on warm days. Roasted vegetables and soups warm us when the weather turns chilly. I can almost tell the season by what's served at my table. For example, it's impossible to find tasty tomatoes during winter, so I've never made gazpacho then. The stews and soups of winter would likewise seem too hearty and warm during the summer, so I never make them then. Lucky for us all, some foods are available locally, year round, everywhere, so can be served year round as well. Lettuce does so well in greenhouse production that's it's available year round almost everywhere, so green salads seem to be a hit throughout all the seasons. Saying that, I must add that seasonal beet greens are an excellent salad stand in.

See you at the farmer's market!

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