Tuesday, September 23, 2008
The Rise of Fall
Last week, as Mother Nature continued to dangle the promise of fall before us, I found myself making my very first autumnal trip to the farmer's market. It was quite a different scene from my last trip a few weekends ago, where the vendors implored each passerby to purchase the season's remaining tomatoes, cherries and peaches. This week, signs announcing the arrival of fall produce could be seen throughout the market, most notably in the stands that carried gourds. Various winter squashes including acorn and zucchini come into season in early fall, not to mention the first pumpkins of the season make their way to the public.
As if a table fully stocked with pumpkins weren't enough to signal fall's arrival, the temperature that day actually dropped to well below 60 degrees. Clad in my baseball cap and scarf, I noticed a few late summer veggies like eggplant and zucchini were still plentiful at most of the stalls. People stocked up on the remaining summer corn, rabidly peeling the cobs away from their husks and tossing them aside. The scene at the remaining strawberry vendor wasn't any more civilized and left me waiting for 15 minutes just to pay for a gorgeous pint of ruby red summer strawberries (which, by the way, were totally worth the wait, and the best ones I've had all year).
I saw a few new things at one stand, including Chinese long beans, which aren't unlike your regular string beans, the only difference being that they're about four times as long. There were also a few Chinese peppers that I've never heard of and course had to buy and test out. I'm a pretty easy sell when it comes to new ingredients, especially when the vendors are cooking samples of their produce right on the spot. I also bought some Japanese eggplant from the same place because I've heard that it's less bitter than the variety we're used to here in the states. It's certainly smaller and a darker, richer shade of purple that almost appears black.
As I walked through the market I was finally excited for the fall season to come. I'd been trying to work through the end of summer food blues, but now I'm actually looking forward to what's to come. Swiss chard and other amazing greens are on the way and cauliflower and sweet potatoes are just over the horizon. I'll keep everyone posted on what new seasonal ingredients to look out for as we move into fall, and hopefully can pass on some great recipes, too.