I’ve never been one to do the tourist thing. As much as I love to travel, to get out, to meet new people, to try new foods; I much prefer to do all of the above as if I were a local. I find it even more difficult to swallow when the tourist thing surrounds an activity so warmly familiar it seems routine. My children on the other hand find joyous fun in even the simplest Saturday afternoon outings. It’s with that in mind that I found myself this past Saturday frequenting an overly-crowded and even more overly-priced — albeit local — orchard and cider mill. And yes, I did have fun.
While other months may be able to stake claim to being most bountiful October is probably one of the most interesting months during which to eat local. Many places, even in the cold northern regions, still have the tail-end of summer harvests trickling in as the short-season, cool-weather crops we saw at the beginning of spring make their reemergence and the long-season, fall-specific crops make their debut. It makes for a combination of flavors and textures that cannot be accomplished during any other time of year; meals based on cool weather staples — many green and leafy — spiked with the fading flavors of summer and complimented by the hearty, warming hints of autumn and the impending winter.
As you venture to your local farmer’s market and on-farm stands this month take both plenty of reusable produce bags — small, lightweight — and larger, heavy duty reusable sacks to cart back your finds; they’ll range from tender baby spinach leaves to heavy, heirloom squashes. Here’s a short list of what you should be on the lookout for:
Winter Squashes & Pumpkins
- Pie Pumpkins
- Cinderella Pumpkins – like that pictured above, actually a scrumptious variety of squash.
As a bonus, hard-skinned squashes and pumpkins store well under even adverse conditions, making them prime candidates for edible decor. Stack a few of your favorite small varieties atop a cake stand for a center piece, allow larger varieties to adorn front walkways and porch steps until they make their way to the dinner table.
Late Summer’s Leftovers
- Peppers – hot, sweet, mild and bell.
- Beans – bush and pole
- Summer Squashes
Of course I would be remiss to leave out the star of last week’s column, apples, like those pictured above. And, since I couldn’t possibly include every in-season item in any one column, do be sure to check out previous installments of What’s In Season Now for more ideas.
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All Produce featured in this week’s column was photographed by the author and sourced from local, Michigan farms. To find farms and farmer’s markets near you check out Local Harvest.
It’s no secret; I am a sucker for the Holiday Season. And, for me, that season kicks off on the first of October and officially begins with preparations for Halloween. As close to the first of October as possible I pull my inspiration folder from it’s year-round resting spot on the shelves behind the door in my office, wrap myself in my favorite chenille throw, snuggle into the sofa and start dreaming. I dream big, beautiful, impossibly perfect dreams about what sort of straight-from-a-50s-sitcom things our lives will hold in the next three months. There will be homemade costumes and handmade, vintage-y decorations that will set the mood in and around our home. There will be harvest parties with apple bobbing and pumpkin carving. There will be candles and wreaths. There will be family portraits on a brilliant background of firey yellow, orange and red leaves. And there will be food, oh, will there ever be food!
Invariably, only one-tenth of any of these dreams come to fruition — I’m only one woman with only so many hours in a day, after all — but that’s never stopped me from having them. When it comes to the food portion of those dreams I always seem to focus on a few flavors at a time; cranberry and sage during the month of November, for instance, or cinnamon and peppermint in the last few weeks leading up to Christmas. As far as I’m concerned, apples and pumpkin are the stars of the show throughout the month of October though. So lately, they’re what I’ve found myself focusing on again this year. Scrumptious both together and apart their possibilities are endless. Breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinners and desserts can all be made from these two; my most adored treasures of the season’s bounty.
I have never met a creamy pumpkin soup recipe I couldn’t love; I’ve been known to spend entire Saturdays in the kitchen peeling, coring, cooking and smashing apples into a chunky applesauce that can only be accomplished at home; one blended with just the right amount of local honey and spices. But I can’t make it all. The real autumn lifesavers — the ones that make my season and relieve my stress when I’ve once again aimed far too high in my holiday planning — are drool-worthy handmade and artisan products that infuse the season’s best flavors into my celebrations with little effort on my part. This year my early searches for those products have landed me in the shops of both the Cookie Jar and The Girl & The Fig drooling over Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies and Apple, Raisin Fig Mostarda. (Pictured above along with Bekah Jennings’ Trick or Treat Banner)
Where have your early fall food searches led you?
It’s no secret that I have an obscene love of food. What most people don’t know however, is how much that love extends to the utensils and dishes with which food is prepared, served and enjoyed. I would wager, in fact, even my own family is in the dark as to how deep my fondness for all things food-service related runs.
There is something about fall that is truly endearing on every level. The combination of warm, soft sweaters; the sound of leaves blowing across the ground; the smell of chill in the air; and the inherent comfort in the foods that call the season home don’t hurt. Of that I am sure. But for small farmers and local growers the season signifies something greater than even these material comforts.
Fall, for farmers, is the end of an era. It is a time of hard work as is every season, but it’s also a time of reflection, of examining what worked and what did not. It’s a time of tweaking systems. A time of extending harvest, milking the earth for just a few more weeks of production. More than all of this however, it’s a time of loss. Of saying goodbye. [Read more…]