Fall Farmers' Market Guide Slideshow
September 24, 2012
Tips for perusing this season’s farmers’ markets, and 10 of our favorite fall staples
When choosing an apple, you want to look for smooth, unbroken skin that is free of soft spots or bruises. If homemade applesauce is in your future, grab Galas or Johnagolds (a cross between the Jonathan and Golden Delicious varieties). Honeycrisps add great flavor to baked goods or cider and Granny Smiths are always the perfect snack when paired with peanut butter of a soft cheese. For the best results and to make them last the longest, store your apples in the vegetable drawer of your fridge.
Celery may be the most underrated vegetable ever. It's most frequently part of a recipe's supporting cast and is rarely the star of any dish, yet it's a versatile and inexpensive vegetable to cook with. Thankfully for us, its primetime is in the fall. Enjoy it raw, like with this celery and apple salad, or serve it steamed or braised as a side dish. The best celery will be pale green with firm, crisp, and moist stalks. Place celery in a resealable plastic bag and keep it in your refrigerator’s vegetable drawer to maintain crispness.
There's a reason a bunch of broccoli might remind you of flowers: it's technically a type of flower that is marked by firm stalks and dark green florets. Avoid stalks with yellow florets, a sign that the plant is growing old, and store broccoli in plastic bags in your refrigerator’s vegetable drawer before serving it raw or cooked. Need a side dish in a hurry? Toss steamed broccoli with a little butter, drizzle with freshly squeezed lemon juice, and serve.
Carrots serve as a double-duty vegetable this time of the year. Not only are they a great and healthy snack to enjoy raw, but they’re also the perfect addition to any fall baked goods you’re planning on making. Carrots should be firm, smooth, and bright orange at the market. If their tips are still attached, they should be bright green and full. Carrots are best stored in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator. Toss carrots with olive oil and a drizzle of honey and roast until fork-tender for a savory and slightly sweet dish.
Pears are a great fall staple for both sweet and savory dishes. They're perfect as a snack, are an excellent complement to a cheese plate, and can turn an average salad into a delicious and exciting one. They should have smooth, bruise-free skin, and are best with the stem intact. Pears ripen only after being picked from the tree, so you'll likely need to let them sit at room temperature to fully ripen before using them.
Fall is a wonderful time to enjoy leafy greens, and kale is a great way to start. Look for large, ruffled dark green leaves that are slightly crisp and free of holes or brown spots. Kale should keep for about five days stored in a plastic bag in your refrigerator, but be warned that the longer kale sits the more bitter it becomes. The best way to enjoy kale is braised with a mix of chicken stock and apple juice to soften its often bitter taste.
Brussels sprouts often fall victim to a bad reputation because they’re associated with that bitter, vegetable taste most kids hate. The best way to prove the kids wrong is by roasting them with a splash of balsamic vinegar. It’ll mellow out the harsh taste of raw Brussels sprouts and the balsamic gives them a bright, vibrant flavor. Choose sprouts that are firm, bright green, and are not wilted. Untrimmed sprouts will keep for about a week stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Cabbage comes in many varieties this season, including green, red, and savoy, just to name a few. Look for heads comprised of leaves that are firm, crisp, and free of cracks or blemishes. Cabbage will last up to two weeks in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, and is best enjoyed cooked in your favorite fall soup or stew.
Sweet potatoes are more than just a marshmallow-covered holiday staple. You can boil, bake, roast, or mash them for a healthy addition to any meal. Look for potatoes that are firm, smooth, and without of bruises or soft spots. Sweet potatoes should be stored in a dry, cool environment but not the refrigerator, because cold temperatures can give them an off taste. For a quick way to enjoy them, mash a baked or microwaved sweet potato and stir in a tablespoon of freshly squeezed orange juice and a pinch each of salt and pepper.
Beets are at their peak through the end of October, which means they'll be standouts at early fall farmers’ markets. Beets should be small to medium in size with smooth skin and firm flesh. Avoid soft beets or those with wrinkled skins, a sign that the produce is old. Best known as the base of borscht, beets can be shredded raw, boiled, or roasted. Wear kitchen gloves to keep beets from staining your fingers.